Being sensitive to grief before, during and after the interview – Journalism.co.uk | Team Cansler

Photo credit: Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

A sudden, brutal, or unexpected death can be devastating to families. Some choose to share their experiences with journalists.

How should reporters be sensitive to grieving people? I’ve teamed up with charity Child Bereavement UK and trauma expert and clinical professor Stephen Regel to create these media tips.

A sudden, violent, or unexpected death can cause long-term mental health problems for family members and others involved. Interviews must be conducted with care, but remember that each person’s response to grief is unique.

You may feel…

unbelief take some time. You may feel shocked, stunned, and stunned.

guilt or shame that they survived, they could not protect or save the person or prevent what was happening.

Fury and the feeling that it shouldn’t have happened. Anger and retaliation when someone was responsible.

Empty, deep sadness, longing for the person, missing, possible suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and helplessness.

isolation that no one really understands. A feeling of loneliness or unreality.

memories about the most distressing things I have seen or heard. You may experience intrusive imagery, flashbacks, and a sense of “re-living” the experience. Even trying to remember and talk about positive things about the person who died can inadvertently lead to it.

Before the interview

Research facts: Check them out with family. Any inaccuracy will torment.

Acknowledge death with sincerity: Tell them you’re sorry to hear what happened. Thank them for speaking to you.

Offer selection and control: Your world has been turned upside down and the feeling of helplessness can feel scary and overwhelming. For example, let them choose whether they want someone with them, choose their favorite pictures of the deceased, choose where to talk to you and what to share with you.

Preparation is key: Listen and respect their wishes. Make it clear that they can choose whether or not to answer a question and stop the interview if they feel too desperate or overwhelmed. Point out difficult questions in advance and formulate them sensitively.

Avoid trying to establish a relationship: It may be fair to say that you have no idea what they are going through. However, avoid sharing your own grieving experience: it is not the same as their bereavement.

Phones off and on silent: Speak softly, sit quietly, and listen carefully, with empathy and without distractions.

Manage expectations carefully: Be clear about the process of your work. Be honest. Include them.

be human: Try not to get too upset about saying the right thing and feel uncomfortable. Be empathetic, but try to avoid using judgmental or emotional language, e.g. B. about a perpetrator

During the interview

Take your time: Deep feelings can be overwhelming, distorting thoughts and memories. Grief is exhausting and affects sleep and concentration. Schedule breaks.

Use their name: Refer to the person who died by name rather than “the corpse.” It may be appropriate to ask them about the deceased: “Tell me about… / How was…?” But even that may be difficult to answer for some.

Promote a sense of security: You may feel hyper-alert, self-protective, and nervous. Remain calm and keep your actions predictable.

Avoid “why” questions: ‘Why wasn’t he wearing a bike helmet?’ ‘Why didn’t you take him to the hospital sooner…?’ These sound accusatory, so it might be better to ask, “Can you help me understand…”

Avoid the “How does it make you feel?” Question: Instead, opt for “What was going through your mind…” “What has affected you and your family”.

When they cry: Sit quietly, ask if they want to take a moment, and let them guide you if they want to continue.

If you evoke an angry reaction: Just apologize and say, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Everyone reacts differently to grief: Make concessions. Some may want to open up, others may avoid all memories.

Sensitivity always applies: People “can’t get over it” or “move on” after a sudden, unexpected loss. They can come to terms with it, but it may take time, and they may still be affected by memories. Be sensitive at all stages of the grieving process.

Pay attention to stressors: Legal proceedings such as investigations, trials and investigations, and anniversaries can greatly increase their distress. Your relationships and livelihoods can also be affected by death.

Close the circle: If possible, try to end the interview by gently bringing her into the present—rather than dwelling on the past.

After the interview

Avoid jargon: When you take your pictures, explain them, involve them, but don’t overwhelm them with technical discussions.

Avoid Assurances: Drop the clichés like “time is a great healer”, “they would want you to be happy”, “it must be a relief in some way”, etc.

Appreciate your privilege: It is a privilege to entrust you with your story at such a difficult time. Check and verify the facts. Write and frame your story with care and sensitivity, and include it as much as possible.

Next Steps: Thank them for sharing their experiences with you. Explain what to expect next.

Be careful when you walk: No matter how tight your deadline, take the time to offer resources to help.

Spare a thought for yourself: Few of us escape the loss in our own lives, be sure to take care of yourself as you complete these emotional tasks. Your job interview can bring up difficult and emotionally troubling memories from your past – so be aware and seek support or guidance if these become overwhelming

Jo Healey is a veteran journalist, founder of Trauma Work and author of Trauma Reporting, A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Sensitive Stories. She developed and launched the BBC internally Trauma Reporting Training.

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