Grief is an experience that affects people from all backgrounds. It is therefore important to acknowledge and understand diverse experiences of grief, foster inclusivity in grief support services and resources - but this isn't always the case. National Grief Awareness Week 2-8 December, aims to raise awareness about the impact of grief and provide support for those who are grieving. It was brought about to create a platform to discuss and address the challenges people face when coping with loss, but what if you don't feel heard and you don't feel seen? Often shaped by cultural and religious beliefs, it is crucial to communicate your needs to ensure that the support received aligns with your individual practices and preferences.
So, who needs to know? What are some of the areas that others should be aware of? And how could this information be shared?
Let’s start with ‘who needs to know?’.
This could vary depending on your circumstances. It may be that in your place of work, you feel that many of your co-workers don’t have enough awareness, maybe the HR department doesn’t understand the impact of their decisions and more information needs to be disseminated across the organisation. Maybe it’s a social group or a committee that you belong to. It could be your therapist who keeps asking questions, a neighbour or a community member. Maybe your child’s school accused the family of taking a holiday when the family were abroad for a funeral. It could be those in your network that could offer you crucial support if they understood your needs.
Secondly, what are some of the areas that you feel are important that others should be aware of?
It could be your diverse mourning practices, rituals or traditions. There may be specific mourning periods, ceremonies or customs that guide the grieving process.
Funeral arrangements that reflect your values and beliefs may take time to prepare. Ceremonies may be deeply rooted in cultural or religious traditions such as rites, particular types of services or burial practices. That you celebrate life after death or usually witness the ‘charging’ of the coffin to the cremator may be a factor. Food may play a significant role, whether its specific dishes prepared for mourners or dietary restrictions based on cultural or religious beliefs. Language, symbols and symbolic gestures may also carry a deep meaning and ensure that expressions of condolence and support resonates on a profound level.
Lastly, how could this information be shared?
As different cultures and communities have distinct traditions and approaches to grief, there may need to be more awareness around cultural sensitivity to foster understanding and empathy. There are various grieving days and awareness weeks dedicated to different causes and communities as a way to acknowledge and address the diverse experiences of loss. Each day or week dialogue could be promoted by focusing on specific aspects of grief, such as the loss of a loved one, miscarriage, suicide from different cultural and religious perspectives. By dedicating time to discuss grief related to various experiences, it would encourage open conversations and reduce stigma. You may even suggest inclusive spaces for individuals to feel seen and supported and request or design information literature that is easily digestible.
We live in a diverse society and taking the time to educate others to give cultural and religious considerations may not only promote cross-cultural understanding, but also contribute to a more compassionate and inclusive approach to bereavement support.
By sharing our cultural and religious needs, it will allow others to provide solace and connection during challenging times embrace and as an act of self-advocacy will foster a supportive environment during times of bereavement with more understanding and respect for varied needs.
Here at Ubele we facilitate Immersive Workshops that explore the process of bereavement in different communities to acquire a greater understanding of diversity in the context of grief, loss and bereavement. In our workshops, individuals share their knowledge on end of life and grief as it is practiced in their respective communities as well as other methods of immersive and experiential learning. Using creative activities and engagement, the sessions take an immersive sharing, questioning, and learning approach. Our participants leave the sessions upskilled and with a focus to provide interventions that are culturally relevant. They may work in the funeral industry, be a counsellor, therapist, community worker or someone who works with or supports people from Black and racially minoritised communities experiencing grief, bereavement, and loss.
If you are interested in hosting an Immersive Bereavement Workshop, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org