Welcome to our December Newsletter. We’d like to offer you some of our thoughts about how to manage what maybe some difficult feelings to do with grief during the holiday season … Is this a season of joy or a season of sorrow? Perhaps it is both. As the year turns and as Christmas approaches we know how conflicted bereaved families can be as we negotiate this festive period and we want you to know that we are thinking of you as we take stock of 2022 and move into a more hopeful New Year.
THE PUSH ME PULL YOU OF GRIEF
In the years since our son Josh died we have learnt that grief is a kind of ‘push me, pull you’ of all kinds of emotions, as the waves of pain and anguish subside and periods of growth take over…. a constant cycle of reflection and recuperation … of relapse and recovery. This oscillation of our focus – between being consumed by our loss to a process of restoring our life forces – is one that becomes quite intense at moments when society is in full celebratory mood. As bereaved parents we can often feel very lost, even a bit isolated as everyone else gears up for the festive season.
FORGIVING IS NOT FORGETTING
There was a time in the first few years after the tragedy of Josh’s death (he died in 2011) when our grief was infused with a certain anger and frustration towards those whose lives were carrying on as normal. We suspect many who have suffered as we have will own a particular resentment on opening a Christmas card that omitted their child’s name. Twelve years on and we think we can be more forgiving. It’s not right that friends and family should ‘forget’ our child, but before Josh died, we too had that fear (or was it embarrassment?) when asked to confront another’s profound distress following the death of one of their loved ones. We’ve now moved forward in our grief in ways that have deepened our connection to all things mortal – to our common humanity. In grief we have become more tolerant – more in tune perhaps with the Christmas spirit. We wish you well as you remember your loved ones in the full knowledge that recalling those memories can be bittersweet particularly as we look forward to the prospect of a New Year – another year since they died.
A PROACTIVE GRIEF
Mid-winter with its various rituals, ancient and modern, religious and not, is a good time to reflect on some of these truths. That loss is so much a part of life, as is love, resilience and gratitude. That if we can accept the former, we can easily learn the latter. And that there is such a thing as post traumatic growth which (in our view) is best achieved with a proactive and intentional approach to grief, something that we have discovered as we’ve widened the scope of The Good Grief Project and our programme of Active Grief Weekend retreats.
Join us on our next Active Grief Weekend Retreat 19th – 21st May 2023
at Blackadon Farm, Dartmoor. CLiCK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS
WE ARE NOT ALONE
If grief is a learning process (sadly and mostly through tragic circumstance for we don’t learn how to grieve at our mothers knee or through official educational channels) then our experience has primarily taught us the value of a shared grief. There was a moment in our own grief for Joshua when we emerged from a need for ‘solitary confinement’ and a craving to be bounded by the exceptional nature of our loss (no one could love Josh like we do, and no one could miss him like we do) to a recognition that we were not alone. Not only did others also grieve for Josh, there were so many other grievers in the world, a fact that we had blissfully ignored for all those years whilst he was still alive. Given the taboo in our society around conversations about death dying and bereavement, perhaps this was understandable, but the answer surely is to be more open, to talk about your loss and to share your pain. We hope you can find a moment during this holiday period to share your grief and honour your loved one in a way that is right for you.
Grief of course is not always so personal and as we began to share our own story we became more aware of the way people grieve collectively not just for a loved one but for a more general, even universal loss. The pandemic, the war in Eastern Europe, the climate catastrophe and the so-called energy crisis are just the latest examples of communities coming together to witness and support each other as our various freedoms and suppositions are challenged or undermined. In a sense grief (or at least its open expression) can be a bonding mechanism for societies that may well face the divisive nature of the political responses to these developments. We know and often comment on how our our own personal grief cannot be fixed. This is true if only because you can’t bring back the dead. But grief for what are essentially political choices not only can be remedied, but it potentially is the remedy.
Still from “Beyond The Mask” (60 mins) CLiCK HERE TO ViEW
Some Holiday Reminders for families grieving after the death of a son or daughter
Whether this is your first Christmas as a bereaved parent or sibling or you are grieving a loss from many years ago, here are a few gentle reminders for living with grief over the festive holidays.
Practice self-care and loving presence and be kind to your body and spirit, allowing yourself to feel everything you need to feel. Grieving makes us human- it means we loved deeply and fell hard.
It may be the “most wonderful time of the year” at one moment, but joy and happiness can evaporate, shifting to pain and sadness without warning. Give yourself permission to feel, live and breathe these emotions whenever they arise – place no parameters on them.
Take time on Christmas morning to honour rituals already in place or create a new tradition to honour and celebrate the life of your child. Maybe it’s taking time to share photos, to hang their stocking and raise a glass to their legacy.
Honour your child by giving something back. Source a charity that has a connection to your child or their interests and make a donation in your child’s name.
Wherever you are in the world, whatever social or religious customs your adhere to, be mindful of yourself and others. Create a safe space to mourn and accept and allow joy to enter when it does.
FINALLY – SOME THANKS
Thank you so very much for supporting us this past year. We are hugely grateful to every individual and organisation that continues to support our work. In particular we like to thank the wonderful team who took part in the Good Grief Challenge to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raised over £100,000 in aid of our efforts to help bereaved parents and siblings find ways to express their grief actively and creatively.
Watch out for the video of their challenge – available soon Without your support we would not be able to put on our Active Grief Weekend retreats, to make films like ‘Beyond The Mask’, to produce books like our recently published ‘When Words are not Enough’ (below) and to support families after the untimely death of a loved one – especially that of a child.
“I have not read a better book on grief”
Find out more about WHEN WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH
With love and good wishes
Jimmy, Jane, Joe and Rosa
& all at The Good Grief Project
While you are here…
… just a note to say that there is still time to register for our next Active Grief Weekend retreat held in the comfort of Blackadon Farm on Dartmoor from 19th – 21st May, 2023 Open to all bereaved parents and siblings, we still have a few spaces left. Click on the button below to download your registration form. DOWNLOAD YOUR REGISTRATION FORM NOW Our retreats are known for their relaxed and informal atmosphere so we keep numbers to a minimum. Book now if you want to join us!
“My broken soul has been nurtured and my grief has turned
into a beautiful thing”
“You have thrown me a lifeline”
If you know of anyone who might benefit, please do share this link with them.
There are funded bursaries available too.