Holidays bring loved ones together. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali, New Year or even Valentine’s Day, these dates represent years of memories with those we cherish.
For the bereaved, Easter carries its own unique set of grief triggers. After all, it is the holiday that celebrates the resurrection of human life. For religious or cultural observers of Easter, ideas of life, death and rebirth can expose raw, deep-rooted emotions during the usual family festivities.
But spring itself, with new growth everywhere, can be a strong and perhaps difficult reminder that time moves on.
Our own experience of facing these moments and navigating our own grief has been to discover that we don’t need to ‘move on’ from memories of or son Josh (he died in a road accident in 2011). You could say that for us spring represents a sense of renewed personal growth.
Rather than consigning memories to history we have tried to maintain an ongoing relationship with them and with him. As we have written in our recently published book ‘WHEN WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH – creative responses to grief’, ours is a proactive and intentional approach to our grief. Finding ways to express our grief creatively, by which we mean using the necessary symbols, metaphors and representations of his life and his death to tell the story of our continuing love for him, we are more able to come to terms with the fact of his death and the ongoing pain that ensues.. This is not easy, nor is it an approach that works for everyone. But we have found it personally helpful, healing and even transformative.
The transformative power of grief
The question we would now pose is – are the arts our means to this ‘transformation’? How can we use our individual and collective creativity to navigate through and grow from the trauma of Josh’s death?
In our view grief is almost by definition a creative process. It’s about filling the void left by our loved ones absence and it’s about finding ways to keep that love alive even after their death … Read more of Jimmy’s article on the transformative power of grief here.
“filling the void”
As of this month, When Words are not Enough is now available in the USA – order from your local bookstore or get it from Amazon
Press coverage of WHEN WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH has been encouraging with positive reviews from among others:
- JUNO magazine, ‘the most astonishing book about grief’
- The Psychologist, ‘the book proves that re-imagined futures can be built when previously unknown inner strengths are called upon.
- Cruse Bereavement Care, ‘uniquely creative responses to trauma following the death of a loved one. Together they illustrate how creativity can shape a future where those who have died still play a part, even while physically absent.
- iNews, ‘Grief is a state of being … and of trying to find a suitable, more equitable language through which to express grief’
Please do send us your thoughts or leave a review on Amazon, it really does will help us get it to those in need everywhere!
‘Groundbreaking … a beautiful book full hope, insight and invention’. Marina Cantacuzino, The Forgiveness Project
WHEN GRIEF EQUALS LOVE – Long-term Perspectives on Living with Loss by Lizzie Pickering
When Grief Equals Love flows from the pen (keyboard) of the wonderful Lizzie Pickering who has supported The Good Grief Project for many years and who co-presents our Grief in the Workplace talks with Jane. Lizzie’s son Harry died in November 2000. In When Grief Equals Love Lizzie opens her diaries, written in the early years following his death. Revisiting those diaries, she reflects on time passing, the myth of closure and what has changed for her and her family since. With 23 years of personal and professional investigative experience, the book includes interviews from some of Lizzie’s bereaved friends (which is where we come in) about their own experiences.
- ‘Lizzie’s diary extracts will stay with me for some time … A gift for all navigating the peculiar world of grief’ Amber Jeffrey, Founder, The Grief Gang
- ‘This is an extraordinary record of the real-life, lived experience of the most raw grief … Full of the most precious insight into how we survive and ultimately thrive, despite the great losses life leaves us with’ Clover Stroud, author of The Wild Other
When Grief Equals Love is published by Unbound and is due of release in May 2023.
The Green Hill – letters to a son by Sophie Pierce
Sophie Pierce’s twenty-year-old son Felix had died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2017. She has survived this new reality by writing letters to Felix. Composed during walks and swims taken close to his burial place by the River Dart, Sophie gradually learned how to live in the landscape of sudden loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief.z
The Green Hill collects these letters alongside Sophie’s account of the years following Felix’s death, into which she weaves poignant memories of his life. What results is a deeply moving, beautifully captured record of how – amid the rivers and rocks of Dartmoor, and in the sea off the South Devon coast – Sophie was able to hold on to and nurture her bond with Felix, both in her mind and through a physical engagement with the landscape: actively mourning, rather than grieving.
In her own contribution to our book When Words are not Enough, Sophie speaks of her passion for open water swimming – “When I’m in the water, I’m paused in a liminal space. It mirrors the strange world I find myself in after Felix’s death.”
The Green Hill is an extraordinary journey through trauma and loss towards a fragile, complicated kind of joy.
The Green Hill, also published by Unbound is out now and can be purchased here.
Latest news – films
Pathways Through Loss (49 minutes) is a remarkable documentary about a tragic road accident when 7 adolescents from the same small-town school in Northern Greece were killed. It was screened recently as part of the Stroud Film Festival.
The film is directed by Danai Papadatou, Professor of Psychology at the University of Athens and the founder of Merinma, a charity which was commissioned by the Greek government to provide psychological support to the survivors of the accident. The film charts the student response to their losses and grief over three years.
“Grieving is a natural and a healthy process because through grieving we are able to progressively adapt to a new reality from which our loved one is missing. We build a continuing bond with the person who died.” Danai Papadatou
The event in Stroud was organised jointly with Compassionate Communities, a growing global movement that develops community-led solutions to make communities healthier and more compassionate. We were asked to join the panel for the Q&A after the film.
THOUSANDS RAISED FROM THE KILIMANJARO CHALLENGE
We are very proud of and VERY grateful to the amazing team that took on The Good Grief challenge to climbe Mount Kilimanjaro last October. At close to 20,000 ft ‘Kili’ is the highest mountain in Africa but as well as the tremendous physical effort of climbing in temperatures down to -25°C and with oxygen levels way below that at sea level, they have also worked hard fundraising for our programme of Active Grief Weekend retreats. As a result many more bereaved families (especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds) will be able join us and explore new and creative ways of expressing their grief.
We are totally gobsmacked by the amount they have raised … FIND OUT just how much here.
HUGE THANKS to: Jez Stone (who led the expedition and did most of the organising), Matty Horkan, Jacqui Ratcliffe, Andy Bamford, Nicola Denvir, Elizabeth Jack, Zoe King, and Mark Watkin Jones. They all have their own personal reasons for attempting the challenge and we honour them all.
Latest news – Active Grief Weekends
May’s Active Grief residential is fully booked, but you can still BOOK YOUR PLACE on the SEPTEMBER Active Grief Weekend
‘PsychCrunch‘ is the British Psychological Society’s podcast. Presented by The Psychologist journalist Ella Rhodes, this episode (published Feb 23) she talks with Jane and Dr Mary-Frances O’Connor, about how can we learn to better cope with grief in ourselves and in others. O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Arizona and author of The Grieving Brain and a leader in the field of prolonged grief. Her work primarily focuses on the neurobiological, immune, and cardiovascular factors that vary between individual responses to grief.
“… at an unconscious level we represent everyone’s worst night mare” Jane Harris
Interesting stuff … LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE
Latest news – grief in the workplace
Every company and organisation is dealing with people – customers, employees, managers – people whose physical and mental wellbeing are essential for the smooth running of its enterprise. An important part of our work are the tailor made sessions delivered by Jane and Lizzie Pickering to help corporate organisations overcome the fear of ‘opening a can of worms’ when an employee or colleague suffers a bereavement. In this blog Victoria Sartain at REED recruitment interviews Jane and Lizzie about measures employers can take to help their workforce.
“It’s really important companies have clear grief guidelines… They should be well signposted so when needed employees can see exactly what the procedures are and what’s available, such as time off and counselling …
E NOT ENOUGH We are, as always, so very grateful for your kind donations. Without your support we would not be able to run our Active Grief Weekend retreats, to make films like ‘Beyond The Mask’, to produce books like our recently published ‘When Words are not Enough’ and to support families after the untimely death of a loved one – especially that of a child.