Mental Health Awareness Week: Littlehampton bereavement support volunteer urges community to consider everyday support for people who are grieving

Opening up conversations about grief could help people overcome the impact it is having on their wellbeing, according to a Littlehampton funeral service arranger.

Tracey Harriman, 49, is a volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Support and says she has witnessed first-hand how grief and bereavement can isolate people in the community.

A champion for mental health, she is encouraging people to help bereaved friends and family open up about how they are feeling as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has loneliness as its theme.

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Tracey, who has worked for Co-op at F A Holland Funeralcare, in Terminus Road, for six years, said: “The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is so apt and, sadly, I see people every day who tell me how isolated and lonely their grief makes them feel. They don’t feel able to open up to those around them about the way they are feeling.

Tracey Harriman, funeral arranger at Co-op Funeralcare in Littlehampton and Cruse volunteer

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“There is no better time than Mental Health Awareness Week to encourage people to talk to someone in their community who might be experiencing grief alone.

“Our connection to others plays a fundamental role in protecting and preserving our mental health and I hope people in and around Littlehampton will feel empowered to reach out and make a difference to someone’s day.”

Motivated by her experience at work, Tracey decided to become a local champion for mental health to help people in the area who are grieving.

Earlier this year, when Co-op and Cruse launched a new partnership aimed at helping people talk about death and grief more openly, Tracey signed up as a volunteer.

Tracey said: “I see people every day who tell me how isolated their grief makes them feel. This joint partnership with Cruse and Co-op is a tremendous undertaking as it will help people in communities to have conversations, helping them to provide better practical and emotional support to those that need it in their darkest hour.”

Funded by members through the Co-op’s Community Partnership Fund, the campaign addresses issues such as understanding, normalising and identifying the signs of grief and knowing how the community can provide support.

Later this year, the partnership will roll out on-the-ground bereavement support with face-to-face workshops on how to support people with grief and knowing how and when to signpost them to more formal support.

Andy Langford, clinical director, said: “At Cruse, we know that those who have experienced the death of someone close naturally turn to family, friends and those around to them for comfort.

“However, our research clearly tells us that people don’t always know what to say to someone experiencing grief and feel in some cases it’s better to do nothing than risk causing upset.

“This exciting partnership with Co-op will not only help educate people in communities on the importance of good grief support but will also offer practical ways to help people through some of the most painful times in their life.

“As the nation continues to emerge from the effects of the pandemic, we feel optimistic that this important initiative can take a big step towards normalising conversations around bereavement and encourage communities to help each other through times of grief.”

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 9 to 15, Tracey is encouraging people to reach out to friends and family members dealing with the loss of a loved one.

For more information about the virtual resources encouraging everyday bereavement support in the community, visit co-operate.coop.co.uk/improve-mental-wellbeing