This week, former The Only Way Is Essex star Joey Essex released a BBC Three documentary titled Grief and Me about the death of his mother to suicide when he was 10 years old.
In the one-hour film, Joey, 30, sought help from clinical psychologist Dr Stephen Blumenthal as he explored how his loss has affected him over the past 20 years, having said that all of the memories that he has of his mum are ‘negative or dark’.
Numerous viewers were moved by the powerful programme, with one tweeting: ‘I hope Joey Essex knows what an enormously brave and significant thing he has done here in showing this vulnerability and journey to the world.’
Imogen Thomas, campaign manager for Hospice UK’s Dying Matters initiative, told Metro.co.uk that she found Joey’s decision to open up about his trauma ‘courageous’ and ‘incredibly brave’, an act that she believes ‘will help other people who have experienced bereavement and those who are trying to support someone who’s been bereaved’.
Imogen added that while there are ‘a lot of resources about how to talk about death with children’, she is of the opinion that ‘fundamentally, we as a society just don’t know how to do it and it’s not knowledge that’s commonly shared’.
‘For example, children need things to be kind of very black and white and very straight talking, so when we allude to someone having gone or passed away, perhaps children don’t quite understand what we mean,’ she outlined.
‘If we had the language and the tools to be able to support them through their grief, then, obviously it’s a difficult experience, but they would be able to understand it a little bit more and have that support readily available.’
Imogen remarked that it was important to note how Joey and his sister Frankie Essex, 33, reacted to their mother’s death in different ways, as ‘it showed how grief is different’, with two different children coping in different ways to the same situation.
‘There’s no one rulebook or one way to do it, but if we as adults are able to talk about death and to not hide it from children, then these traumatic grief experiences that a child might have are then addressed at the time, rather than building up and turning into much more complex situations as adults,’ she said.
Imogen found it ‘really uplifting to see Joey’s journey through the course of the programme’, expressing her hope that the documentary can encourage viewers to understand that it’s ‘normal’ to have conversations about death.
‘It’s both healthy and normal to discuss people who have died, to discuss your feelings, to feel like it’s difficult and also to have complex feelings around the idea of letting go,’ she said.
‘Because you’re not letting go of the person – you’re just working your way through that grief and being able to hold onto the memories while letting go of some of the more painful experiences that you’ve been through.’
The aim of Hospice UK’s Dying Matters campaign is to provide advice and information for anyone who is dealing with grief, ensuring that everyone in need has access to support.
Following the release of Joey Essex: Grief and Me, the reality star shared his gratitude over the positive response, tweeting: ‘Thank you for all the lovely messages, it really means a lot to me.’
Joey Essex: Grief and Me is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
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