After Sarah, 47, lost two people in her life, Untangle’s online bereavement sessions gave her a safe space to talk about her grief and gain a sense of community with other people.
I found Untangle after experiencing two very different losses in a very short space of time. First I lost my dad, and then just four months later my partner died. My dad was 85 and had had a good, long life. My partner’s death was very sudden – he had a cardiac arrest out of the blue. My first reaction was to bolt out of the house where I had lived for 22 years, cutting everything off. I stripped it all away: left my home, my job, everything. I tried to settle down in Mallorca, where my partner and I had considered living, but it didn’t work out. Importantly, I didn’t access any therapy in Spain – there was very little bereavement care available. I think the UK is much stronger on mental health, with support on offer through your GP and organisations like Mind.
I came back to the UK for a few weeks in March 2020 to be close to my mum, who is in a care home. And then lockdown happened. At this point I hadn’t done any real healing – I’d just gone numb, living mostly in a survival state of fight or flight. I had a real sense of displacement, identifying with what I imagined life could feel like for a refugee – because I’d lost so much: loved ones, my home, my work, my identity. When I couldn’t go anywhere because of Covid-19 I finally had a meltdown. I had to learn about self-care and begin to forgive myself for my decisions.
A friend had heard about Untangle and sent me a link, so I just filled in a simple form online. Then I was contacted about joining a free bereavement support group and started attending Zoom sessions on Sunday mornings. It worked brilliantly for me. It was scary to potentially open up in front of strangers, but we were all there together under the umbrella of grief. And it felt safe because we had a therapist and a moderator with us. They didn’t always get involved, but when something deeper was triggered it was important to have a professional there.
It felt very scary to finally face my grief once the shock had subsided. But then I just fell into the routine and decided to show up for myself and for the group. It gave me a sense of community and felt very inclusive. Little comments or suggestions that someone made could make a big difference. Meeting on a Sunday morning also reminded me of going to church in my childhood, and was a good time for quiet reflection. I did sessions every week for three months. Other people came for one week or a few weeks at a time. As time went by I recognised that I was in a really strong place, and had processed a lot of stuff. Eventually it felt like the right time for me to leave and occasionally pop back in to support others – that’s my intention now.
Being part of the online group showed me what enormous power can come from sharing in a safe space with others who are grieving. You can rock up and you don’t have to say anything – just gain a sense of connection by sitting with others who understand the extremity of losing a loved one.It’s so important to give yourself time, even if it’s just an hour, to show up to that place that you naturally want to avoid, because you just don’t want to feel anything when you grieve. Being witnessed, and witnessing others, and feeling part of a community online is incredibly effective. It’s an act of self-care – subtle but life changing, because it allows you to take the next step.
If you want to join in the Untangle community, click here.
Image – Sarah with her partner, Lester. © Private