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Good Grief- managing bereavement by Linda Magistris

When you lose a loved one there is no 'normal' way to grieve and we all experience grief in different ways. Linda Magistris CEO and Founder of The Good Grief Trust gave us some wise words when we chatted with her for our podcast 'Good Grief'.There is no timeline for grief, what you might need one day might be totally different a week or even an hour later. People need compassion, patience and understanding.

Help and advice with grief and bereavement
Linda Magistris, CEO The Good Grief Trust

The Good Grief Trust is the UK’s leading bereavement network, bringing over 900 charities and support services together under one umbrella, and offering a choice of tailored local, regional, and national support, for both the bereaved and those working with them.

The charity was founded by Linda Magistris, after her partner Graham died of a rare cancer and she struggled to find the right support for her. Back in 2014 when Graham died, she realised that the health professionals lacked a central signposting resource to support their work in helping their bereaved families. Linda realised that there was a need to create an online database to bring all services together and having researched the sector she launched the charity in her voluntary role as CEO in 2016.

Over the past 6 years the trust has pioneered a number of national initiatives to improve services for the bereaved and are Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bereavement Support. Linda co-founded this cross-party group, with Carolyn Harris, MP in 2017, to work with Government, and influence improvements in bereavement care across the UK. The APPG is now a thriving, active group of charities, individuals affected by grief, and many MPs and Peers, working together to support those bereaved across the UK.

With Linda’s background in events, and in particularly running tea rooms, Linda knew the benefits of sitting down with a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and connecting with others. She wanted to create a simple initiative that would help those grieving find a place to open up with others who understood their grief. The first Good Grief Pop Up Café launched in 2018, to bring those bereaved together in their local area, offering peer support and friendship with others who are grieving and during the Covid19 pandemic, these groups were adapted to online Virtual Cafés.

These groups have now been running over two years, and regularly open twice a week, on a Wednesday and Sunday. They are a peer-to-peer session for anyone struggling to pop online via Zoom and meet others who are bereaved and understand and have become a lifeline for many needing to share their grief and to know they are not alone.

Alongside the website, Linda was passionate to develop one central signposting resource which would combine both a condolence card and signposting tool. She wanted to ensure that anyone bereaved, under any circumstance was given early signposting to a choice of support services from day one.

She didn’t want anyone walking out of a hospital having been bereaved, or after the police have knocked on the door with news of a sudden death, without knowing where to turn for help. The Good Grief card ensures that health professionals are fully equipped to offer a comprehensive early signposting service to their bereaved families. Linda and her team are proud that these cards are now used in every NHS Hospital Trust in England and over 3000 GP practices, as well as in schools, universities, crematoriums, HR departments and many community services.

This Christmas between the 2nd to the 8th of December, the charity is spearheading National Grief Awareness Week for the 4th year, campaigning to raise awareness of the impact of grief on a national platform and ensure those needing help are aware of the breadth of support services available across the UK. This annual event aims to ensure all charities offering help to the bereaved are given a national platform to promote their services and unite with one voice to help those grieving.

At 6pm on the 8th of December, the final day of the week, UK buildings and landmarks, including Blackpool Tower, will light up orange to show support for those grieving and remember those who have died. This is a wonderful sight and one we know will help those missing someone they love, at such a difficult time of the year.

The Good Grief Trust’s vision is to continue to help improve access to the right help at the right time for anyone affected by bereavement.

‘Grief can be complicated, but access to support should never be’

For more information on National Grief Awareness Week and links to services, please visit The Good Grief Trust

Things I wish I had known - from those who have been through it.

  • That I wish I'd written more thoughts down so I could remember the journey I've been on and how our tragedy is leading to positive achievements.

  • That the only recording I may have of my partner is on a voicemail, on my phone or on my answer machine which may automatically get deleted. (Please save them now if you are concerned, this can be devastating for some people).

  • That someone had told me that I didn't have to rush the funeral and that I could have had a memorial service, several months later, instead of planning an event just after my husband died.

  • That you don't have to listen to the uneducated. Everyone thinks they know about loss and they want to tell you. You do not have to listen, just tell them you are not ready.

  • That I should have said yes to any practical help offered. Grief can be exhausting and I would have appreciated jobs being done around the house, that my children were looked after for a while and that paperwork was dealt with for me.

  • That I could do what I wanted when I was ready to do it. I didn't need to explain or justify why.

  • That you will receive many offers of help and, initially you may want to decline a lot of them - try not to. Let people help you because the sad reality is that will fall away - if you constantly say no, people will stop asking.

  • That friends can often be the greatest source of strength and understanding - they are invaluable.

  • That I could say ‘yes’ to any offers of help – you can always change your mind later.

  • That it was okay to say I feel crap, when people asked how I was rather than oh you know I'm okay. When I did start telling people how I really felt, I got a lot of support, but by saying I was okay it gave them an excuse not to dig deeper so I felt swamped by my grief.

  • That people will want to express sympathy – I had to learn to say ‘thank you’ and not waffle a load of inanities I couldn’t believe I could hear myself saying.

  • That you will be given lots of advice from friends and family. Whatever their thoughts - go with your gut instinct.

  • That it is ok to stop people if you don't want to hear what they're saying.

  • That I shouldn't be afraid to ask for help - it's not a sign of weakness.

  • That it's okay to do whatever I need or want to do!!

  • That all the horrific emotions I was feeling were very normal and part of the grieving process.

  • That I had known that I would go over everything that happened from diagnosis to death over and over and over in my head every time I am alone.

  • That in those early days I wish I'd spent more time looking after me - magnesium salt baths, scented candles, reiki sessions and long walks listening to soothing music or audio books.

Listen to our podcast 'Good Grief' where we chat with Linda Magistris.

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