On Sunday 11th September 2016 I woke up as normal, not knowing that my life was about to change forever. I lost my husband, Simon, and my children lost a wonderful and loving father. The next few years of my life have been a turbulent mix of ups, downs and every emotion in between. During this time, I worked with a coach to help me process what I’d been through and work out what I wanted to do with my life. This was so transformative that in 2019 I decided to train to become a break-up and bereavement coach myself. I wanted people to benefit from all of the amazing support that I had received and more. So, for those of you that are interested in bereavement coaching, or want to understand its benefits, here are some of the ways that bereavement coaching can help you following the death of a loved one.
You may be asking, ‘What is bereavement coaching?’ Well, first of all, bereavement coaching is not counselling. I am not a qualified therapist or counsellor.
Bereavement coaching is mostly a talking process. But it’s also so much more. It’s a relationship with a coach that lets you talk, cry, understand, and unpick. It gives a mix of emotional and practical support on all of the things nobody tells you or talks to you about when one of the worst things you can possibly imagine happens. Mostly, it’s about understanding where you are right now, working out where you want to be, and discovering the practical steps you can take to get you there.
Ultimately, bereavement coaching is what you make of it. You could have an hour of bereavement coaching to help you gain clarity on one particular niggling issue that you can’t seem to move past on your own, or you could come for a year to unpick and rebuild every aspect of your life.
As your bereavement coach I won’t tell you what to do, I won’t patronise you, and I won’t encourage you to dwell on the past. We will talk about what’s happened. But ultimately bereavement coaching is about helping you to move forward, not look back. Sadly, we can’t change what’s happened, but we can take positive steps to shape our future.
So now you understand a bit more about what bereavement coaching is, let’s look at how it might be able to help and support you.
When you lose someone you love, you can get so bogged down in just getting through each day and tackling the practical things that need to be done. But then a few months or a year down the line, it can be totally normal to begin to think, “Am I just going to spend the rest of my life ‘getting through?’ Is this really it?”
Bereavement coaching can help you to work out exactly where and how you’re feeling unfulfilled, and to work out the areas of your life you want to improve. You’ll then be able to make an actionable plan of exactly where to focus your efforts and improvements, rather than clutching at straws thinking, ‘will this help?’
Death has this way of sending any of us into a spiral, feeling like we’re not really in control of anything. Which is such a natural feeling! You’ve just had someone you love taken away from you. You’re bound to feel like you’re not in control.
However, bereavement coaching is about helping you to understand that in any situation, there is always something that you can control. Even on your worst days, you can learn to regulate and control your emotions and reactions – it just takes time and a lot of practice. Bereavement coaching helps you to regain control of your life by learning to focus on the things that you can control rather than the things you can’t.
When my husband passed away, I completely lost my sense of purpose. I just felt like I was aimless in life. ‘What do I do now? What do I want to do with my life? Who am I? what’s the point?
Working with a bereavement coach can help you to find a purpose or sense of meaning. You have to have a reason to get up in the morning, especially on the days when that’s the last thing you want to do. So, we’ll start small. It could be just getting up in the morning to walk the dog. But over the long-term, together we’ll help you work out what you want to do with your life and how to go about finding or rediscovering your purpose.
Of course, you might be thinking. ‘I can’t do any of this! I can barely even get through the day.’ And this lack of confidence or self-esteem can be completely overwhelming when you lose someone close to you.
You suddenly become afraid of your own emotions and feelings, afraid of what other people might think – just generally afraid of everything! Especially if you’ve lost a partner, you’ll have lost the other half of your decision-making process. Suddenly, you have to make decisions entirely on your own, when before you had someone to bounce ideas off of.
Working with a bereavement coach can help you to build up that confidence you’ve lost – even if it seems impossible. Together, we’ll focus on what you can do and what you already have done, celebrating the small achievements just as much as the big wins! Even being here right now, reading this, is a huge achievement that you should be proud of! It shows you have the desire to want that little bit more. And gradually, as you realise all that you’re capable of, that confidence will come back to you.
One of the most difficult aspects of losing someone is thinking, ‘I’m going to hurt like this and feel like this forever.’ And it can be so tempting to smack the next person who says the phrase: ‘time heals all wounds.’
Bereavement coaching is about learning not to push that grief away, but to live with that grief and to build your life around it.
It can be useful to think about grief as a sphere inside a box. The box represents you and your life. When you first lose someone, the sphere takes up the whole box. It envelops every area of your life, scraping up against the edges, causing constant, unrelenting pain. Over time you’d imagine the sphere gets smaller, but it doesn’t. It stays the same size – as we never truly lose our grief.
However, as you live, grow and experience new things, the box that is your life grows. Now, although the grief has stayed the same size, your box is much bigger, as you have built a life around your grief. Now occasionally, your grief will still hit an edge – maybe you’ve heard a song that reminds you of the person you’ve lost, thought of a particular memory, or it could just come out of nowhere. But comparatively, your grief will take up a much smaller part of your life, connecting with those painful edges of the box much less often.
Working with a bereavement coach also helps you to feel more supported.
You can come to a session and cry, talk, think, whatever you need – all in a supportive, judgement-free environment. I’ve been exactly where you are now, and so as a bereavement coach I understand how supportive it can be just to offer an impartial ear or let you know that what you’re feeling is completely normal (even if it doesn’t feel normal to you.)
Having the ongoing support of a bereavement coach will help you to feel like you’re not quite so on your own in what you’re going through.
You may currently feel totally powerless. I know I did when one of the worst things imaginable happened to me. You could be dealing with every one of the issues mentioned in this article, or just one or two. But if you’re not feeling strong or empowered enough to tackle any of them, then you should consider working with a bereavement coach.
Bereavement coaching isn’t about giving you the answers or ready-made solutions. It’s about helping you to recognise that you do have the resources within yourself to feel more fulfilled, in control, and confident; that you do have a purpose in life and you do know how to get there. – Even if it takes a little digging. When I finally realised this for myself, I felt such a sense of empowerment.
Once you’ve started to realise this for yourself, the momentum you’ve built will start to carry you forward. You’ll know that you’re heading in the right direction and will feel fully equipped and empowered to deal with whatever comes your way.
If you’ve lost someone and are struggling with any of the things mentioned in this article, you could benefit from working with a bereavement coach like me.
I’ve been where you are now, and I promise, there is a life beyond the unimaginable pain you’re feeling.
Work with a bereavement coach and fall in love with life again.