Hub member Beth French was 20 when her mum died. She set up Let’s Talk About Loss, a UK-wide charity supporting young grievers aged 18 to 35 by connecting them with their peers and facilitating spaces for them to meet and talk. In this blog, she shares her experience of setting up Let’s Talk About Loss, and the loneliness that comes with being bereaved young.
The loneliness of being bereaved young
It was a few hours after my mum died and I was sat wide awake in bed, late into the night, not knowing what I was meant to do now that my world had been so completely shattered. Where do you turn when you are bereaved? How do you carry on living when your heart is broken? I had no idea what to do – so I googled “what to do when your mum dies”. Unsurprisingly, the results were not particularly helpful. Lots of articles about moving on, and lots of websites offering support but all the photos were of people many decades older than me.
I had brilliant family and friends to support me, but as you’ll know if you’ve been bereaved, it’s important to find a space where you can talk openly and honestly about how you feel, without worrying about upsetting your loved ones, and so in 2018, three years after my mum died, I started blogging about my loss, and meeting up with a small group of peers in Nottingham. We were featured on a documentary and overnight hundreds of young grievers from across the UK were emailing me to say how lonely they felt and how desperate they were to connect with others. Let’s Talk About Loss was born – and today we have 34 groups meeting each month in cities across the UK, and hundreds of young grievers talking openly about their loss with people who understand and can relate.
We’re often asked why we don’t support everyone, and there are two main reasons. Firstly, there are incredible grief support organisations all across the UK who are established and have peer support for people of any age. There was no point in simply replicating their work, so we signpost to them.
The second reason is that we believe it’s important to be able to meet with people who are in a similar life stage to you, and can understand the specific challenge and loneliness of losing someone at a young age. When I lost my mum, I was single, at university, still living at home between terms. She never got to see me get my first job, meet the man who is now my husband and marry him, or move out and have my own house. I’m 27 now, and there are still milestones she won’t get to see – she’ll never meet my children which is particularly hard for me as she was a real family-orientated person.
Between the ages of 18 and 35, life is changing rapidly. There are so many major life events that often happen between those ages, and you are becoming an adult, learning more about yourself and developing your personality. To do all of that while grieving for someone you love is an incredibly isolating process, and as much as the support of a 60-year-old widow is wonderful, it’s not quite the same as someone who has also lost their partner at the age of 30.
We’re so proud of the community we’ve created at Let’s Talk About Loss and we’re passionate to talk through the taboo of grief and bereavement as much as possible. One of our volunteers Emma said “it’s really made me realise that although grief is so unique, young grievers have so much in common.” For Let’s Talk About Loss, user-led peer support is transforming the way young people experience grief and tackling loneliness one conversation, hug or grief joke at a time.