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Beth will be answering our questions around bereavement and grief and we will discuss how additional support can be accessed from their service and the University.

  • What is grief and how normal is it to experience it?

Grief is a process that we experience when somebody we love dies. It may bring us feelings of sadness, anger, denial, guilt and shock to name but a few. All of these feelings are completely normal albeit, painful to manage. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and everybody’s experience will be different.

  • How long can the grieving process last for?

In bereavement work, it has been suggested that our grief always stays the same size but we grow bigger than it over time. In other words, it may not ever go completely. At first, the grief is all consuming and we can’t see past it. The thought of ever feeling some relief or being able to move forward seems impossible. However, with time, we grow around it and our life continues. To lose someone we love is life changing and we may never be the same again. It’s important to work through these thoughts and feelings and adapt to a new kind of normal going forward so you can make sense of the world without your loved one.

  • How may experiencing a bereavement differ for people who have lost someone to COVID19? We have heard and read a lot about the changes to funeral arrangements here in the UK, and the impact social isolation has had on grief. What has this meant for those grieving during the crisis?

During the pandemic, many people have not been able to visit their loved one in hospital during their last days of life. This has been especially painful as the choice to say goodbye has been taken away in many cases. As a result, this may have left people with intensified feelings of guilt or regret that they weren’t there or that they have let their loved one down in some way.

The funeral or memorial service following the death of a loved one is an opportunity for the family to come together to grieve, share memories and support one another to navigate through difficult, painful feelings. However, again this opportunity has been taken away or altered significantly for many people during the pandemic. Not everybody may have been able to attend the funeral or distancing measures prevented contact from each other at a time that the people so desperately needed it.

People grieving through the crisis might be feeling really isolated right now, particularly during the lock down when we weren’t able to see our loved ones who normally would’ve supported us and brought some routine or normality during a really difficult time. I would urge those individuals to start or continue to have those conversations with their loved ones and to reach out to services who want to help like ours. 

  • It is important for students to know that they do not have to go through this alone and there are people that can support them during their academic journey with us. Do you have any advice to students who have experienced a bereavement and for those who may be living away from home at the moment?

Grief can be a really isolating experience and we can often feel that nobody will understand what we are going through. However, talking about the loss can be a really powerful and important way of working through the painful feelings that accompany it. Giving yourself permission to feel sad, angry etc. is central to processing our grief. People quite often say that they feel weak for crying or ‘not moving on’ but I would argue that showing emotion and admitting when you’re not ok actually takes immense bravery and strength.

It is completely normal to have up and down days, grief is not a linear journey so be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself too soon. Doing something nice for yourself is really important which can be anything from binge watching something on Netflix to socially-distanced walks.

  • What can family and friends do to help?

Other people who haven’t gone through a bereavement often feel helpless as to what the right thing to say and do is. They may want to avoid talking about your loved one who died for fear of upsetting you or ‘reminding’ you of the loss. If you have lost a loved one, it may help for you to speak to your friends and family about what helps you or what you need from them as everybody is different.

If you are wanting to support someone who has been bereaved, even just reaching out to them with a text or phone call to tell them you’re thinking of them helps, particularly further down the line when things have settled. Let them know that you’re there if they want to talk but also respect if they don’t want to. Just knowing you’re there can be enough. Remembering important anniversaries as time goes on such as birthdays or the date of death can also really help a bereaved individual to feel considered and cared for.

  • How can the service be accessed?

If you are struggling with your grief at the moment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help. If you have lost a loved one and live in Birmingham you can contact us via the telephone number or email address provided below. If you are student who only lives in Birmingham during term time, you can still access this support, you will just need to provide your term time address.

The Hospice’s new telephone bereavement service is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The service is free-of-charge to use but your phone operator may charge you at your standard rate to make the call. To access the service, please call Beth Hopkins, bereavement counsellor, on 07966 165287. Or you can email bereavement@birminghamhospice.org.uk

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and need additional help with your academic studies your College Wellbeing Officers are here to advise and support you. Please contact us via email at

BBS Wellbeing: bbs.wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk
BBS Distance Learning Wellbeing: bbs.dl-wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk
Education Wellbeing: soe.wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk
Government Wellbeing: gov.wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk
MBA Wellbeing: bbs.mba-wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk
Social Policy Wellbeing: sosp.wellbeing@contacts.bham.ac.uk