Why We Need a National Grief Awareness Day

Categories: Opinion.

South Africa’s first National Grief Awareness Day was on Tuesday, 30th August. Here’s why Bridget McNulty, author of The Grief Handbook, thinks it’s a good idea.

When my mom died very suddenly, I felt like I had been unwittingly enrolled in a club I didn’t want to be in. The Grief Club. We are the walking wounded – the ones with huge gaping holes in our chests where our loss has ripped through us. But we are also weirdly invisible to those who haven’t lost someone close to them.

People were very supportive in the weeks following my mom’s death, but as the weeks turned to months, there was an expectation that I would ‘get over it’ and ‘get on with it’. That life would simply continue as it had before. This is not the case, as anyone who has been through grief deeply understands. You don’t get over losing someone important to you – you learn to live with the loss, every day.

The Grief Club rules

Other rules that those in The Grief Club understand but others don’t seem to:

  • Grief is cyclical, not linear. It can hit you, hard, years after you’ve lost your loved one and the grief can feel as real and fresh as in the first days.
  • Putting on a happy face can be useful in the early days, as long as it’s for a limited time and there’s no expectation to keep the mask on. Distraction is good – façades are not.
  • Because we are so awkward around grief, there’s an expectation for the grieving person to make others feel comfortable when facing the enormity of loss. This is seen at funerals, in our discomfort around talking about grief, and in our urgency to return to normal… We need to work on this, collectively, as a society.
  • The loss never entirely leaves you.

This is why we need a National Grief Awareness Day

National Grief Awareness Day is in its infancy in South Africa, but it offers us the opportunity to have hard conversations about things that matter. To speak openly about grief, and grieving, and what we need to feel truly supported by the people in our lives. Let’s take this chance with both hands, and embrace it.

  • Bridget McNulty is the author of The Grief Handbook: A guide through the worst days of your life, available at all bookstores. Find out more at griefhandbook.com
  • The Handbook can be purchase on Takealot and R10 from every online sale goes to HPCA https://www.takealot.com/the-grief-handbook/PLID72761844
  • Tuesday 30th August was National Grief Awareness Day: an opportunity to talk about grief, and loss, in an open-hearted way, knowing that others are going through the same thing. Follow #griefawareness on social media for more.
  • The Grief Course launched on Grief Awareness Day. This online course – offered on a donation basis – is for anyone looking for support as they move through the grief journey.

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