13 symbolic empty chairs on display at Victoria Leeds as part of Sue Ryder campaign focused on grief
and live on Freeview channel 276
The charity has launched ‘The Empty Chair’, which involves a dining table surrounded by 13 empty chairs appearing at the shopping centre. It aims to encourage people to invite those grieving round for a meal. New research by Sue Ryder has inspired the campaign, as it states three quarters (72 per cent) of people who have experienced a bereavement skip meals because they do not like eating alone.
Sue Ryder has also claimed three-fifths (59 per cent) of grieving people said that being invited over for dinner helped with their grief. The dining table and chairs will be displayed at Victoria Leeds on November 15 and 16, between 8am and 6pm, and each seat will represent someone who has died.
Lisa Riley, a Sue Ryder Ambassador, said: “I always say that mum was the oxygen in the room. Mum made me look timid and that's not an exaggeration. Mum loved the colour yellow and whenever I see it, I think of her and feel her with me. Mum’s empty chair is felt by everyone who knew her, not just me. She is always missed at special occasions and celebrations, because she was the life and soul of every party.”
Sue Ryder research has also suggested five per cent of people agree that cooking for one is not worth it, and that over two-fifths (41%) find they eat less healthy meals since their loved one died.
Bianca Neumann, head of bereavement at Sue Ryder, said: “During your journey through grief, you may find it hard to do everyday tasks like eating meals. The idea of cooking or preparing a meal and then sitting at a dining table can be overwhelming and magnify the absence of the person who died.
“If you are supporting someone through grief, why not offer them a seat at your dinner table. It may be that the person declines your offer or cancels at the last minute, but it’s important to be understanding and patient. Grief affects people in different ways and they may wake up feeling excited to see you but by the afternoon feel unable to attend.
“My advice would be to continue to offer a place at your dinner table and to be led by the grieving person. Over the meal you can ask questions like ‘would you like to talk about how you are doing?’ If they say yes, then starting conversations with open questions such as ‘what was your favourite meal together?’ or ‘do you have a special memory that you’d like to share?’. Some people may like to raise a toast to the person who died but not talk about them any further and make space for normal conversations that you may have, and that’s okay too.
“Research shows that events like coming together to share a meal increase the levels of oxytocin, which creates a sense of belonging and safety, making them feel less alone. This can be particularly helpful if you are feeling isolated in your grief.”