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How I started talking about my grief

Ryan shares how he processed his grief and spoke to people he trusted after his best friend passed away.

When my best friend passed away, I barely remember the first few months after he died. I was weighed down by this cloud of absolute nothing. For me, that was one of the things I never knew about grief. It can be so many emotions - or it can be nothing at all. It can be empty. That's also okay.

Grief isn't a cut-and-dry 'thing'.

Grief isn't a cut-and-dry 'thing' you can put in a box. Oftentimes, it's messy. That's how it was for me. There's no single way grief is, and there's no right and wrong about it, either.

There were two main ways that I processed my grief. One was through art. A lot of my artwork from within the first year after I lost my friend was full of his favourite flower. It was a way of connecting to him. I wrote him a letter once, too. I'd definitely recommend that as a good release of emotions.

CBT (talking therapy) was one of the things that kept me together.

The second core way I chose to deal with my feelings around my loss was through talking to my therapist. CBT (talking therapy) was one of the things that kept me together, learning how to manage how I felt whilst at the same time accepting that how I was feeling (and still am feeling) was okay. It was also a place I could keep my friend's memory alive.

One thing I wish I could tell my past self was to talk to somebody about it earlier. Because my friend didn't go to my school, my parents didn't "have to" know. So I didn't tell them for over a year. My close friends knew, but I never talked about him.

It’s very important to find somebody you trust

In my opinion, it's very important to find somebody you trust to talk to about what you're going through. I shut myself away instead of asking for help and it made things even harder for me. It might feel impossible but opening up for the first time is the hardest part- it becomes easier after that.

Actually, one of the first people I found myself relying on was one of my teachers. I wrote about my friend as someone who had impacted my life in a class assignment and that started the conversation. Having a teacher know was hugely helpful, for example, it meant that on the anniversary of my friend's death I was allowed to leave my classes any time I needed to.

Most conversations I had relied on the written word.

My suggestion for how to start a conversation around grief and loss is that there's no wrong way to do it. If you don't feel comfortable saying it out loud then a letter, email, text message, social media DM… all of these are perfectly okay ways of talking to someone too. It's a hard thing to bring up - they'll understand. Most conversations I had relied on the written word.

If you’re able to send an email it can give you the space to work out what you want to say and how to say it. If you choose to tell a teacher, it's important to know that they may make the decision to tell more senior members of staff. This is so they can make sure the school can support you, it doesn't mean you've done something wrong. From my experience, it helped me a lot.

If you're reading this because you have a friend who is currently grieving, here is some advice based on my experiences:

  • Ask them if there's any way you can help. They might want to talk, have a positive discussion about something else or have time to themselves. Asking directly if they want to talk about the person or pet they have lost may also help, as it can often feel daunting to be the one to ask to discuss it.
  • They may ask for space. Accept it for the time being. But make sure you check up on them sometimes, as many people who are grieving will isolate themselves to an unhealthy level (as I did).
  • If you become worried about your friend's behaviour, talk to a responsible adult. You don't need to deal with everything your friend is feeling by yourself.

I'd like to end by saying: it will get easier. It might seem like it'll never happen right now- it will. It's okay if it takes a while. There is support out there when you're ready to seek it.

Where to get help

If you have been bereaved, or experienced a loss, visit our Find Help: Grief and Loss guide with advice and places you can find help. 

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