To Be Honest: encouraging openness in grief

Categories: Care.

If you had been on the Brighton sea front on Wednesday 22 or Thursday 23 March you may have seen our Sue Ryder telephone box. This marked the beginning of our ‘To Be Honest’ campaign. Our recent research shows that too many people feel unable to open up to others about how they feel after a bereavement. But that needs to change.

To highlight this, we encouraged people to use our telephone box as a safe space to share how they’ve been feeling during their grief, without judgement. Despite how messy or complicated it can be, it’s important to feel able to express these emotions. That’s why we’re calling on the nation ‘To Be Honest’.

What does the research say?  

Our research has revealed that 69% of the people we surveyed were scared or embarrassed to talk about their true feelings while grieving. Delving into this a bit deeper, we found that 74% of participants said that their emotions around grief made them feel guilty on a weekly basis, while 52% downplayed their grief due to fears about how they would be perceived.

“To admit to people I felt relieved when my mum died, I feared judgement, I feared for who I was to feel that and who I would become in my grieving process. Was I as heartless as that sounded?”

– Grace Woodward, our ambassador, talking about the death of her mum

41% of the people we surveyed believed that the media romanticise the idea of grief, but we want our campaign to change this portrayal. Over half of our respondents described grief as messy and complicated, while feelings of shame, hatred, relief and happiness were all identified as taboo emotions people felt uncomfortable talking about.

It explains why 43% of people feel the need to keep their emotions around their grief to themselves, and strongly underlines why this campaign is so important.

Bianca Neumann, our Head of Bereavement, says:

“There’s no ‘right’ or ‘normal’ way to grieve and integrating loss into our lives takes longer for some people than others.

“You might find yourself swinging between different moods, feelings or crying suddenly when you don’t expect it. You may be so overwhelmed that you feel numb. Learning to live alongside grief can take a long time, and during that time you will likely have ups and downs.

“Our new research highlights how it can be hard to talk about it to those around you. Finding someone to open up to, like a trusted friend, family member, teacher, colleague, support group or online community, can really help, and our Grief Kind campaign has a range of resources for people who want to provide this support.

“Remember that it’s OK to feel however you are feeling and you shouldn’t punish yourself if you feel that your emotions aren’t the ‘common’ feelings that we see so much of in the media.”

How ‘To Be Honest’ 

Talk to our counsellors:

If you want to speak to an expert about how you’re feeling, we’re here to help. Our Online Bereavement Counselling Service offers free and professional video counselling for anyone over the age of 18 in the UK.

If you want to find out more, you can:

Join our Online Bereavement Community:

Find others who understand how you’re feeling in our online community. Available 24/7, day or night, it’s a safe space for anyone over the age of 18 to share their experience of grief. You don’t have to sign up to read what people have posted, but you will need an account if you’d like to join the conversation.

Understand your grief: 

Taking the time to understand what grief is and how it affects you can also help you to talk more openly about how you’re feeling. You can learn more about the grieving process on Grief Guide, or you might want to browse our online bereavement information instead.

“In the immediate period after his death, I didn’t want anyone to mention that we’d had a difficult relationship. I felt too guilty and embarrassed. Then one of my friends texted and said, “I know you didn’t get on, but he was still your dad”.

“That one message was what I needed to speak to that friend and talk about my conflicting feelings. I needed someone to acknowledge that I was grieving, but also to acknowledge that they knew we’d had a difficult relationship. I felt as if it was something I was hiding, and that friend helped me be open about it. I felt so much better when I’d talked about it.”

– Sarah, talking about the death of her dad


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