Thoughts about Recovery from Grief

This tricky thing called death

JCforGGBlogMy friend Jonathan Cainer died suddenly just the other day.

I am bereft, gutted, shocked and sad. I’m also surprised at the depth of my feelings given that I have spent many months learning about grief and recovering from its shattering impact on my life when my husband Mark died after a short illness.

I am also a coach and guide others to discover the good and positive aspects of the death of their loved one. Nothing in this world has only one side and this includes grief.

Jonathan became a friend when my hubby and I were in India way back in the 1990s. We were in the travel business at the time and organising a huge group of people from all over the world who were attending a massive event at an ashram in Delhi. We had attendees in different hotels all over the city and we needed “bus captains” to take care of each hotel group and to make sure that they didn’t miss the bus going to and from the ashram. So we searched through the passenger lists to see if we recognised any names. Bingo! We saw Jonathan’s name, we only knew him from his newspaper column, and thought it would be fun to ask him. He accepted with a huge and generous heart and took to his volunteering role with passion. No one ever missed his bus!

Since that chance connection my husband Mark went on to work closely with Jonathan for many, many years. They worked well together and gradually Jonathan’s work spread even further around the world. He wasn’t just a business partner he was a great friend too. We traveled all over the world together doing various interesting projects for charity. I remember being with him in Australia, Barcelona, Miami Beach, Long Beach, Delhi and Kathmandu. There are probably more places that I can’t remember. In fact the last time I saw Jonathan was at Stone Henge at the Summer Solstice Celebration in 2013 with the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr just after Mark had died. We had a wonderful time and he encouraged me to read aloud in the stone circle a piece of poetry Mark had written. So I did. Afterwards we went to have breakfast and talked about Mark and life and death and so much more.

So in the space of three short years two men who have influenced my life in so many different ways are gone from this physical world. What I realised yesterday was that when someone we love dies it alters our reality simply because they are no longer there. How easily we adjust to this change is the challenge. Mark’s death was massive because we shared everything and adapting to that change has taken a long time. Jonathan’s death is different because he was simply in the background of my life. I no longer needed to speak to him we just exchanged the occasional email. But the fact is he was always there. A big presence, someone I could, if I needed to, talk to or ask for guidance and help. Not that I ever did, but I just knew that I could and that was a positive thing for me.

Therefore it will take some time to get used to this new alteration to my reality. Can I coach myself? Probably not but when the dust has settled I will be taking a closer look at what is good and what is positive about Jonathan Cainer’s death.

Thank you for all you brought to my life Jonathan. As you said at Mark’s funeral in your own inimitable style: “Put the kettle on we’ll all be along in a bit…” 🙂


05/05/2016 More

Becoming happy again after someone you love has died

it'snothappypeopleIt struck me just the other day that I was really happy! Now that might not sound exceptional in any way but in fact for me it is.

When I was in the pain of grief I can remember writing in my journal that I was looking forward to the day that I would be able to feel happy again. However, in a way I didn’t really believe that I would ever be able to do that. The pain was so huge and debilitating that it felt impossible that I would ever emerge from it. Plus I had a lot of unconscious beliefs about death and grief that would have held me back without me even being aware of them.

But emerge I did. I am very thankful that I stumbled across the nine steps to healing from grief. Through working these steps I uncovered so much about how I was thinking and how I was being held hostage by my thoughts and more importantly by my beliefs. I had no idea where these beliefs had come from, not specifically, until I uncovered them and talked about them. I was very surprised when I would say things like: “it is disrespectful to not feel sad…” On reflection I think I picked my beliefs up along the way throughout my life. I acquired them from my religious upbringing, from films, from novels, from media, from how I saw adults behaving at the news of a death and at funerals. Everywhere in fact!

And now that I am aware of these cultural paradigms I hear them expressed all over the place and that is just the way it is, I can’t change that. But what can be changed is our ability to really, truly heal our pain. We can absolutely arise out of our grief and so be able to talk about, remember and honour our person who has died. When we do this they can become ever present in our life rather than just a painful memory. For me this fact is the most compelling reason to heal the pain of grief. I am happy and grateful every day that I get to connect with my dead husband whenever and wherever I want to.

Of course everyone reacts differently to bereavement and also every death is different too. For example we might feel totally fine when one parent dies and then feel devastated when the other dies. It is strangely unpredictable. But what is predictable is the assumption by others of how we ought to feel and how we should react. But if we can’t be our authentic self when it comes to death and its sibling, grief then when can we be?

I guess if I were asked for advice when it comes to grief I would say: “question everything…”

With love

Josephine x


27/04/2016 More

The value of connection


Heart Art by Cara Mathia

This morning I went for a long walk at stupid o’clock because I’m fed-up of waking up too early and trying to get back to sleep, it doesn’t work.

So I thought I’d make better use of my time by exercising even if it was still dark outside. I met no one except a walker with a very ugly dog. Maybe it was the only time she felt all right to take the doggy out after all it was only 5.30am and she seemed surprised to see me!

I found as I walked I had space in my head to dwell on things I don’t normally dwell on. I thought about my granddaughter and Easter. We had been on Facetime the previous evening and we were talking about all sorts of things. How it was test week at school and how she didn’t like tests because she would get stuck sometimes.

Then we remembered that Easter was coming soon and she immediately started to tell me of the many Easter hunts she had experienced. Right down to the smallest detail of exactly where the tiny chocolates had been hidden in the garden by her granddad. She recalled so many lovely times with him in a perfectly natural and happy way.

It was clear that she still has a close connection to him even though he died when she was only six and she will be nine this year. She wasn’t sad, she was happy remembering him. It was a breath of fresh air to me. Children are so uninhibited and natural when they aren’t told how to feel about death. She just gets it somehow.

She was the same when I told her that the photo of her “Baba” fell from the shelf all by itself. She immediately said that he, Baba, had “floated up” and knocked it off. Makes me smile when I hear about the way she sees life. I love her explanations.

Back to my walk… As I stomped my way along the muddy fields and paths I was thinking how this word “connection” has run through my life in so many different ways. It is possible that it was simply this word alone that had attracted me to Kristie West’s work. Her definition of grief is G.R.I.E.F.

G. is for Gratitude

R. is for real Connection

I. is for Inspiration

E. is for Expression

F. is for Freedom

Real connection, that is what Carys and I had when she and I talked about her happy memories of her granddad and of hunting for chocolate Easter eggs in the garden.

There are a variety of ways in which to be connected to someone who has died without the need for any religious or spiritual beliefs. It could be by memory, by stories, by feeling. But the thing is if we really want to feel a genuine on going connection we have to be free from the pain of grief. Otherwise we wouldn’t want to go there, we wouldn’t be able to because as humans we are programmed to avoid pain, we turn away from pain, we would do anything not to feel pain of any kind if we could avoid it.

As the sun began to rise over the golf course I was remembering the first travel company we had which was called Travel Connexions. Then when that company folded we began another and called it East-West Connect because we did a lot of business in the Far East and India. Later we became Connect Consultancy as the business morphed more into Public Relations. And parallel to that I had my own separate business in the exercise world and called it Connect Studio.

On reflection it looks like I have pursued connection in one way or another all my life. But what does connection mean in the context of a death and why might it be of value? What I mean by connection is being joined in some way to that person even though they are dead. The reason it is important is because with such a connection we can continue to feel their presence. Why would anyone not want that?

Because I am lucky enough to have healed the pain of grief I can feel Mark’s presence in my life whenever I want. Not a day goes by without me thinking about, talking to and asking for advice from him just like I did when he was alive.

Plus I have the added benefit of grandchildren who are the living thread of connection that continue the family line forward to the next generation and beyond.

I am forever grateful.

With love

Josephine x

To find out more simply send me a message and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. J


18/03/2016 More