As we approach our 2nd National Grief Awareness week in the UK 2-8th December.
I am reminded that it was only a year ago that a group passionate about improving the path people enter when they experience the death of someone close to them met at the houses of parliament. We watched and listened as Grief was made something to be recognised and that help and support are key to the journey people enter the nano second their loved one takes their very last breath.
Who knew how much this would be needed in 2020?
I first met Linda Magistris (now CEO of ‘The Good Grief Trust’), though a virtual cup of coffee. She was on a train reading our mutual friend Helen Bailey’s book ‘When bad things happen in good bikinis’. Helen like Linda and I was widowed young. She was a well-known author of teen fiction but when she found herself 1000s of miles away from home on a beach in Barbados having just watched her beloved husband John drown in front of her, the ability to write was completely blocked. It was that experience that led Helen to start her blog ‘Planet grief’ in the supportive group of fellow widows called ‘WAY’. She later turned it into a hilarious bestselling book. It created a means of unblocking her creative flow.
I remember meeting Helen in person. It turned out that she and I had both bought each others books. We got on like a house on fire, drank delicious cups of coffee and wrote personal messages to each other.
I marvelled at the fact she had done all the exercises and coloured in her copy of ‘Who are the flowers in your garden’?
Linda had a seed of an idea when I met her. She figured that something needed to change. Her experience of not being correctly signposted from the time Graham died surely could not be only happening to her.
I met her with a small group of widows from WAY at the Royal Festival Hall in London to hear her ideas and passion for improving the way we access support, guidance and help after someone we love dies. From that meeting ‘The Good Grief Trust’ was born.
Even all those years ago I knew I would be involved in some way with Linda’s vision.
However, I knew that it would not initially be by getting involved at the grass roots level. I needed time to adjust to returning to my work as a personal recovery coach and I had the seed of an idea for my next gift book.
I write about life (the good the bad and the downright ugly), and having experienced 2 major bereavements in the space of a few years plus supporting my 2 girls through their journey of grief I knew that the next life topic I needed to write about was indeed Grief. I also still needed time to begin my important journey back doing the work I love. I specialise in helping people after any difficult and sometimes traumatic life change. You can’t give what you don’t have and I needed to be true to my own philosophy to take good care of yourself and find the right support on that journey back to life on planet earth.
The words started to flow onto the page and the gift book published in ‘National Grief Awareness Week 2019’ was called ‘The Grief Garden path’. Its original name was ‘When a favourite flower in your garden dies’. Each of my books are non-fiction and yet each have a fictional story near the beginning. Once this story is written it goes to one of my 2 illustrators Angie Brigden.
When I sent Angie, the story set in a Cornish fishing village she immediately got excited. She was automatically getting pictures in her minds eye which is always a good sign. Her beautiful black and white illustrations are used throughout the book.
I asked Linda if she would do me the honour of writing the foreword to the book and she replied a resounding yes. She knew that whatever I wrote would be valuable to anyone experiencing grief.
3 years later and the book was ready to go to print.
I had got Helen Bailey’s family’s permission to dedicate ‘The grief garden path’ to her. However, literally days before it went to print I got the feeling very strongly that I should dedicate the book to Richard and Rob who had taught me personally the powerful journey we go on when someone we love dies. Ironically, this year my brother Richard died suddenly and quite honestly that dedication could not be more poignant because his death has taught me yet again that each experience is unique. Each ‘garden (life) path’ we tread is personal to us.
And yet it can either be a ‘good grief garden path’ or it can be a not so good one cant it?
It very much depends on the support you get from very early and it is why I chose to support the ‘Good Grief trust’ with sales of the book. Linda’s original idea to signpost the bereaved has snowballed. She and her core team now have 800+ organisations, charities, groups and even individuals who are there ready and waiting to join you on your journey.
I feel that by supporting the trust I am indirectly supporting all the 800+ and most importantly spreading the message that no one needs to tread this path alone. That there is support out there, you just need to know about it.
During National Grief Awareness Week this year, the theme is #SHAREYOURSTORY and I am going to be sharing the 9 stories that are in chapter 3 of ‘The grief garden path’ in a 2 minute video each day in my social media feed. I will be introducing you to the people who were incredibly brave to share their stories with me for my book. Each one gave me full permission to use their names, and all of them are personally back feeling joy and the sun again despite such darkness at the time of sharing their story. They share their golden nuggets of wisdom and the love they have for the loved ones no longer physically here is as strong as ever. Precious gifts of understanding and empathy for anyone who finds themselves on this journey/ ‘Grief garden path’ no one wants to tread.