When did you begin writing this book?
In October 2000, about a month before my son Harry died. I started to write a journal to calm my mind, and found solace from recording what was happening to us all. I wanted my young children Cam and Emilie to be able to visit the notes I was making if they ever wanted to know what happened. At the time it was personal: I didn’t ever intend to publish it but now it includes the voices of 23 interviewees with their advice and wisdom on grief. I hope it will help anyone going through loss, or if they are supporting others.
Tell us about the importance of your ‘grief community’, some of whom are interviewed for this book.
I feel the support of community is a vital part of processing grief, whether that is provided by friends, family, neighbours, and work colleagues, or one you discover through an organisation connected to the person who has died, or the relationship you have lost. It is about connection. In my grief work we look at how best to connect to what you have lost (the theory of ‘continuing bonds’), rather than putting a lid on it and finding closure. In grief, it is often harder as the gap widens from when you last saw that person. So time doesn’t feel as though it is necessarily healing, but by connecting to what has happened, and through talking, writing, and being with people who understand, it can feel less of a panic and grief becomes part of you, part of your life. The sadness and joy can live side by side as part of you.
Are we getting better at talking about grief?
In some ways we are: my desk is full of the most wonderful books on grief by authors like Sasha Bates, Clover Stroud, Julia Samuel, Dr Edith Eger, and The Good Grief Project, but when I go into a company to help write its grief guidelines, or talk to a team where someone has died, or when my 1:1 clients talk to me, everyone talks about the loneliness of grief, how friends or colleagues have walked away because of their own discomfort or not knowing what to say. I help people to start talking and to find their way forward in their new landscape, connecting as much as possible to what has happened in order to live healthily with their loss.
How would you like your book to help people?
I hope it will promote better understanding of grief, whether through death, divorce, diagnosis or workplace change: there are many different forms of loss. My interviews cover racial grief, refugee grief, suicide, anticipatory loss. I look at the physical and cumulative effects and most importantly and positively, what we CAN do about it, how we can build a grief toolkit and lead a good and hopefully happy life. I hope people will find it to be a positive book. Amber Jeffrey, host and founder of The Grief Gang Podcast wrote the following to me, 'I always find it strange when I find myself saying I've enjoyed something when it's related to grief, it almost doesn't feel right, but I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Lizzie's diary extracts will stay with me for some time. This book is a gift for all navigating the peculiar world of grief.'
Weirdly grief isn’t a depressing topic. The more we connect to death and loss, the more we can live our lives fully, making good decisions as a result of the awareness that life is short. As Sister Frances, Founder of the Children’s Hospice Movement used to say, ‘it’s not the length of life but the depth that matters.’
We’re delighted that we will be your first literary festival appearance, given your connection to ChipLitFest. How are you feeling about your debut?
I’m thrilled! I loved my time as a Trustee, and have really enjoyed seeing Jenny Dee take Clare Mackintosh’s strong foundations for the festival forward and carry on the legacy of authors in fiction and non-fiction covering diverse topics. This year I am part of a curation of grief-related books, so we are demonstrating the need to talk about something that will affect us all one day and already affects so many.