The Good Grief Project – Lizzie Pickering

The Good Grief Project - Lizzie Pickering

Lizzie Pickering is a grief investigator. Since her son Harry died in November 2000, Lizzie has spoken extensively on the subject and has recently published a new book entitled “When Grief Equals Love – the long-term perspectives on dealing with loss.” She also supports “The Good Grief Project” and offers Grief Guidance for companies and individuals at
Last year, co-founder of Go Direct Cremations and Aquatorium water cremations, John Blayney, held a conversation with Lizzie about grief.
During the discussion John asked Lizzie why most people are so reluctant to talk about death. She replied that amongst the many reasons, one of them is an inbuilt rejection of the truth. During the Second World War soldiers returning from active service were told don’t mention the war or what they had witnessed and their relatives we’re told don’t ask any questions, wait until you’re told.
Therefore, from this heritage, 75 years ago we’ve created a silence around death and trauma which has gone on for generations.
Only now are we beginning to break that silence and realise how such dramatic experience as war service often resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder even 30 years or more after WW2.  It was an issue that was misunderstood and little recognised at that time and silence around grief is one of the themes of the book.
Today, luckily, grief is now better understood. If we hold in our grief and our trauma and won’t speak about it and we don’t address the physical impacts of grief, it is well documented that we will get ill. Lizzie sees this in her grief clients.
When her own son died, Lizzie had pneumonia for four years repeatedly and it was because she was holding her breath too much.  There’s an irony that when people die and are bereaved, we hold our breath, we have a gut reaction, we suffer heartbreak and there’s this silence which has a real impact and a ripple effect on society.  Thankfully, people are beginning to talk more about grief and real help is available and books on the subject.
Amongst the authors who have written about grief Lizzie recommends a book by Bessel van der Kolk entitled “The Body Keeps the Score”.  Another recommended author is Dr. Edith Eger, herself a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp and now a psychologist who works with trauma all over the world. Her two books are entitled “The Choice” and “The Gift”.
Lizzie went on to say that “it’s a natural thing to shut down and just want to hibernate, really, and not speak about it.  And then I think grief changes over weeks and months and years. But you never really get over it, you learn to live with it. I think the trouble is that often people who are supporting the bereaved, for example, if you’re a friend, or if you’re a work colleague, you might in the early days, make lots of contact and ask them if there’s anything you can do and this sort of thing, and you might be snubbed?  Because they just don’t want to speak about it. But the key is that people must keep on asking and checking in because it may be in six months’ time that that person wants to talk and talk. But of course, their friend might have given up by then, because they think, oh well, they just don’t want them and that’s the end of it.  But it isn’t the end of it. It’s just the beginning really.  And grief changes, over a lifetime.  What somebody feels in one moment might not be the same in, say, a few months’ time, but that can promote the silence, I think because the bereaved can feel very lonely, particularly if people have given up with them.  And, their friends, maybe really missing who they were because they were sitting tight.  So, there’s this difficult silence that can build up, and it’s not particularly anyone’s fault. I think often it’s through a lack of understanding and education which is now being addressed”.
So, if you know someone who has been bereaved, treat them with sympathy and respect but don’t lose patience or contact!

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