Grief Awareness Week - an advocate's experience
It's Grief Awareness Week and we have been talking to our colleagues and the people we support about grief and loss and giving each other a safe space to share our thoughts and experiences.
In our advocacy service, we are particularly aware of the different types of grief people feel about things they lose as they age or become unwell, so we're sharing this blog from our Head of Advocacy Sharon de Jesús to highlight other forms of grief and loss and the impact they have on people.
"During Grief Awareness Week, let's talk about Val and Malcolm, a couple facing a big change in their lives. For me, their story really shows that grief isn't only experienced when someone dies, but that people can feel grief and loss when unexpected things happen too and that this should be recognised and supported.
"The background to Val and Malcolm's story is that Val used to care for Malcolm at home, but when his health declined due to dementia a change was necessary. Malcolm moved to a residential care home to have the support he needed but both Val and Malcolm grappled with the emotional toll of this significant change.
"For Val, she was faced with the solitude of suddenly living on her own while also missing being able to take care of Malcolm and this made her really sad. She also felt guilty about the decision to move Malcolm and grief at the loss of her husband and their separation.
"One of our advocates, Ben, was assigned to provide Relevant Person's Representative (RPR) support to Malcolm and met Val on one of his regular visits to see Malcolm. Even though Malcolm couldn't remember things well, Ben could see that Val visiting him was really important.
"Acknowledging the complex nature of Val’s grief and its impact on her wellbeing, Ben, Val and the care home staff came up with a plan to support the couple. This plan aimed not only to address Malcolm's evolving needs but also to provide emotional support for Val, incorporating specific details like designated meal-sharing evenings and Val helping with Malcolm's shaving routine.
"The plan, with its nuanced elements like sharing meals and involving Val in Malcolm's care routine, had transformative effects. Val's active participation in Malcolm's life and the care setting community not only alleviated her initial resistance to the move but also contributed to a more holistic approach to their emotional wellbeing.
"As time went on, Ben continued to support Malcolm as his RPR and everyone involved in his care kept talking and making changes to the plan when needed, with Ben regularly checking in with Val to make sure she felt positive about what was happening.
"Grief comes in many forms and at many different times of life - Val and Malcolm's story really stands out for me as an example of the importance of being aware of different kinds of grieving. As we think about Grief Awareness Week, let's remember that sadness can come from many things, not just when someone passes away. It's important to have plans that help people going through tough times and to show that we care and understand."
Names and some details have been changed to protect anonymity.