The Importance Of Support And Openness Around You When Grieving

A recent study in the United Kingdom and Ireland revealed that people in Ireland suffered less from prolonged grief disorder.

One of the areas of difference between the two countries was that in Ireland a wake is held around the time of the funeral. Whereas this is less common in the UK.

What is Prolonged Grief Disorder?

Prolonged Grief Disorder is a disorder where the acute phase of grief with its deep yearning for the one who has died persists beyond 6 months. 6 months being a time when research has shown people are beginning to move out of acute grief into a more manageable grief response.

What Is An Irish Wake?

A wake involves the family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues of the person coming together to share stories and memories about the person, support their family and pay their respects to the person.

Another aspect of bereavement in Ireland is the acceptance of a period of intense mourning and the honouring of the dead.

The wake is usually held some time between the person’s death and their funeral. The coffin is usually there and sometimes it is open so that people can see the person they are farewelling.

The wake usually lasts two to three days and people come and go during that time. The grief becomes a community experience and stories and memories of the person are shared by those present. People also take the time to offer comfort to the family. The grieving is very much a community event and people draw comfort from the collective grief.

Other Ways of Managing Grief.

In contrast the UK way of conducting funerals involves prayers around the grave and is often open only to family members and close friends.

This results in the death being more hidden and offers fewer opportunities for people to express their feelings and become aware of others who feel that way. It also offers fewer opportunities for support from others.

The Importance of Community When Grieving

Researchers considered the community nature of grieving, with its acknowledgement of the loss and willingness to share the experience of grief assisted people to grieve and not get stuck in the acute part of grief.

You may not have access to the support afforded by a wake. But there are other things you can do to help yourself.

Being willing to share with others is helpful. But what do you do if those around you aren’t willing to listen?

The Support a Grief Counsellor Can Give

You may be grieving the loss of one of your parents and the only person you can share with is your other parent who is also grieving. You may also be concerned about this surviving parent. If they are elderly and have been with their partner for a very long time, it may be a time when you are concerned about them. It makes it hard to share your pain when you are worried about them.

This is a situation where seeing a grief counsellor can be helpful. Being able to share your feelings with someone who is able to listen and understand what you are going through is helpful.

In the absence of a culture that supports grief the way the Irish wake does there is a need to turn to other areas of support. Often what you need after grief is a safe place to express your deep sorrow, as well a feel supported and guided.

Sometimes what you need is somewhere to talk about the way the person you loved died. Sometimes you need to talk about the what if’s and the if only’s. If you are going to be able to let those go then it is helpful to talk them out of your system.

You need somewhere where it is safe to be hurt and angry, to feel you failed your loved one. somewhere to cry and admit your weaknesses in dealing with this horrible loss. You need somewhere where there is space for you to attend to your grief, instead of having to put your needs aside to support others.

You need somewhere where you can express what you need to and know you are not going mad. You are not wrong. You are suffering a totally normal grief. You are not a burden. You are someone who is in need.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:


What is Prolonged Grief Disorder and Do I Have It?

If you have ever experienced the loss of someone or something that was important to you, then you will know that grieving a loss is never simple.

For starters, grief hurts. A lot.

You will think your pain is settling down then something will trigger a memory and you are caught up in that pain again.

There will always be pain.

There will never be a time that it doesn’t hurt.

But for most people you learn to live with that pain and still function.

It is when grief continues and you can’t function well that grief can be considered to have become stuck and may need help to be able to function well in life.

This is what is known as Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Who Gets Prolonged Grief Disorder?

Anyone can suffer from Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Some people are more vulnerable to being affected this way. If you were particularly close to the person you are grieving, you will be more likely to be affected.

If you suffered from depression before experiencing this grief that may make you more susceptible.

If the death was sudden, traumatic or due to suicide it can also be more likely to happen.

It is important to acknowledge that Prolonged Grief Disorder is not just something that happens when someone dies, it can also happen with a job loss, the loss of a house, the loss of a country, the loss of a body part, the loss of a relationship, and so on.

Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent This Happening?

It is really important that you give yourself space to acknowledge what has happened and allow yourself time to experience those feelings.

Don’t be pressured by other people to “get over it”. Don’t allow the expectations of others to force you to push your feelings aside and not process them.

Do recognise you will hurt for a long time. It is likely that before you are finished the worst part of grieving you will be fed up with being so sad. That is a good sign. It means you are getting ready to learn how to live with this pain.

Be willing to get help. See a counsellor, join a support group, use the support of understanding friends and family. Be prepared to experience your grief.

How Do I Know If I Have Prolonged Grief Disorder?

The first thing to remember is that no attempt is made to diagnose Prolonged Grief Disorder until at least 12 months has elapsed since your bereavement.

I have had people come to see me who are struggling to process the death of a loved one over a year ago, but then tell me another close family member only died a few months ago. If you have two major bereavements that close together, expect to be dramatically affected. You are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder. You most likely need support, but you are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder.

This is the criteria for an official diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder:

• The bereavement occurred at least 12 months ago.

• You need the above plus at least three of the points below.

• You have lost your sense of who you are,

• You struggle to believe the person is dead,

• You avoid reminders that the person is dead,

• You are still experiencing intense emotional pain (sorrow, anger, bitterness for example) related to the death,

• You are having trouble getting back to work or social involvement,

• You feel emotionally numb,

• You feel your life is meaningless,

• You feel intensely lonely or feel totally detached from life.

If you feel this may be you then it is helpful to see a specialist grief counsellor.

What About My Children?

Children will grieve differently to adults. How they grieve will depend on their developmental stage and each new developmental stage will include a new period of processing more grief.

Another issue for children is the reaching of life stages where the one who has died may have been expected to be present. This is a fresh reminder of their absence and will include a new period of processing more grief.

Teenagers are included in this as their brains are still developing.

What you may see in children is:

• They may wait for their loved one to come back. This is particularly so with small children who have trouble understanding the concept of death.

• They may be frightened other people in their life may die too. With the death of someone in their life their sense of safety is disrupted and will take time and possibly assistance to regain.

• They may develop separation anxiety and not want other people to be away from them.

• They may think they just have to complete some task in order for their loved one to be alive again. This is known as magical thinking. Children can find it hard to understand that things happen in life and they cannot control them.

• Acting out behaviours that may not appear to be related to the loss. You may expect your child to cry or be sad. But what if they become angry and combative? Or they adopt destructive behaviours? Or they act like they don’t care about anything? There are many different behaviours you may see as your child tries to process these unfamiliar and overwhelming emotions.

If your child/teen is exhibiting behaviour that may suggest they are not coping with their loss it is helpful to arrange an appointment with a specialist child counsellor. Later teens are okay with a specialist grief counsellor but I would recommend a specialist for your younger children.

How To Treat Prolonged Grief Disorder.

There are many different therapies that work well with Prolonged Grief Disorder. In my work I use talk therapy, sand play, painting, movement, journalling, writing, poetry, therapeutic cards to name a few.

Please note that there is no medication treatment for this disorder. You need to process what has happened and medications do not facilitate that.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, whether prolonged or not, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

Denial And Saying Goodbye: Two Difficult Aspects Of Grief To Navigate.

In learning to live with the loss of someone you love, two of the most difficult aspects of that loss are often the ones people get stuck in.

The first is being able to accept the reality of your loss. This is often referred to as Denial of the loss, but it is a misnomer.

The second is being able to reach a point of acceptance, often referred to as the Good Bye.


When I use the word denial, I am not referring to you refusing to accept your loved one is dead. Denial is referring to the sense of unreality around the death.

The death of anyone you love is incredibly hard to conceptualise. Your brain just can’t handle the enormity of what has happened.

Additionally, your brain is still hard wired to connection with the person who is dead. How can you comprehend that person’s death if your brain is still searching for that connection?

What Denial Feels Like

When you are trying to comprehend the death of someone you are quite likely to feel numb. You may be paralysed with shock.

You may feel the world has lost all meaning. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel life is not making sense.

Earlier I talked about the enormity of what your brain has to take on. This protects you from overwhelming emotions and allows them to be titrated as you are able to cope with them.

A Personal Experience

I remember the unreality of my grandmother dying. It was the first time I had encountered death and I couldn’t get my 12 year old mind around it.

I remember asking myself what death meant. From my perspective it would mean she would never ring us again. There would never be the jokes about how loud she was on the phone (a result of a husband with very poor hearing). It would also mean I would never be able to visit her again, or hear her talk, or see her. It would no longer be Nanna and Pa. It would just be my grandfather on his own. I felt like a massive hole had opened in my life and I didn’t know how to fill it.

When You Aren’t There To Say Goodbye

When my grandfather died I was 19 and had seen a lot of death as a student nurse. I wasn’t there when he died and could only comprehend he was dead when I went to see his body. I just needed to see him.

Everyone has their way of comprehending the death of someone they love. It is a lot to get your head around.

Accepting Means Letting Go

In all my years as a nurse, and as a counsellor, I have never met anyone who didn’t want to believe. They struggled to comprehend, most definitely, but they never denied the loss.

However, some people struggle to let go of the one who has died. They hold on to the person’s possessions, they avoid places that remind them of the person who died, they refuse to visit the grave or release their ashes.

These can all be signs of being stuck in denial. This comes under the term Prolonged Grief. It is where the grief process gets stuck in one area. This is when professional grief counselling is important.

How To Look After Yourself

If you find yourself in the awful situation of losing someone you love, be gentle with yourself. Don’t rush to acknowledge the grief and run on as though nothing has happened.

Allow yourself time to sit with the reality of what has happened and let that reality slowly sink in.

Be ready to let go of their belongings at a time that is right for you. Some rush to do it, others hold on to them for a long time. Be okay with taking your time to attend to those tasks.

Be prepared for the fresh grief as you attend to the handing over of belongings, visiting the grave site, spreading the ashes and all the other tasks that need to be attended to when someone dies.

Be ready to open your connection to your loss and face your feelings about it. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you need someone with you at those stages.

Acceptance: The Act Of Saying Goodbye.

It can be very hard accepting the death of a loved one when their death was particularly traumatic for you.

I have seen many people stuck in the horror of the pain experienced by their love one. For others the stuckness comes at the speed with which the person went from living to dead.

Their age also is a factor and your relationship to them. I have spoken to many parents trying to comprehend the death of their child because that death is out of the natural order of things. You are supposed to bury your parents and your children are supposed to bury you. But when it happens out of order with you burying your child, that is so hard to comprehend.

If the one you love died a long way away and you weren’t able to see them before they died, or you couldn’t be at the funeral, then it is hard accepting the death. Not only that, it is hard to comprehend the fact of their death when all you have is words spoken over a telephone or contained in an email.

A Personal Experience

When my husband’s Aunt died we were living on the other side of the world. I found a days old email in an unused email account stating she had died. It was a shock to both of us. We never knew when she was buried. It took years to learn what caused her death. It was hard for my husband to understand she had died.

It wasn’t just this Aunt. When he was a child another Aunt died. His parents decided he was too young to see her before she died or attend her funeral. He was about 10 at the time. He grieved for the fact he never had the chance to say goodbye.

Many years later another Aunt died and he was in a position to go to the funeral. We decided he would go and grieve for the Aunt who died when he was a child, for the Aunt who died when we were living overseas and this Aunt who had just died. It was an important opportunity for him to accept and say goodbye to all these women who had meant so much to him in life.

When Death Is Difficult

Another way the good bye can be delayed can be when the person who dies has died a difficult death. I have worked with many people who are stuck in the pain their loved one suffered. Acceptance of the death can be hard because the one left behind finds their death too traumatic to accept.

When a death is traumatic like that it can be very hard to move past those painful last hours. I often find helping the person to switch their focus to their earlier life with the person can be really helpful. Remembering the happy times, before the trauma of their death, can switch the focus to the person and their life, rather than the moments of their death.

When someone dies, you are saying goodbye to every moment you had together, not just the moment of their death. When you are caught up in their death, it can be hard to remember that.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with any aspect of your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

Taking Grief Seriously

When my mother died, I was living on the other side of the world.

I left my husband and children and flew across the world, not knowing if she would still be alive when I got there.

Losing my mother without the support network of my husband and children around me was hard. I felt completely isolated.

Everyone else involved in the process of her death had someone there for them. I felt very alone and without comfort.

After The Funeral

When I returned home I was isolated from those who knew my mother. Yes my husband knew her, but she was never interested in having a relationship with him so he wasn’t able to relate to my pain. My children were too young and, as my mother was not the grandmotherly type, had little relationship with her anyway.

I tried to communicate with my siblings long distance but they were just not interested in talking about her or sharing their feelings.
I don’t even know if they were upset that she died.

My friends, especially one close friend, were supportive for a few days. Then life went on. And I was expected to be over it.

The Toll of Grief

Grief can demolish your life.

Grief can demolish your sense of who you are.

Grief can destroy your trust in a fair world.

Grief can fling you into the deepest, darkest pit.

Yet it is dismissed as if it doesn’t matter.

The Difficulties of Having Your Pain Taken Seriously

When I first learned my mother was dying I thought I would never get to see her again or attend the funeral. So many are in that position. I was lucky. The expat contract my husband worked under allowed for paid flights back home if a close relative died.

And then you fly home and life is expected to get back to normal.

Except it doesn’t.

After The Funeral

I see a lot of people who take time off work for the funeral but then find themselves incapable of getting back to work when their leave is up.

They can’t manage to function well enough to do anything.

Many report feeling totally without interest in life. They report experiencing brain fog. They feel numb. Many can’t sleep or eat. Many cry sometimes for hours at random times. Others experience severe anxiety, even panic attacks.

Grief Is Not Taken Seriously

A colleague once commented that if someone went to a doctor with these symptoms they would likely be diagnosed with depression and put on medications. They would also likely be given a lengthy medical certificate for work. Because it is grief, there is no such option.

Grief is not recognised as being something you can be signed off work for.

I remember feeling totally lost. I had no idea who I was. I worried I was mentally ill because I had no pleasure in life, in doing anything. I couldn’t focus enough to do anything. Sometimes I felt angry. Other times I found myself crying for no reason at all. I have always been an optimistic person but suddenly I lost all hope. The colour drained out of my world.

It was only years later when I attended a grief support group that I learned I was experiencing totally normal reactions to grief.

The Support Just Drops Away

Apart from the initial support when I returned home, there was never any more support. It was just as if “that’s over let’s get on with life”.

Years later I would feel inexplicably down and realise it was the date my mother died or her birthday.

Complicating Factors

So many people come to see me and report feeling life is just not worth continuing. In fact bereavement is a risk factor for suicide.

For some people their grief can be complicated by other factors. Lack of support is one of the biggest issues for people as they grieve.

For some people I see, the death of their loved one has left them financially devastated. Not only are they trying to work through the fog to grieve, but they are also having to try to navigate the financial mess they have been left. Trying to make decisions about finances at a time like this is virtually impossible.

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Most people will eventually be able to work through the pain and find a way to function and move forward with life. But occasionally people can’t do that. Sometimes people get stuck in their grief. Then it becomes prolonged grief.

Prolonged grief is a more complicated form of grief. It requires specialised treatment to help the person process their grief and find a way to continue with life. I am trained in working with Prolonged Grief Disorder.

You Are Normal

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, please know it is absolutely normal to experience brain fog, numbness, inability to sleep or eat, or sleeping or eating too much. It is normal to cry a lot and at inconvenient times. It is also normal to be anxious. It is normal to wonder if life is worth living. It is normal to feel hopeless and that your life is devoid of colour.

It is normal to grieve. It is normal for that grief to last the rest of your life. It is normal for you to be able to function again and live your life again. It is normal for you to sometimes feel sad about what you have lost in the years ahead.

Find people who can support you. If you need to talk to someone more objective then seek counselling support. Expect to one day feel somewhat better, but don’t force yourself. It all takes time.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

Seasons of Grief

You sit in your grief
It is as though an icy reminder of winter has invaded the autumn
You suddenly find yourself in.

You sit in the icy numbness.
Then the numbness passes.

And you are tossed around by the autumn winds
Blowing their cold breath
Causing all to hunch forward and rush to shelter.
Leaving you alone in your grief.

You stand there
In the midst of the swirling leaves
Reds, oranges, yellows and brown.
Echoing your own swirling emotions
And you long for the time when you felt only numbness.

Then you sighed
And settled in for the long haul of the winter of your grief.
The days when it was icy and still.
When snow muffled every sound
And the world seemed deserted.

Just you and your pain.

As you stood on the edge of the ocean.
Antarctic blast hitting you with its icy needles
The waves whipped to a frenzy by winter storms
You remembered that all healing comes in waves.

The intensity varies.
Sometimes you can feel almost normal.
Other times you feel like you can’t go on.
You are out there in the white caps

And then you realise you will heal
You look around and notice the gradual budding of leaves at the ends of branches.
You look at the ground as tiny flowers emerge from their bulbs.

The wind comes warm and you dance in the beauty of it.
Then the wind blows cold and you are back in the thundering waves

Be okay to feel what you are feeling.
To feel those exhilarating days of warm breezes
And those terrifying days of drowning.

Allow it to take time.
Don’t rush.

You will be fed up with grief
Long before it is finished with you.

Allow the pain.
In that pain is growth.
In that pain is the way to learn how to live with your loss.

A day will come when you will stand on the edge of the ocean
The sun will dance on the gentle waves
A warm wind will gently caress you
And you will feel at peace.

Nan Cameron 24/7/2023

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

How do you resolve a loss where there are no answers?

As a registered nurse I witnessed many families struggling to cope with a loss that is rarely recognised. That of ambiguous loss.

In the case of these families, something had happened to take their loved one emotionally away from them. The physical body was still there, but their loved one was changed. This occurred due to a number of causes including brain injuries, a cerebral haemorrhage, dementia, stroke, or mental illness.

At that time a friend of my mother lost her husband emotionally due to a stroke secondary to cardiac surgery. Physically he was still there, but emotionally he was a completely different person. The friend found it hard to cope. In an instant the man she married had gone and somebody else with unstable moods and little memory was there instead. Her life changed and she now found herself caring for this familiar stranger. Her old life, the future they planned together, the man she loved. All were gone. Instead there was this stranger whose mannerisms and physical attributes constantly reminded her of the man she loved, but he wasn’t there.

Some years later my mother suffered a similar fate when my father had a stroke and lost much of the man he had once been. She expressed to me often her deep grief and at times hatred and resentment of him. She had lost the man she had once known. All the plans for the future were gone and she felt trapped into a life that she had not chosen.

Working with Ambiguous Loss

Over the years, my counselling work has led me to support many people suffering ambiguous loss.

Particularly hard to cope with is when a loved one goes missing and there is no knowledge of what has happened to them. They have just disappeared. Are they dead? Are they alive? Do you grieve their death, which means giving up hope they will be found alive? Or do you hold on to hope they will one day return, which means never being able to finalise the relationship. You are left hanging in uncertainty.

Of all the different types of loss, ambiguous loss is one of the most difficult. It is also one where there is little support because the loss is not an actual death. The loss does not lead to a network of support as happens with the more final and usual path of death and funeral.

What is ambiguous loss?

Ambiguous loss is a loss that is not clear. A loss that is difficult or impossible to resolve because the outcome of the loss is uncertain.

As I have already mentioned, the loss can include someone going missing, becoming estranged from a loved one, the psychological loss of the person who is alive and in the same body but is no longer the person they once were.

In all these situations the relationship lacks resolution. Is the person still living? Why has the relationship with this person you love ended? Is it possible to restore the relationship? How do I manage with the person I loved being physically there, but not emotionally there?

Closure in the case of someone being physically lost

The idea of “closure” is often mentioned in relation to sudden death due to accident, murder, assault. Those bereaved that way will say there is not such thing as “closure”. And they are right. Knowing how someone died does not usually bring closure.

But when you don’t know if the person is dead or alive any definite answer brings a “closure” because it makes it possible to work on something definite. If they are dead, then you can grieve. If they are just estranged from you, then you can grieve.

How do you resolve ambiguous loss?

The uncertainty and lack of resolution around this loss makes it extremely difficult to ever find resolution.

While there is no definite answer there is always hope. In this situation hope is agonising. There is the pain of the person no longer being there and the hope they will someday be there. You can never close the wound of loss when you don’t know if the loss is final.

Counselling is one of the best ways of learning how to move forward in life with such a loss. Moving on from counselling to good support systems is important, as is ensuring you get enough self care.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your loss, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

In the wake of your loved one dying, are you struggling to make sense of and cope with your feelings? Grief Counselling can help.

Without fail, everyone who comes to see me after the loss of a loved one tells me they have had so many different messages about how they should be behaving and how to cope.

I have found that in my own experience.

In the wake of my mother’s death, I tried to talk to my siblings about her and how I was missing her and their response was to tell me I needed to “see someone”. A year later, one of my siblings contacted me by email and told me he missed her. By that time I didn’t miss her any more. I guess I could have suggested he “see someone”. I just didn’t reply. I didn’t feel my response would have been polite. Grief is hard to deal with and can cause friction between all those grieving the loss of a particular person.

I have lost count of the number of people referred to me by their GP in the weeks following the loss. In their referrals they describe the understandable grief as “pathological”. They also suggest the use of anti depressants!

Although grief counselling can be helpful. There is no obligation to see anyone about your grief. If you want to talk to someone who understands grief, will reassure you that you are not going mad and is objective then counselling is great. But you don’t have to.

Acute grief, those early days, weeks, months after a loss is painful. It hurts. Nothing is going to help that. Only time.

Many people who come to see me think there is something wrong with them. They are receiving so many messages from others that they wonder if they have something wrong with them.

Messages you may receive from others about your Grief

Messages such as:

• The funeral is over, you should be over it

• It is wrong to sit at home and not go out, you should be getting on with life

• You should be over the tears by now

• You shouldn’t cry in public, it upsets people

• You need anti depressants

• You should be crying all the time, you obviously are not crying enough

• You shouldn’t want to go back to work now

• You should go back to work now

• You shouldn’t be going out so much, you are not spending enough time grieving (whatever they think it looks like)

• Your unstable emotions have nothing to do with grief, you need to get help

• Your anger, difficulty forming thoughts, difficulty doing things, feeling that your loved one is there, and so on, are problems. You need to get help

• You should be glad their suffering is over/you can have another child/you can find another partner.

There are many more, but these are the most common ones I have encountered.

Everyone’s grief is different. Even if you are grieving for the same person, you will grieve differently.

The way you work through that grief is as individual as you are.

You need to find what helps you. What helped a friend may or may not help you. Try their suggestions if you want to, or decide not to. Either way, you will find your own way of grieving.

When should you see a Grief Counsellor?

• Because you want to.

• You want someone objective to talk to

• You are seeking reassurance you are not going mad

• You want to know what is right for you

• You want a witness to your feelings, one who will not judge or jump in with their own opinion

• You feel you need help

• You feel the way you are coping with grief is not healthy or helpful

• You have been grieving for a long time and you feel you may be stuck and want help to move forward

• You would like to learn some coping skills.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here:

The Horror of Parental Grief

In my blogs I often talk generally about issues. But every so often someone comes to see me who wants their story told. Today’s blog is one of those.

I am going to refer to this beautiful woman whose story is being told as Adele. I have changed some details to protect her anonymity.


Adele lost her daughter due to a sudden illness a number of years ago. This is her story of loss.

The first thing Adele spoke about is how her loss turned her into a person who lived as an alien on a planet she once felt was home.

She spoke about feeling that everything in her life was detached and she was no longer walking on the planet but floated somewhere on the other side of a heavy curtain she couldn’t get through.


One day she was at a fundraising event for her daughter’s illness and saw some women talking, then pointing at her and looking horrified. She realised she had become a mother who lost her child. The other. The one that was someone else. Except now she was someone else.

She told me she remembered a childhood friend whose little brother had died and the memories of him on the wall. She remembered the family’s grief. Now she understood it.

She also understood that when your child dies, you die too.

She understood very clearly that there is the you before loss and the you after loss. Those you’s are two totally different people.


One of the most distressing things she found was the way our society handles death.

She realised people expected her to recover from her loss swiftly and move on.

She chafed under the idea that grief was a journey, although at the end of our sessions, she admitted it was a good description for part of her life journey. At the time she came to see me she felt she was trapped in a labyrinth deep underground. A dark, damp, dismal place from which there was no escape and where you kept going around in circles as you desperately tried to find a way out.

Adele felt the word journey did not describe her reality as she struggled to survive the death of her daughter. She felt that describing grief as a journey suggested it would some day come to an end. She didn’t believe that would ever happen. When we discussed life as a journey with the end point being death she was more accepting of that term. She was ready to accept that grief was a part of that journey, but not the end point.


For Adele, the death of her daughter was like a nightmare from which she never woke up. It was there all day, every day. It was as if her leg had been amputated but no one could see it. She looked the same but inside she was a completely different person.

One of her difficulties was that her daughter had died in the wrong order. Her grandmother and mother were still alive. She should have buried them before her daughter. In fact she shouldn’t have buried her daughter at all. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around.


Adele came to see me because her daughter told her she had prolonged grief disorder and needed to see a grief counsellor.

As a baseline for any progress she may make, I gave her a questionnaire that asks questions about her grief. One question talked about grief lasting longer than 6 months. She was puzzled by this. I explained that in the Diagnostic Manuals prolonged grief is a “disorder” where the grief lasts six months or longer than expected according to social or cultural norms.

This horrified Adele. She was appalled that our society considers grief should be over in 6 months. She was appalled that people thought that grief should ever be “over”. She was appalled and shamed that her grief was considered to be a disorder.

I agree with her. Many grief counsellors agree with her. The inclusion of prolonged grief disorder at 6 months after the bereavement was a very controversial move.


Adele felt she had been permanently changed by her daughter’s death. She felt pressure from others to go back to the way she was. But she felt she could never do that. Her daughter’s death had so dramatically changed her that she realised she would never be the same person she was when her daughter was alive.

Grief is normal. It is a natural reaction. It is well recognised in all cultures and societies. The turning of a normal process into a disorder is worrying and unhelpful to people in that situation.


One of Adele’s biggest difficulties was the feeling that she had failed as a parent. She felt she should have done more to keep her daughter alive. She should have been able to protect her. She should have sought help sooner.

Adele also felt she should have been the one to get sick and die.


There has been a lot of research about what is know as continuing bonds. It is where the bond you have with the person who has died continues after death, but is changed to reflect the changed circumstances of the relationship.

The greatest fear of anyone who is bereaved is that they will forget about their loved one. They will forget their smell, their smile, their face.

That is difficult and the realisation that those memories are fading is very real and distressing.

For all his faults, Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, acknowledged that grief never goes. The pain of losing your loved one will continue for as long as you live. Over time people find the sharpness of the pain softens a little, but the pain is always there.


One day Adele came in with a beautiful way to remember her daughter. She had read in her research about a therapist telling a bereaved mother that “you will parent her memory”. She loved that. It gave her hope and something to hold on to.

Over the course of her visits with me Adele learned how to continue to live her life. She learned how to live with the pain of losing her daughter. She learned how to remember her daughter, how to honour her, how to continue to remember her smile and her face.

Most importantly for Adele, she learned how to parent her memory of her daughter.


If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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