The death of a loved one is always difficult. But while there is often help and on hand when a family member dies – it can feel harder to find that support when the person in question was not a blood relative.
Understanding friend bereavement
Bereavement can come in all shapes and sizes and just because the person who has died was not related to you, does not mean that you will escape the grief that so often accompanies a loss.
However, you may feel as if you have not received the same level of support or understanding that may come with losing a partner, parent, or sibling. This might arise in the discussions that you have with people you know, your rights with regards to taking a leave of absence at work, or in terms of access to services and support.
It can feel as if your grief is less important than those who are directly related to the person who has died – but this is wrong. Your feelings and pain are no less significant than anyone else’s, and you are entitled to feel the way you feel. Giving yourself this permission to grieve can be a meaningful first step in the healing process.
Understanding your rights
In the UK, anyone classed as an employee has the right to time off when a dependent dies. A dependent may include a partner, parent, carer, or child. However, there is no automatic right to pay when taking this type of bereavement leave – and typically a loss of a friend might not be included.
Most employers do care about the well-being of their staff and while employers may not be legally bound to provide you with time off in this scenario, they may be willing to make accommodations. Their official stance should be laid out in your employment contract or employee handbook, but talking to your manager or HR representative is a good place to begin.
Remembering your loved one
One way to find comfort during the grieving process is to take time to remember your loved one. You could arrange a memorial event, a meeting with other friends and loved ones, or arrange a charity run in their honour. Equally, you could just find solace in looking through photographs of your life together or listening to a piece of music that reminds you of them.
Dealing with grief
Your emotions when dealing with the loss of a friend may include grief, anger, sadness, loneliness, fear, and even guilt. These are all-natural and common and you should never feel ashamed about them. Our friends play an important role in our lives. We share our dreams, aspirations, moments of laughter, and sadness. So it is not surprising that we feel deeply about the space that they have left behind. It is natural and an important part of healing.
Grief can and often does take weeks, months, and even years to dissipate. Some people say that they never do properly overcome grief, but simply they find ways to move forward and continue their life.
However, if you feel as if grief is having a profound impact and holding back your normal routines then it is important to reach out for support. You can talk to those close to you, colleagues, or seek out professional bereavement support from charities and counseling services.
Organisations like Samaritans, Cruise Bereavement Care, Bereavement UK, and The Compassionate Friends are on hand to help you when you feel ready.