Whether you find yourself needing help or needing to help others, Griefshare facilitator Coralie Deas has a few tips to help you.
One of life’s most unfortunate constants is the prospect of loss. This reality was driven home even harder this year – not only through all the deaths due to Covid-19 but through how mourning was impacted by the travel bans and calls for social distancing.
It has also felt like the year has just zoomed by and many find themselves having to deal with the festive season before they have even had a chance to process the grief they may have been going through.
The Citizen spoke to Griefshare facilitator Coralie Deas to find out what options those who are grieving have in order for them to make it through the holiday season.
Griefshare facilitator Coralie Deas. Picture: Supplied
According to Deas, the local Griefshare branch she works with recently just wrapped up a 14-week course which found itself with a lot more mourners who had lost loved ones due to Covid-19.
She also believes that the isolation caused by lockdown and the call for social distancing compounded the isolation those in grief already felt, and believes that this is what led to more people turning to Griefshare.
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Additionally, the imposed Covid-19 restrictions – even upon those who had not died from the coronavirus – meant that some loved ones either could not attend funerals and memorial services or had to do so remotely through a video streaming service, and this affected how they normally would have been able to process their grief.
Deas became a facilitator in 2014 after learning of Griefshare and going through their programme to deal with her own grief after losing her 56-year-old brother on Christmas Day in 2011, who had been living with Down syndrome.
“This put me into the most appealing grief which was totally unexpected. I, in a way, thought I would feel relief but I didn’t. I felt numb and disoriented and I battled with my memory, trying to remember things and my concentration… And after eight awful months, during which I hadn’t even cried, I found a Griefshare group.”
She found out about the group on a bulletin board at her church and decided to give it a try after confiding in another parishioner about her struggle with processing her grief.
“I find that people in grief need that little push. They often won’t be able to initiate finding something to help themselves on their own.”
Upon deciding to become a facilitator, Deas received the training needed to properly assist those in need of counselling. However, she admits that she was very nervous about hurting someone in the beginning and possibly setting them back on their journey.
“I discovered that you actually can’t. As long as you’re empathetic and you put their needs above your own, it’s impossible to hurt somebody.”
“What we do at Griefshare is that we walk alongside somebody that is in their own grief and they are usually in their deepest darkest moments that they will ever visit in their life.”
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Griefshare currently only assists those who have lost a loved one to death in order to keep those they assist feeling as though the focus is on them.
The company has an upcoming programme that hopes to provide people with the tools to be able to hopefully get through this period without their lives having to come to a standstill.
The programme is called “Surviving The Holidays” and will be in the form of a Zoom session scheduled for 9 December between 6.30 pm and 9pm. The session costs R190.00 and this fee will also include the survival guide document.
Among the topics discussed will be tips to help people get through simple tasks like grocery shopping without getting triggered.
“The most common mistake that people make is that they try and ‘fix’ the mourning person. And they try to do this from a premise of deep caring. It hurts them to see this person that they care for suffering so much,” said Deas.
“You actually cannot fix a grieving person at all. The best thing you can do for them is be there for them.”
Although Covid-19 has impacted how some people are able to do this, there are other means of being present and lending a listening ear.
Deas advises against falling back on the cliche of “your loved one is now in a better place” as the grieving person is in the worst place they could ever be in.
Rather agree with them and give them room to repeat themselves as this is something grieving people often do. Acknowledge that you have heard what they are saying to you and let them know this is a safe space to share.
Additionally, Deas advises offering to help someone in mourning by stepping up to do chores they may be neglecting around their homes.
She says helping them keep their household running can be an enormous act of love and way to show that you care.
Those who wish to attend the event on 9 December can click here to register.
Potential attendees are also encouraged to reach out to Deas to arrange to receive the survival guide ahead of the event.
Alternatively, the next full-length local Griefshare programme will commence on 17 February, 2021 and will be led by Deas at Victory Park, Johannesburg.
Deas can be reached at +27 83 524 7016
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