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A Journey of Grief

Dave and Debbie Marteau found themselves drawn to express their grief in a journey – after their 21 year old son, Jack, died, they took themselves outside and walked and camped, seeking out challenging places that reflected their pain. For them the journey was both a physical act and a metaphor. In this interview they share how they have navigated the fifteen years that have passed since Jack's life was snatched from him unexpectedly on a zebra crossing in Sicily.

They touch on some of the myths about grief and how they impacted their own experiences of grief.

One uncomfortable myth about grief in our culture is Grieve Alone. We can be timid around someone who is in a deep state of grief and it is safer, we comfort ourselves, to leave them alone, not trouble them. We kid ourselves that we are offering the griever a kindness by staying away. There is a place for privacy in grief but when we hide behind privacy because we are too afraid to be alongside the raw grief of the newly bereaved, we are not offering privacy, we are isolating someone at a time of their deepest need. Dave and Debbie describe how long term friends disappeared into the ether too aftraid to get close to the fire of grief. What they wanted most as grieving parents, was someone to lay a gentle hand on their arm. This doesn't pry or ask questions but it speaks quietly, 'I am here. I can't fix it, but I can stand alongside you. I can withstand your pain.'

To break the myth of Grieve Alone, we must confront our own fears about death and loss. We are all naturally fearful about the possibility that one of our children, our lover or parents will be taken from us. The grief of another reminds us of the fragility of the lives of our nearest and dearest, and in a bid to repress this fear, we run away from the grievers. We might also be terrified of confronting our own death. This is understandable and we need to be gentle with ourselves. When someone asks me what it is they can do to support a grieving friend, my advice is first to get comfortable with the idea of your own death. It's 100% certain. Thinking about death, won't hasten it, just as thinking about sex won't hasten pregnancy.

My second piece of advice is to stick around. Show up and clean the house, bring a meal. Don't speak or dish out platitudes, just quietly keep things ticking over. Be there to put out the rubbish, help with closing bank accounts or speaking with the funeral home – whatever it is that needs doing. Say that you don't know what to say, name the person who has died, be the one who puts a gentle hand on the griever's arm. Debbie reminds us that grief is not linear so hang in there through the ups and downs. She appreciated having nice people around her. Nice is a gentle descriptor. It's not heroic or knowledgeable or showy. It is peaceable, easy going, soft.

Another of the myths about grief that we subscribe to in our culture is Be Strong – Dave turns this on its head when he describes how dismantled by grief he was and that he has become stronger as he has navigated his grief. What's helpful to understand here is that he allowed himself to be undone and from that place of having been dismantled, he has developed strength. We often encourage someone to be strong because we can't bear to see them in a state of despair. What would be more supportive is to have enough inner strength of our own so that we can walk alongside someone who is feeling broken by grief and reach out a hand to them while they develop their strength and fortitude.

If you want help to navigate your own grief, book a free Grief Relief session with me here:

If you would like to consider your own end of life decisions, join an End of Life Planning course here:

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