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Support Let’s Talk About Loss

Would you like to support Let’s Talk About Loss to go from big dreams to reality?

Sadly, motivation is not enough to start a charity, and we need money to reach more young people across the country who are feeling like they are completely alone in their grief.

The support we’ve had in the last 14 months has been incredible, but we want to do more – and we need you to join us and support Let’s Talk About Loss to take the next step.

We’ve started a Crowdfunder page – perhaps you could give a small amount to help us help others.

Thank you!

We’re hosting an event!

Hello and a very happy new year from Let’s Talk About Loss.

This is a very quick post to let you know that our very first meet-up will be taking place in Nottingham on March 10, 2018. If you’re aged 16-30, and you’ve been bereaved, I’d love to meet you.

Lots of bereaved young people tell me they feel completely alone, and have no one to talk to who has experienced the same thing. So let’s change that!

The event will be a very relaxed, informal gathering of solely people who have lost someone close to them – if you’re nervous, don’t be! It will simply be a collection of young people who know exactly how you feel, in a private, safe space.

Check out our Facebook page for more event information, or email letstalkaboutloss@gmail.com with any questions!

My New Year’s resolutions saved my life

In 2017, I made twelve New Year’s resolutions: one for each month of the year. My friends laughed and told me I’d never manage to keep them all, but I was determined to prove them wrong. By December 2017 I’ve completed ten out of twelve – not a bad result for a year when my mental health took a significant turn for the worse.

This year I will…

Most people think resolutions made on January 1st are arbitrary and ridiculous, and statistics suggest that only 8% of us keep the promises we make to ourselves as we celebrate a new year. But I would encourage you to make New Year’s resolutions in 2018, and to consider them a challenge that will help you make the most of the year to come.

There were lots of things I wanted to achieve, and I made ambitious and exciting resolutions. By May 2017, I had learnt basic Spanish, learnt to salsa dance, and visited a new country, and had made new friends, learnt new skills and had a lot of fun along the way. However, in the summer I had a breakdown and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was signed off work after having multiple panic attacks, and my year of new things was put on pause. For a little while, my mental health hit rock bottom and I couldn’t see the purpose of living.

Six months on, I’m in a much better place, having started taking medication and seeing a fantastic counsellor who has helped me restore my belief in myself. I’ve also carried on completing my resolutions, which became incredible motivation for getting through a really tough time. I’ve started writing the book I’ve always wanted to write, I’ve dug out a keyboard and started playing the piano music I used to love, and I’ve visited India and climbed the Himalayas.

The power of resolutions

I’m not sharing any of this to show off – I’m telling you because I think that New Year’s resolutions have the power to change lives. In the midst of my darkest times, knowing that I was going to visit India, and reminding myself of my desire to write a novel, kept me going and gave me a reason to live.

Often, our demons can convince us that we’re insignificant in such a big world, or that we have nothing to live for. My list of resolutions encouraged me that I still had a lot I wanted to see, experience and achieve in the world before I lost hope. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty? Maybe you want to try stand-up comedy, or start your own business. Whatever your dreams are, however big or however small, they can help you stay positive and excited for the future.

Plans for 2018

Twelve resolutions may be too much for everyone, but I challenge you to make at least one resolution in 2018 that you know will help you have a healthy and happy year. It could be anything, from finding the best burger in Britain to standing on a beach in Bali – what it is doesn’t matter, as long as it is something that will help you through those times when our demons get the better of us and our mental health suffers.

As for me, I’m not going to make another twelve resolutions – I still need to ride a horse on a beach and go dolphin-watching in Wales, as I haven’t got round to those two yet this year. But more importantly, I’m going to make a resolution that whatever life throws at me this year, I’ll let myself react in whatever way I need to. I’m going to be kinder to myself in 2018, and remember that whatever happens, I am strong and brave enough to get through it. And just in case no one has told you recently – you are strong enough too.

Happy new year! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date.

How to support your grieving friends this Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve. Your presents should be wrapped, your turkey will soon be in the oven, and you’ve probably aleady started on the Prosecco. And if you haven’t watched Love Actually by now, you haven’t got long left.

It’s Love, Actually

It’s a Christmas tradition, isn’t it – watching Love Actually. I’ve watched it twice already, and it makes me weep every time. It’s a beautiful film all about friendship, romance and family at Christmas. It’s full of great messages, like prioritising spending time with loved ones over the Christmas period. But the film does include a few messages that are less helpful – you should never, ever run through airport security, even if you’re a really cute kid.

Get a grip. People hate sissies. And no one’s going to love you if you cry all the time

Less than helpful advice

Another scene in Love Actually that I struggle with is when Daniel (played by Liam Neeson) visits Karen (played by Emma Thompson) after his wife’s funeral. Daniel is clearly completely broken by the loss of his wife, and confused with how to look after his stepson Sam as a now single parent. He is in the very start of a long journey of grief, and looking to a friend for good advice on how to cope. Instead, as he begins to cry, Karen says: “Get a grip. People hate sissies. And no one’s going to love you if you cry all the time”.

A different approach

If you have a friend who has recently lost someone very close to them, it should be pretty obvious that it is not helpful to tell them to “get a grip”. I’m aware that Love Actually is a fun, fictional film – but it’s still worth pointing out that telling someone to pull themself together is exactly what they don’t need to hear in the midst of grief. Regardless of gender, those who have lost someone should be encouraged to express their emotion, talk to their friends about how they’re feeling, and cry if they need to.

Are they really coping?

For over two years, friends and family would say to me, “how well you are coping!”, “you seem so strong”, “your mum would be so proud of how well you’re doing”. It was true – I barely cried, always spoke of how great I was, hardly thought of mum. The world thought I was excelling in grief. In fact, I was failing – miserably. In shutting out any negative thoughts, not thinking about mum, and never letting myself cry, I wasn’t processing what had happened to me, and I hadn’t even started to grieve. I hadn’t really been coping at all, and eventually that caught up with me – and my grief when it came was cruel, harsh and intense.

I’m calling for a Christmas revolution

How you can help your friends

Supporting a friend or loved one who has lost someone might feel overwhelming. Where on earth should you start? What should you say? Or should you not say anything? What if they cry? We’re British – we couldn’t possibly cope with someone showing any emotion! But doesn’t that sound ridiculous when I write it down. All you need is to be there – to listen, to hold their hand, to nod along as they talk – whatever it is, you need to let your friend grieve, rather than stop them and tell them to get a grip.

I’m calling for a Christmas revolution. It’s time we stop ignoring loss, and start talking about it. It’s time to call Karen out for her terrible advice, and support our friends and loved ones when they need us most. It’s Christmas – time for love, laughter, friendship, support… and watching Love Actually at least three times!

If you have a story to share, I’d love to hear from you. Email letstalkaboutloss.co.uk or follow us on social media.

What to do if you find Christmas difficult

I wrote this piece originally for Young Minds, a charity that helps young people who struggle with their mental health. I’m reposting it here as I experience a stressful, busy, challenging run up to Christmas, in the hope that it may help if you are feeling similar.

The most wonderful time of the year

According to the classic song by Andy Williams, Christmas is the “hap-happiest season of all”. The song famously continues, “everyone telling you to be of good cheer, it’s the most wonderful time of the year”, but you’re not alone if Christmas is a really challenging season. Everyone from our closest friends to the national media tells us that Christmas is a time for excitement, joy and romance, but for many it can be a cripplingly lonely and confusing time.

A Christmas full of painful memories

Two and a half years ago, in the summer, my mum passed away – unsurprisingly I dreaded Christmas that year. Ever since, it’s been a time tinged with sadness despite my love for all the songs, decorations and parties. On the surface, I love Christmas, but it is traditionally a time to spend with family, and that is a constant reminder of the family member that is missing, and often causes flares up with my depression and anxiety.

Despite the bright lights of Christmas, it falls in the depths of winter, and I personally hate the dark, cold nights and frosty mornings. The world seems sad and closed off in the winter, and we can all feel a little less happy to be getting out of our warm beds in the morning. It’s normal to feel a little sadder in the winter months; the darkness, illness, loneliness, feeling cold, money worries – there are lots of things that can take the joy out of Christmas, however small they may seem.

There are lots of things that can take the joy out of Christmas

What Christmas means to you

What I’ve come to learn is that Christmas doesn’t have to be as chaotic and colourful as the big brands tell us it has to be. Quiet Christmases with close family are just as beautiful and special as hugely extravagant Christmases with late-night parties and too many gifts. If the crowds make you anxious, you could do your shopping online. If you don’t want to spend time with your family on Christmas Day, perhaps consider volunteering with one of the food banks who will provide a special meal for the homeless on Christmas Day. Prioritise whatever it is that will help you relax and feel calm – whether that is the Boxing Day walk, a small Christmas tree with only a few lights, or watching Love Actually on repeat for ten days.

Prioritise whatever it is that will help you relax and feel calm

The essential thing with any mental illness is to allow yourself the time and space you need to cope – not to feel pressured into anything or guilty for any of your decisions. Make sure you’re honest with those around you, if you’re able to, as it will make it easier for them to know how to look after you best this Christmas. And most importantly, have a very merry Christmas, whatever that looks like to you. It’s a special time of the year, and there are no rules. Whether you’re Santa or the Grinch, be proud of everything you’ve achieved this year and treat yourself to a few days of rest and recuperation. I really hope you get everything you wish for this Christmas.

 

To read this blog on the Young Minds website, and read more of their advice for coping with a mental health condition, click here. Email letstalkaboutloss@gmail.com if you want to talk.