Alternatives created to 'awful' sympathy cards

By Caroline Le Marechal
BBC News, Bristol

image copyrightBeth French
image captionBeth said Let's Talk About Loss grew out of the blog she started after her mother's death

A woman who set up a grief support charity for young people after her mum died five years ago is launching the group's own range of bereavement cards.

Beth French, 25, from Bristol, runs Let's Talk About Loss, which supports 18-35-year-olds who have been bereaved.

She said the cards would be "appropriate, kind and sensitive - with no grey clouds or cuddly bears".

Ms French said the idea came from a meet-up "when we were laughing at how awful sympathy cards are".

She said she "never set out to start a charity" when she started blogging after her mother's death in 2015.

She began the blog in 2016, then in 2018 organised monthly peer-led meet-ups, which now take place across the UK.

image copyrightLet's Talk About Loss
image captionThe cards also include tips on what to write to bereaved people and aims to "change the way the UK talks about grief and death"

"People can gather over a coffee, an activity or a meal, and talk through the taboos that society has created around grief and death," Ms French said.

"My mum was diagnosed with cancer two weeks before I left home for university.

"She was in her early 50s and had been completely healthy, so it was a big shock. I didn't want to go to university and leave her but she promised she would fight it and everything would go back to normal.

"Two years later, just after I got home from my second year, she suddenly deteriorated and within just a few days she had died.

"I was 20. I wasn't a child but didn't feel like an adult. The support charities available didn't feel relevant to my age group and I found I was falling between the gaps."

She said the family received "hundreds" of bereavement cards and they "were all over the house".

"None of the work I do will take away the pain of my grief but it's really refreshing to not be alone in it and to be able to talk to other people, who think that Mother's Day is the worst day in the whole world."

image copyrightAlice Williams
image captionAlice Williams said she discovered the group after "reading about millennial grief"

Alice Williams, 23, from Bristol, joined the group after her father died in August.

"I had already lost my mum in November 2013. When somebody dies you get an influx of supportive messages.

"A lot of people messaged me on social media and I valued all of the words I read. Getting a card is much more personal and they tend to be from closer friends or family.

"Online messages disappear but we can hold on to cards forever - I have a special memory box and have kept all of mine."

image copyrightNick Lauener
image captionNick Lauener said the cards for young people were a "perfect solution in such a difficult situation"

Nick Lauener, 27, from Wells, said he lost his dad "completely out of the blue" in the summer of 2018.

"I first joined the group at the end of last year as I'd just moved to Wells and was having a bit of a tough time away from the friends and family who'd been supporting me in Glasgow.

"Being a young person dealing with grief can be pretty isolating, I didn't know any other people dealing with that my age, through the group I've met dozens, it's such a welcoming supportive community and I'm really glad to have found it."

image copyrightLet's Talk About Loss
image captionThe cards are designed by Zoe Guy

The cards were designed by illustrator and mental health activist Zoe Guy, who also works for charity YoungMinds.

Ms Guy said: "It felt important to offer a variety - grief impacts everyone differently, and what one person might want to hear could be very different to another.

"We tried to ensure the designs captured an array of emotions and phrases. I hope it helps many people reach out to their friends and family during a bereavement."

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