A Work in Progress

a work in progress – the view of my desktop

I feel a bit remiss (and sad) that we haven’t posted news to you for quite awhile.  The thing is, that having got my head down into the edit for our documentary, it really has been very difficult to tear myself away from so many engrossing stories, stories of grief, stories of love and stories of survival.   So I’ll take this moment to thank all those who opened their hearts to us both in the US and in Mexico.  Jane and I intend that the trust you have placed in us is repaid in full as we work to interpret your stories as honestly yet as imaginatively as we can.

We returned from our travels with over 80 hours of footage.  We now have 13 wonderful testimonies, three in depth interviews with leading academics in the field of trauma and loss  as well as enough material we need to cover our own journey.  Our plan now is to produce a feature length documentary (thats somewhere between 70 to 90 minutes), to build a website (now funded and soon to begin construction) to house the doc and fuller length versions of all the stories we have captured and get all the publicity we can to make THE GOOD GRIEF PROJECT an essential resource for all those who have been bereaved through the death of a son or daughter.   This we hope is just the start – our dream is continue to solicit, record and publish many more such stories in ways that show that creativity in all its forms has such an important part to play in the grieving process.

We are now very very pleased to announce that our good friend and colleague Jane Treays has come on board as our executive producer for the film.  Jane is an award winning documentary maker who I have worked with many times over the past 15 years or so.  As director and editor we have a close working knowledge of the things we like, the things we don’t like and the ways we can make them into stories.  All good production teams need someone who can stand at a distance and see the work from afar and help those of us who are closer to action so to speak and may lose sight of the bigger picture.  This is especially important when the editor (me) is also the one who shot the film in the first place.  But more important than that, Jane T. (as opposed to Jane H.) knew Josh and knows what we have been through since his death, she has known our pain and she knows how we have struggled to keep going. But she also has a really good understanding of audience and we know that she will help us craft a film that is accessible  to both the bereaved and the non-bereaved.

Amber with her  7 week old baby Jesse named after her brother who died less than a year previously

I’ve been cutting documentaries for most of my working life and I am never really surprised by the surprise that people show when they learn how long it takes to put stuff together to make a film.   We are now into the 16th week of the edit … and we currently have a rough assembly of about 2 hours long – the task of fine tuning this, adding music and graphics and narration and bringing it down to under 90 minutes is both exciting, rewarding (its where the creative juices do need to flow!) but it is also very intense and time consuming work.    And I love it … I try and limit my time sitting in front of the computer screens but for most of my waking hours I am living and breathing “good grief’, mulling over particularly resonant offerings and figuring out the best way to construct a succinct and engaging narrative around them.

Here’s just a few to whet your appetite ..

“Not everyone agrees with me … but I had to forgive to survive.  I knew that in order to go on with my life without being overshadowed and possibly destroyed physically and emotionally by anger I had to forgive” (bereaved Mum – 3 years)

“The night (our son) died … she looked at me and said this is not good for our marriage … statistically folk who lose children don’t stay together … statistically” (bereaved Dad – less than a year)

“When I lost (my son) yes I lost an amazing young man but I also lost a lot of my future” (bereaved Mum – 5 years)

“Lean into the grief, I read about this in the grief books and I never knew what the heck that meant.  But I’m starting to figure it out.. . I’m not pushing it away, I’m not ignoring my feelings, I’m embracing them in a way …” (bereaved Mum –  less than a year)

“When you are a bereaved mother you have a wide latitude for craziness” (bereaved Mum – 6 years)

If you can begin to imagine the lives, the tragedies as well as the growth that lie behind these quotes, then you can understand how honoured we feel to be able to record them and to put them on screen.   For us of course it’s all part of living and working with and in our own grief.   We have shared our story of Josh’s death and in turn we have heard many more tales of grief and some of the amazing ways in which people have found answers to questions they never thought they would have to ask.   We have learnt much but possibly the most important lesson is the very fact of this sharing – to tell and be heard, to listen to and witness another’s pain similar to one’s own brings comfort and a sense of reality to grief.   In sharing we validate each others experience and feelings, we help to bring grief into focus and in the long and uneven process of adapting to our new lives,  and we give each other strength and the confidence to face the world again in spite of our deep wound.

“My grief is sacred, my love for my son is sacred, when you lost a child thats the most private and primal place for a Mum and I don’t allow a lot of people to see that pain.”  (bereaved Mum –  less than a year)

But as bereaved parents sharing our stories with each other, we know that we do so within a safety zone, in a place where there are no judgements, a place where we know questions like ‘isn’t it time to move on?’ or ‘shouldn’t you think about letting him go’ will never be asked.   One of the things we want our film to do is to allow the non-bereaved a glimpse into this special world.  It is not a morbid world, nor is it depressing or lacking in laughter. But it is a world where loss and longing, and where pain and love have together created a new approach to living, one in which our own fears of death have somehow given way to new understandings and new visions for life’s purpose.

Thank you for reading and here’s a few more scenes from our rushes


(May 2016)

Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School aged 6 years old

Kelly and Dan Anglin whose son Jordan also died from a gunshot in 2014

Margaret Jackson honours her son Richard with a charity she started called RJ Smiles

After the death her daughter Jesse, Kim Garrison was saved from taken her own life by the fortuitous phone call from her surviving son

Duffy St Pierre has lost two sons. On both occasions he went straight back to work as a tugboat captain on the Mississippi. “Work was my solace” he tells us

When her son died in 2014 Denise Martinez needed to face grief ‘head on’ or dissappear into a pit of depression


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