Julia Samuel on grief, post traumatic growth and dealing with our dark side
March 31, 2023. Series 7. Episode 61
In arguably our most valuable crisis conversations yet, we’re joined by one of the world’s best psychotherapists – author and fellow podcaster, Julia Samuel – and in this episode we focus on possibly the most important theme that has come out of our conversations so far. That is grief. How we approach it, how we accept it and how we then move forward productively.
In the sixty episodes we’ve recorded so far, we’ve had some incredible discussions with our guests on this subject – and so today we look back on some of those conversations with a real expert; someone who can help us navigate our way through this most difficult of crisis subjects.
Julia has been helping people through loss and a range of other issues for more than thirty years. Her first counselling job was as a volunteer for Westminster Bereavement Services – where Julia found herself stepping into the homes (and indeed the lives) of people whose children had died under some of the most challenging of circumstances. It was clear early on that Julia had found her vocation. Ever since Julia has worked both in private practice and in the NHS, at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, where she pioneered the role of Maternity and Paediatric Psychotherapist.
In 1994 Julia helped launch Child Bereavement UK, and as Founder Patron she continues to play a role in that brilliant charity today. Moreover, she has written a number of successful books including Grief Works, This Too Shall Pass and Every Family Has a Story, and she also hosts the successful podcast Therapy Works – which I could not recommend more.
A huge thanks to the guests we discuss in this episode – for sharing their stories, but also to Julia for taking the time to help us take stock.
– Good death vs bad death
Julia’s Crisis Comforts:
- Recognise that you are suffering. Let the emotions of the pain, of your suffering, through your system.
- Kickboxing. Keith, who’s my kickboxing teacher, I’ve been with him for 28 years. He cannot believe how much I want to hurt him… physiologically exercise is the equivalent to a low dose of antidepressants.
- I make sure I have fun. I don’t watch frightening things on TV – I drive my husband nuts because he wants to watch all the kind of frightening dramas, and I want to watch Mamma Mia. I want happy endings.
Julia’s Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/juliasamuelmbe/
Grief Works app – https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/grief-works-self-care-love/id1558867513
Therapy Works Podcast – https://juliasamuel.co.uk/podcasts/guest-appearances-2
Every Family Has A Story: How we inherit love and loss – https://amzn.to/3JXfDnR
This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings – https://amzn.to/40uYDMN
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving – https://amzn.to/3zjjx5D
The Road Less Travelled – M. Scott Peck – https://amzn.to/3M5ozu6
On Death and Dying – Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross – https://amzn.to/42UNZQW
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream: https://open.spotify.com/track/5OX9XgJufFz9g63o2Dv2i5?si=b2f9397c92084682
Host – Andy Coulson
CWC production team: Louise Difford, Ed Isaacs and Jane Sankey
With special thanks to Global
Full episode transcript:
Andy Coulson: [0:00:05] Hello, I’m Andy Coulson, and welcome back to Crisis What Crisis, the podcast which aims to guide you towards a more resilient approach to life and whatever it might throw at you.
We’ve got something different, and I hope something really useful for you this week. We’re now sixty episodes in and it feels like the time is right to take stock, with a particular focus on one of the most important, possibly the most important theme that has often come out of our conversations so far. And that is grief. How we approach it, how we accept it and how we then move forward productively.
We’ve had some remarkable discussions with our guests on this subject, and from a multitude of different angles, heard different stories of grief. But perhaps, as has been apparent from time to time, I am not a counsellor or a grief specialist in any way. And so I thought it might be a good idea to look back on some of those conversations with a real expert; someone who can help us navigate our way through this most difficult of crisis subjects.
And I’m delighted to say that I’m joined today by one of the world’s best psychotherapist, author and fellow podcaster, Julia Samuels.
Julia has been helping people through grief and other issues for more than thirty years. Her first counselling job was as a volunteer for Westminster Bereavement Services, where she found herself stepping into the homes of people whose children had died under the most difficult of circumstances. It was clear early on that Julia had found her vocation.
She has since worked both in private practice and in the NHS at London’s St Mary’s Hospital where she pioneered the role of Maternity and Paediatric Psychotherapist. And in 1994 Julia helped launch and establish Child Bereavement UK, and as Founder Patron she continues to play a role in that brilliant charity today.
She has written a number of successful books including Grief Works, This Too Shall Pass and Every Family Has a Story, and she hosts the successful podcast Therapy Works, and a Grief Works app, both of which I would heartily recommend you to subscribe to.
Julia Samuel, welcome to Crisis What Crisis. How are you?
Julia Samuel: [0:02:10] I’m very well, and very happy to be in conversation with you, Andy.
Andy Coulson: [0:02:15] Well, thank you for coming. Before we talk about grief Julia, can we have a chat about resilience? The two are related of course, but I’m keen to know, or keen to hear your view on where we’re all heading when it comes to resilience, that ability to cope with the difficult stuff.
On the one hand, the word has never been used more frequently, but at the same time we are arguably in our day-to-day lives, certainly those of us living peaceful lives away from war or disease, I think we’re less resilient than we’ve ever been. And there’s this concern I suppose that with our fear also of causing upset or offence, and our willingness to make sure that there are no losers in life, no failure, that we’re erasing our ability to deal with the tough stuff.
What’s your view on where we’re headed?
Julia Samuel: [0:03:13] I think it’s such an interesting question. I mean, resilience has become the sort of go-to word that if you are experiencing and facing challenges and difficult times and grief, that if you have this- almost it sounds like a sort of magic inner ability of resilience, you then will withstand, weather and grow through what’s difficult.
And you know, experiencing very difficult crises, whether it’s grief from death or grief from a loss- what I call a living loss, like losing your job or having a different kind of crisis, I think what we need to understand with resilience, that nothing works if you don’t allow yourself to feel the pain.
So that what resilience actually means is that you have the capacity to allow pain of the shock of the loss, of the shock of your different sense of self, the shock of feeling completely alone, those emotions to come through your whole body, and as they do you incrementally adapt. And as you allow them through, you chance your understanding of yourself.
But I think what a lot of people think of resilience is this capacity to white-knuckle it, put your head down and push through. And of course that is- builds kind of armour where you don’t have the flexibility to allow these difficult emotions to move through you.
So resilience is actually being able to feel pain, and through feeling the pain release yourself and then access support. And it’s the movement between the two, the poles of pain and the pole of support, where you adjust to these new circumstances, to this new reality, to this new version of yourself.
Andy Coulson: [0:05:16] So how do you think we are place on that kind of mission at the moment, collectively? Because that’s the- that’s the concern. Perhaps you may feel differently, you’re working at the coal face of this stuff so you may have a different view, you may feel actually that collectively we are stronger than we’ve ever been.
But technology, social media does not suggest that that’s the case. That in fact we’re training particularly younger people to be less able to understand that the world is a tough and difficult, sometimes impossible place.
Where are we, do you think, collectively on that? Are we heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?
Julia Samuel: [0:05:56] I mean, this is my personal view, I don’t know that I’m right, but the first therapy book I ever read was M. Scott Peck, and the first line was, “Life is difficult.” And I think if we raise children, young people, and believe that we have to protect ourselves from the reality that life is difficult, when we protect ourselves we build walls of armour which means we are much more likely to fragment when difficult things happen to us.
So I think we’ve got this sort of very simplistic idea that if you do all the right things, you get your A-levels, you go to the right university, you tick the boxes, then life is this stairway to a better place. And that success is what it looks like on the outside. You know, how you look on the outside. Is everything sorted? You’re kind of a performative, sorted self.
And actually we are constantly interacting with ourselves in the world, and life is never that straight stairway to success and an open door. And success actually often isn’t what people think it is. You know, it doesn’t meet your needs.
So what I kind of believe is that we need to have a window internally where we can recognise difficulty, suffering, bad things happening, and know how to keep ourselves self-regulated. Because if we white-knuckle it we then go into a kind of hyper-arousal state, and then we see the whole world as threatening.
And if I got any message from our conversation today it is that people have a set of self-regulatory behaviours that circuit-break that kind of heightened state, and that they can go back into their body. Because when they’re back in their body they have access to their memory and their wisdom, and a kind of sense of safety to think but also to receive love and give love. And that’s where we are our better selves.
When we’re in a heightened state, which I’m sure has come on many of your podcasts, fight flight or freeze, we can’t connect with other people, we can’t connect with ourselves. So our responses are either to fight and attack, or run and hide, or be completely frozen. And none of those responses are really accurate to meet the situation.
Andy Coulson: [0:08:48] Fantastic.
Julia Samuel: [0:08:49] Does that answer it?
Andy Coulson: [0:08:50] It really does yes, and thank you. As I mentioned Julia, what I’d like to do today is reflect back on some of the conversations that we’ve had during the course of the last couple of years of this podcast, and ask you really to help us make a bit more sense of it all.
We’ve been so lucky to have some remarkable conversations with some remarkable people who found themselves grieving from a range of different angles. Terrorism, war, accidents, crime, many others. We’ve talked to people whose lives are completely immersed in death; people like Richard Shepherd, the brilliant forensic pathologist. And also people who have killed, like Andy McNab.
But I’d like to start with someone who I know you know well. Someone who told us just how valuable her work with you was in terms of her recovery, and that’s Victoria Milligan. I’m going to quickly summarise Victoria’s story for those who don’t know. Her life changed forever on May 5th 2013 on a boat trip in Cornwall with her husband Nicko and children Amber, Olivia, Emily and Kit then aged 4 ended in absolute horror. Thrown into water at high speed, their boat circled back on them killing Nicko and Emily. Victoria lost her leg and Kit was seriously injured. In the moment, Victoria said to us, “I went from a perfect life to becoming a widow, a bereaved parent, a single parent and an amputee.” Almost beyond comprehension.
Having described the scene, this scene of horror on the day, I asked Victoria how she coped. How she began to find a way- in practical terms, find a way through. And she said that, “I know that inside of me my innate human nature wants me to survive. That there are lots of tools that I have learned along the way that will help me with my resilience and survival. But in the end we are made to survive and adapt.”
I’m assuming that you agree?
Julia Samuel: [0:10:55] I wholeheartedly agree. I mean, there’s one word that you said when you were talking about Victora, which was ‘recovery’. And I think that is unhelpful in the sense that I think we have this quite simplistic idea that you have a terrible thing happen to you, you deal with it, and then you recover and move on into another chapter as if you’re the same person.
And I think what Victoria managed, unbelievably, is that these devastating losses on her- every level, as you describe, happen to you, and she let them change her. Because she had that wired survival, “I am going to live.” And often I’ve had- I’ve worked with many families at that level of loss of Victoria, and one of the things that enables them to survive is the belief that this, “I’m not going to let this kill me.”
And I think if you have that foundation, that gives you a kind of stepping stone from, “I am going to live, I am going to survive,” it then opens a picture of, “Well, how do I survive?” And the minute you ask yourself that question, you are- you’ve changed the process in your body.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:26] That’s really interesting. So this immediately gets to a theme that we’ve discussed a lot in and around some of these conversations. The words you use are so important. And you’ve pulled me up there on the word ‘recovery’.
Now, I- ‘moving on’ is another phrase that’s come up in our podcasts. For those of you who are listening and not watching on YouTube, Julia has just put her two fingers up at me.
Julia Samuel: [0:12:49] You don’t just move on.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:50] This is the point. Now that one-
Julia Samuel: [0:12:51] You just don’t.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:52] That one I’m aware of, that one I’m- that one I’m sensitive to and aware of. But we-
Julia Samuel: [0:12:57] Because it comes from ‘forget and move on’.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:58] Exactly, exactly. But the word- what’s really interesting there is that you pulled me up on the word ‘recovery’, which like resilience is very fashionable right now. Your point is that recovery suggests that you are somehow going to go back to where you were, whereas the whole point of this is that you move on to something different and that yes, you take your memories and you take your love and you take your grief, but that you are moving on in a totally different way.
Julia Samuel: [0:13:24] So how I would describe it, which is only a little bit different to yours, is that you allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss, that stays with you at different intensities for the rest of your life. And that you still love the person that’s died. And so you have touchstones to their memory, like with Nick and Emily, ways of remembering them, and that they still influence you and shape actually the decisions you make.
So Victoria might say inside herself, “Nick, shall I buy this house?” Or, “What are we going to do with the girls?” Or, “Should Kit go to this school?” And she would know him in her heart to know what he would say, and that would inform her decision.
So the people that have died influence and stay with us, and then we have the capacity to accommodate that level of loss, to expand ourselves to allow that through us. And that can free us to live and love again.
Which is different from moving on or recovery. Because you are holding both: you hold the loss and you feel it and you acknowledge it and you name it, and you hold both the belief, “I can love, I can live, I can jump in life and I can have joy again.” But from getting from the difficult place to that place is a messy, chaotic, painful, confusing journey.
And I think one of the things that often people like me or you want to do is kind of tell a simple story and make sense of devastating things. But I think the kind of clichéd expressions of, you know, being able to survive difficult things are- don’t fully allow that those difficult things remain in you and part of you.
Andy Coulson: [0:15:25] And that’s- that can be a huge positive.
Julia Samuel: [0:15:30] Well, there’s this idea which I do go along with, so I’m not just fighting with you for the pleasure of it, I am enjoying it though, I have to say. Is post-traumatic growth. Do you know about post-traumatic growth?
Andy Coulson: [0:15:44] Yes indeed, yes.
Julia Samuel: [0:15:46] And so this came from sort of ’80s and now Stephen Joseph and others.
Andy Coulson: [0:15:51] Was it born out of one of the big train disasters?
Julia Samuel: [0:15:54] Stephen Joseph, the Marchioness disaster.
Andy Coulson: [0:15:58] It was the Marchioness, right.
Julia Samuel: [0:15:59] He did a lot of research. And what that in sort of simple terms says is that the trauma is never diminished and that stays with you, so you don’t suddenly kind of make things better. But if you have allowed and find a way of accommodating the trauma and kind of how to process the shards of glass that are in your system, people do find that through that experience it changes them. And that perception of what is changed is what matters in life, what they as people can withstand more than they ever expected, and the meaning of life and the purpose of life. And that, they would say, feels like growth.
Andy Coulson: [0:16:49] Yes. It feels like growth but isn’t-
Julia Samuel: [0:16:53] It is growth- it’s a kind of growth. But I think we have this sort of toxic positivity of like, “Oh she learned from it, she bounced back and then she hopped along,” and it’s the- for me it’s the integration of, you don’t get away from pain, and we want to kind of whitewash it, and I think your earlier question, you know.
Maybe I’m setting myself up to be shot down, but I was thinking about the Roald Dahl books when you wanted to take the words out, the difficult words, ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’. But if we don’t know how to deal with this dark side, that all of us have, that we are wired to have to protect us from danger, if that’s taken away from us and whitewashed, how do we deal with it when it happens to our face?
Andy Coulson: [0:17:37] I totally agree.
Julia Samuel: [0:17:38] It gives us no kind of pathway or response to deal with someone shouting at you, because you’re like overwhelmed by it because you’ve been it overprotected or overparented.
Andy Coulson: [0:17:51] It’s the same with erasing difficult history. That’s literature, but it’s the same with statues and difficult history.
Julia Samuel: [0:17:58] Exactly. It needs to be acknowledged and named allowed, so that you can learn not to do it but also learn it’s still going to happen, nothing is going to make life tidy and sweet and everyone kind to each other all the time, as much as we would like that.
Andy Coulson: [0:18:13] Yes, very good. With so many layers of grief to deal with, Victoria also talked about how her body and mind only allowed enough grief in at a certain point, sort of drip-fed. That’s a sort of physical thing. That is the case, presumably, from your perspective, that we are kind of built to take care of ourselves? Not just to survive but also to manage our mind and our body through crisis.
Julia Samuel: [0:18:49] We- we really are, if we create an environment that supports that. So you know, I think often people think therapists are there to sort of knock down people’s defences, to access people’s most vulnerable selves.
And actually my role as a therapist is to attune to my client, to attune to someone like Victoria, and meet her where she was, and what she could manage, and allow her little moments of fully recognising the horror, and letting that through her and incrementally kind of adjusting to that new reality. But also then letting her close it down.
And the thing with- the difficulty with trauma is that if- she didn’t have PTSD, astonishingly, but PTSD is a sort of definition if you still have flashbacks six to eight weeks after the event. And if you remain with PTSD your whole perception of yourself and the world is altered, and it is influenced through the lens of trauma. So you see the world as constantly threatening, and you see the world as yourself constantly under threat. And so your responses come from that place.
And so if we’re talking about a kind world, one of the most important steps that each of us individually can take responsibility for is to find our mechanisms of how to self-regulate, to have a circuit-breaker for that heightened state, so you respond from a calmer place where you are less likely to do harm.
Andy Coulson: [0:20:34] Where does that start? Where does that process start in terms of those kinds of conversations? How do you- how do you find your circuit-breaker and recognise it?
Julia Samuel: [0:20:45] Often it’s in the body, so the mind and body are one unit, so the mind and the body are interconnected. So every thought that you have has a physiological component and every feeling that you have gives you a thought. And so if I- I had a bicycle accident in a particular place in London, and without expecting it every time I go past that place I have a little [gulp] in my body, because the body remembers, the body holds the score.
So if someone is having a little signal that goes [gulp] then that’s the moment to go, “What’s going on? What am I feeling in my body?” and to take a breath. To step back, to slow down. Because if you speed up it accelerates the fear. And then you kind of name where you are, “I’m on the pavement, I’m safe, I’m fine.” That’s it, that’s the first step. But the first step is awareness, recognising it.
Andy Coulson: [0:21:49] We could do a podcast just on this part of the conversation, you are amazing.
I’m going to move on to another story. In 2017, Connie Yates was at the centre of a very public crisis when her new-born son was diagnosed with incurable MDDS, Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome. I don’t know if you remember the story?
Julia Samuel: [0:22:12] I do, yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:22:13] But he was transferred to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital and placed on ventilation, and neurologists agreed with Charlie’s doctors to proceed with treatment that may have extended and improved his life, but the Great Ormond Street turned to the High Court for permission to effectively take Charlie’s life out of his parents’ hands. The Court supported the doctors but Connie challenged that decision in the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, wherever frankly she could argue it she argued it.
She fought hard to keep her son alive, but in July 2017 with all those routes exhausted she and her partner reluctantly agreed to the withdrawal of his life support, and on July 28th 2017 Charlie died just a week before his first birthday.
This was a very, very tough conversation with an incredible woman. Connie told me that she feels that there will always be, as she puts it, a Charlie-shaped hole in her life, that the grief will always be there. Which I suppose leads to two obvious questions.
Does grief ever go, and should you ever expect it to? I think the answer that you’ve already given us really, is no.
Julia Samuel: [0:23:24] No. It changes. So you know, the- the level of your loss and the intensity of it is in most simplistic terms equalled by the level of the love and the emotional investment in the person that’s died. And it is profoundly influenced by the circumstances of the death, your relationship with the person that died, your history of loss, your psychological make-up, and the support that you get at the time and after the loss.
And that last point, the support you get at the time and after the loss, is the one that predicts your outcome. So you know, a very public, almost shaming it felt like for Connie, and this sort of massive debate that something that is so unbelievably intimately personal becomes this sort of public media storm.
And the one thing you want as a parent is to feel like you are having a thriving child, and that you- I think one of the things that I’ve understood with families where children have died is that somehow I’ve failed as a parent if my child dies, so I need to fight for their life, to let them know that I’m being a loving, good parent. And the complexity of the challenges her and her husband faced psychologically both at the time and afterwards is incredibly intense.
Andy Coulson: [0:24:58] Connie’s situation with Charlie also meant opening herself up to the court of public opinion, which brought some appalling and totally unjustified criticism from some quarters. Another aspect of modern society, I suppose, with social media in particular.
I mean, how do you kind of guide people through that aspect of trauma, when it’s public, when it’s being played out in real time while you’re living it? I mean, how do you advise your clients on how to shut out all that noise?
Julia Samuel: [0:25:49] I mean, that’s such an interesting question. It’s like a third person in the room, so when I’ve worked with people who have public opinions- and opinions I find extremely troubling, because they come from the person who has the opinion, they’re not really about the person who this is happening to at all, they’re completely about the person who is voicing their opinion.
And I think what I try and do is let- so you can feel like you’re in this storm and it’s kind of incredibly toxic and frightening and can be completely overwhelming, and you can kind of lose yourself. And so what I try and do is enable them to have a kind of image that they can step back and look at the people over there with their opinions, and then become connected to themselves and the people they trust.
So probably one of the most important things when you’re in a storm is co-regulation, is being- have a hug really helps. Because it slows down your autonomic nervous system, that sort of heightened state. And then once it’s slowed down, you have some perspective about what’s going on and you can see that they’re over there, and then you can begin to see that they’re objective and they’re not actually inside you, which is what they feel like.
Andy Coulson: [0:27:23] So there’s a physiological advantage or benefit from having a hug?
Julia Samuel: [0:27:30] Yes, 100%. That’s why the pandemic was so awful. So many people didn’t have that basic human need of physical connection. Words help, eyes- you know, 80% of communication is non-verbal, but hugs literally slow your heart-rate down, reduce your cortisol, raise your oxytocin and your dopamine, you feel better.
If you’re very, very heightened you can’t take that in, so sometimes you have to go for a run first, get rid of the cortisol, then go home and have a hug.
Andy Coulson: [0:28:04] So if I’ve understood this correctly, when there’s all this external noise, you’re in the goldfish bowl, mixing my metaphors-
Julia Samuel: [0:28:14] What did you do?
Andy Coulson: [0:28:16] Well, what you just said does resonate because what happens is that you- it’s the old cliché, you find out who your friends are. And obviously that starts with family, but then you find out who your friends are. And so you know, although- and I am a bit of a hugger, so I was getting a benefit from that without quite realising its full physiological benefits.
But a night out, you know, even just a forty-five-minute drink.
Julia Samuel: [0:28:42] Have a laugh. Laughter helps.
Andy Coulson: [0:28:45] The ability for your friends to be able to just kind of pull you up on your-
Julia Samuel: [0:28:52] And take the piss.
Andy Coulson: [0:28:53] And take the piss.
Julia Samuel: [0:28:54] And play.
Andy Coulson: [0:28:54] The value of taking the piss is massively- for me massively undervalued. But then- but then also I think- I think the ability to occasionally really just kind of let it out, and of course that’s an environment that you sit in professionally.
Julia Samuel: [0:29:16] It’s both, it’s both.
Andy Coulson: [0:29:17] But I think if you can find friends that you can do that with as well, it’s enormously- you don’t actually need an answer. You don’t need a conversation.
Julia Samuel: [0:29:23] There normally isn’t an answer. So you know, something like Victoria, something like Connie and her husband, there are no answers. And I think one of our big difficulties, particularly I think with social media, is that we go on this Sherlock Holmes mission trying to find an answer. But also trying to find the source of it.
Like, “If I had… What if I… Did I…?” So Connie’s make have been, “Is it because I ate, you know, Stilton? What it because I’m being punished for something that I did before I had him?” People go to every kind of place to try and get to the source of why this is happening to me, in the hope that if they get that answer that will give them their answer about how to fix it.
And these things, as awful as this is to say, are not fixable. It has to be faced, but it can’t be fixed.
Andy Coulson: [0:30:20] Yes, very good. Julia, a very different story next. Vladimir Putin’s number one enemy, Bill Browder, is the founder of the Hermitage Fund which at its peak was the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. But when he fell foul of Putin’s personal agenda he was suddenly and very dramatically kicked out of Russia. That was a trauma, I suppose professional trauma, in and of itself.
Julia Samuel: [0:30:52] Terrifying.
Andy Coulson: [0:30:53] But then his lawyer and close friend Sergei Magnitsky was arrested, tortured, and in November 2009 murdered whilst in custody.
Julia Samuel: [0:31:04] Oh dear.
Andy Coulson: [0:31:05] This story was the subject of Bill’s brilliant book, Red Notice. I asked Bill about the moment he was told what had happened to Sergei-
Julia Samuel: [0:31:15] So awful.
Andy Coulson: [0:31:15] And he described it as, “The most traumatic life-changing call I could ever have gotten. I broke my heart.”
Julia Samuel: [0:31:23] Yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:31:25] Does the way we find out about loss, the way that we’re told about loss, those of us who are kind of perhaps on the periphery of the- of the crisis itself, does that dictate how we process and react to it?
Julia Samuel: [0:31:46] It has an influence. So, I mean I- that’s such a devastating story and most- so people talk about a good death and a bad death, and a good death, although it never feels good, is one where there’s some preparation, where you have an opportunity to say goodbye. Where you feel present, where you can feel that you’re with the person and loving the person, and making sure that they die peacefully without any pain. So you have no haunting regrets or memories or images that interrupt your grieving process.
And Bill Browder’s kind of devastatingly awful telephone call is an example of a bad death, which is you’re having your normal day, you’re going about your business, and then completely out of a clear blue sky comes this terrible, terrible news. And no one can make the news better, because the facts and the devastation of the news are- need to be kind of told. But how you say it, the tone of your voice, and your capacity to be with the person when you say it, has a big impact on their capacity afterwards.
So my job at St Mary’s, one of the reasons I helped establish Child Bereavement UK was that how families were told their child or- was dying or had died had a big impact on their capacity to grieve. Because if it felt like it was just a mechanic, “Sorry, your child has got, you know, this-” or, “Your child is dead,” that injury would- would stay and interrupt their grieving process because they were so furious with the lack of compassion.
Andy Coulson: [0:33:49] So the importance of words, again. I mean, the context and the setting-
Julia Samuel: [0:33:52] It’s the tone, it’s your voice, it’s your heart. So that if- it doesn’t really matter what you say, but if you receiving the news feel that I care about you, I know this is awful and I’m going to do what I can to be compassionate and support you, it doesn’t really matter what you say.
I think the awful thing for Bill is, because he- he’s left with so many possibilities of images that he can go to that can haunt him. “Did this happen to him?” and you go down a horrible image. “Did that happen to him?” and you go down another awful image. And so not having the reality, not being present, not having facts, it adds to traumatic deaths. Because what you imagine is much worse than the reality.
Andy Coulson: [0:34:49] That’s interesting. So in those circumstances, obviously every circumstance is different, but you would encourage people to seek out the facts?
Julia Samuel: [0:34:59] 100%. I think what people don’t know, they make up, and what they make up is much worse than the truth. But also those sort of pieces of jigsaw that are missing are holes where your self-blame and your self-criticism can go down.
Andy Coulson: [0:35:18] Yes. Bill also told me, “Sergei died because he worked for me. If he hadn’t worked for me he would still be alive. He’d still have another fifty years of his life ahead, his son would have a father, his wife would have a husband.” So there’s appalling guilt as well as grief for him.
Guilt I’m sure is a common theme in your work. How do we begin to navigate the guilt?
Julia Samuel: [0:35:45] So, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross of the Stages of Grief fame said that guilt is the most painful part of grief, and I think we all do feel guilt when somebody dies. I think what we need to let ourselves know is that feelings and facts- not to conflate feelings and facts. That the fact that we feel guilty doesn’t mean that we are guilty. And so that you can hold both the feeling of guilt in your heart and the fact in your head that you didn’t actually make this happen.
For Bill Browder that is more complicated because there is some truth in the reality- in his story that probably if he hadn’t worked for him he would be alive. And so if I was working with Bill I- what I wouldn’t do is try and argue the toss to say, “Don’t feel guilty,” but I would work with him, “Given that you feel guilty, and given to some extent you feel responsible for his death, how can you- how can we kind of navigate and accommodate that? What would you say to him? And maybe write him a letter. What can you say to yourself and kind of be compassionate to yourself?”
I think the most he can ever do is be self-compassionate. That given this terrible thing has happened that I did play a part in, I have to allow myself to feel compassion for this is a moment of real suffering.
Andy Coulson: [0:37:12] The writing of a letter is a device, is a tool that is often used in therapy. Just give us your view on why it is such a useful tool.
Julia Samuel: [0:37:21] Because- and I think it’s writing pen on paper, the physiological capacity to put your feelings into words on a piece of paper, that is communicating to the person that has died.
Andy Coulson: [0:37:40] Less valuable if, as we all do, you write on a keyboard.
Julia Samuel: [0:37:43] I don’t know if less, I think there’s something about the- your handwriting. It’s your hand. It’s your- your unique script is with love and thought and care going on a page to other person that you love. And so I’ve had clients that every week write postcards. Little postcards. Or they tell them news.
Or, in Every Family Has a Story there was a family whose father had died by suicide, and the three adult daughters wrote him a letter collectively, because they had never had a relationship with him because everyone just stopped talking about him because he had killed himself. And so they wrote him a letter kind of reengaging with him, that idea of being in connection with him, about what led him to kill himself, how they feel about it, how they love him and how they miss him. And that was unbelievably curative collectively for the whole family.
Andy Coulson: [0:38:48] Bill has turned that grief, he says that guilt, into action. The Magnitsky Act, which seeks to punish those responsible for Human Rights abuses is the sort of manifestation if you like of Bill’s attempt to turn that guilt into something positive.
He says actually, very explicitly, “I had to do something to try to basically relieve the guilt.” He’s very kind of-
Julia Samuel: [0:39:16] Explicit.
Andy Coulson: [0:39:16] Explicit and up-front about it. So grief and guilt can provide motivation, but are there dangers there for the individual who takes that route? Finding- so I’m going to turn this into something- we’ve had it with other guests as well, I’m going to turn that now into something positive.
Are there dangers there, or would you say that’s a wholly positive route to follow?
Julia Samuel: [0:39:40] I think it’s an amazing human instinct and you know, I really respect him for doing it. And I think there is something that when you can metabolise something that is devastating and bad and make it into something good, there is real strength in that. I think the risk, and there’s always risk, is that you get so busy doing the good, you don’t attend to the dark side of yourself; your own guilt, your own feelings of despair, your own loss and sadness.
Andy Coulson: [0:40:19] That it tips into obsession.
Julia Samuel: [0:40:21] That you use the new project as an anaesthetic, and- to block the pain. And the things that you do to block the pain are the things that do you harm over time, and in families can be passed down from generation to generation. So one of the things, you know, that I say again in Every Family Has a Story is that until someone in a family is prepared to feel the pain, it will go to the next generation.
Andy Coulson: [0:40:52] It will get stuck.
Julia Samuel: [0:40:53] Get stuck. You have to, you know, you have to allow yourself to feel the pain and let it change you. Otherwise it sits in your body and it is acted out. It can be through illness, it can be through many different ways, but pain needs to be released. Emotions are transmitters of information, nothing more. They don’t have moral value, ethical value, they’re just transmitters of information to let your brain know and your body know something is up. And if you block it, you narrow your capacity to feel and you work from a- and you operate from a much narrower bandwidth.
So if you have joy one end and pain the other end, if you block the pain you also block your capacity to feel joy. So you can function fine, but we all know lots of people like that who are very kind of ferocious, and you can’t really connect with them. You kind of think if you tap them, you know, they’re robotic.
Andy Coulson: [0:41:57] So as a parent in trauma, you have a responsibility, one might argue, to confront it in the way that you’ve just described, or there is a danger that the pain that you’re feeling will be transferred.
Julia Samuel: [0:42:11] Absolutely. Can I add one more thing? I know I’ve got too many words.
Andy Coulson: [0:42:18] You don’t have too many words, that’s not true.
Julia Samuel: [0:42:20] Is that children learn how to manage difficulty by observing the adults around them. So if as a parent you model ‘forget and move on’, ‘white knuckle it’, ‘do the charity’, that is what children will learn and that is how they will respond to difficult in their life.
Andy Coulson: [0:42:41] Very good. More recently, another guest. More recently we were joined by Lisa Squire who is the mother of Libby Squire, 21-year-old Hull University student who after a night out with friends in January 2019 disappeared.
Julia Samuel: [0:42:59] Oh God.
Andy Coulson: [0:43:00] Seven weeks- seven weeks later her body was found in the Humber Estuary. She’d been abducted, raped and murdered by Pawel Relowicz.
Julia Samuel: [0:43:07] Oh God.
Andy Coulson: [0:43:11] It’s an appalling story. Lisa is an amazing woman, a woman who was very clear that she would handle her grief her way.
Julia Samuel: [0:43:19] Good for her.
Andy Coulson: [0:43:21] As an example, she told us how she keeps Libby’s ashes in Libby’s bedroom, on her bed. She refuses to have a headstone because she feels that that would become somehow public property, would come in some way to define her daughter in a way that she didn’t want. She says that others, including some members of her family, struggle with that approach, but as her mother, as the first person to touch her and the last person to touch her, as she puts it, she feels it’s the right thing.
Now, some would listen to that and say, “Well, she’s clearly refusing to let go, to accept what happened.” But she says, “I have accepted it, I know what’s happened, but this is how I want to grieve and this is how it will be until I die. And then I’ll be back with Libby.”
What’s your view on that? Are we obliged to follow ritual?
Julia Samuel: [0:44:25] I mean, what I- it’s a terrible, terrible story, and I think rituals are helpful because they create a structure for what is invisible and inchoate sort of in our bodies. So I think they can be helpful.
I also profoundly thin that grief is subjective and so for Lisa, she had no control over the abduction, rape and death of her daughter. She has to have control over how she manages the death, and you know, this idea of letting go I think is a misnomer. That we never let go, and what we talk about is continuing bonds, that our love for the person never dies. And so for her, a way of continuing her love for her beloved daughter is to keep her ashes in her daughter’s bedroom. And that enables her to find a way of living, given that she has this kind of massive death that is inside her, the death of her beloved child. And I think one can only support that.
Andy Coulson: [0:45:42] The other aspect of my conversation with Lisa was her sense of humour. People listening to it would say that’s a dark sense of humour.
Julia Samuel: [0:45:53] Great.
Andy Coulson: [0:45:54] She would say, “It’s a fundamental part of who I am, perhaps in a way more importantly it was a fundamental part of my relationship with my daughter.”
Julia Samuel: [0:46:05] Yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:46:06] Yes? “We had that connection, that sense of humour, together.”
Give me an idea of how valuable you think a sense of humour is in darkness.
Julia Samuel: [0:46:18] I think it can really be life-saving, because we need those moments of joy, and they connect us to life. So death kind of threatens us, humour brings vitality. It brings- it kind of breaks open the dark sky and gives you a bit of sunlight. And particularly with this idea of touchstone to memory, the fact that she and her daughter had this wonderful connection through humour, it’s a way of bringing her daughter into herself given that she’s not physically present any more. And I’m sure it is her- for her, her lifesaver.
Andy Coulson: [0:47:04] She also fought against the system if you like, or against the kind of apparatus of death-
Julia Samuel: [0:47:12] Tradition.
Andy Coulson: [0:47:13] To- to be-
Julia Samuel: [0:47:14] Death-min.
Andy Coulson: [0:47:16] Death-min, exactly, to be with her daughter after she was found.
Julia Samuel: [0:47:18] Yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:47:20] And she was strongly advised, in fact there was actual resistance, they refused, indeed the coroner refused to let her see her daughter’s body, and she- she punched through that and was there.
Julia Samuel: [0:47:32] Oh, good.
Andy Coulson: [0:47:33] I’m guessing from your reaction that that would be your advice, should that- it’s highly unlikely that anyone listening to this is going to meet with that resistance, but it could happen. Your view is, if that’s what you feel, then do it, but you don’t think it’s- you don’t think it’s something that you would advise people do in any circumstances. Is it a personal decision or are you for- are you for, you know, seeking out that kind of final moment?
Julia Samuel: [0:48:07] I mean, I’m always for your subjective experience and decision given who you are. What I would like anyone kind of listening to know, that what the research shows is you know, our brain is a learning machine and so the task of mourning is to face the reality of the death. If we have no images, no sensory data to let us know this person is actually dead, it is much harder to grieve. And also, as I’ve said in other things, your imagination is limitless and haunting of what they might look like.
So again, my take and my advice when I talk to families, of course do what you want, but actually when you see them, see the person that you love, that may be a very key component of your capacity to face the reality of the loss because you know what they look like and you’re not imagining it.
And also you have that very important- very important task of actually saying goodbye. So that you- she could kiss her, she could hold her hand, she could be with her. And I’ve worked with many families who really regret not seeing their children; who really feel bad that you know, a mortician or a funeral director was the last person to see or touch their child, and they wanted it to be them, and they feel in some way they’ve failed them because they didn’t do that.
Andy Coulson: [0:49:47] Have you worked with anyone who regrets seeing them?
Julia Samuel: [0:49:49] Seeing them? Yes. I mean, some people say, “I wish I hadn’t seen,” because it’s so haunting. Definitely, yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:49:57] It’s very difficult, isn’t it?
A very different story next, again. This time from the broadcaster Nick Robinson. Nick was just 18 on holiday in France, just about to go off to university, when he survived a head-on car crash which claimed the lives of two of his best friends. The car they were in exploded in flames, Nick was trapped on the back seat.
Julia Samuel: [0:50:21] Gosh, how awful.
Andy Coulson: [0:50:23] He escaped- how he escaped, how he survived is still a total mystery to him, he has no idea how it happened.
It was a fascinating conversation, and he talked about a totally unexpected moment of grief decades later, not long actually before we recorded the podcast, whilst he was sat watching a film with his kids. He said, “It can come from nowhere. I watched a movie, which was not even about a car crash,” it was Captain Philips. And there’s a moment when he’s trapped, when Tom Hanks is trapped in a diving bell. And he said, “I realised that in its own way it was evoking memories of me being trapped in the car.”
Julia Samuel: [0:51:10] Yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:51:11] So we talk a lot, or we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about how the sort of tail of trauma can come round and smack you in the face, years- in his case-
Julia Samuel: [0:51:22] Decades, yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:51:23] Decades later. Give me your view on why that is, and how we can perhaps get ahead of it before it happens.
Julia Samuel: [0:51:36] So why it is, is from our evolutionary biology. So that our- the amygdala, which is the kind of primitive part of the brain, holds on to traumatic memories as a protection. “Don’t go there again.” It’s imprinted. So those memories, I’m sure you know about this, it isn’t processed into the normal kind of library of your memories, they stay there on alert. And they’re ignited by sight, sound, touch and smell, by our senses. So our brain can’t short-circuit them.
So the image then of claustrophobia, of being stuck, would immediately go into his amygdala and send that cascading threat through his body.
What we can do to support us, given we’ve had a traumatic event: one is to know that we don’t have control over our bodies and our minds, that they are operating systems that are ignited by external forces. And so what is most helpful is knowing what you can do to support yourself given that happens to you.
And I think a kind of collective understanding of- of trauma. I mean, if you- if you go to Germany there’s a lot of collective trauma from the War. There is here. There’s this simplistic view of you know, new chapters, something ending, you know.
In Every Family I talk to a family, one of which was a Holocaust survivor. And so that- for them she did not have- they did not have inherited trauma from their grandmother or their mother, but they had particular things that haunted all of them. Smoking chimneys, striped clothes and dogs barking. And that was passed down to all of them, to even the 22-year-old.
So you know, this idea that you just- one person it ends there is just not true.
Andy Coulson: [0:53:51] Nick also talked about anger, which I supposed is a warning sign of something that needs to be address. Or- or can we allow anger to be useful? Can anger ever be useful?
Julia Samuel: [0:54:08] Yes. I mean this is what- emotions aren’t innately bad, it’s what you do with them. So anger is an expression of hurt. Fear is an anticipation of hurt. So anger needs to be expressed, it needs to be voiced, it needs to be allowed. Because when we swallow it down because it isn’t allowed, we- it stays in our body and contaminates every other feeling in our system so that you kind of have this awful bitterness that is created.
So you know, one of the ways I talk to people about being angry is, allow yourself to express it. Maybe it down in a journal, voice it into your phone, go for a run, change your system, get your body moving, be outside. Come back, do some kind of mindfulness, five minutes’ breathing, and then watch something funny. Because you can’t angry and watch something funny; it’s a different network.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:07] It’s a circuit-breaker.
Julia Samuel: [0:55:08] It’s a circuit-breaker. But you have to- venting just increases your anger. So if you find a way of expressing it, physiologically changing your system, your biology, calming yourself down and then watching funny, then you’re done. And that gets it out of your system and you can have a clear, clean day.
If you just wake up furious with your teeth clenched, livid, and you go through your day like that, you will somehow injure yourself or somebody else, in small ways.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:40] Yes. You mentioned bitterness.
Julia Samuel: [0:55:42] Yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:42] So I hold to the view that bitterness is the absolute, it’s the bullet you’ve got to dodge.
Julia Samuel: [0:55:47] Yes, I agree.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:48] You’ve got to avoid. You don’t- you don’t immerse yourself in bitterness with a view to kind of finding your way through it. You agree with that?
Julia Samuel: [0:55:56] I agree Andy, 100%.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:57] Julia, we’ve found something we-
Julia Samuel: [0:55:59] I know, it’s a first time.
Andy Coulson: [0:55:59] This is a wonderful moment.
Julia, finally I’d like to talk- it’s another very difficult story, about our guest Payzee Mahmod. Payzee was 15, living in South London, when her Kurdish father ordered her to marry a stranger twice her age.
Julia Samuel: [0:56:18] God.
Andy Coulson: [0:56:18] Her 17-year-old sister Banaz had already suffered the same fate, and whilst Payzee lived her own nightmare with an abusive husband Banaz managed to run away from hers. When she later began a relationship with another man, her punishment was to be abducted, raped and murdered.
Julia Samuel: [0:56:33] Oh God.
Andy Coulson: [0:56:34] Banaz and Payzee’s father and uncle, along with other male relatives, were later convicted and sentenced to life for her murder, a so-called Honour Killing. You might have seen it dramatized on TV not that long ago.
It’s a horrific story, and Payzee is the most remarkable of women and it was a privilege to speak to her, I can tell you. Her story raised so many issues around grief, but one was around counselling. Payzee talked about trying, or having tried many grief counsellors, and almost gave up after one experience where the counsellor broke down in tears when she’d heard the story.
Julia Samuel: [0:57:13] Oh dear.
Andy Coulson: [0:57:16] And Payzee said, “I felt so bad, because I thought if somebody like her is not able to cope with the things that I’ve gone through, then surely this is not repairable. Surely I can’t move on from this and I just have to live with it. I’m stuck here.” My words, not hers.
Julia, you must have found yourself in that kind of situation, immersed in someone’s grief, so many times. It’s your, you know, your professional world. On one level you can only have sympathy for the counsellor really, but on the other it highlights the huge responsibility that you carry.
So how do you navigate that as a counsellor?
Julia Samuel: [0:57:57] I mean, you know, we’re human and frail, and I have definitely cried with my clients. And it- most of the time they kind of feel I think seen when I allow myself to kind of show my sadness in relation in to them.
I think therapy is so personal and subjective, finding a match for you is really, really kind of vital. But also most people don’t get that opportunity. I mean, the- what is available is very limited and overwhelmed by demand. What is on offer in the NHS, there’s like a year’s wait.
Andy Coulson: [0:58:47] Yes.
Julia Samuel: [0:58:47] It’s six CBT sessions. And so getting the person that is the right fit for you that is available to see you is something that really bothers me. Because it isn’t that available.
Andy Coulson: [0:59:00] Yes. A lot of our guests have had therapy. I’ve had therapy. And they all talk about, as you’ve just touched on, the importance of finding the right person. But what advice would you give to any of our listeners, our viewers, who may be trying to find the right person for them? What are the sort of- if we were to boil it down to three questions that you should ask, far too simplistic an approach, but let’s start with that, how can you work out-?
Julia Samuel: [0:59:30] Is this person right for me?
Andy Coulson: [0:59:30] What’s going to work for you? Yes.
Julia Samuel: [0:59:33] I think one of them is, do I feel seen by you? That sounds like a very big thing, but it’s this idea of me sitting looking at you, if I was working with you would you feel that I was seeing you in all of who you are and how you are, kind of internally? Or do you think I’m being very busy being clever? Or am I kind of slightly patronising by being very sorry for you, my head going to one side?
So it’s like, do I- do you feel- and it’s really how you feel in your body.
Andy Coulson: [1:00:10] so body language is really important.
Julia Samuel: [1:00:12] But it’s how you feel in your body in relation. Who am I in relation to you? Do I feel I can trust you? I think that’s the biggest thing.
Andy Coulson: [1:00:20] Yes.
Julia Samuel: [1:00:20] And trust doesn’t happen in a minute, you know, trust is built over time. But if there’s the beginnings of trust with this therapist in front of you that you feel that you can build a relationship of trust, you know, then you’re much more likely to have good outcomes.
I mean, what the research shows is that it isn’t the model of therapy, it isn’t they type of therapy that predicts good outcomes, but the quality of the relationship. And the quality of that relationship is that sort of trust that is built through attunement and through the relationship between the therapist and client.
Andy Coulson: [1:00:59] Julia, thank you so much for joining me today, for your brilliance and wisdom and insight. It’s been incredibly valuable, I’m sure for those listening and watching, and also for me.
Now, you might detect a slight hesitation in my voice because I’m about to ask you for your crisis cures as we do with all our guests. Now, I mentioned this to you earlier and you pointed out that you have a fundamental objection to the word ‘cure’.
So Julia, tell me why cure is wrong. I think I know the answer, but explain why cure is wrong, but then give us perhaps three things that aren’t cures but that do perhaps help you through those- through those choppy waters. But also, if I can say, I’m assuming given your professional life, how you then, you know, are able to live your life. Right? How does this- how do you find room to kind of let this stuff, you know, find its place professionally and emotionally for you and get on with your life?
Julia Samuel: [1:02:13] Quite a lot of questions in there.
Andy Coulson: [1:02:14] There’s quite a lot of questions, apologies. Let’s start with why I’m wrong on cure.
Julia Samuel: [1:02:18] Cure. I mean, cure comes from the medical model and a very simplistic model that something is broken and you fix it and then you’re better. And I think psychological crises, which can include physical crises, you can find a way of living with them and accommodating them and finding ways of supporting yourself through them, and even learning to live fully and maybe even thriving, given what has happened to you. But it isn’t despite what has happened to you.
So I think this idea of cure is too sort of simplistic. I think, you know, I’ve really said it through the podcast.
I think what helps is first of all allowing yourself to recognise that you are suffering, and how you allow and let that- the emotions of the pain of your suffering through your system. And what allows you to manage that is the support. It’s the support you get at the time, so that’s the love of other people. It’s your relationship with yourself.
I think we forget our kind of bodies. So physiologically, exercise is the equivalent to a low dose of antidepressants, it’s the thing that winds- it’s the most natural, fastest tracking circuit-breaker. So if you’re in crisis, moving your body, shifting your body outside shifts your mindset, reduces the cortisol in your body. So then you have more access to your memory to recruit what is good response given that you’re in a crisis, not coming from a crisis perspective, if that makes sense?
Andy Coulson: [1:03:59] Yes, indeed. It’s kickboxing for you, isn’t it?
Julia Samuel: [1:04:02] I kickbox. So- and play. So I would say that I have definitely been changed by literally every week immersing myself in terrible stories, and so my perception of safety and danger is altered by that. So if my children have a headache, or my grandchildren, I automatically think they’ve got a brain tumour or meningitis. So I have to kind of go through a whole kind of system to myself to calm myself down, and tap, and- also I have a- luckily doctors at Mary’s that still can talk to me.
So I go much more to danger because that is what I see in my everyday life. What enables me to manage other people’s emotions coming towards me is kickboxing. So I’m very passive as a therapist, although I’m actively emotionally engaged I’m sitting in a chair all day. So kickboxing, like punching really hard and expressing my anger, Keith who is my kickboxing teacher, I’ve been with him for 28 years, he cannot believe how much I want to hurt him. And I swear, as well. And so that is very releasing.
Andy Coulson: [1:05:16] As you punch, out of interest?
Julia Samuel: [1:05:18] I swear, and I think of people I’m cross with, and I elbow and kick, and it- you know, physical strength gives you mental strength, we know that from research. So that is a big release for me. I cycle, I run, I do mindfulness. You know, I do a lot of stuff, and I make sure I have fun. So I’m, you know, I don’t want frightening things on telly. I drive my husband nuts because he wants to watch all the kind of frightening dramas and I want to watch Mama Mia. I want happy endings.
Andy Coulson: [1:05:47] Yes.
Julia Samuel: [1:05:49] And he, you know, he’s not all for a happy ending. But I- I make sure I do things that are silly and fun, and not life and death. To get back into perspective that right this moment, right now, I am safe, I am not in danger. My children, my nine grandchildren, they are safe, they are not in danger. And every night before I go to sleep I name them all and I thank God, not- you know, a kind Gaia-type god, that everyone is alive, everyone is well today. And I keep that in the day, every day, and that keeps me safe.
Andy Coulson: [1:06:27] Wonderful. What word should I use other than cure? The trouble is, I like alliteration, so I need to find another- I need to find another word beginning with C. There’s a challenge.
Julia Samuel: [1:06:42] Yes. I mean, I think it’s your response isn’t it, is the word? But I don’t know what-
Andy Coulson: [1:06:49] It’s more a tool than a cure isn’t it, I suppose.
Julia Samuels: [1:06:51] There isn’t a cure for a crisis.
Andy Coulson: [1:06:52] Yes, no exactly.
Julia Samuel: [1:06:53] You know, you’ve talked about the long arm of trauma. There isn’t a cure for that. There’s ways of managing it that support you.
Andy Coulson: [1:06:59] It’s management, yes. Julia, thank you so much for joining me today. Incredibly valuable, and just thank you so much.
Julia Samuel: [1:07:08] It was a real pleasure, thank you very much, Andy.
Andy Coulson: [1:07:09] My thanks to Julia for joining me in this special episode today, for her time and for giving us a much better and renewed understanding of grief. I’m sure her approach will prove a useful tool for anyone who is feeling stuck or alone.
We’ll be including links to support groups mentioned in our show notes, and if you want to know a bit more about the guests we’ve featured here today then please do go back into our archive and listen to their interviews in full, and indeed any of the guests we have spoken with over the last two and a half years.
As always you can follow us on Instagram and TikTok, just search for Crisis What Crisis podcast, and full transcripts are available for this and every episode on our website, crisiswhatcrisis.com
Thanks again for joining us.