Grief can look many different ways. In our culture we tend to reserve grief for when someone dies, but it goes far beyond that. Grief is nuanced and, if we allow it, we can touch on it in the endings that are present every day.

We grieve when we lose or change jobs, when a beloved pet dies, a relationship ends, family estrangement or difficulties, your children growing and going to school or leaving home. Sometimes even allowing something good can bring grief with it, you may move home, leaving behind your old home, change jobs, leaving behind people, teams, environments that you have known and loved for a long time. These are all endings, and may come with grief as well as fear, excitement and joy.

Sometimes it’s a loss that might feel ambiguous, it may be for the past or something that you thought you’d receive but didn’t. You may be on a fertility journey for example. You may grieve for the childhood you did or didn’t have. Someone you love might be ill, they may be here in body, but not as the person you loved and knew. You can also experience grief if your partner loses their job, or someone they love dies. And for the world, Francis Weller, Psychologist and Author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow calls this “the sorrows of the world.” You may be feeling a deep sense of grief for what’s going on in the world right now. I do.

Grief is far and wide, and beyond definition because of this. Who’s to say what we should and shouldn’t grieve? It’s for us to allow our grief. This is hard in the culture that we live in. In Western society grief is often hidden in the shadows, shame and grief can be closely connected. We hide our grief. We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t grieve or that we should be over something, when the truth is grief is sacred and very necessary. When we allow and honour our deep sorrow, it allows the grief to move, it allows a processing of the grief so that it’s no longer bottled up and held in the body, suppressed. When we come into relationship with grief, and an ongoing relationship, it can also open us up to joy and beauty.

Grief can bring us closer to life.

Many scholars and writers in the world of grief agree, that when we turn towards our sorrows and our grief, the beauty and joy you’ll experience will be all that sweeter. It’s as if feeling the depth of grief gives way for you to feel and experience all the other emotions more fully. When we’re not trying so hard to hide, to push down our feelings and emotions, more can move within us, we open ourselves up to something greater.

It’s definitely been my experience and journey of grief. Turning towards my grief and my heartbreak has enabled me to see life in a different way. It’s opened up so much that I took for granted in the past. I notice the blossom of Spring, the smell of rain in the Autumn, how it feels to be totally and completely in the presence of the people I love. The sweetness of life.

The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe – Joanna Macy.

It’s not easy, facing into our pain takes courage and commitment, particularly in a world that lacks reverence for grief. Coming into relationship with grief is more important than it ever has been.  Martin Prechtal, author of The Smell of Rain on Dust suggests that “all war is unmetabolised grief”.

This is how essential our relationship with grief is.

How can coaching support you in your grief?

Grief is something that can make us feel so powerless, coaching gives us that back, it empowers us, even in our darkest times. Stepping into coaching allows you to explore where you are, how you’re feeling, it allows you to express your grief and to move with it. It brings you into relationship with your grief and with yourself, so that you can take steps to be supported and support yourself.

The beauty of deep listening

Coaching is always a place of deep listening. I believe that’s what most of us long for and need, particularly in our grief. We need a space to be heard in our heartbreak and our pain. Sometimes without trying to change or fix it, as coaching is led by you, you get to choose. And you get to be seen and heard exactly where you are.

Alchemising Grief

It will depend on the nature of your grief, where you are on your grief journey, but coaching can open up the opportunity to alchemise your grief into goodness. I don’t believe the platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason.” I think this takes away from the depth, intensity and utterly life changing experience of grief. So, when I say goodness, it isn’t in that way. It means that in time, grief can alchemise and it can bring something in for you and your life, perhaps in ways you haven’t expected. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing these words if I hadn’t experienced the death of my Mum. I’m not grateful it happened, I don’t believe it happened for a reason, but the work I do now, I could never have imagined, and it is a true honour.

Your capacity for grief

Coaching can open your capacity to grieve. We may live with the misconception that grief is just one thing, that you feel sad, hopeless, helpless even. Coaching can broaden your capacity in grief. It can open the possibility of touching moments of happiness or contentment within grief. That grief becomes part of your relationship with life, part of the relationship you have with yourself. It gives you permission to grieve, in our culture where grief is hidden, this can be vital.

Grief as a creative act

The ICF describe coaching as a creative process and coming to your grief can be one of the most creative acts. Grief has bought me to poetry, to nature, to writing, to art and photography, something I could never have imagined. Grief as a creative act is a possibility.

Community is essential

Shame keeps grief in the shadows and coaching is a channel to liberate grief. We often live with beliefs of “I should be OK” or “I should be over this by now” when we sit with others in grief, even with just one other person, it gives us not only permission to grieve but it says we’re not alone. Grief needs community, to be witnessed and to be held. We cannot, and must not, grieve alone.

The whole picture

As well as coaching, I’m also a BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist, Functional Medicine practitioner and a few other modalities, these modalities focus on the body. The body is an integral part of the grief process. We feel our emotions in our body, we process emotions in our body. Grief can impact your cognitive function, your sleep, your energy, your appetite, everything. That’s why it’s so important to bring the body into the picture when you come into relationship with grief. So much is held within our miraculous bodies.

Grief is so much more than one singular thing or emotion.

It’s a way of being and as such needs to be held in this way.

Time for reflection

How has your grief shaped you?
How has your grief enabled you to learn and grow in valuable ways?
What is grief asking of you?
What does it bring up for you when working with your clients in grief?

To grieve is one of the most natural things in the world. To grieve for something or someone we’ve loved and lost is exquisite, it’s needed, it’s necessary and it’s vital. We need to change the language and conversation around grief. It is changing, 17 years ago there was barely anything to read, barely any guidance or books. We are talking about it, and we need to continue to build a collective relationship with grief.

Nicola Duffell, a Life Mentor and Grief Activist, has experienced profound heartbreak yet fiercely believes in the beauty of life. She invites you to explore healing for mind, body, heart, and soul. Nicola is a writer, speaker, BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, BodyMind Maturation Coach, Executive and Organisational Coach, and Reiki Practitioner. She is registered The British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and she is also a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Learn more at and connect on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. To explore a deeper context and journey in grief, join her six-month community programme, Life’s Poetry, starting in September. You can also explore The Shame Series, a free/pay-what-you-want offering delving into the intricacies of shame.

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