Watch the full 28 minute interview below, or alternatively watch a series of short clips from the interview in the playlist below that.
Formerly a pastor for the little parish of Djursland in Denmark, Isle Sand is now a psychotherapist and, more particularly, an author. Having written and published Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World, Come Closer, Tools for Helpful Souls and The Emotional Compass, she provides a free downloadable guide on how to say a proper goodbye through necessary work to enable you to reconcile with your relations and yourself.
“Many problems arise because of broken relationships where no one said a proper goodbye. It could be a former partner, family member, friend or colleague that has passed away, or that you have parted ways with over a disagreement. You might not be fully aware of how much former relationships fill your mind.
It is hard to say goodbye to a person that has made you feel loved and that you have loved in return. It can be even harder to part with a relation where there were many ambivalent emotions involved. The same way you can find it hard to leave a meal before you are completely full, it can prove particularly difficult to say goodbye to a relationship, where you were never completely satisfied. Many people suffer from low self-esteem for years following a divorce or break up that they are not completely over.
Are you emotionally over a loved one?
What should you do if find it hard to let go?”
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An extract from chapter 1 of Gone in the Morning: A Writer’s Journey of Bereavement by Geoff Mead.
Recently, I was having a beer with a friend. He asked me what I was writing these days and I told him that I’d written a memoir about the last 18 months of Chris’s life, about 150 blogs and a bunch of poems, mostly about grief. He gave me a quizzical look and asked a pointed question: “You are getting over this thing, aren’t you?”
“I’m not trying to get over it,” I replied. “I’m trying to get through it.”
He took in my reply but said nothing.
“Writing seems to help,” I added.
“Really?” he said, and changed the subject.
It was a fair challenge, and not meant unkindly. I’ve been thinking about it, off and on, ever since. Why had I been so adamant about not wanting to get over Chris’s death? What had I meant when I said that I was trying to get through it? Continue reading
Anyone who has been bereaved through chronic illness will know that anticipating the death of a loved one prefigures the grief that is to come. We feel the loss even before it has occurred but try to contain it somehow for the sake of the one who is dying as we try to wring every last moment out of what time remains. Yet, in the midst of medical procedures and the comings and goings of friends, nurses and carers, it can be hard to sustain the one relationship that we most care about.
My wife Chris Seeley died aged 48, from the effects of a brain tumour on 3rd December 2014. With the support of the Penny Brohn Centre and Cotswold Hospice at Home, I looked after her at home for the last seven weeks of her life. Despite her physical infirmity, she wanted to sleep in her own bed; to be surrounded by her own paintings and furniture; to make art; to eat well; to be convivial; to be in nature; and to be expansive until the moment she died.
Chris Seeley, Geoff’s late wife
Continuing to do as many of the things she loved as we could manage was hugely important to Chris and it comforted me to know that I was doing my best to make it possible. Some things were easy to arrange and others – especially those which involved leaving the house – took a great deal of effort to accomplish. Now she has gone, I look back on these memories like wild strawberries, all the sweeter because they were the last of the season.
We discovered that friends were delighted to be asked to help with expeditions, domestic chores, cooking, making art and occasionally providing a night’s respite for me. It’s almost impossible to over-estimate how exhausting it is to care for someone round the clock and it was wonderful for Chris and I to have the opportunity to stay at Penny Brohn together for a few days, just two weeks before she died. We both knew that she didn’t have long and we had been struggling to talk about it.
On the last day of our stay, we sat holding hands in adjoining armchairs, wrapped in blankets, with the lights dimmed as we listened to the sublime tones of the Benedictus from Karl Jenkins’ Mass for Peace. It wasn’t yet time to say goodbye but deeply stirred by the music, we both wept for the cutting short of her life and the grief that was to come.
It’s hard to be with someone you love when they are dying. But it is also a privilege: an opportunity to say and do what is needed to prepare for the moment of separation; a chance to resolve matters and find peace in each other’s arms; a lesson in the harsh beauty of love.
Each person’s encounter with loss and bereavement is unique and I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else what to do, but looking back on the experience of losing Chris, I see just how important it is to get support for yourself when looking after someone else. I’ll always be hugely grateful for the opportunity that hospice and palliative care gave us to come together before we had to part.
Geoff Mead is the author of Gone in the Morning: A Writer’s Journey of Bereavement.
More books on bereavement can be found here.
In this video Catherine Seigal talks to Sue Nuttall about her book Bereaved Parents and their Continuing Bonds. For bereaved parents the development of a continuing bond with the child who has died is a key element in their grieving and in how they manage the future. Using her experience of working in a children’s hospital as a counsellor with bereaved parents, the author looks at how continuing bonds are formed, what facilitates and sustains them and what can undermine them. Using the words and experiences of these parents, and drawing on current theories of continuing bonds, this book offers insight into the many and varied ways grief is experienced and expressed and what is helpful and unhelpful. It is an original and valuable guide for both professionals and parents.
Bereaved Parents and their Continuing Bonds: Love After Death by Catherine Seigal is out now. Order your copy from www.jkp.com.
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“My grandma isn’t a dinosaur. Why are the dinosaurs in this book teaching about death?”
“My dad’s not a leaf. I don’t understand what falling leaves have to do with him dying.”
“My aunt died. Why is everyone saying she’s in a better place?”
Metaphors, symbolic language, euphemisms. These all present challenges for many children with special needs who process information in a concrete manner. The quotes above encapsulate some of the feedback we have heard during our work in hospice care and in special education, as parents describe their struggle with explaining death and dying to their children. We wrote I Have a Question about Death: A Book for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Other Special Needs to address these challenges, and to create a book that parents and caregivers can read with all children. Continue reading
Reaching out to fellow Aspies, Lisa Morgan proffers her insight and advice to ensure that others on the autism spectrum don’t have to face suicide loss alone. Her book, Living Through Suicide Loss with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD): An Insider Guide for Individuals, Family, Friends, and Professional Responders is an honest look at the immediate aftermath of suicide loss, how emergency responders can help, and the long-term implications of living with suicide loss for individuals on the autism spectrum.
“A suicide loss can elicit such intense emotions that a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can be quickly overwhelmed and flooded with out of control feelings. The complicated grief, possible trauma, and relationship difficulties are some of the reasons for the emotional flooding a person with AS might experience. I have experienced emotional flooding many times since my husband completed suicide in 2015. I am going to share with you the coping skills that worked for me as I continue to understand and gain control over my troublesome emotions.”
- Complicated Grief
“Complicated grief is grief that is coupled with anger, rejection, and feelings of guilt to name a few. Anger is the lion of my emotions. It’s wild, ferocious, and can maul my heart before I even know what is happening. I have learned to let it out slowly in small, manageable bits. There are different ways this can be done. The easy way is to recognize when you are feeling angry and go with it while still maintaining control. Hit a pillow, punch the couch, or the mattress on the bed until you are spent and have no energy left. Go for a brisk walk or a run. For me, the coping skill is to do something physical. I have found emotions caused by rejection and feelings of guilt can be reasoned away somewhat by logic. Accepting that the decision to complete suicide was not up to you, but was responsibility of the person who died by suicide is the first logical step. I worked at accepting my husband’s decision and releasing myself from feeling any rejection and guilt. There were uncomfortable emotions I had to sort out, but the comfortable logic of reason helped very much. It doesn’t happen overnight. Healing from complicated grief is a process that will take time. It’s an investment in a future of hope, happiness, and health.”
- Possible Trauma
“There is possible trauma involved in losing a loved one to suicide. There are people who witness the suicide, find their loved one after the suicide, or who reach their loved one in time to try to save them, only to have their loved one still not make it. The trauma added to the complicated grief can bring out confusing emotions and flood an adult with AS. When I experience emotional flooding I shut down. My senses are extremely hyper-sensitive. I can’t control my anxiety which leads to lots of crying, and all I want to do is to withdraw inside of myself. When my emotions flood, I try to reach out to someone who can ground me and help me to regain control. It’s usually very helpful to have someone repeat truths until I can feel that my emotions are calming down. If I can’t find someone to reach out to, I can stay emotionally flooded for a long time. Instead, I try to draw, write, listen to music, take walks, and use the coping skills I know have worked before until I feel better. It can be difficult to actually start using the coping skills, but with determination it can be done. One thing that I have learned with all the emotional flooding I’ve experienced is it will dissipate eventually. The more coping skills I use, the faster I have felt better.”
- Relationship Difficulties
“I have yet to completely understand how some relationships disintegrate for the survivor of suicide loss at a time when those relationships are needed more than ever before. It’s a painful absence for sure. I had friends tell me they would stay with me no matter what I was going through and then- leave soon after the worst experience of my life. As an adult with AS, trust is extremely important, yet dreadfully hard to do because of my early school years where I learned to not trust anyone. The reason I can still trust after some relationships died with my husband, is because I still have some friends that were true to their word and stayed with me the whole time even until now. The emotions of losing the relationships I did—were painful, confusing, and left a big hole of emptiness in me. The pain that comes with relational loss is deep. I thought those friends would be my friends for life. Acceptance is the key to coping with lost relationships. Remembering that the friends who left decided to go and there’s nothing I could do about it. Is it difficult to accept? Yes! Is it impossible to accept? No.”
“Nothing that has happened since the loss of my husband to suicide has been easy. Knowing that the aftermath of suicide loss is terribly hard has helped me to take up the challenge to succeed, to thrive, and to move forward. I’m worth it, you’re worth it, and we all matter.”
To learn more about Lisa Morgan’s book or to purchase a copy, click here.
“Living Through Suicide Loss is a valuable addition to suicide grief literature. Morgan’s account of the challenges she faced, following her husband’s death, will resonate deeply with all suicide loss survivors. The special challenges she documented as someone with Asperger’s syndrome, will sensitize and empower all involved in such tragedies.”
—Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC, Founder: Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
“The excellent and much-needed book deals with the specific issues—emotional and practical—faced by people on the autism spectrum when a loved one completes suicide. Written from a personal, lived experience perspective, this sensitive and valuable book validates the experience of readers and helps them to manage what is essentially unmanageable.“
—Jeanette Purks, autism self-advocate and author of
The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum
I lost my husband to suicide in 2011 following his brief decline into mental ill health that was triggered by a job redundancy. My sons were aged 4 ½ and nineteen months. Rafi’s Red Racing Car is the book that I wished I’d had at that time to help me with the terribly painful and bewildering task of trying to explain to my boys what had happened to their Daddy.
Before their father’s suicide, my children had not yet experienced death of any kind, so they had absolutely no understanding. I quickly learnt that their grief was too raw and overwhelming for them to be able to tolerate me talking directly about the tragedy that had enveloped us all. Very young children are very visual and respond well to explanations in pictorial or metaphoric realms. I found a wealth of good, age appropriate books that helped to explain death and the emotions that surround loss and these helped tremendously. Identifying with the character in the book who was experiencing similar events and emotions to themselves enabled my sons to externalise their own feelings, begin to understand their experience and led to them asking me questions about their own loss.
That is according to Nathalie Slosse, author of Big Tree is Sick, who tells the story of how the book came to be, as well as laying out her case for complete honesty as the best way to engage with children when helping them to understand serious illness.
In surveys on what values we consider important, honesty is always highly rated, usually even as the most important quality. However, when it comes to honestly confiding something serious to our children, we often want to spare them the grief that the harsh truth can bring. It is a dilemma I struggled with when I was treated for breast cancer, and it’s why I want to provide a resource to others in the same situation today.
Sometimes people ask me “Did breast cancer change your way of life?” I wish I could reply that this was not the case; it’s true that prior to my diagnosis I followed my heart when it came to important life choices. But if I’m honest, I must admit that without the painful episode in 2007, I would not be doing what I do now. The battle I had with breast cancer as a mum of a two year old boy helped me discover that I can help people find happiness in difficult circumstances. In 2010 I founded the association Talismanneke to further explore that path.
But let’s start at the beginning.