“There’s a policeman on the phone for you.” It was the phone call everyone dreads, especially parents.
On the 31st of May in 2014, on a public holiday in New Zealand, Lucy Hone’s 12 yr old daughter, Abi, was killed in a tragic car accident along with her best friend Ella and Lucy’s best friend Sally. Lucy said her life was smashed, as she put it …
“I mean your entire life scheme – your life story, your identity – has been smashed to smithereens…It’s like someone had taken a mallet like a croquet mallet to life and smashed the entirety so it just no longer exists.”
I think that’s how I felt. December 2008 my sister was killed in a car accident. When I received the call from my father, I heard my mother crying in the background. I was numb; life was smashed. I wish I knew then what I learned from talking with Lucy.
Lucy taught me about ambush grief. I experienced this many times but never knew it was common to many. I would be in a store or somewhere in public, and suddenly, unexpectedly, grief would overwhelm me. Just knowing this is a “thing” is somehow comforting. I feel normal; it’s okay.
How do you pick up the pieces and put what’s left of your life back together?
After the accident, Lucy and her husband made a decision. “I mean, and don’t ask me how, that in week one my husband and I decided that we were going to accept the loss and that for us was absolutely the first job we had to do.” She says they were unified “…not in blame and not in anger but in this willingness to move forward, …to literally go forward rather than look backwards.”
You see, Lucy has a Ph.D. in public health and wellbeing sciences; she’s an academic in the field of resilience psychology at AUT University’s Human Potential Center in Auckland, New Zealand.
So Lucy turned to writing to help order her thoughts. Combining research with her own experience, she first wrote a blog that attracted a large international audience and led to her book Resilient Grieving. It quickly became a bestseller. While she says learning to live without Abi is still very much a work in progress she wants to support others in some way in helping them make sense out of the senseless.
Let me be clear, grief should be felt rather than immediately treated as a problem to be solved. That said, what exactly should one expect in the grieving process? Is there a way to manage grief before it manages our lives ever orienting all else around loss?
It is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again – Seneca
There are choices you make after such a loss and Lucy says some choices can absolutely make the loss worse. Lucy recommends a heuristic in the form of a question for decision making while grieving: Is this helping or harming me?
On the podcast Lucy discusses the research that tell us there are some grieving models that can help. There are grieving experiences many have in common and there are myths about the grieving process.
If you have suffered a loss, listen to this podcast. If you have not suffered such a loss others in your life have, listen to the podcast and learn how to help them.
Show Notes / Resources
[00:07:57] On preparing for loss
[00:20:45] Whether certain grieving processes can weaken us
[00:11:38] Lucy tells her story, the loss of Abi
[00:15:59] On sudden loss vs. prolonged loss
[00:18:27] On the numbing effect of sudden loss
[00:21:37] Defining resilient grieving
[00:26:16] The truth about the five stages of grieving
[00:29:59] Models of the grieving process
[00:31:25] On ambush grief
[00:36:46] On secondary losses
[00:41:43] A grief reaction versus a grief response
[00:43:40] On rumination
[00:48:53] How can you help others who are grieving – and what not to do
[00:46:02] On oscillation theory and bereavement
Relearning the World by Tom Attig
The Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. (Note this is not about grief but there is a section on child bereavement that is worth the read)
Lucy’s book Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything