Bereavement can affect people very differently and like all issues, we need to have a better understanding and more conversation about the topic. In the latest Brake blog, Jack Kushner, who runs the Sudden initiative at Brake, writes about the importance of discussion about sudden bereavement and how the Sudden initiative is helping to inform and engage people.
Unexpected and sudden bereavement is tragically something that effects a growing number of people. Research published by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) has highlighted that 47% of people in the UK have been bereaved in the past 5 years alone, and in today’s complicated and connected society, the ripple effect of a death can have an increasingly widespread impact.
Through our support services and helpline team at Brake, we are aware of how shocking the impact of a traumatic bereavement can be. The statistics surrounding sudden death are harrowing; our work at Brake means we know that five people die on the roads every day in the UK, but deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, suicide and homicides, amongst other causes of bereavement, can also have a traumatic impact on surviving families.
Brake’s Sudden initiative is passionate about ensuring that all professionals supporting suddenly bereaved people are provided with tools and resources, that ensure they can deliver fully encompassing care and support. Over the past 12 months, we have delivered a number of seminars, webinars and conferences around the topic of supporting suddenly bereaved people. During this time, one theme has been central to our conversations – the importance of open discussion around bereavement.
Talking openly and honestly about sudden death, and keeping these conversations prominent, is vital. It’s for this reason, that in January 2017, we’ve taken what seems like the next natural step, and launched the Sudden blog. This blog will feature a variety of posts from experts, academics and support organisations, helping to further encourage open discussion around bereavement.
Engaging in dialogue about bereavement is not just essential for addressing stigma around death and dying; it’s also crucial in raising awareness of the experiences of people who have been suddenly and traumatically bereaved. Research undertaken by ComRes in 2012 found that 71% of the public agreed that people in Britain are not comfortable discussing bereavement.
A sudden bereavement can be an isolating experience, and bereaved people need to be supported - and not just expected to ‘get on with it’. Talking about sudden bereavement can be an important and helpful way for those who have lost a loved one to cope with their grief, and it is imperative that people who have been bereaved feel comfortable with discussing their emotions in their schools, communities and workplaces.
The themes of conversation and discussion were reflected in two major national events in 2016, further helping to raise awareness. Dying Matters Awareness Week selected its 2016 theme as the crucial topic of ‘The Big Conversation’; this was followed by November’s ‘Child Grief Awareness Week’, which ran on the campaign ‘#MakeTime2Listen’, underlining the importance of ensuring the voices of bereaved young people are heard. Research published in accompaniment of the week has highlighted that bereaved children are far less likely to share or discuss their concerns than their peers.
In 2016, these discussions have begun to be reflected by calls across the political spectrum, recognising both the impact of stigma, complicated grief and trauma on people suddenly bereaved, and also financial and practical issues that remain unfortunately neglected. In 2017, it’s vital that these issues are kept prominent on a national level, and we hope that the Sudden blog will offer a great space for continuing these conversations.
It’s for all these reasons that we’re so excited about launching the Sudden blog. We want this to be a space where professionals can engage in frank, open debate; and also to provide the opportunity for global conversation on developments in best practice and knowledge exchange.
The Sudden blog goes live in January, with posts initially on a monthly basis. To view our first Sudden blog post, courtesy of Brake corporate partner Birchall Blackburn, please visit out Sudden website at www.sudden.org.uk/blog. If you would be interested in submitting an entrance to the Sudden blog, please email email@example.com.
 NCPC. 2014. Life After Death. [Online]. [Accessed 15/12/16]. Available from: http://www.dyingmatters.org/sites/default/files/Life%20After%20Death%20FINAL(1).pdf
 Dying Matters. 2012. Brits Paying Price for Refusal to Discuss Death. [Online]. [Accessed 15/12/16]. Available from: http://www.dyingmatters.org/news/brits-paying-price-refusal-discuss-death
 National Children’s Bureau. 2016. Bereaved Children Less Likely to Talk about their Worries. [Online]. [Accessed 15/12/16]. Available from: https://www.ncb.org.uk/news-opinion/news-highlights/bereaved-children-less-likely-talk-about-their-worries-0#_ftn1