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Time to Talk Day: The charity support available following a bereavement and work to improve mental health services

On this year's Time to Talk Day we're being encouraged to talk about how we “really feel.” Therefore, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to reflect on the bereavement conference #letstalkaboutgrief that Irwin Mitchell held in December 2023. 

The decision to hold our first bereavement conference wasn't taken lightly. I did wonder how the content would be received and perhaps worried about raising my head above the parapet to start those sometimes uncomfortable conversations about grief. Talking about how it really feels to grieve, rather than just telling people we are “fine” “I’m fine.” 

Charities come together to offer support 

The sense of unity that filled the beautiful venue at the Cotton Exchange, a space shared so kindly by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, was incredible.  

It was with great pride that we were joined by charities who strive to try and make life a little bit more bearable after a bereavement, selflessly devoting time, energy and emotion in helping others cope with this life-changing event. There was solidarity in the phrase “life will never be the same again.”

We were joined by Alfie’s Squad, INQUEST, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Widowed and Young, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, Suicide & Co, Strong Men, and Scotty’s Little Soldiers.  All these charities offering a niche service for those experiencing grief. 

A common theme that emerged in conversations from the day and in the heartfelt presentations from the charities, was that bereavement support needs to be available through peers, being around others who have lived experience. For example, how we approach bereaved children and bereavement following a self-inflicted death must be and is so very different than when supporting adult men and women who have experienced bereavement. 

The communities that have been created by charities to provide this much needed layer of support is quite incredible, often founded by someone who has themself been through bereavement and is driven to help others. 

As well as learning how the charities support others and how they evolved, I personally gained an invaluable insight about how I can adapt how I communicate about bereavement, being open, and breaking the stigma. 

I know that I'm not alone when I say I was astounded by the work INQUEST undertakes. It's the only charity which provides pro-bono assistance for bereaved families following a state death. Their tireless campaigning to ensure that access to justice is achieved is inspiring, and I wholeheartedly support their mission to ensure equality of arms between the bereaved families and the state. 

Working to help families affected by grief access support and establish answers 

I frequently represent families at inquests. The inquest process can be daunting, especially when the family are grieving, so as a clinical negligence practitioner I hope to alleviate the fear by working with the coroner on behalf of the family. 

I ensure that I understand what the family would like to achieve from the inquest process; it might be accountability, answers, justice, or to stop further deaths from occurring. 

The latter is very relevant in cases involving mental health care. In practice, my experience is that coroners are making more recommendations about the care that is being provided in mental health services, identifying failings that need to be remedied. 

When a coroner prepares a Prevention of Future Deaths Report, it's earth-shattering news for the family that something could have been done to prevent death. However, I think I speak from experience when I say that the bereaved want to know that something is being done about it. Coroners have a duty to make these reports where it's felt that action should be taken to prevent future deaths. 

This Time to Talk Day I urge people to come together, talk more, talk more about bereavement, and continue to talk about how it really feels.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's work in supporting people affected by grief at our bereavement section. Visit our dedicated medical negligence to find out more about our work in helping families affected by care issues.