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Bereavement

Sport can play a vital role in supporting people who are grieving, enabling them to work through the pain until they come to acceptance. We need to include this focus in our work wherever possible

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management May Jun 2017 issue 131
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

All our lives are touched by grief at some point, whether it directly affects us, or we find ourselves supporting friends, family or work colleagues as they deal with the loss of a loved one.

Few of us are equipped to be able to offer the support needed – we do our best to give comfort, to find the right things to say and in some cases, simply to be there. Sometimes hugs are more powerful than words can ever be in helping them through it.

If this resonates with you, you’ll have known the feeling of powerlessness that comes with being the supporter and not being able to help the person who’s grieving – knowing you’re lacking in the skills and awareness needed to bring meaningful comfort.

We’re simply not very good at dealing with death – it’s something society keeps hidden and many struggle to confront or accept it. Yet death is a natural part of life and having the tools to support loved ones through an encounter with it, while finding our own acceptance is something we can all benefit from.

On page 48, Kath Hudson looks at how sport can help those who’ve been bereaved to cope and heal and find their way through the most challenging times. Drawing on personal experience, and lessons learned from experts in the field, she highlights how exercise has helped people find light, hope and relief.

That sport and exercise can do this is a very wonderful thing and in these times when stress is becoming a modern epidemic, the strain of grief – when overlaid on an already taxing life – can overwhelm those who are already struggling to cope.

Sport has a huge opportunity to offer meaningful support. As Hudson says: “Everyone can benefit from the mental health benefits of exercise, but particularly those who’ve been bereaved. Being active not only provides a chance to reflect, it also increases blood flow to the brain – which promotes clearer thinking – and triggers the release of beneficial neurotransmitters...improves sleep and appetite, and gives a sense of routine and control: all things that are incredibly important when people are grieving.”

We mustn’t shy away from tackling this significant challenge and offering interventions to support the bereaved. They may need grief counselling along with the exercise and this can be offered in partnership with experts.

Support groups exist, but most offer talking therapy and few involve physical activity. We have the power to change this and extend the reach of sport to create bonds with people and help them in their hour of need.

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