Opening the door you wanted to keep shut

Experiencing the loss of someone close to us is an inevitable part of life.

Experiencing the loss of someone close to us is an inevitable part of life.

Experiencing the loss of someone close to us is an inevitable part of life, perhaps one of the hardest things we’ll ever deal with. Grief can and almost always does shake everything up – often your beliefs, your personality, your everyday thoughts. It rocks your sense of reality, sometimes distorting acceptance that your partner, family member, friend or neighbour just isn’t there anymore. Obviously there’s a void but although irreplaceable, there are organisations out there that can help you on your journey to opening the door you once wanted to keep firmly shut.

Bereavement is the time we spend adjusting to loss and there is no standard time limit, right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period. Everyone must learn to cope in their own way and adjusting to life without the person who has died does and can take time, usually more time than we realise. Eventually though, most people are able to make these adjustments and it’s often with the help of friends you just haven’t met yet.

Yesterday, we shared the story of Mr N and how his local Neighbourhood Network in Otley helped his family during a particularly difficult time.  There are 37 networks citywide, which provide a range of services to older people, such as befriending, luncheon clubs and social activities. They’ve often been called a ‘lifeline’ by their members who consistently tell us how their life has been turned around for the better by being a part of the network.  If you wanted support and wondered if Neighbourhood Networks could help you, a friend or family member, please read the real life story below.

We spoke to one of the members from a Neighbourhood Network who went through a life changing loss when her mother passed away.  ‘Annie’ wanted to remain anonymous, so we have changed her name.

Annie has been going to Armley Helping Hands Neighbourhood Network for 8 years. Here’s what she had to share so others might be encouraged to join their local group:

I was recommended to come here by my doctor and my social worker. After I lost my mother, I was suffering from… well, grieving. Uncontrollable.  I couldn’t speak. My mother had been central in my life and losing her…. It was, well. It was beyond heart-breaking.

When I first came, I couldn’t stop crying. Small steps though, so I decided to try out one of the classes. Slowly, as my confidence increased, I made some friends and learnt a new skill. Through Louise, one of the brilliant volunteers here, I ended up having bereavement counselling and it’s all been forward going from there.

It’s changed my life; it really has. Here, I have a life now because I have friends I can relate to, we go on trips and holidays. It has opened me out again, where once I’d become very reclusive. Before I had no friends, no-one to share things with and dealing with the loss of the most important person in your life is one thing. Dealing with it on your own eventually becomes unbearable.

It’s been a lifeline coming here. Making that first move – I’m glad I did!  It’s something to get up for in a morning, gives you purpose and we do have a lot of laughs.  If someone was to ask me if they should try it, there’d be no hesitation; it’s a definite yes. Something for everyone no matter how happy or sad you feel.

Our thanks go to Annie who kindly shared her story.  

We also spoke to Darrell Xavier, from the Richmond Hill Elderly Action about how their Neighbourhood Network supports people who have been bereaved (click here to read the interview).Perhaps you know of someone who has suffered a loss and needs support? With 37 Neighbourhood Networks all over Leeds, help is but a phone call away. Please contact 0113 2224401.

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
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