Having facilitated the recent remembrance service at Greystones harbour, Liz Gleeson will be helping those dealing with the loss of a loved one again later this month with a special documentary screening at The Whale.
Called A Love That Never Dies, the film charts the grieving process of Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds after they lost their young son, Josh.
Charting the parents’ trip across the US, as they talk to others also dealing with such a loss, Jane and Jimmy will be flying in for the screening on Wednesday, January 29th.
In the meantime, Liz – who hosts the Shapes Of Grief podcast – explains how that healing can begin…
Grief is part of living and something that we all have to navigate at different stages of our lives, yet we often don’t want it, because grief means the unthinkable, that someone that is loved by us has died. In Ireland, 30,000 people have died in this past year – which means that about 300,000 people are left significantly bereaved.
For some of us, the landscape of grief is very familiar territory. Our grief may be very public; many people may know of our loss and do their best in supporting us through it. For others, our grief is hidden or unseen. It is the miscarriage, the separation or divorce, the death of a beloved pet, the endless infertility treatments or the loss of a relationship. Lots of people think that we are ‘over it’ already, but we aren’t; grief is not something to get over.
Grief can be a tricky one. For most of us when we experience a significant loss, we can feel tremendously vulnerable and this vulnerability can lead to social isolation and loneliness. We may wonder how we will ever go on. Our comfort zone may shrink and even a trip to Tesco can become an ordeal. We might worry about what would happen if someone asks us how we are and we end up crying. We might worry about having a panic attack or worry about the people who will avoid us, because they don’t know what to say. We might want to avoid the unhelpful platitudes that are served up to us daily: such as “he’s in a better place now”, “at least she didn’t suffer”, “you’re young, you can have another baby”, etc. Of course, people don’t mean to upset us, but when we’re grieving, the words of others, when chosen well, can be like a soothing balm or when carelessly spoken, a knife to the heart.
All of these fears about how our grief will be met in the community further exacerbate our grief and can lead us deeper into a cycle of isolation, loneliness and depression. Dying, death and grief have become taboo words in our society, something that we want to avoid or sanitise at best. The result is that many of us don’t understand grief until we are faced with it and then the impact of it can cause us tremendous anxiety and shock. As the writer C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘Nobody ever told me that grief felt so much like fear’.
But what if there was an alternative? What if we could look around and realise that our friends, neighbours and our community as a whole, really could understand our grief, support our grief and compassionately meet us in our grief, at whatever point we’re at in this difficult experience. When the going gets tough, we need each other. Grief is not an event that we go through and get over. Grief can change us, and for some of us who experience profound grief, our lives are indeed changed forever. We don’t get over our grief; we learn to accommodate it and live with it, and carry it, but it’s not something that goes away.
I have worked with hundreds of grieving individuals and have read many research papers on the study of grief. There are three things of which I am certain.
Number One: The only way to deal with grief is to grieve. To simply allow it to be; the wailing, the discomfort, the tears, snot, anger, even silence – the full spectrum of emotions that often accompany grief, we need to let them be expressed, in our own unique way.
Number Two: Being held in our grief by friends, family and community can help us to accommodate our grief in the best possible way. Us humans need connection and a sense of belonging, particularly at tough times in our lives. The ongoing support of others is vital, not just in the weeks after a loss, but in the months and years that follow too. Let kindness be your purpose in life.
And lastly, Number Three, no matter how deep your pain feels now, it will ease and you will grow around your grief, making it easier to carry. And if it doesn’t ease with time, there is help and support for you here in the community.
Death ends a life, not a relationship. The love continues and we must find new ways of keeping the memory of our loved ones alive within us. Here tonight, this is one way of doing that.
The award-winning A Love That Never Dies is screening at The Whale on Wednesday, January 29th at 8pm, followed by a Q&A with Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris. Tickets and info here.
You can find out more about A Love That Never Dies here, and about the upcoming appearance at The Whale here.