My Grief Story

I have found my way back to myself several times following loss. I have experienced grieving, which has taken me to some challenging emotional places, and recovered. I have found healthy ways to grieve loss and been able to find ways to engage in life again using coaching tools and resilience skills and a lot of inner work.

During my social worker training, the university provided an optional module on loss and bereavement, which I decided to take. From that moment, I knew how devastating loss could be and how challenging grieving is. I knew that supporting people going through the hardest thing humans can experience was something that I wanted to do, that it was important and needed. I felt then, and still feel that people deserve to be accompanied and held through the most difficult of times.

When I started university, working in bereavement and loss wasn't on my radar. I went to university to specifically become a social worker for Deaf people, and that's exactly what I did. I was fortunate that a Sensory Services Social Worker job was available at the same time I finished university and I was fortunate to be successful in my application and was given the role. At the same time, I had been introduced to the world of grief and loss, and I applied to become a volunteer for Cruse, carrying out 1:1 bereavement work.

When a social work position came up for a children's hospice, I knew I had to apply. It was a job that I loved and thought I would do forever. However, after a few years, I could no longer carry the weight of the work. Along with other influencing factors, life became scary and I experienced mental health challenges for the first time in my life. Panic attacks, dissociation and insomnia became my everyday life for a long while and I had to leave the job. I was grieving for the children I worked with and their families. And I was grieving having to give up the job I thought I would do forever. I thought I could no longer work in end-of-life care or bereavement.

When I left that role, I worked as a social worker in a number of different roles, including general hospital discharge (including end-of-life continuing healthcare assessments), adult community work, adult community crisis work, brain injury rehabilitation, physical injury rehabilitation and mental health education. What did all of these roles have in common? Grief and Loss.

When you work as a social worker, you meet people at their most vulnerable moments. A lot of the time, those people are grieving a person, relationships following abuse and neglect, their mental health, their physical health, their social networks, and their future. I have been in the privileged position to walk alongside and support people as they rebuild their lives and find new ways of living following all types of loss.

A few years ago, my Mum died, and I took it very hard. I had cared for her for months before her death and was experiencing a lot of anticipatory grief before she died. When she died, I experienced deep sadness, suicidal ideation and a total loss of meaning and purpose. I withdrew from my friends and family for six-plus months; I stopped all my hobbies and hated to leave the house. I didn't know how to manage the levels of sadness and anger I had. Even as somebody who knew a lot about death, grief and loss and who had worked within the field and volunteered in the field, I was finding the first significant death in my life a lot harder than I thought I would.

Then I did the work. I went to therapy, which was helpful and gave me a lot of insight and understanding and helped me to process emotions. There was a lot of childhood stuff that I needed to deal with. But then I still needed to deal with my day-to-day life, get unstuck and start to engage with life again. I started to utilise all of my coaching skills for myself. All of the tools, strategies and questioning that I would use as a coach, I used for myself. All of my experience and what I had learned during my career as a social worker, I began to use for myself. I started to see the way ahead and made small changes towards a different life.

When my Dad died less than three years later, I was scared that it would put me back in the place where I was when my Mum had died. But it didn't. I still grieved; it was still hard, and I'm still grieving both of my parents; however, I have learned healthier ways of grieving and learned how to carry the grief with me and live alongside it instead of having it consume me.

It was then that I knew I could, and needed to, do this work again. Work that has been calling for me for years.

If you'd like to know more, contact me today.

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