The Current

'Grief needs to be expressed': How facing death allows us to live more fully

In her new book, grief psychotherapist Julia Samuel explores how our increasing aversion to talking about death has led to an inability to deal with its inevitable consequences.
Author Julia Samuel says 15 per cent of all psychological disorders are the expression of unresolved grief. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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Julia Samuel would like everyone to get more comfortable talking about death and grief.

She's a grief psychotherapist who works with people dealing with loss. Her new book is called Grief Works - Stories of Life, Death and Surviving. She tells Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current that the Victorians couldn't talk about sex but they were comfortable with death — now she says the opposite is true. "We feel it viscerally, it's very uncomfortable. It puts us in touch with our own mortality," says Samuel.

Samuel shares her insights in her new book. (Penguin )

"It scares us. We kind of think, 'If I don't think about it and don't talk about it maybe it won't come to me. If I close my eyes long enough, maybe it will just go to somebody else.'" 

But of course it comes to everyone, either dealing with the death of a loved one or contemplating one's own death. And ignoring that fact can lead to even more issues down the road.

Samuel says that 15% of all psychological disorders are unresolved grief.

"Grief needs to be expressed. Pain is the agent of change and it's only through that that we adjust to the new reality that the person has died."

Julia Samuel (Julia Samuel)

Julia Samuel advises people who are grieving to do active things to help remember the person who has died. She suggests writing, listening to music or going for a walk.

And for those around the person grieving, Samuel says it's important to acknowledge the pain, even if it's hard and all you can say is "I'm sorry for your loss", it's better than nothing.

"Grief is individual, there isn't a right or wrong way."

Samuel has been working with bereaved families for 25 years. She says the work has taught her important lessons about what's important.

"It gives me a proper perspective about what matters. And what matters is our love for each other and everything else falls away."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath. 


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