How do I cope with grief at Christmas?

Right now it is hard to avoid noticing that Christmas is almost upon us. In fact it is three weeks away today.

There are Christmas parties everywhere. You may have been invited to several.

The shops are full of Christmas decorations, Christmas themed window displays and Christmas wrapping paper. The muzak is Christmas themed. Everywhere there are people buying up presents, food, decorations. It is busy and endless.

For many people, this time of year is very exciting.

But for others Christmas brings painful reminders that the person you love is not there.

This can happen with the first Christmas, or the 50th. There is always a memory of the one who isn’t there.

Planning for Christmas and New Year

You may have already planned for this Christmas, knowing it will be hard. It doesn’t make the pain any easier, but from my own experience I find it helps to understand that the pain I am feeling is normal. And that I am not the only one feeling this way.

It is important as you face this season with your grief to be honest with yourself. Yes, it will most probably hurt. It is helpful to adopt some strategies to help cope with the pain.

Don’t Feel You Shouldn’t Be Enjoying Christmas

One other thing to mention is that you may actually enjoy some aspects of Christmas. That does not mean the one you have lost isn’t important. It is perfectly okay to enjoy yourself.

Being miserable won’t bring your loved one back. Enjoying some aspects doesn’t make you uncaring and doesn’t mean you didn’t love this person. It just means you are finding joy in some aspects of Christmas.

Some people enjoy Christmas as part of their grieving. As a way of honouring the fun they had previously with the one who is gone.

But being honest about what hurts is important. Be honest that it hurts and accept the way you react. Whether you react with avoidance, sadness, joy or any other reaction, it is absolutely okay.

Make Plans For How You Will “Do” Christmas and New Year

It is helpful as Christmas approaches to make plans around how you will acknowledge and celebrate it.

Some people adopt new traditions, marking the “after” part of Christmas.

Other people set a place at the table for the one who is no longer there.

Many people visit the grave, place where their loved one’s ashes are, or a special place their loved one enjoyed being.

The Importance of Planning

Whatever you do, it is important to plan Christmas. To plan what you want it to look like.

Although it is tempting to forget about celebrating it is important to mark the occasion. As I have already suggested, maybe you want to start a new tradition.

Maybe this tradition will be something that you enjoyed doing with your loved one.

Plan also to do something to honour your loved one. I previously mentioned setting a place at the table. Another thing people do is to light a candle in their memory, or buy a special ornament to represent them.

Another idea is to have some moments to acknowledge the loved one, even having a moment’s silence in their honour.

Knowing Christmas Is Hard Doesn’t Make It Easier But It Can Help With Coping

Understanding that Christmas can be a difficult time for those who are grieving may not make it easier, but it can help you understand and accept your reactions.

Acknowledging that this time of year won’t be easy, and making specific plans to prepare for it will be helpful to you.

Find Someone Understanding To Talk To

It is also helpful to talk to friends, family or a counsellor who you know will be supportive and allow you to express your feelings without trying to shut you down.

Do let people know that his Christmas is different and you may be doing different things this year. You may not even feel like having much of a celebration.

All Emotions Are Valid

Remember that all emotions are valid. It is okay to feel angry, sad, grief, happiness, excitement, and more. Don’t compare yourself to other people. The way they handle their grief, even if it is for the same person, is going to be different.

Remember there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. Don’t isolate yourself. Find those who are supportive of you and spend Christmas with them. And don’t forget to look after yourself.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about your grief and managing Christmas and New Year, 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:

Love And Accepting The Rites Of Grief

“My grief says that I dared to love, that I allowed another to enter the very core of my being and find a home in my heart. Grief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives. To love is to accept the rites of grief.” ~ Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

We lose so much in our lives. There is the obvious death of loved ones, of pets, of dear friends. There is also the loss of homes, jobs, health, fitness, for some, their country.

There are also the losses of dreams, community, nature.

There are too many losses in life to mention them all.

They all have something in common. You need to grieve for them.

The Unspoken Emptiness Inside

If you don’t grieve for the losses then you always have unprocessed grief, an emptiness, inside.

So many people have an unspoken emptiness inside. There is a hole there that you struggle to fill. The emptiness if the hole of unprocessed grief. It is a constant pain, sometimes sharp, but mostly dull. You try to push it aside, but it continues to gnaw at you and hide under the surface, waiting for an opportunity to resurface.

There are many in the field of unresolved grief research who believe that the desire for more in our society has its roots in unresolved grief.

People try to fill the hole by being busy, by frenetic activity, by buying more and more things, by wanting bigger houses and plenty of storage to hold the things that are accumulated.

People also try to control the external environment. Maybe you do that too. An obsession with bodily perfection, with having the perfect house, the nicest car, the picture perfect family, the right friends, the perfect kids, the helicopter cotton wool parent, the hothoused child.

The Myth Of Being Able To Control Your Life To Fill The Emptiness

All this is an attempt to control your life. It is a cover for the emptiness and feeling of being out of control inside. But controlling your external life does not fix the emptiness inside.

All that focus on external things does is deny you the necessary processing of your losses.

Losses are a core part of being human. Running away from the things that frighten you doesn’t make them go away. It makes them grow and become more problematic.

Gratitude, Humility and Reverence for Human Life

Instead you need to allow the pain. Be courageous and sit with that pain. You will find that the pain isn’t as large and insurmountable as you thought it would be. In fact, allowing yourself to feel the pain allows you to access great skills that help you heal.

These skills are gratitude, humility and reverence for human life.

This may sound very airy, but it isn’t.


Gratitude allows you to see those things in your day that you can be grateful for. Even on the worst days there is something to be grateful for. You don’t need to acknowledge gratitude through gritted teeth.

Sometimes the fact that you are alive is gratitude. Even when life seems too miserable to be alive there is still gratitude for that. Gratitude can be about people who in your day did something nice to you. The person who held a door open for you, the driver who let you out into the traffic when you were struggling to get out of a side street, the person who smiled at you and acknowledged your existence. These are just some examples of things you can be grateful for. You can also be grateful that you are breathing, that your heart is beating, that you can think, that you can explore things in your life to be grateful for.

Gratitude means looking for the good and not focusing on the negative.

Turning your attention to positive things is a great help in processing your grief.


Humility removes the sense of entitlement we all suffer from occasionally. The one that says bad things shouldn’t happen to us. The one that protests at the bad thing that has happened. When you humbly acknowledge that loss is part of being human you remove a burden caused by resisting what has happened and open the way to grieve and process the loss.

Humility doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry at what has happened. Far from it. If you are angry then honour that and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger. But allow that anger to dissipate when it is ready to go.

Do the same with other feelings you are experiencing. If you want to cry, then cry. Acknowledge what you are feeling and allow it be there.

Humility means you accept you are human. You accept that something has happened that you are upset about. That you have lost something that mattered to you. Humility means you accept that you are hurt and this is going to require some attention to allow yourself to feel and release the pain.


Reverence for human life is important. All life is important and deserving of honour. You are important and deserving of honour. You deserve to be shown kindness. And the person to give that kindness to you is you.

Other people are not always available to give you kindness. If they are, then their kindness is like a cherry on top of a beautiful cake. But your kindness is the beautiful cake. It is the comfort and support available to you all the time. Make sure you show reverence for your own life and give yourself the kindness you need and deserve.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you need help with the grief you are feeling and the pain. It can be difficult trying to find gratitude, humility and reverence for yourself and others. You may need to talk through all the emotions you are experiencing.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your rites of 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:

Focusing on the Emotions of Grief

So many people come to see me because, in the wake of their grief, they can’t handle the swirl of emotions.

It is not just the emotions that they struggle with. It is the belief that there is something wrong with them for having those emotions.

It is heart breaking to see people feeling they can’t express their emotions. Either because someone tells them it is bad to do so, or because other people immediately seek to shut them down.

Like it or not, grieving involves a swinging from the emotions of protest at the death of the one you love and despair that they are not there anymore.

Things that Complicate Grief

Complicating grieving are the security of the relationship you had with the person, and any unresolved issues within that relationship.

By this I mean how secure your relationship felt. Did you feel safe and secure with this person? Or were you constantly battling to feel reassured of the security of the relationship? Were there hurts that you had never had a chance to resolve with that person? It will be hard to grieve for that person while those hurts remain unresolved.

Also relevant is anything that has happened in the past that impacts on the current grief.

Factors that Impact How You Cope With the Emotions Around Grief

A major factor in how you will cope with the emotions is your history of how you regulate emotions. If you find it hard to express your emotions then expressing those around grief are going to be difficult.

If you can’t express your emotions then it is impossible to be able to sit with those emotions, face them and work your way through them.

How Rituals Can Help

Rituals around death can also be helpful. What were you raised to do when someone died?

Some are taught to not show emotions, not talk about the death and feel intense shame if you cry.

Others are taught to cry as part of the ritual around the death of a loved one.

Then there are the rituals where the person is commemorated, maybe you will have “sorry business”, or you may light a candle every day for a prescribed number of days in honour of the person.

The above are just some of the ways rituals are used to mark a person’s death.

All, with the exception of the one where you suppress emotions, are very helpful to those who are grieving.

Learning to Manage the Overwhelming Emotions

When I see a grieving person I look for ways to manage the overwhelming emotions. Ways to process what has happened.

I never look for pathology. Although, if you come to see me and it has been 6 months since your loved one died I will ask you to fill in a questionnaire as an aid to measure your progress while seeing me.

Often all you need in your grief is a companion to walk beside you. Having that companion a grief trained counsellor is really helpful. I won’t pathologise your experience. I will help you to express what is so hard to express. I will ensure you realise how normal your reaction is.

Questions to Consider

As we walk together I will ask you to tell me about the one you lost. Tell me about your relationship. What about the history of their death? How did they die? Did you have to make a decision to turn off life support? Did they choose a medically assisted death? Was their death long and painful? Was their death peaceful?

What was the experience of their death like for you?

Were you present in the moment, or did you push your own feelings aside to support your dying loved one, or other family members.

It can be very easy to get stuck, unable to express your own feelings, when you are in a situation of supporting other people.

Were you isolated at the time of death and its aftermath? Being isolated is very traumatising.

Did you feel unsafe in the situation, with all your emotions swirling around and no one there to support you?

The Goal of Therapy

When you work with me the goal we work to is to help you see the strengths that have carried you this far.

Additionally, when you had to support others at the time, I give you the space and support to make that emotional contact with your own feelings so that you can support yourself now.

Together we can be curious and open to explore your experience and the places you are frightened of visiting. My aim is to help you make contact with yourself again. To give you the chance now you are out of survival mode to experience your feelings.

Visiting that experience will most likely involve a lot of reminiscence about your relationship with your loved one. Reminiscing about the things you did together and the events of the end of their life is also important. It allows you to experience the things you may have pushed aside to support others.

What about the present?

An important aspect of grieving is learning to live in the present.

The one you love still exists in your mind. That is something that needs to be explored. How do they exist to you? In what ways do you still rely on them? Do you have a sense of their presence? Do you imagine they help you when you feel lost and not sure how to proceed?

All this is known as continuing bonds. This is an important part of grief. Forming these bonds is how you form the new relationship with your loved one.

“I have a new life. Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some final resolution, some clear meaning, which it perhaps never finds.” ~ Robert Anderson

Grief is not something you ever “get over”. It lasts for the rest of your life. It just gets easier over time to think about the person. You learn to forge a new relationship that is based on them being dead.

That Can Impact How You Grieve

There are many things that impact on how you grieve.

Grief you have experienced in the past, and the way it was managed, has a deep impact on how you are grieving now.

Trauma in your past will also impact on how you perceive grief and how you are able to regulate your emotions and access support.

Having previously learned to suppress your emotions will make it hard for your to experience them now.

One thing I like to do is to take your back to those final moments for you to experience the feelings you had then. It is helpful for you to experience those feelings in a more receptive way. At the time you would have been barely surviving. Now you are better able to be aware of the experience.

Working on that Moment

Sitting with what you were feeling at those crucial moments in the death of your loved one allows you to experience emotions you had to suppress in order to get through these moments.

Many people will realise they felt great sadness, anger, sadness and longing.

One man told me that at the moment in his life when he was in the worst situation he had ever been in, losing the one he loved, the person he could count on to support him wasn’t there because they were dying.

The person is dying or dead and you don’t want to let them go.

Learning to accept the pain

In time most people are able to live with the horror of their grief. They can learn to accept the pain rather than avoid it. They give themselves permission to cry and not try to hide what they are feeling.

Most people learn to continue a relationship with the one who has died. They may still have conversations with them. Some even write a journal for their loved one of all the things they want to tell them.

It becomes possible to be reminded of the one you lost. You no longer avoid the places that strongly remind you of them. You can remember the good and bad times.

Most importantly, you can accept that you are a different person now. And being that different person is not bad. It is okay.

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:





Grieving that isn’t allowed

In life you will meet a lot of people. Some will matter very much to you but the relationships will end, or will become more distant.

Examples of this include someone you were once in love with, a family member you lost contact with, a close friend who grew distant when the two of you moved in different directions.

When a relationship ends there is an initial grief for that relationship. But grieving for that relationship does not mean you are not going to grieve again when that person dies. In fact, you are more likely to grieve again over their death.

Denying your right to grieve

The difficulty is in other people recognising your grief, or considering you have the right to grieve.

This type of grief is known as disenfranchised grief. It is a denial of your right to grieve.

The idea of disenfranchised grief is grounded in the concept of human dignity. It is a recognition of human attachment and the needs of individuals to grieve for those they love when they die. For some people, others actively deny them the right to grieve for the one they love. An example is that of an estranged family member who is denied by the rest of the family the right to be at the funeral or say goodbye to the person they love.

For others there may be an assumption by those around them that they wouldn’t feel grief at this person’s death. An example of that is of the ex-partner who moved on from the relationship but still holds love for the person. Many assume that once a relationship is over there is no love there, but that is not true in most cases.

Other ways grief is disenfranchised.

For people in non traditional relationships, grief may be disenfranchised.

In the past people in same sex relationships were often disenfranchised in their grief. Those having extra-marital relationships are also often disenfranchised. Other people may have a close bond with someone that other people do not realise exists. This may happen with a work colleague or a friend.

The loss is not recognised as a loss

If people don’t consider you have lost anything then your grief becomes disenfranchised. This happens frequently with miscarriages, still births, abortions, deaths of companion animals, someone you love being brain damaged or suffering from dementia.

You are not capable of grieving

The belief that you are not capable of grieving happens particularly with children. The old belief that children are resilient fails to acknowledge the impact loss has on a child at any age.

This can also happen with elderly people, especially those with dementia, and those with intellectual disabilities.

The way your loved one died

In this type of loss people may judge the one who has died and consider their death was deserved or not worth grieving over. This can occur with suicide, death from a stigmatised disease, death from overdose, or death due to recklessness – as in a car accident where the person was the one at fault.

Grieving differently to other’s expectations

If your style of grieving does not match what other people expect you to show you may be judged by others and your grief discounted. You may be shut down in your way of grieving which acts to disenfranchise you from being able to grieve.

In many cultures there are different ways of grieving. Being able to observe those rituals is important. If you are denied that then your grief becomes disenfranchised.

When people expect you to “be over it now” that also disenfranchises your grief.

Respect for those who are grieving

It is important to respect those who are grieving and to respect their suffering and their right to suffer.

In grieving there is a drive to experience your suffering. There is also an ability to thrive and live meaningfully after your loss. Allowing you to grieve in your own way to allow your natural resilience to guide you through the difficulties of grief. I will explain this more further in the blog.

Resilience is driven by hope and the potential within you to live meaningfully again. When you are not allowed to grieve at your own pace in your own way it hinders your natural resilience.

The lack of understanding around grief

When other people fail to understand and appreciate what you are living through they are more likely to interfere in your grief. This interference often destroys your natural grief.

People can be well meaning in the way they respond to grief but it can be the wrong approach. When my grandfather died I was staying with my brother, 4 hours drive from home. We were particularly close to my grandfather and could have comforted each other upon learning of his death. Unfortunately my mother decided to let us know individually after I had returned home. She was concerned I wouldn’t be able to drive home safely. My grandfather had died two days earlier so I would have had two days to be with my brother so we could both process our grief together.
My brother, who lived on his own and was a single teacher in a one teacher school, found out when there was no one in the house or his workplace to talk to. I arrived home, one hour before I had to go to my work as a registered nurse, and saw a message to ring my mother at her work. I was alone in the house and had no one to talk to either. I had to drive to work on my own so that wasn’t any safer. At work I was on the relieving roster so spent the evening working with people I didn’t know and with no one to talk to.

Both of us were disenfranchised from the grief at our grandfather’s death.

Unhelpful, disenfranchising comments

The following are a list of comments people on an online poll reported being told. In all cases they felt their grief was devalued and downplayed:

• When things like this happen, all you can do is give it time, wait it out.

• Eventually, you’ll get over this.

• I don’t see how his life can be worthwhile again. He’s lost the only thing that really mattered to him.

• Somehow it feels disloyal to laugh or try to be happy. I sometimes feel that I owe it to him to live in sorrow.
What can I possibly have to look forward to?
Response: The best thing is to try to put what happened behind you and get back to normal as soon as possible. Try to go on as if nothing has changed.

• There’s no point in looking for meaning in something like this. Suffering brings us face to face with absurdity. The best thing is to try to forget.

• You shouldn’t be looking for anything positive in this. There can’t be any such thing.

• Oh, that’s just a coincidence. You’re reading too much into what happened.

• I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that in some ways I seem to have grown from the death of my child.
Response: Face reality. She is dead. You will have to fill her place with something else.
Response: Everything she meant to you is undone.

• If you’re going to grieve, you have to let go completely. It is all about the heartache of goodbye. If you don’t let go, you are stuck in the past.

• Remembering adds to your pain and prolongs suffering. Spending so much time with memories can only bring you down. Let the past stay in the past.

• Don’t keep talking about her. You should be more focused on those who are still here.

You have to let go completely

One thing about the comments listed above is the message that you have to let go of the one who has gone. So often people feel they are not allowed to grieve their loved one. Instead, they are expected to push away all memories and thoughts of their loved one and stop being sad.

Much of this pressure comes from people who feel uncomfortable at another person’s pain. But how can you push away memories of the one you loved so much? Love doesn’t end just because the other person is dead. You will always love them. You will always feel grief and pain at their passing. You will learn how to live with it and you will even learn how to be happy again, but you will never forget.

Grief is constructive

Strange and profane as it may seem. Grief is constructive. It takes resilience to work through grief and find the capacity to thrive and find meaning in life again. It takes strength to face the pain and learn how to live with it. It takes drive to learn how to live again in a changed world. Grief is about experiencing the pain but still saying Yes to life. Saying yes to learning how to forge new patterns of living, find new narratives in life and learn to live in a way that honours you and allows you to live a meaningful life again.

The drive of the Soul

There are two major areas of the self that are worked on in grief. The first is the soul.

Many grief commentators refer to the soul as a drive within. This drive finds the ability to keep going, to find a reason to be living in the present.

The drive of the soul is one to connect to life and other people. It is this drive that leads you to love others and love life. This is the core of the strength and resilience that allows you to continue with life.

This soul drive pushes you on despite the pain. It drives you to reconnect despite the hole left in your world by the one who has gone. This drive pushes you back into life. It pushes you into life with the absence of your loved one.

The drive of the Spirit

The other area of the self is the Spirit.

This is another drive. This drive allows you to get through the acute phase of your grief. This drive allows you to move forward into the future. A future with more unknowns than you thought it may have held. Despite those unknowns, this drive gives you the strength and motivation to step forward and determine to survive and find a new way of living. It guides you to find meaning in your life again.

As with the soul drive, this drive is the core of the strength and resilience that allows you to continue with life.

This is your grief

You can be disenfranchised from grief in so many ways.

There are the losses where you are not recognised as having a right to grieve.

There are the losses where your are not recognised as having lost anything.

There are the losses where people believe you are not capable of grieving.

There are the losses where people judge the worth of the one who died.

There are the losses where you don’t grieve according to the belief of other people.

There are the pat statements that are unhelpful and deny your right to grieve.

There are so many more ways that grief can be disenfranchised.

But you have two drives within you that help you grieve and move forward into life again. The drive of the soul sustains you for the long haul. Alongside this the drive of the spirit helps you through the days of acute grief.

Sometimes you can get through your grief with those you can find to support you. Other times you might need the help of a grief counsellor.

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:

Writing a Goodbye Letter

Sometimes when someone you love dies, the death is drawn out and you have time to say to each other what you wanted to say.

Sometimes there is no opportunity to say goodbye. Maybe the person you loved died suddenly. Maybe you didn’t have time to get there. Maybe they weren’t conscious. Maybe you felt constrained and unable to say what you wanted to say.

Maybe you planned to say goodbye at the funeral but you weren’t able to get there. Or you attended the funeral and never found the opportunity to say goodbye. Or you weren’t ready at that stage to say goodbye.

For many reasons you can be left after the death of someone you love feeling that you never had the chance to say goodbye. Not properly anyway.

I often suggest people may want to write a goodbye letter.

Some people hesitate, not sure what to write. So I have this template I use as a suggestion of what they may want to write.

                      Template for the Letter

To (write the name of the person you loved)

I am writing this to say goodbye because (write here why you are saying goodbye now).

Saying goodbye in this letter is important to me because I feel (what is it like for you to say goodbye?)

I remember a time when (what are your memories that you think are important to put in this letter?)

You taught me (what do you want them to know that they taught you?)

Something I want you to know is (this can be as short or long as you want it to be)

I will always remember (again, this can be as short or long as you want it to be)

Love from …

Once you have written your letter you can keep it, post it, tear it up and throw the pieces somewhere the person you loved liked to be, burn it or anything else you can think of.

Even if the person died years ago, it is never too late to send that goodbye letter.

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:

5 things to do to help work through your grief

Frequently people come to see me because they are concerned they are not “over their grief” fast enough.

There hasn’t been a lot of research around what people believe is the time span of grief. In Britain researchers discovered that 30% of British people believed grief should last 6 months. Most people considered 2 years was as long as grief should be. And 30% of younger people believed it was possible to ‘get over’ grief. Men were three times more likely to believe grief should be brief and was something you could get over.

Research in America found that the majority of those interviewed believed grief should be over in 2 weeks!

If that is the attitude of British and American people, I imagine if Australians were to be surveyed they would come up with similar unrealistic ideas around how long grief lasts.

Unrealistic expectations make grieving harder

The difficulty with such unrealistic ideas is that if you are grieving, people can stop making allowances for your grief and instead express the attitude that you should be over your grief by now. This is very isolating.

When you are grieving, the last thing you need is to be pressured to stop grieving by others.

Grief is universal

It mightn’t seem so, but everyone is going to experience grief at some stage in their lives.

Some people are so expert at shutting down their feelings they can convince themselves, and others, that they are “over it”. But there are often signs that the grief is still there.

Poor health, high stress levels, depression, addictions, unstable emotional reactions, avoidance of memories of their loss and isolating themselves are some of the signs that grief is still there.

One thing that research shows is that allowing yourself to feel those hard feelings is the best way to move through the worst of the painful times.

Grief is …

Grief can be confusing. It can be overwhelming. It can be depressing. It can cause you to be unable to sleep, or to sleep too much. It can cause you to lose appetite or to want to eat too much. It can be cause you to lose your sense of self. It can be so many things you never expected.

One thing about grief is that you will be a different person after your experience with each grief event in your life.

How do you work through your grief?

5 things to do to help work through your grief

  1. Rituals

There are many rituals around death that are really helpful when dealing with loss. Other types of loss don’t tend to have rituals around them so you may have to devise your own. Rituals add meaning to the experience of loss. They help you to focus, acknowledge and process your grief. There are many cultures that have formal mourning periods. These are usually from one to three years.

  1. Talk.

It is really helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Some people find no shortage of family and friends willing to listen and sit with them. For other people it is much harder. This is where a counsellor can help. A grief trained counsellor will be able to offer you a safe space where you can just be with your grief. No judgement. No problem solving. Just the space to express whatever you need to express.

Talking is really helpful to allow you to express what you are feeling, no matter how inane you think it is. Grief impacts every aspect of your life as you adjust everything you do to a life without the person you have lost.

  1. Journal

Journalling is another great way to express what you are feeling. For many people, the act of writing their thoughts down is really helpful. It allows them to put the cacophony of thoughts they are feeling into some sort of order that makes sense.

Often, seeing the words on the page can reveal things you weren’t aware you were feeling.

Writing down your thoughts can be a wonderful way to express to the one you have lost things you wanted to say to them.

Journalling can be a useful adjunct to counselling sessions as a counsellor can help you process things your writing has revealed.

  1. Reflect

Grief shatters your sense of self. This is very challenging when you are trying to move forward and you are feeling a great sense of loss.

Reflecting on what you have said or written can be extremely helpful. Such reflection can reveal the answers to things that have puzzled you. It can help you to understand things that have happened and make sense of your pain.

It can also be helpful for you to identify the many strengths you have. Strengths that you may have forgotten you have due to the trauma of loss.

  1. Release

Cry, scream, shout, throw pillows, walk into the bush and scream into the trees, stand at the edge of the waves and yell your hurts, fears, frustrations, anger and terrible devastation. Howl and moan until you feel there is nothing left.

Tear up what you have written. Burn it, throw it away.

All these and more are ways you can release the emotions you are feeling.

And finally:

Researchers have found that the intense feelings of grief peak at about four to six months after the loss and then gradually decline over a number of years.
When others tell you that “you should be over it by now”, remember that many cultures have formal mourning periods that last years. After a few years the pain may ease and you will become used to it and able to function in life. But it will never end. It will just get easier to live with.

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:

Creating Meaning at Christmas When Meaning has Gone

At this time of year, many people who come to see me about their grief become worried about the looming Festivities of Christmas.

Many don’t know how to make their Christmas be anything but awful and devoid of meaning. They are grieving and the person who made it worthwhile will not be there anymore.

Maybe you want to pause Christmas for a year?

If you have other family members who don’t want to do that, especially children, then you can’t really do that.

Maybe the one you loved always enjoyed Christmas and you are determined to honour their memory by celebrating Christmas. But you don’t know how to do that.

I always suggest that this may be a time for new traditions, new ways of doing Christmas that honour the one who is gone, but still allow for celebration.

Here is a suggestion of how you can plan a new type of Christmas.


The first step is to plan activities that will help bring new meaning to the day.

Get a notebook and start writing down.

• An activity that expresses your values (what is important to you?)

• An activity that makes you smile.

• An activity that you find relaxing.

• An activity that connect you with people you care about.

• An activity that makes you think.

• An activity you enjoy but never have time for.

• An activity that brings back wonderful memories

• A spiritual activity that makes you feel connected to a higher power.

• An activity that isn’t always fun.

• Any other activities you can think of that you find meaningful.


The next step is go read through your list.

What on this list is something you most long to do? Are they things you can do at Christmas? Are they small enough to fit into a hour or two . . . or less?

Make a list of the things you can fit in to Christmas.

Take 2 pages and divide them between the morning and afternoon/evening.

Start at the hour you normally get up.

Have the finish time when you normally get to bed.

Now divide the day evenly between the two pages, marking off every hour from when you start the day to when you end the day.

Now write in the things you know you need to do on the day.

I want you to include on this list at least one time when you will do something to honour the person who is no longer with you. This doesn’t have to take long. Just acknowledge them.

I also want you to include down time when you may nap, meditate, read a book, sit under a tree, take a walk and so on.

Now look at the time left over.

Look at your list of activities.

Choose the ones you can achieve in the day. You may want to brainstorm how you might do each activity.

Now look at your spare slots and choose 2 to 3 activities you can fit into those slots.

Make sure the activities you choose are ones you know you can do. Try to fit one activity as early as you can in the day and another activity as late as you can in the day.



It is the day after Christmas.

How did your day go?

Did you do your special activities?

How did it go?

Look at your list of activities. Is there one you can do today?

Maybe there will be ones you can do tomorrow, the day after, and so on.

These special activities are not just for Christmas.

Make that decision to include in your life activities that give meaning to you. As you learn to live with the loss of your loved one, meaning in your life now is one things you must learn. Why not use that learning to help you live through this.


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:

How can I manage grief and Christmas, especially a family Christmas?

Since the COVID pandemic began, many people have experienced Christmases that have been dramatically different to previous years. With lockdowns many people could not travel to see family. During that time also people died. Funerals were delayed until relatives could attend. People didn’t get to say goodbye. Families didn’t get together so the death of the family member was not able to be grieved fully.

Now restrictions are lifted. People can travel to see each other.

With family get togethers at Christmas resuming for many, there is a chance of a resurgence of old tensions. There is also adjusting to the different family makeup with the loss of those who have died.


There is such societal pressure for Christmas to be magical. The shows on television, the ads, the social media posts of perfect Christmases. All these things influence your belief around Christmas needing to be perfect.

So we arrive at this perfect Christmas Day stressed and most likely yelling at each other. So now we are stressed and upset.

Now add Grief to that mix!

When you are struggling with grief and the absence of people who once were part of your life it seems that everyone else is having a better Christmas than you. And there is that feeling that you should be doing that too.

It seems everyone wants to present to the world their perfect Christmas. But not that many people experience that perfection at Christmas. After all, who wants reality at Christmas? We are all programmed for perfection and who wants to admit they don’t have it.

The more people you add to the Christmas mix, you greater the chance your Christmas will not be perfect. It is wise to remember that.


Janie’s Father died just after Christmas 30 years ago. She remembers sitting with him on Christmas Day and him wishing her Merry Christmas. It was the last time he spoke to Janie before he died.

The next Christmas, Janie said Merry Christmas to her father and set an empty place at the table for him. She has done that every year since then.


Robert and his children tried to avoid Christmas after his wife Sally died. The first year they went away for Christmas. They tried to avoid it completely and all the family get togethers.

The next Christmas they put up a new tree with generic decorations as you would see in any business at Christmas. They couldn’t face the special memories of their own tree and decorations. On Christmas day they went to the cemetery instead of getting together with family.

The third Christmas they put up their old tree with all its special memories and set a place at the table for their mother. They decided they needed to remember that life goes on even when the person you love so much is gone. They invited their family to come to them and found it healing to be with people who knew and loved Sally too.


You most likely will not feel like this, but you need to be proactive in your approach to being with others for Christmas.

One suggestion is to let people know what you want from them. They will most likely be worried about whether to mention your loved one, or whether they are a taboo subject. There is no hard and fast rule on this one and most people know that. Let them know how you want them to be. That way you can all experience less stress around what to say.

Let people know if you want to be left alone, or if you want someone to have coffee and a chat with. Let them know if you want the occasional contact to check in on you. Let them know if you appreciate gifts of food or flowers. If you want these things and no contact then let them know you would prefer them to leave it at the front door.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the help people give. You may feel frozen and unable to see anything positive, but you can be aware of the benefits of the care other people demonstrate for you. Thanking them not only lets them know they are doing something that you find helpful, but it is also beneficial for you to express the positive things that happen for you. This helps you engage with life. Something you may not want to do, but need to do.


When a loved one dies it is tempting to shut everything down. But if there are children involved you need to have greater consideration. Children need to know life does go on. It might not feel it now, but it will go on. They may also want the stability of routine in their lives.

Christmas is one of the routines they may be relying on for stability.


It is important to acknowledge your loved one and to include memories of them in the day.

You may decide not to make as big a fuss over the day as other years.

Ultimately you may decide to do at Christmas what makes the children happy.


Many people set a place at their table for their loved one.

Another idea is for everyone to write down their memories of your loved one and put them in a box under the Christmas tree. This can be unwrapped and the memories read out. Sharing stories together is very unifying and a wonderful way to remember someone, and learn more about them. It also makes it acceptable to include them in Christmas.

Maybe you may like to watch their favourite Christmas movie, or listen to their favourite Christmas song.

Or you may like to add an item to the menu that they particularly loved eating. Then you can eat it as a remembrance of them.


It is hard facing Christmas without your loved one. It is hard when you have a family get together and you have to negotiate all the festivities while grieving. You always need to consider the needs of children in this mix and that is hard too.

If you do have a family Christmas, let family members know what you expect from them. Don’t forget, they may be grieving too.

It is important to remember that Christmas is never perfect, just as life is never perfect. Have the best day you can and accept the imperfections. Remember it is okay to be sad and even cry. Remember that you grieve because you loved and grief is an expression of love.


When you are grieving, Christmas is likely to be a time tinged with sadness.

You may like to set an empty place for your loved one. You may decide to not make as big a fuss as other years.

It may take you a few years to feel up to having a big family Christmas again.

Start new rituals that will help you commemorate your loved one. They may be temporary or become an established part of Christmas.

Do find ways to connect to family and friends as well as the wider community. You may for a while seek out support groups of others who are grieving. Healing needs the support and involvement of community as well as individual reflection. Often you will find healing in the support of other community members including your family.


If you need extra help, you may consider seeking the support of a grief counsellor.

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:


*please note that whenever I mention someone in my blogs I never use real names and change the circumstances to de-identify the person who has generously given permission for me to use their story in my blog.

How Grief Helps With Your Loss

Did you know that you have a wonderful, highly effective tool to help you when you lose someone you deeply love?


Always available.

Requires careful handling and to be able to do its thing.

What is it?

It is Grief.

Grief is a tool that allows you to change your identity in light of your loss.

It is also a tool that allows you to get to know yourself, the Who Am I self, better. Because losing someone will change who you are and you need to know who you are in order to live.


Loss of someone you deeply love is disorienting, devastating, painful, confusing, life upending and self concept destroying.

How do you recover from that?

You do that through grief.

Yes, grief is distressing.

But it also motivates you to work to live. To learn how to live with the reality of the loss of the person you loved so much.


To live after someone you love dies does not involve ending the relationship with the person.

You will most likely continue to relate to that person.

• You will remember them,

• You may allow yourself to be influenced by their interests, values and the way they loved to live their life,

• You may find your own way of being, recognising the benefits that person brought to your life.

Of course, they are no longer there so you will not be able to go places with them, or do the things together you used to do.

But you can remember the things you did together and the places you went. And you can learn new ways of being.


The pain of grief, the emotions you feel, help you to understand the things about your relationship with that person that mattered.

It helps you to understand what was important about that person.

Loss takes away your sense of who you are, because who you are was related to the person who is no longer with you.

Grief allows you to explore who you are now. It allows you to consider the things that matter to you including your values, life plans and way of living.

Grief allows you to restructure your life so that you can continue living.


The pain of losing someone you love will always be hard and hurt.

Grief is not easy. But then change never is.

Learning to live without the person you love is change.

Living is something you are going to continue to do.

Learning how to do that is Grief’s gift to allow you to explore how to live.


Remember this journey is not one you will do on your own.

You may have family and friends who will support you.

You may also wish to get more specialised help from a Grief Counsellor.

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 Importance of Ritual in Grief

In the past, most people who were dying died at home and in many countries the deceased person was placed in the coffin in the front room, where they stayed until the funeral.

In our modern world. Funeral homes have replaced the front room and viewings are planned and something those paying for the funeral have to pay for.

Instead of home, death is hidden away in hospitals, nursing homes and palliative care units. It is less common for people to die at home.


In my work I see many people in that initial stage of the death of a loved one. I see them either at critical incident debriefs, or as individual clients/family groups.

In that early stage the sense of unreality is so strong. It is hard to absorb the news. It is more about just surviving up to and including the funeral.


I always tell people to be kind to themselves. To not expect to be running around looking after other people. Instead I suggest they be really selfish and look to their own needs. Naturally, if they have children they need to caring for them, but with other people their needs come first.

I once had a client who had been upset that an acquaintance of her sister came to her mother’s funeral, then came up to her afterwards demanding she do things for him. He didn’t even acknowledge her mother’s death. She felt pressured to attend to his demands and upset at his intrusion on her mourning.

This is why I always remind people to put themselves and their needs ahead of funeral guests. Guests at a funeral are there to support, not demand.


The other thing I talk to people about is how they plan to honour the life and acknowledge the death of their loved one. Funerals are not always good places to do that. In my experience the guests usually find the funeral helps them, but those really close to the person often need more than that.

So I always ask the question “what can you do to honour your loved one?”

People have many different ideas about what they do:

• One planned to light a candle every day for a period of time.

• Another planned to go to the beach on Sundays, which they had always done together.

• Another client planned to devise a commemoration ceremony to hold periodically after the death of their loved on.

• Many people report setting up a small altar in the home with their loved one’s ashes, photo, a candle and something they loved.

• Distributing the ashes is another way many people find helpful. Some do this on their own when they feel ready. Others will plan a day with close family and friends.

These are just some of the ways people commemorate the loss of their loved one.

They are not the only ways. There are as many commemorations as there are people experiencing grief.

The important thing is that you do something to acknowledge your loved one and their loss. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it is helpful if it is meaningful for you.

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: