Talking about dying and death can often feel like a conversation to avoid, it can feel scary and daunting, but it is often not as hard as you might think. The dying Matters campaign encourages people to open up and talk about the important stuff.
In my role as a specialist medical negligence lawyer, I frequently act for families who have lost a loved one. Very often, children who have lost their mum or dad, supporting a parent who has lost their other half. They have taken the brave step to investigate what has happened and why their loved one is no longer by their side. Pursuing a medical negligence claim can provide answers, and financial support, but also allows us to identify when people may need extra support.
Whilst there are services available on the NHS, we all know mental health services are stretched, and that makes the support that charities provide absolutely invaluable.
When I am speaking to family members who have lost a loved one, I will always ask how they are and whether they could do with some extra support. This is not just at the outset of the claim, but something I continuously check in on throughout the case, with the offer to signpost them for support.
One charity that provide incredible support are Grief Encounter. This charity was founded by Dr Shelley Gilbert, MBE, and they provide children and young people with access to the best possible support following the death of a loved one. They aim to alleviate the pain and confusion caused by the death of a parent, grandparent or sibling. They recognise that bereavement is devastating at any age, but for a child, it is life-changing.
Grief Encounter have identified that 1 in 29 children in the UK under 16 years old will experience the death of a parent. They offer a helpline, counselling support, residential weekends, art therapies, workshops and family days.
They also added Grief Encounter South West, which provides similar layers of support, but with a focus on individual and group arts therapies.
Very often, after the loss of a partner, a parent is left feeling alone in grief and sometimes trauma, but they are still parenting and looking after children who have suffered the same loss. On top of this, there is often the worry of how they are going to return to work and earn a living, pay the mortgage without half of the income coming in, and are faced with whether their employer going to be supportive on their return to work.
This is why Dying Matters is such an important awareness campaign. This year, the focus of the campaign is Dying Matters at work, with 57% of employees will have experienced a bereavement in the last five years, however, fewer than one in five managers feel very confident supporting someone they manage with a bereavement.
It also highlights the importance of seeking specialist legal advice if you think you may have lost a loved one due to medical negligence, in order to obtain answers and seek financial security for you and your family.
If you have been affected by bereavement and do think you or your family members may benefit from further support, Grief Encounter details are here: https://www.griefencounter.org.uk/.
Hospice UK who host the Dying Matters campaign has also put together a helpful list of charities that can provide support here: Dying Matters Resources | Hospice UK.