Many people have asked me what grief coaching is and how it can help those struggling with loss. I myself had these questions when I entered the world of coaching. But before we delve a little deeper into just what it is, here’s what it isn’t: grief coaching isn’t counselling or therapy. I am not a trained counsellor nor am I a qualified therapist. I cannot help you navigate your way through deeply rooted trauma or severe mental ill health.
However, what I can do is help you through your grieving process. I can provide a combination of emotional and practical support when one of the most unimaginably devastating things you could ever face, actually happens. I can help you to work out where you are right now, where you want to be and identify the practical steps you can take to get there. I won’t tell you what to do, I won’t patronise you and although we will talk about what has happened, I won’t encourage you to dwell on the past – for grief coaching is ultimately about helping you to move forward not backwards. Sadly, we cannot change what’s happened, but we can take positive steps towards shaping our future and there are so many ways I can help you to do that.
One of the most important aspects of my role as a grief coach is to create a safe space for you to grieve with no expectation, no judgement and no criticism. I will meet you wherever you are in your grieving journey – whether that is three weeks or three years in, for just as our journey through life is unique, so our journey through grief is individual to us. I will hold space for everything that emerges for you during your bereavement and I will ensure it is a place in which you can be completely honest and where you feel comfortable sharing your truth.
It’s often difficult to open up to those around us during grief. We sometimes worry that we’ll be misunderstood or judged, have our feelings minimised or that we’ll be a burden to our friends and family as they start to grow tired of our grief (something that more often than not is simply untrue.) As a grief coach, I can offer you a space in which you feel safe and deeply connected, a place where you can be heard and your grief witnessed and understood. It can be difficult to find people that will fully accept what you’re saying to them, that don’t try and fix your grief or find a solution to your problems. Most people have not been taught how to engage with those that grieve. They may not know what to say, how to show up for you, or how best to support you, beyond their well-meaning attempts to encourage you to stay positive and ‘fix’ you.
However, this doesn’t necessarily work in grief, for as much as you feel broken, as if you have shattered into a million pieces (and it really does feel like that,) the truth remains – you are not broken and you do not need to be fixed. You simply need to be loved, nurtured and cherished by others and most importantly by yourself. As a grief coach, I can create an environment in which you feel supported, where you can explore your grief, develop your self-awareness and show yourself compassion and understanding. Grief coaching may also offer you opportunities to connect with and draw strength from others who are on their own grief journey, for we cannot heal in isolation. As social animals we thrive on connecting with others who have lived or shared similar experiences and with whom we can empathise. Therefore within our grief lies the opportunity to open ourselves up to others, to learn from them, draw inspiration from them, lean on them and heal alongside them.
All of this can take time, hard work and consistency. There will be setbacks and challenging days. As a grief coach, I understand how unique everyone’s journey is. I adopt an individualised approach, tailoring my support to help you confront and overcome these difficulties in your own way. I will also keep you on track during your healing journey and should momentum slip, or progress falter, I will help you to identify what’s pulling you away from achieving the things you want. It’s not about getting it wrong, or failing or sticking to a timescale. It’s about discovering a path that works for you and focusing on how you can create momentum that is sustainable and that doesn’t overwhelm you.
Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions we feel during grief and it is often a burden we place on ourselves rather than one placed on us by others. When we lose a loved one we often feel a sense of helplessness – a loss of control over our decision-making, our future and essentially our life and this can feel extremely overwhelming. And because we are not particularly good at feeling powerless, because we feel deeply uncomfortable at losing control – we would rather feel guilty about the loss of our loved one and fixate on how it could all have turned out differently. We sometimes torture ourselves by thinking that we could have done, or said something different and ultimately changed the outcome. By assigning ourselves guilt over the death or over the events leading up to it, by placing the blame squarely on ourselves, believing it occurred because of some action or inaction on our part, we start to feel that we could have changed what happened and this perversely helps us to regain some control. However guilt during grief is both incredibly painful and damaging. It prevents us from accepting reality and from moving forward.
As a grief coach, I can help you to explore and unpick this false narrative and chip away at the stories you may have layered on top of your grief and that are causing you additional suffering. By creating an awareness around these stories, by breaking them down and asking some tough questions around their truth, I can help to release you from them, create freedom and space from your guilt and encourage you to forgive yourself and accept what has happened.
When a loved one dies, we often lose our identity and our sense of purpose. As all that we are familiar with is ripped away from us, we are confronted by an unimaginable array of secondary losses. These include the loss of intimacy, financial security, companionship, a co-parent and the loss of a future we had mapped out with our loved one. Facing down these losses can often leave us with a pervasive sense of futility as we begin to question who we are, what we should be doing with our lives and whether there is even any point to it.
As a grief coach, I can help you to establish a new sense of meaning and re-discover your passion and purpose in life. And we can start small. On days when you are struggling to even get up in the morning, it could be that you focus on getting up just to walk the dog or take the children to school. And during the first few days or weeks of your bereavement just tackling the practicalities and making it through each day, might be enough to keep you focused and moving forward.
However as you progress through your grief journey, a few months or a year down the line, you might catch yourself wondering with a creeping resignation, whether you’re going to spend the rest of your life just ‘managing’ or ‘getting through.’ As you start to hunger for more purpose and fulfilment and a richer existence, I can work alongside you to help you identify your values, what’s important to you, who you wish to be and how you want to live your life. Together, we can explore the areas of your life you wish to improve and pull together an actionable plan which will allow you to focus your energy and efforts, rather than simply clutching at straws and wondering, ‘will this help?’
The death of a life partner can turn our world upside down and propel us down a chaotic and uncertain path. As we are forced to confront a future without our loved one, our life often feels like it is spiralling out of control as choices we thought we had suddenly disappear and we feel robbed of possibilities and opportunities. Grief coaching can help you to realise 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, which will help you to respond positively to challenging situations. It takes time and a great deal of practice, but it can be done. As a grief coach, I can help you to establish control over your life by learning to focus on the things you can control, rather than the things you can’t.
When we lose someone we love, as our world shatters into a million pieces, we often feel broken, exhausted and overwhelmed by fear and almost overnight our confidence vanishes and our self-esteem crumbles. We become afraid of our own emotions and feelings. We become fearful of what other people may think of us and as we are left alone to make decisions entirely by ourselves, we begin to doubt our judgement. Working with a grief coach can help you to rebuild the confidence you’ve lost and rediscover your resilience – even if that seems impossible. Together we’ll focus on what you can do and what you have already accomplished. We will celebrate the small achievements along with the big wins and gradually, as you start to realise all that you’re capable of, you’ll feel ready to face the world with a new-found inner strength.
When you lose a partner or loved one, you can feel totally powerless. It’s as if the entire world is moving on around you whilst your stuck in your grief unable to control or shape your own life. Whether you’re dealing with just one or two of the issues mentioned in this blog, or all of them, if you’re not feeling strong enough to tackle them, it may be worth speaking with a grief coach.
As a grief coach, I won’t give you the answers or package up ready-made solutions for you to try, for any changes you make to your life need to be shaped and owned by you. I can inform, reflect and support you on your journey and help you to take responsibility for it, but ultimately the journey is yours and how it pans out is down to you. I will help you to become more self-aware, to recognise that you have within yourself, the inherent strength, resilience and ability to re-awaken your power and craft a new, purposeful life for yourself. You know how to get there. The power to manage your grief lies within you. And even if it takes a great deal of support and encouragement to help you realise this – it’s worth it, because once you do, once you have learnt to invest in yourself, the sense of re-empowerment is indescribable. The momentum you have built will start to carry you forward until eventually you’ll feel fully equipped, ready to face the world again and prepared to take on whatever comes your way.
When we lose someone, one of the darkest and most difficult thoughts to wrap our heads round is, ‘I’m going to hurt like this forever.’ However this is simply not true and not because of that old adage, ‘time heals all wounds.’ Because it really doesn’t. You will more than likely still experience pain as you progress through your grief journey. However, you need not continue to suffer. With guidance and support, you will start to see the opportunities for growth that exist and begin to re-imagine your life and in doing so, you will learn to grieve more positively. As a grief coach, I will encourage you to focus on yourself, enrich your life with new connections, embrace the positives, embed your learning and help you to realise that as well as being traumatic, grief can be hugely transformative.
I will teach you not to push grief away and instead show you how to learn from it, live with it and build your life around it. It can be useful to think of 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 consumes every area of your life, scraping up against the edges, causing constant, unrelenting pain. Over time, you might imagine the sphere (your grief) shrinks, but in reality it doesn’t. It stays the same size, for our grief never truly disappears. However, as time passes and you begin to experience new things and uncover new opportunities, the box that your life is in begins to grow. Now, although your grief has stayed the same, your box is much bigger, as you have learnt to build a life around your grief. At times, your grief will still continue to hit an edge. You may hear a song that reminds you of the person you’ve lost, or perhaps whilst reminiscing, stumble upon a particular memory that suddenly pulls at your heart, but comparatively your grief will take up a much smaller part of your life, connecting with those painful edges of the box, a lot less often.
Part of learning to build your life around your loss is learning to integrate your loss with your future. In the early days of grief, when your pain is so raw and utterly overwhelming the thought of building a new future for yourself without your loved one, can feel like a massive betrayal. You may start to construct false narratives that seemingly question your loyalty to your loved one. You may berate yourself for enjoying the occasional laugh, experiencing the odd moment of joy, or indulging in a moment’s respite from the endless chaos and pain. Grief coaching can help you to interpret what you’re feeling more positively. It can help you to realise that feeling content doesn’t mean you no longer love your person, or that you have forgotten about them. It simply means that you are learning to accept your loss and live with it, whilst at the same time, creating a new and exciting future for yourself. It means that you are learning how to honour your loved one whilst also treating yourself with the kindness and love you deserve. It means that you are able to unlock your emotions and work through them and in doing so open yourself up to amazing new opportunities and ultimately a richer and more fulfilling future. It means you are learning to grieve with more love than pain.
If you’ve lost someone and are struggling with any of the issues mentioned in this blog, you might benefit from working with a grief coach.
I’ve been where you are now and I promise, there is life beyond the unimaginable pain that you’re feeling.
Connect with me and learn to fall in love with life again.