By David Billington
New Grief Podcast: Conversations about Loss
In our new Full Circle grief podcast series we explore grief through conversations with people whose personal experience of bereavement has given them a unique perspective on life after loss.
As modern funeral directors, we actively encourage open, honest and non-judgmental conversations about death and grief. Listening to people’s stories and wishes is a significant and valuable part of our role as we support the wellbeing of people who have been bereaved.
Why we have decided to make our own grief podcast
There are already some fantastic grief podcasts out there, many of which we subscribe to and recommend to people we support (you’ll find a link to our grief podcast recommendations at the end of this blog).
We decided to launch our own podcast so that we could share some of the inspiring stories that people share with us.
In our day to day work with individuals, healthcare professionals, death doulas, celebrants and others, people often talk to us in a very open and transparent way about grief. They share personal stories about how they have coped through challenging times or have helped others to do so.
We recognise that we are in a very privileged position and we are delighted that some of these people have agreed to share their stories more widely through our grief podcast.
In the first of our series of podcasts, A Safe Place to Breathe, we talk to grief and loss coach Laura Toop about the many challenges she has faced in her life. Laura gives a raw and frank account of her own journey through grief and mental health and how it has taken her in a new direction, both personally and professionally.
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Laura is a grief and loss specialist who, in her younger years, battled with eating disorders, her coping mechanism, following an accident that left her bedridden, aged 13, and more recently the death of her husband, her own health and the loss of her career in quick succession. She shares her darkest moments with us and explains how her life-changing experiences ended up transforming her life and taking her in a new direction.
Laura felt her life spinning out of control and she felt she needed time and space to breathe. It wasn’t until she felt she had lost everything that Laura began to see a path forwards, to rebuild, which led to her discovering strength and confidence from within and a new passion for life and living
What does a grief and loss coach do?
Our conversation with Laura begins by talking about her role as a grief and loss coach, helping people navigate loss and transition.
As someone who has undergone her fair share of counselling during her treatment for anxiety and bulimia, she understands better than most how inadequate the experience can be for many. She describes feeling patronised and talked down to by doctors and counsellors when all she really wanted was a candid conversation that would enable her to express how she felt and what she was going through.
She is now able to deliver the kind of support she always wished she had been able to access, although she points out that she has two very different audiences for her services. The first comprises senior managers, HR professionals and friends and relatives who are supporting those who are bereaved. She helps them understand how best to help people who have suffered loss or are going through major change. Her other audience is those who are newly bereaved or further down their journey. Her approach is one of being coach rather than counsellor, enabling, encouraging and empowering people to talk and move forwards.
Her key philosophy is one that we share here at Full Circle Funerals, which is allowing people to be heard.
Learning how to cope with a situation that you cannot control
In our first grief podcast, Laura talks frankly about her eating disorder and how it gave her a feeling of control, helping her cope with uncertainty and anxiety in her life.
People who have been bereaved often express the sense of feeling out of control and this is something that Laura talks about in her conversations with David Billington in the podcast. Dave is one of our funeral directors at Full Circle Funerals and has instigated this podcast series because he feels very strongly about the power of conversation and the benefits of talking about death. Through his own experiences, he has seen how beneficial it can be to give people a safe space to open up about death and dying.
Laura and Dave discuss the helplessness that often comes from being faced with a situation beyond control or comprehension and the anxiety that can result. If these feelings are never talked about, they can remain trapped and can impact a bereaved person’s wellbeing for many years to come.
The podcast is a way to share experiences, inspire conversations and support long term wellbeing. Dave and Laura have both seen, in their personal and professional lives, how talking about death can be life-enhancing.
Talking about death with friends and family
One hugely positive outcome from Laura’s grief after the death of her partner was the fact that her own parents found themselves more willing and able to talk about death. In doing so, they explored their own wishes and felt motivated to put their affairs in order.
Laura describes how her father talked openly about how the challenges he had watched his daughter face after her partner’s death had made him think about his own situation. He realised that even little things, like making sure paperwork and computer passwords were accessible to his wife so that she wouldn’t struggle to access important information, could make a big difference to the distress experienced by someone who is newly bereaved.
He also opened up about his own regrets about Laura’s childhood and the part he felt he had played in the development of her eating disorder. Laura had no idea he blamed himself. This presented the whole family with a unique and precious opportunity to share their emotions and offer forgiveness. By reframing how they looked at the past and their current situation, they were able to move forward together in a far more positive way.
Overcoming anxiety about death
Talking about death is not always an easy thing to do. Our grief podcasts are intended to spark conversations and remove some of the apprehension people feel when tackling the subject of death and grief.
We hope that by doing so, it will be easier for people to find ways to open up to those closest to them about how they are feeling and perhaps even start a discussion about their own funeral wishes.
We have some fascinating and empowering conversations lined up to share with you in the months ahead. You can listen, download and subscribe to the Full Circle Funerals grief podcast wherever you usually get your podcasts.
You may find it helpful to read a little more about funeral wishes https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/funeral-plans-and-wishes/ and download our funeral wishes document to help you think about what you might want.
There are lots of other useful and interesting podcasts on grief and loss. Read our grief podcast recommendations https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/bereavement-support/podcasts/
People express their grief in many different ways. Sometimes this can be through art. If you have found a creative outlet for your experiences, you may want to share it in our gallery. Find out more about Art After Loss https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/bereavement-support/art-after-loss/