Claire B. Willis is a clinical social worker who has worked in the fields of oncology and bereavement for more than 20 years. Claire is a co-founder of the Boston nonprofit Facing Cancer Together and has led bereavement, end-of-life, support, and therapeutic writing groups.
She taught Spiritual Resources for Healing the Mind, Body, and Soul at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. Claire maintains a private practice in Brookline, MA. As a lay Buddhist chaplain ordained by Joan Halifax at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, she focuses on contemplative practices for end-of-life care. Claire is also an experienced yoga teacher and the author of two books, Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life and her new book, Opening to Grief: Finding Your Way from Loss to Peace, which she co-authored with Marnie Crawford Samuelson.
In this interview, Claire shares the wisdom she has attained from her Buddhist practice and her experience working with people in grief. Her book “Open to Grief” is a handbook full of tools you can use to customize your grief journey.
Find more about Claire at:
Close your eyes and imagine
Brian Smith 0:46
Hey everybody, this is Brian Smith back with another episode of grief to growth and today with me, I’ve got Claire B. Willis, and I’m going to read her bio and then we’re gonna have a conversation the way we always do. Claire B. Willis is a social clinical social worker who has worked in the fields of oncology and bereavement for more than 20 years. Claire is a co founder of the Boston nonprofit facing cancer together, and is lead bereavement end of life support and therapeutic writing groups. She taught spiritual resources for healing the mind body and soul at Andover Newton theological school and met in Massachusetts. Claire maintains a private practice in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, and as a lay Buddhist chaplain, she’s been ordained by Joan Halifax, at oupa Center in Santa Fe, she focused on the content of contemplative practices for end of life care. She’s also an experienced yoga teacher and the author of two books, lasting words a guide to finding meaning toward the close of life. And our new book, which is opening to grief, finding your way from loss to peace, which she co authored with Marnie Crawford Samuelsson. So her website is opening to grief calm, and with that like to welcome to grief to growth. Claire B. Willis. Thank you for having me, Brian. Yeah, Claire, it’s great to meet you. As I was telling you, before we get started, a lot of my audience is people who are experiencing grief. And don’t know like, what do I expect? What is this? Like? Is this normal? what I’m going through? You know, when I, when I feel like I get that question all the time, it’s like, Is this normal? So I guess the first thing is, would be like, what do you mean when you use the word grief?
Claire B. Willis 2:21
grief is a reaction that people have to any loss or separation.
It’s a natural, normal human response, and it has no typical presentation. So I want to actually I’d love to just take a moment to say something about what you said, to begin with, because I, I wrote this book, because I kept getting the question is my grief, normal and in my heart, and what I always say is that there are as many ways to express grief as there are people who are grieving. And grief has a lot of different phases. And most people think of it as sadness or sorrow or despair. But it has relief. It has gratitude. It has anxiety, it has impatience. It has anger and rage, which I think we’ve seen in our political situation a lot that that’s grief misplace, it has a lot of different effective presentations. And people don’t often recognize when they are grieving, because they think of it in such a narrow range. The other thing that I think has come with COVID is that we see more behavioral cognitive responses to grief. People can’t concentrate. But people find they’re overworking. They’re under working. They can’t focus they can’t read. There was an article the other day in The Times about people’s inability to read anything of any length that people were reading shorter articles. So there’s a lot of different ways grief presents that people don’t think of as, Oh, that’s my grief. But actually, there’s a collective grief right now. And I don’t think anybody’s not grieving. And with COVID, what happened is that it opened up old losses for people as well. So not only did it bring loss to almost every aspect of our life, in varying degrees, but it evoked old losses that we may or may not, or we thought we may have already grieved, but have come up to the surface making the ones we’re dealing with today. Even harder. Yeah, I think that that’s you made a lot of excellent points in there. So I want to unpack some of those. One is the idea of grief being normal, and people saying well, and you said, Well, sometimes we’re sleeping too much. Sometimes we’re sleeping too little. Sometimes we’re working too much. Sometimes we’re working too little. So it’s not a one size fits all thing, by any means. And you said you know you said grief includes you know anger and frustration and guilt but you also mentioned for leaf that can be included in grief,
relief and also gratitude in my bereavement groups.
One in one of my groups, it has mostly women in it who have lost long term partners or spouses. One of the things that people have talked about is how grateful they feel to have loved for as long and with such depth as they were able to because they felt like a lot of their friends didn’t know, didn’t have that experience of having that good relationship and so that the gratitude and the grief are connected to each other. Hmm. So often, you know, we grieve what we’re grateful for and lost, and we’re grateful for what we’ve had and lost, you know, it goes both ways. Yeah, I think that’s brilliant. I’ve never heard really put that way before. Because it’s because we’re grateful, because we love the thing that we’ve lost so much, that we have the grief so that the love is part of it as well. And I know, sometimes people feel like when they’re in grief, if I let go of the pain of letting go of the person. Oh, it’s so true. You know, Jamie Anderson, wrote something that just has stayed with me ever since I started doing this work. And that is, he said, grief is nothing but love with nowhere to go. I think that is beautiful. And when I say to people, don’t try and manage your grief, it’s an expression of your loving. It reframes grief into something beautiful. And I think it’s sometimes gives people permission to let out the wrongness of what they’re feeling, without shame, because there’s a lot of shame that swirls around with grief. And one of the things that I hear in my bereavement groups a lot is, for instance, a woman said, I would only say this in here, because I know you’ll understand. But I’m sleeping with my husband’s old shirts, because I won’t keep this sent. And another woman said, I’m sleeping with my dog’s favorite toy, and had been really a companion almost like a child to her for 14 years. And she was sleeping with a chewed up fuzzy thing. And she told the group and the group understood, but she didn’t feel she could share that with her larger network. So isolation and the shame and the privacy of pain exacerbates it enormously. Yeah. That’s an excellent point. And it’s so funny, you brought that up, because just yesterday, someone sent me a message and said, I have a sign I was supposed to send this to you. So you send me sends me a picture of penguins. And penguins are my daughter’s. My daughter was obsessed with penguins. So I get this thing yesterday, and I just been I just got enough for the interview. And someone asked me if I ever got any science, my daughter, I’m like, Well, okay, here’s a sign. But the other thing that what I want to say to people, I’ll say this publicly, I’ve never said it before, is we sleep with my daughter’s pillow pet, which is a penguin. And the day, the day after my daughter passed away, my wife moved it into our bed, it sits right there. It’s a small thing sits between the two of us where we sleep. And it’s been five and a half years. But we still sleep with that. And it brings us comfort and whatever brings you comfort when you’re going through grief. Don’t feel ashamed of it. My wife just showed me yesterday, a friend who had made a quilt from her husband’s shirts. She took all of her husband’s old shirts, and she made a quilt out of them. And she sewed a button in the middle of each each one on this quote, a beautiful, you know, thing for her husband. And when she wraps herself in it, she feels like she’s close to him. Well, that makes complete sense. I mean, of course, right? Yeah. I was talking to a woman this morning who lost her son. And her son was a lover of cats. And after her son died, she decided to get a cat. And she fostered she adopted a cat. And when the cat’s birth
information, medical information came she discovered that the cat was born the day her son had died. Hmm. And it just these things happen that they they just create goosebumps because yeah, wasn’t random, I think.
Brian Smith 9:07
Yeah. Well, that’s that’s, yeah, that’s another thing. And I’m glad you brought that up that people when we’re going through grief this weekend, we get a lot of assistance from the other side that people aren’t aware of. And we don’t talk about much. And we talk about the signs and synchronicities. They’re little I call them easter eggs or like little things along the way, like easter eggs is a terminal using video games with a programmer put something in and just to kind of, you know, like a like a nod or a wink. And I think we get those things if we keep our minds open to it. That’s right.
Claire B. Willis 9:39
Yeah, people talk about signs in my bereavement group all the time. And they often come through birds. I hear them to birds a lot.
Brian Smith 9:48
Well, that’s another thing that people you know, they’re I’ll share this with you here. You know, in the group, I can’t say this outside, you know, and that’s what we’re here to do is to say the quiet parts out loud because we want to give people permission. To feel whatever it is you’re feeling and understand it’s all okay.
Claire B. Willis 10:04
Yeah, that’s exactly why I wrote the book to try to formalize everybody’s experience no matter what it was, so that they would feel less alone. And I think one of the things that my co author and I were really pleased about was the most of the endorsers describe the book as a companion. And the word companion means one with whom you break bread, and we wanted the book to feel like to have the reader feel like they weren’t alone, and then what they were seeing and other people, because grief brings with it so much loneliness, but you don’t have to be alone while you’re grieving. And we were hoping that book would offer that kind of companionship so that people wouldn’t feel alone.
Brian Smith 10:46
Yeah. And and from just what we’ve talked about here, I can I can tell that it will offer that because, again, people are worried about is my grief normal? What’s the normal progression for grief? You know, how long can I expect this to last? So how would you answer that question, someone asked you.
Claire B. Willis 11:03
You want it to last your whole life, because you love that much. So I would say two things to that one. JOHN wicker Sham, who’s a Boston Globe columnist, wrote an interesting article five or six years ago, and she talked about being at a cocktail party and she sees meets a woman whose husband died five years ago, and she noticed is that every time this woman starts to talk to someone, she brings up her husband. And she meets a man who married his best friend within a year of his is married his wife’s best friend within a year of his wife’s death. And, and bring sort of the party and Joan writes in this both of these are expressions of grief. So I love that because it just brings in the whole spectrum. Yeah. How long should grief laugh if grief is an expression of your loving it should never go away. But what I say to people, because that can sound like a despairing comment, I saw it. When someone you love first dies, the walls of your house, the ceiling, the floor, the furniture, everything is gray, there’s no light, because that grief is all there is it’s searing it consumes every minute of your day. And with the passage of time, more things fill in between you and that loss. But always there’s a great chair that will remain in your living room emits the color coming back from the rest of the house. I also have heard this analogy which I love, which is grief is like a broken bone. When you break the bone, it kills it hurts, you get maybe have surgery, you have the bone reset, then you have PT and you’re fine. But on rainy days, the bone tends to ache. Now, I like that, because it’s sort of the progression of grief. It doesn’t go away and it shouldn’t. But it does change in intensity, duration and frequency is important to remember.
Brian Smith 13:00
Yeah, I love I love the analogy use. And I think that’s I think what you said is really important because people say well, I don’t want to feel this way forever. It’s like doesn’t mean you’re going to feel this way forever. But as long and I and I’ve said this to people, and it sounds like a disparaging comment, but it’s not I will always create my daughter. I mean, I hope to always greet my daughter. Because I will always love my daughter, it changes and you know, her 21st birthday was last week and some some days is more intense than others. That day was more intense. Some days, it’s a little bit better. It’s like it’s
Unknown Speaker 13:33
I’m sorry, that’s the date of her birthday,
Brian Smith 13:36
January 13, January 13. She was that was her 21st birthday. So there are those rainy days, you know, when it feels it feels more achy than other days. But then there’s also there’s also the days of love. And you also I want to ask you the difference between moving on and moving forward.
Claire B. Willis 13:57
Moving on and moving forward are all together different. Moving on, when you use those words, it sort of suggests that you’re moving away from what you’ve lost, moving forward, you are taking that person that situation, that event with you. And it works. Grief works us if we allow it to work grief. And I see the grief has taken you probably into this work with
Brian Smith 14:27
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Claire B. Willis 14:30
You know something about suffering. And the likelihood is you want to try and help other people not suffer to the extent you did or do.
Brian Smith 14:38
Yeah, but that’s absolutely true. And you know, that idea moving on versus moving forward. It’s, it’s it’s a small word, but it’s as I agree with you, it’s a word. It’s a world of difference because when people talk to me about moving on, I’m like, I will never move on. I don’t I don’t want to move on. But when when someone said you can move forward With your daughter, that then then this this space between me and when she passed, wasn’t my enemy anymore? Because I’m looking forward to something. And I find that’s a big difference. Oh, yeah.
Claire B. Willis 15:13
Well, you know, one of the things that I I worry about sometimes, and I’m sure you’ve seen this happen is that somehow moving forward, suggests moving away from suggests leaving the person behind. I always say, I think one of the pitfalls of grief is that we can become the way you stay connected. As opposed to, for instance, this woman I was talking to this morning, who lost her son, she said her son loved music. And she’s thinking of creating a playlist for people who have lost loved ones that speaks to the grief through music. I thought that was pretty brilliant. So it’s a way she’ll stay connected to her son. But she’s also through her grief becoming generous with others in the way you are, you know, at some point, can we find a way through the suffering, to be generous, and take that suffering into the world in a healing way, but that takes time?
Brian Smith 16:17
Yes. Yeah. That’s, that’s another thing we know about grief is it does take time and and we have to be patient with ourselves and with the process. As as we work with it, and it works with us. Yeah, yeah. So yeah. And speaking of moving on, versus moving forward. You know, you talk about music, I love music, and I have a playlist that acts on my YouTube channel. And every time I find an inspiring song I added to add it to that playlist. And there’s a song. There’s a lyric in it says, I don’t want to let go of the pain because it feels too much like saying goodbye.
Claire B. Willis 16:54
That’s exactly what’s my point? Yeah. Yeah. My point. Yeah. Your playlist online?
Brian Smith 17:02
It is. Yeah, it’s, um, it’s on my YouTube channel. Yeah. And I do add to it, you know, it’s songs that speak to me. And I find that it’s very healing because what it does is funny, because I remember when I when I was first, after my daughter passed, I walk every day, I walk for about an hour and a half every morning. And I’m like, why do I like listening to sad music, because it’s just gonna make me more sad. But what I realized that made me feel not as alone. And it’s like, the thing about grouping and lonely is when I realized this is a universal thing that everyone goes through. And when I would listen to an artist expressed my exact emotions. In a song, I’m like, wow, this is this is universal. This is okay.
Claire B. Willis 17:44
This is what I like about poetry. Because music and poetry bypass cognition, go right to the heart. And I think that’s why each of those is such a powerful medium. I mean, one of the things that people say about both my books is that the comment I hear most frequently is the poetry is so well selected. And poetry really goes in deeply. right moment, and it’s like music. Yeah,
Brian Smith 18:14
yeah. Well, music lyrics are poetry. Right. So so it’s kind of very, you know, it’s the kind of
Claire B. Willis 18:20
ability to we can be more than the It’s not wrong. Right. Right.
Brian Smith 18:24
Claire B. Willis 18:26
It’s the combination and sometimes it’s just music. I mean, I can remember, you know, that the piece pocket bells cannon? Yes. I mean, it’s, there’s something sad about that.
Brian Smith 18:39
Yeah, there’s something about music. You’re right, that just the music can evoke emotion. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, people. Another question I get a lot of times and this is really interesting, I think is stages of grief. Okay. So Elisabeth Kubler Ross famously wrote about the stages of death and dying. What do you think about stages of grief?
Claire B. Willis 19:01
I don’t have any use for them. So let me just clarify something. So as Kubler Ross wrote about the stages of grief, which were, which are completely brilliant, he was describing someone who is dying, the grief someone goes through who’s losing their life, not describing the course of bereavement. Having said that, people often go through those processes, but not in any linear way. And sometimes they don’t, but it’s, that’s one of the things that has become really oppressive for people who are grieving. Like it’s not unusual for me to hear someone say in my bereavement group, I thought I was doing really well. And you’ll I think you’ll relate to this Brian, and I went to the supermarket and when I saw that can of tuna fish, I just lost it because that was my brother’s favorite can favorite brand and can of tuna, and I thought I was doing well. And one of the things that I always say thing which has been so comforting is that there is a phenomenon and the Greek grief literature, which you probably know about called StuG, which is an acronym for sudden temporary upsurge of grief emerges. So unexpectedly, it’s always temporary. It generally is gone in 24 hours, but it catches people off guard, because they immediately assume they’re not doing grief, right, or they’ve gone backwards or they’re regressing or pick the verb Sure, never in their self interest. And it’s been really helpful for people to hear that there’s actually a phenomenon that’s universal that people experience when they’re grieving, or they think they see their loved one on the street. I mean, that’s happened to me a lot. A number of times. Someone I loved who’s died, I swear, they’ve come back.
Brian Smith 20:54
Yeah. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t know there was an an acronym for that. But I’ve certainly experienced it. And I know, I’ve documented it to the people that I’ve worked with, and I call them grief waves. And I’m like, and sometimes they can be triggered. I mean, we have triggers. It might be it might be a can of tuna might be a song for me, it’s driving past the White Castle that’s near my house. So we might have something but sometimes, they just come out of the blue. And we don’t even I was just talking with the client earlier. And this person is like, I just, I start to feel heat through my body. And it rises up through my chest, and then it just comes out. And I have no idea why it’s happening. But that’s not an uncommon thing.
Claire B. Willis 21:34
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, I’m always trying, and you’re probably doing the same thing. I’m always trying to normalize these things. Because the privacy of pain in our culture is really hurtful to us. Which is why I love group work. I love it because people can finish each other’s sentences. They really understand each other. It’s like a shorthand between them.
Brian Smith 22:00
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think in our again, in our society, because we are so closed down, and we don’t share bad emotions, that people and I love it. You know, we’ve got to normalize this, we’ve got to say whatever you’re feeling, the feeling is okay. Now, the only exception, I would say is like if someone’s thinking about hurting themselves, or hurting someone else. Yeah, but but even having that thought of hurting yourself when you know, especially in my case, when he’s a child that’s passed away. That’s a very common thing for parents to have. Right? What not? Yeah,
Claire B. Willis 22:31
I was listening to that this morning. One of the things that is, I hate to use this word, what are the positive outcomes of COVID? I don’t want to say one of the positive things about COVID. One of the positive outcomes about calm is that it’s brought the word grief into the mainstream culture in a different way. And we see articles about grief in the New York Times we see it in the Atlantic, we see it in mainstream media. And to me that’s been really a gift to people. Because I think before COVID grief was something that was private and kept to yourself. No. And so now I think it’s more appropriate and more legit, legitimate, quote, unquote, for people to express grief than it was beforehand.
Brian Smith 23:14
Yeah. And I like that. That’s why I love the way you define grief up front, you know, it can be any loss. And I think people are starting to recognize that that COVID has caused, I think, I think it’s pretty much universal. We’re all grieving something, we’ve lost a job, we’ve lost a loved one, we’ve lost freedom, we’ve lost certainty. We’ve lost social connections, you know, we’ve all sacrificed something to this pandemic. And so we can all kind of start to relate to each other’s no grief that we’re going through. And I think people are feeling a little bit more comfortable about about sharing the struggle that this universal grief has caused to happen to all of mankind at one time.
Claire B. Willis 23:56
You know, you just you’re saying that made me think of a grief that I want to mention, too. I want to mention, what is the loss of a pet, there’s a lot of privacy around that. And the loss of a pet can be as poignant for a person who’s childless as the loss of a child is because it’s, it’s a pure, unconditional love. And our love between human beings is much more complex with its histories and conflicts. And it’s complicated, and it’s not a lesser more, but it’s different. And it’s important that that grief, which is so disenfranchised, comes out and becomes more legitimate and openly expressive. People grieve privately when they lose a pet and it’s just as hell. The other grief that I just want to mention in passing is what we call ambiguous griefs. And there’s a lot of ambiguous leaves in our culture. So you can have someone that’s physically present but psychologically absent. So dementia Or all simers or brain injury or even addiction, say an alcoholic, or you can have somebody that’s psychologically present but physically absent hospitalizations and COVID. Divorce, separate retirement, infertility, they’re often non death losses. But we don’t think of them as legitimate things to grieve because the people are still around.
Brian Smith 25:33
Yeah, I want to talk about both of those more, because I think they’re both extremely important. You know, the loss loss of a pet, I’ve had two dogs that I’ve had to, you know, to help transition. And the thing about the love of a pet is it is pure love. And it is it is unconditional love. And the other thing about a pet as a pet is always like a child. You know, they never, they never grow up and never go away. They’re always dependent on you. So a pet is in very, very many ways, like having a child forever. I my little dog is asleep behind me right now. So I want to give people permission. When you when you have a pet, you know, transition, you might feel you’re going to feel the same emotions, you’re going to feel if it’s a person,
Claire B. Willis 26:16
I lost, I had to put down my little cockapoo, who had cancer on March 1. And little did I know that 10 days later, I’d be in lockdown. And hard because what I wanted more than anything was to spread his ashes with friends in my backyard. And we were out of everybody was physically out of touch with one another. So I have a special place in my heart about that.
Brian Smith 26:44
Yeah, yeah. And I was just talking with someone right before we got on whose son passed away about a year ago, right during COVID. And he gotten a dog not too long before that, and he was saying that the dog has been helping him, you know, make it through this time without, you know, being in a boat that had son being here. And I think that’s so that’s such a profound love that the animals give us. So don’t feel guilty about you know, grieving your pet, just the way you would, you know, if it was it was a person. And the other thing you talked about, I think is also really important is that grief doesn’t have to involve death. Both of my in laws, or my father in law passed from dementia, my mother in law is going through it now. And I’ve seen, like my father in law, he wasn’t here, you know, his body was still here, but he wasn’t here for the last, you know, year or so of his life. And my mother in law’s not the person that she was. So I know that my, my wife and myself, I’m very close to them are going through a type of grief. You know, even now,
Claire B. Willis 27:46
it’s not something that’s often labeled grief because they’re alive. But I remember my father growing demented, and he would have moments of what seemed to be lucidity, always back, and then he would slip away again. And I think that’s one of the really painful things about dementia or Alzheimer’s, these, these moments of glimmers of light that can appear. Yeah, they go away. But ambiguous grief is very tough to resolve because there’s no endpoint, you know, no endpoint gets learning to live and also a form of grief. Some of them are griefs where, for instance, you have both positive and negative, not pleasant positive and grief feeling. So for example, thinking about retirement, retired, look forward to retirement, but there’s a lot of loss that comes with retirement. It’s not all one feeling or the other. Yeah. With ambiguous grief. Often,
Brian Smith 28:43
that’s a good point, too, because feelings can be complex, and we can feel two ways about the same thing. And I have retirement i think is an excellent example. And, you know, well, having children moved out, and I went through that that was terrible for me when my daughter would graduate from high school.
Claire B. Willis 29:00
Yeah, yeah, you’re not if you don’t hear people say I’m grieving the loss of my daughter. She’s gone to college. Yeah. Cuz you’re supposed to celebrate with her. But I don’t think there’s a parent alive, that doesn’t feel a loss when their daughter or son leave home.
Brian Smith 29:15
Yeah, so I think I like the way we’re opening this up, because it is it’s universal thing that we all experienced, like many times through our lives, and we we can we can tend to put grief in a box and say what’s only when someone dies? And and even that is different, you know, because, you know, my daughter passing away versus my grandmother passing away. two completely different experiences.
Claire B. Willis 29:41
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. And, um, I forgot what I was gonna say.
Brian Smith 29:47
Well, we were talking about like opening this thing up about grief and not defining it so narrowly. And and the other thing is helping people to understand that we’re going to experience it, you know, it’s unique for each of us. And whatever your experiences, you know, it’s kind of okay. I guess we already talked about timetable grief, I’m looking through some of the questions I wanted to ask you. So what are the some of the ways that you suggest people deal with grief? We’ve talked about what grief is and how we might feel. So what do I do about it when I have grief?
Claire B. Willis 30:25
Well, the first thing is, I would say is to treat yourself kindly. That kindness is really the only reliable anchor for holding grief. And it’s important to start with the first chapter of our book is called starting with kindness. And we deliberately, very strategically put it first because there’s so many models and expectations around grief, that we wanted to make sure to counter those. So that would just stay with their own experience with kindness. There, the book is filled with practices for holding grief, one of the one of the this is gonna sound counterintuitive, but one of the things that we talked about, I think, in the second or third chapter, is having a gratitude practice. And that does not mean negating one ounce of grief or anything negative. But it means trying to hold alongside the sorrow and loss, what is still good, that’s left. And the reason for that is not to have this sort of toxic positivity. But it’s to help us in order to hold the depth of suffering and sorrow from a loss. It helps us to notice alongside what is also right, so in noticing what’s right, we’re strengthening our capacity to hold grief. why it’s important, it’s not about being positive. But it’s about noticing what’s right. Our minds are habituated towards what’s negative. we’re hardwired that way. And we’re hardwired that way. Because in ancient times, it helped us survive. It’s not a bad thing. But what we need to do is to learn to linger, and stay with what’s good. And if we do that, for 10 to 30 seconds, when we notice something good, we can actually begin to rewire our brains and strengthen our resilience in the face of suffering.
Well get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at WWW dot grief to growth.com www dot g ri e f, the number two, gr o w th.com, or text growth gr o w th 231996. If you’d like to support this podcast, visit www.patreon.com, slash grief to growth www.pa t ar e yo n.com slash g ri e f, the number two gr o w th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Claire B. Willis 33:24
So one of the things that I always suggest to people is that before they go to bed, to try to write down three things that are positive that they’re grateful for that happened that day, and to express them in positive language. So for instance, let’s say you have a house full of children and your house is somewhat chaotic, to write my house, the kids were finally not noisy today is a negative expression of a positive event. So I would say what you would write would be the house was peaceful. And just to try to find three things each day and what happens is that instead of the mind being habitually negative habituated towards what’s negative, if you’re committed to the practice, you’ll start to notice in the course of a day what’s right, and it changes your attention because what you attend to will shape your brain. So we want to shape it in a way that’s healthy and whole helps us hold our suffering and grief and lets the grief work us. So I say this gratitude journal with all these caveats, because I don’t want it to be ever at the expense of grief. But I want it to be alongside grief. That’s one of the practices that we talk about in the book. Another one is writing. There’s a lot of writing research that has documented that writing for three to four times a week for things that are bothersome will actually increase our immune system, decrease our anxiety and decrease our depression. And so that’s an important thing is just writing our feelings because we don’t want to use the energy to enhance hibbett ourselves from what we feel, because that suppresses our immune system. So letting ourselves journal right is is very important. Being out in the natural world is very important. There’s a lot of research about the impact of restorative environments, which is any place basically outside, it can be a city park, it can be your yard, it could be a school Park, just somewhere where there’s grass and green and trees that are eyes rest, are being rests in a way in the natural world that it can’t rest. When we’re at the computer, when we’re inside working. the natural world gives us something that strengthens our immune system also lessens our depression and anxiety. So those are three practices that come right off the top of the book.
Brian Smith 35:48
Yeah, I love the way you start with kindness for yourself. I find so many people are really hard on themselves. They’re like, Am I doing this? Right? I’m not doing it fast enough. I should be over this by now. And some of that’s put up by outside forces too, because they say
Claire B. Willis 36:08
use the mouse. It’s been books. Yeah. A lot of books that say this is how long it’ll last?
Brian Smith 36:14
Yeah. So I like that you that you start with that. And I like, you know, it’s funny, I was smiling as you were talking about the gratitude practice. It’s something that I do, I do it in the morning when I get up. So and I the same things, you’re just saying I try to get three things, I try to board them in a positive way. And it does sound counterintuitive. When I first heard about it when I was in, you know, in my early deep stages of grief, I’m like, This is crazy. There’s nothing to be happy about. But there’s always something to be grateful for. And, you know, if you read a book by like Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, you know, you realize this guy is in a concentration camp, and he can find something to be grateful for. I just interviewed a person that has ALS, and she really can’t speak, I had to interview her through the computer. And she’s found some things to be grateful for. So I would say to the people that are listening, no matter what circumstance you’re in, there’s something you can be grateful for. Is it warm in your house right now? Do you have food in your refrigerator, it could be something very small.
Claire B. Willis 37:15
I’m leading a group right now, in conjunction with a Buddhist priest. For people who are dying, we’re doing it online, and we have people with ALS and everybody else who doesn’t have als has stage four metastatic cancer. The gratitude in that group is palpable.
Brian Smith 37:37
That’s amazing, isn’t
Claire B. Willis 37:38
it? It’s so moving. It’s so I think to myself, thank you for showing up for me.
Brian Smith 37:45
Claire B. Willis 37:46
What I’m doing is of use to you. But you’re giving me so much. It’s really an extraordinary experience. It’s very humbling.
Brian Smith 37:55
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so he talks about being out in nature. Now, no, you you’re, you’ve studied Buddhists, and you’re a Buddhist. So what about meditation? Do you recommend that for people,
Claire B. Willis 38:09
there’s a chapter in the book called mindfulness and meditation? I do. And one of the things that is true for most of us is that the research indicates that 50% of the time, our minds are in the past 40% of the time, our minds are in the future. And on a very, very good day. 10% of the time, our minds are in the we are where our body is. I think after a loss, many things can set in and one of them which is very common is anxiety, just a pervasive anxiety because the world has been as you’ve known, it has been shattered and you have to reconstitute yourself, things have happened that weren’t supposed to happen for the most part. And a mindfulness and meditation practice reminds us to stay in the moment and tries to interrupt those rumination loops or pre separation loops where we can get into a chronic anxiety mode. But coming back to the breath, and we use in the book, a practice called metta meditation, which means loving kindness or tender friend. It’s a practice. Are you familiar with it?
Brian Smith 39:26
I am Yes, yeah.
Claire B. Willis 39:27
It’s it’s a practice where you start by extending yourself blessings. And you extend the people you love. Then you extend to neutrals, like the mailman or the grocery person, and then you extend to people you don’t like, but we only concentrate on extending it to ourselves and each chapter, we ask, we close each chapter with a meta meditation. So in the first chapter, I think unkindness might be the meta might be something like, may I accept the feelings that come my way may allow my group To strengthen my heart, may I find peace in my grief. I can’t remember exactly what they are. But that’s the way it goes. They are phrases to start with, may I? And I often ask people to create the phrases they need for their journey. May you have strength for your journey, you know, things like that. And everybody needs their own. So that yes, meditation. And mindfulness is one of the one of the practices, it’s one of the chapters in the book that we feel is really important. And there’s a lot of research. Each chapter is based on research that shows that these practices help people with grief and anxiety and depression.
Brian Smith 40:42
Yeah. So what do you say to someone that says, I’ve tried to meditate, I just can’t do it.
Claire B. Willis 40:48
I can’t either. I sit every day for a half an hour. So no one can do it. Really, there’s no, there’s no accomplishing it. But the effort is important to attend to it. Most. There’s a great New Yorker cartoon where all these people are sitting cross legged. And they have their hands in the meditation position with circles on their knees, and they look so serene, right. And then you have these word bubbles coming out of each person’s head. And one person says, Oh, I forgot to call Whole Foods. Before to place I left work to play some water, Oh, I forgot this. And each, each person has a bubble coming out of their head says, I bet everybody in the room can do this. But me, yes, will cannot concentrate on their breath, more than one to two to three breaths at the most. And so one of the things that I often suggest to people is that they connect words to their breathing. So you might want to say, breathing in, you say it to yourself breathing in, I know I’m breathing in, breathing out, I know I’m breathing out. Breathing in, I soften my belly, breathing out, my breath lengthens you, if you put words to the breath, it’s much easier to meditate than if you just follow the breath without any language. So that’s what I would say to someone who says I can’t meditate. But you know, the truthfully. It’s a practice, we don’t get good at it easily. But the attempt makes a big difference. When I was when I was working for the Dean Ornish program for reversing heart disease. I was the stress management consultant. And they had they had people coming in for physical exercise. These were all heart patients. And the one time I remember was one particular day, the person in charge of exercise, said, Claire, would you please take this woman into the room, she’s too anxious, she, I don’t want her on the machines, she needs to be calmed down. And she told me her daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer. And so I led her through this guided meditation for about 10 minutes. And when she was done, she said I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do any of it. But when they took her blood pressure, her blood pressure had dropped, her heart rate had dropped, and she was able to get on the machines. So often, we don’t think we’re doing anything. And we can’t do it when we are doing it. So I would say that, too.
Brian Smith 43:11
I think that’s great, you know, because I’ve had so many people say to me, you know, I just I can’t meditate. And I would say I love what you said the beginning, you know, everybody thinks everybody can meditate better than they can. And none of us can shut off our thoughts for 30 minutes, you know, and I’ve heard people say, you know, I was there, I was thinking I wasn’t having a thought. And I thought I just thought I didn’t have a thought, well, that’s a thought. And then they get themselves back in the monkey mind. But for me, the the goal, the purpose of meditation, is learning to catch ourselves. If you didn’t have those distractions, you wouldn’t need to meditate, but it’s having the distractions and training the mind to come back. So this is the way it works for me anyways, I’ve learned to know when I’m spinning out, and I’ve learned how to how to turn that off. So I sleep so much better now that I met it. I’ve meditated every day for the last like four years now. And I sleep so much better. Because when I get in bed, and my mind starts racing, I know it’s racing. So I just say i’m gonna i’m just gonna go to the breath. And next thing I know I’m asleep.
Claire B. Willis 44:09
Yeah, that, you know, thank you for saying that. Because it is. Meditation is the moment you catch that. And you come back to the breath. Yeah, that’s I’m so glad you mentioned that. Brian.
Brian Smith 44:21
Yeah, well, the other thing I will say this is just this is my thing. And I share with people because everybody has to find their own tool that works for them. When it comes to grief. It’s because we all give we our share of things. And you know, yoga works for some people, it doesn’t work for other people. But I use an app called insight timer. And it’s got all these different guided meditations, or sometimes I listen to music. So try different things that work for you. I was talking to my mother a long time about my meditation. And she said, I just can’t do it. I can’t do it. And I started giving her some guided meditations. And she could sit as long as someone was guiding her through it. And those I found could be very beneficial for people.
Claire B. Willis 44:58
Thank you for saying that and yes Meditation insight timer is a wonderful tool you want, and it’s free.
Brian Smith 45:06
So those are, those are some ways that people can. These are tools we can give people. And as I said, you know, try them out and find what works for you. I interviewed a young lady who her mother passed away. And she tried all the things people recommended she that she tried yoga, that didn’t work, she tried walking, that didn’t work, she tried meditation, she found out weightlifting, worked for her. And she just started lifting weights, and she ended up becoming a power lifter. And that that worked for her. So,
Claire B. Willis 45:34
you know, that reminds me that this is in our book, there’s a walking group in Canada, where these people gather each week. And they walk, they say the name of the person who died. They say the person died and what the relationship, there’s no advice, there’s no support, and they just walk together in silence. Oh, wow. Yeah, it’s very powerful. It’s been incredibly helpful for people.
Brian Smith 46:02
Yeah, that well, I can say it’s, you know, I say to people, whatever, whatever happens to work for you, we all have our minds work differently. I do. Most of the stuff we’ve talked about, I walk every day, I do a gratitude practice. Every day, I do a meditation, or I do a meditation, usually 2025 minutes every day. Those are the tools that happened to work for me. And I’ve tried, you know, you know, many different things. I like the fact that your book gives people things to choose from, and I’d say, you know, try those things and see how they work for you and, and fine tune them to work for you for whatever you’re not as you’re going through. That’s right.
Claire B. Willis 46:39
Each chapter in the book is a resource for people to help them hold grief. And it you can think of it as a toolbox. You can just dip into any chapter. But if you read the book, start for sure. With the chapter kindness, starting with kindness and grief as a companion. Those are the two chapters at the beginning.
Brian Smith 46:58
Yeah, so I’m trying to think of what the next question I want to ask you was. You talked a little bit about about writing. So you You said that writing actually helps people to process their grief is that what we’re saying?
Claire B. Willis 47:15
Well, it helps people hold the grief to hold and express it. One of the things that I hear a lot in my brain, because people will say things like, there’s so many memories I have that I don’t ever want to forget, and I’m afraid I’m going to forget them. And I say you will, you will forget them. I mean, that’s the truth. So I one of the writing exercises I give people is to sit down for a few minutes every day and just write the sentence, I remember and see what comes up. And when that’s done, I remember and see what comes up. I remember. And there’s a little book by Joe Brainard called I remember in which the whole book is nothing but sentences about I remember, it’s not necessarily a memoir, or a book about someone they lost. But the technique is very powerful. And, or creating a story about and, and if you can’t write in the first person, I always say write in the third person, fictionalize it to the extent you have can, so that you don’t implode with grief. You want to modulate your grief so that you can work with it and not have it overwhelm you when you’re writing. But I think writing and there’s a lot of writing techniques I do for hold. That can be very, very helpful.
Brian Smith 48:34
So have you I think you mentioned this have people expressed to you I’ve had people express this to me, I I’m scared. I’m gonna forget my loved one. I’m scared. I’m gonna forget what they sounded like. I’m scared. I’m gonna forget, you know, who they are or something. Have you come across that?
Claire B. Willis 48:50
Yeah, I hear that a lot. And I think that can be the slippery slope, Brian, where people hang on to their grief in order to stay connected, that somehow if their grief starts to subside, they feel like their loved one is slipping away. One of the things that I was saying, I think I said this already, I was talking to this woman this morning, was about how to take from the person they loved and lost aspects of their life and bring them forward into work that serves others. How do we carry the legacy of who we’ve loved and bring it through our life into service to others so that they may not suffer the same I oftentimes people will do fundraisers for the cause that the person they love died or I can’t think I’m thinking right now but woman who lost her husband and 911 and she created a grief center. Austin, which is a huge staff, of people, they all they do is grief work. So there are ways to take this and carry our loved one And as a legacy, yeah. from them. And I always ask people, I ask people, how many people are talking to those they loved? I don’t say do you I say how many of you are. So I like to embed the assumption that we are all talking to those who left us. Yeah, let’s
Brian Smith 50:19
talk about that some more. Because I was going to ask you, the next question I was going to ask you is do you talk about carrying the relationship forward? I mean, we can do things and their legacy we can we can do scholarship funds, we can do memorials and stuff. But what about maintaining the relationship with the person who has who has passed?
Claire B. Willis 50:39
You’re familiar with continuing bonds? Yes, I am. And I also another person, Lorraine headcheese, writes about remembering conversations. And I often say to people, like this morning, I said to this woman, what would your son be wanting you to be doing right now with your grief? It would have meaning for him. And asking people, what would your husband saying now? What would he advise you, I encourage people to tap into the knowing of that person and bring that person into their life now, whether it’s through letter writing, whether it and I have clients that write letters at night, or to their loved ones, sent letters, but I encourage people to dialogue and listen for responses from their loved ones, whether they’re imagined or not, it doesn’t matter. Because they carry the voice. They carry this the soul of those people they’ve loved with them. And they just have to tap into it and trust it. Okay,
Brian Smith 51:44
yeah. So for for me, my daughter’s behind me. She’s always right here over my shoulder. And I say good morning to every morning, I say goodnight to her every night. And she’s she, she’s with me through throughout my day, you know, and she inspires, you know, frankly, what I do that that’s what works for me. So the idea, I love the idea of continuing bonds. And when I got into doing this work, I know in the past, traditional grief counseling was, okay, the relationships over let’s accept the fact that it’s over. And we’re going to teach you how to move on without that person. Move on. Yeah. And that does not work for me. I don’t know if it works for other
Claire B. Willis 52:23
people, or anybody actually, yeah, it just what it does is it pushes our grief under and then it’s gonna come out sideways, we’re gonna become irritable, we’re gonna become impatient. We’re gonna snap at things and be reactive, it doesn’t work for anybody to push it down. As much as we may want to.
Brian Smith 52:42
Yeah, well, I think that’s, I think that’s through like, so for me, that’s what makes it bearable, is the fact that that that I can still can continue that relationship. You know, it depends on what the relationship was like. And so when my grandmother passed away when I was in my 20s, in that she was like a mother to me, but, you know, I was like, she was older. And that’s, that’s the natural flow of life. You know, it’s okay, I can deal with it. But when it’s when was my daughter when she was 15? I had just like, Okay, this is a whole different thing. I have to do this completely differently. And it really changes you. I mean, it changes who you are. Another thing I wanted to ask you is, I’m sure you get this, a lot of people come in and they say, Okay, my life is over. That’s it. I’m done. You know, this, just because I cannot live without this person. So what would you say to that?
Claire B. Willis 53:32
I would say, Tell me about that. I would ask them to flesh that out. I wouldn’t say your life isn’t over. I would say what makes you think that? Tell me what, tell me what your current sources of joy are? I would ask them questions. Who are the people in your life that are most significant? How is that going to change as a result of the death? I would just keep flushing and flushing? Yeah. until it became moved from being a black hard statement to a gray area? Yeah. And softer and had more? What can I say heart in it. It was more of a read response.
Brian Smith 54:15
Yeah, being open to the possibility because I think early in grief, and again, depending on what it is, I only had one major grief in my life. As I said, other people have been people that are older, you know, but with my daughter. I wasn’t even open to the possibility of healing. And when people talk about you can heal. I’m like, I don’t want to heal. That’s, that’s I think, and I think it’s fairly common in the situation that I was in. Oh,
Claire B. Willis 54:43
yeah. The question is what makes you feel like you can heal? What would healing look like?
Brian Smith 54:48
Claire B. Willis 54:48
that’s a good one, right? Yeah. Yeah, I think anytime we negate anything someone says we’re shoving their grief away. Yeah. It’s gonna be Completely unhelpful. I think the most important thing we can do is just to keep inviting people. I’m curious, tell me more why you feel that way. Okay, anything, any part of anybody’s experience?
Brian Smith 55:13
Yeah, absolutely. But you know, I guess the other thing is, if someone’s coming to you to a group, or they bought your book, then they’re obviously open to something right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t have taken that even that first step. So, but we still might say that that thing, okay, I don’t I don’t want to heal, I don’t know that I can heal. And I like what you’re saying is like, Okay, I’m not going to try to correct you. But I’m going to try to help you find the answers within yourself. Right? Because that’s, that’s the other thing with people. A lot of times I think they come to us looking for answers. Like, I want you to answer my questions and tell me how to do this. And how am I supposed to feel? And I hear you saying, okay, it’s this. Let’s explore this is more like it?
Claire B. Willis 55:55
Yes. Let’s explore it. I think stay. One of the things that I learned in chaplaincy program that you piaa is to keep saying, I’m curious, tell me more actually use that when I’ve gotten into heated political conversations. You know, I’m, I was very interested in hearing the thinking sometimes of people who were voting for the person I didn’t vote for. And I just, most of my friends are of a similar political posture. And I’m curious, tell me more. Oh, you think that happened? Tell me how you think that just keep asking the questions, because then you’re building at least a bridge to understanding and not shutting the other person down. And that’s the important thing in grief is not to shut one another down, is to keep listening and inviting, whatever is there to come into the light of day because nothing will be healed until it comes to light. And even then it takes time.
Brian Smith 56:58
Yeah, you know, the kind of brings us back around to what we were talking about before we started recording, today’s Inauguration Day. And we have a new administration, you know, in the in the White House, but 50% of the people who voted or are grieving right now, and this, this happens, every election, you know, 50% of people are right now are grieving the Inauguration Day. 50% of people right now are celebrating negation and half of the day. And I think too, for people to understand that those people are grieving. And to understand that those people feel a sense of loss, they feel a real sense of loss and betrayal, and this can’t happen. So some of these grief techniques we’re talking about can be applied. You know, even even to that,
Claire B. Willis 57:43
you know, it’s so interesting, you’re saying this, because the other night I heard an interview, I forget what show was on with a white supremacist who had what’s the word converted into not being a subprime assist, anyway, and she was working with other supremacists to try to bring them out of their posture of white supremacy. And the person that was interviewing her, was asking her how she did that. And she said, I never have a political discussion. I look for all the areas of intersection we have outside of politics. And I try to bring a human face to that I stay out of the political realm and find common interests so I can begin to build a bridge. And not until you have a bridge, can you really begin to discuss the difference in politics? And I thought that was very astute that her job now was trying to convert white supremacist, more tolerant view.
Brian Smith 58:44
Yeah, absolutely. And so getting getting back to your book, you know, it’s interesting, because I think a lot of times people say, I need to buy a book on grief, because I just lost a loved one. But you know, if you’ve gone right now, we could probably all use this book. And if we, if we don’t need it, right now, we’re going to need it. You know, because grief is a universal thing that we all we all go through. And so I’m encouraging people. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you know, you think I don’t really need the book right now. Get it now and read it now. Because it’ll help you now. And it also helps you in the future, when you have what you know, what you think is a real grief event.
Claire B. Willis 59:23
The book also is, you know, one of the things that people have written on Amazon is that the book also is life skills. Right? within a book for grief. It’s really a book for living too,
Brian Smith 59:35
right? Absolutely. Yeah. All the skills, all the tools that you mentioned, we can use all throughout our life, okay, because, again, we’re always grieving or have grief about something. We’ve all been divorced or lost a job or lost a home or had our children grow up and move out of the house. And all these techniques that you know, I was fortunate, I was doing mindfulness and I was walking before Shayna passed away. If you do that, if you build that practice, before that event happens, that gives you a resiliency that you might not otherwise have. And then you’re not trying to build everything from scratch.
Claire B. Willis 1:00:11
That’s right. That’s so true. Ryan, that’s so true. That’s such a good point you’re making? Yeah, use it before you need it.
Brian Smith 1:00:19
Yeah. And the other thing I want to say, because this is another thing I see people doing is the babies, just people that come to me because they’re overachievers, like, I was talking to someone earlier, it’s like a cameraman. For five grief groups, you know, I’m doing this, I’m seeing a counselor. You know, I’m, I’m changing my diet. I’m starting to exercise. I’m just trying to do everything at once. So what would your advice be like? How do I? How do I get into this doing these practices?
Claire B. Willis 1:00:52
Try one at a time, start with kindness. And don’t abuse yourself with what you think you should be doing. Because that’s, that’s not kind actually, to be doing to be pushing yourself to do all these things. Just being with what is with an open heart is will accomplish a lot.
Brian Smith 1:01:15
Yeah, so that that’s what kind of brings me back around to because I want to talk to you about the difference between like grief and depression, because a lot of times people will say, Okay, you go to a doctor and you’ve lost someone, the doctor goes, Okay, well, you’re depressed. Here’s some Zoloft, you know, get, you know, get over it. So how do I know? Like, when do I seek professional help? How do I know the difference between grief and depression? what’s normal? And what I need to be on medication, for example?
Claire B. Willis 1:01:42
So this is tricky question. So I think when you’re grieving, you tend to have moments of grief and moments of joy, there are breaks from the grief, when you’re depressed, the world is gray, there aren’t openings. Seeking professional help. You know, it’s interesting, a lot of the people I work with are leading fully functioning lives, and many of them have therapists for extra support, would they be doing okay? without it? Yes, it can be a luxury and it can be a necessity, I would say that if you’re feeling if you’re drinking a lot to the point of dysfunction, you’re sleeping away and not getting to work. If you’re feeling at all suicidal, those are problematic signs. And those would require I think, professional help. Just those are the obvious ones. But I think, you know, having a therapist, if you’re a talk oriented person can be a wonderful companion in the grief, someone who follows you. And I don’t think it’s necessary. I personally think bereavement groups are wonderful when they’re well lead. Because you see, you’re not alone. People who can almost finish your sentences. Yeah, often, so often hear, that’s exactly how I feel. And the person doesn’t even need to say anything more. They just hear their stories in one another. And that’s so healing because the isolation of grief, the loneliness of grief exacerbates it. Yeah.
Brian Smith 1:03:24
Yeah. And the other thing I would like to add to that is, um, you know, I guess in our society, we’re all about feeling good, you know, and people are like, I want to feel good, or I want to feel back to normal. It’s, it’s normal to feel sad when you’re in grief. And I went to a doctor, not too long after my daughter had passed away was the first time I’d seen him. And he asked me about my stress level and all that kind of stuff. And so my stress levels through the roof, my daughter passed away a year ago, and I was so appreciative because, you know, I said, Yeah, I’m depressed, you know, cuz they asked if you’re depressed. And I said, I’m sad because my daughter passed away. He goes, Well, that’s normal. You know, that’s, that’s okay. Are you functioning okay? Are you drinking too much? You’re feeling suicidal? No, I’m coping fine. And he said, Okay, great. Then he was he was a older guys probably about my age and would see a doctor not too long after that. This was a young doctor, and same questions. And I told her, she started to write me a prescription. And I’m like, Yeah, no, I don’t, I don’t need that. And I don’t want that I am sad because my daughter passed away. And that’s normal. You know, and I want to I want to hold on to this right now.
Claire B. Willis 1:04:36
See, this is where models of grief have really oppressed and hurt us. And I think and the DSM has not helped. And that’s the medical model. I think it’s like if you’re still upset after three months or six months, I’m not sure which you can be called depressed and that’s Such a disservice to the natural normal process of grief. It’s,
Brian Smith 1:05:06
I completely agree. And I said, I’m five and a half years out, and I still have good days and bad days, you know, and I still feel some sadness, and that’s okay. And I sit with it, and I live with it. And that’s part of the, that’s part of the love, you know, if you if you’ve got love for somebody, especially like, it’s a daughter, you know, my daughter, and it’s five years later, I’m gonna, I’m gonna feel sad about that sometimes. And I think we do ourselves a disservice when we try to medicate it in any way or try to, to bury it, we need to, we need to process that we set with it. And we need to, you know, let it be our friend, you know, let let the grief be our companion.
Claire B. Willis 1:05:47
I think what you’re saying is important. And I just want to say there are people because of whatever they’re bringing to the grief may not be able to do that and do need medication. Absolutely. Absolutely. I wouldn’t want someone to feel bad because they’re taking medication.
Brian Smith 1:06:05
Yeah, absolutely not. No, there are and I tell everybody that I work with, you know, there are times and I’m not a medical professional. So you know, if you need to take that that’s fine. And, and it can be I’ve been on medication for a short time I went when I was going through talk therapy before Shayna passed. But I went I went to my therapist, I said, I worked with her, my doctor, I said I’m going to see the therapist, but I want to have a plan. And I want to be off of this. And but I won’t go off until you tell me it’s okay. So that was the plan I decided to use. So I don’t Yeah, I didn’t mean so I’m glad you added that because I’m not saying people should not take medication. There’s definitely a time and a place for but normal grief. If it’s not complicated grief, you probably don’t need medication.
Claire B. Willis 1:06:47
Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Brian Smith 1:06:51
We’re Claire, um, it’s been really great getting to meet you. Any final thoughts you want to give before we close today?
Claire B. Willis 1:06:58
Well, I just want to come back to what Jamie Anderson said about how grief is an expression of love that has no place to go and not to try to push it away to quit? Yes. So the expression of the depth of your loving, you know, I just think that’s such an important reframe of it, especially in light of the cultural expectations of, you know, three days off from work and you come back and you’re supposed to talk function. I mean, it’s so ridiculous, you know,
Brian Smith 1:07:27
yes, it absolutely is.
Claire B. Willis 1:07:28
No, you’re shoveling against the tide in grieving and stay with your process. Stay. Stay with what you need, to the extent you can, and don’t let anybody tell you how to do it. Now.
Brian Smith 1:07:44
Thank you very much. I want to give your your contact information against your website is opening to grief.com and your latest book is opening the grief finding your way to loss from loss to peace, by Claire B. Willis and Marnie Crawford. Samuelson, I assume that’s available on Amazon and etc.
Claire B. Willis 1:08:02
I what I say to people is buy locally and review on Amazon. But yes, it’s available on Amazon. You can have it in 24 hours.
Brian Smith 1:08:10
Okay, great. That sounds great. Well, Claire, thanks. Thanks for being my guest today. And have a great day.
Claire B. Willis 1:08:17
Yeah, take care.
Brian Smith 1:08:21
That’s it for another episode of grief to growth. I sure hope you got something out of it. Please stay in contact with me by reaching out at www grief to growth.com that’s grief, the number two growth.com or you can text the word growth 231996. That’s simply text growth gr o w t h 231996. So if you’re watching this on YouTube, please make sure you subscribe. So hit the subscribe button. And then hit the little bell here. And it’ll notify you want to have new content. Always please share the information if you enjoy it. That helps me to get more views and get the message out to more people. Thanks a lot and have a wonderful day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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