When Grief Equals Love

By Lizzie Pickering

Long-term Perspectives on Living with Loss

Autobiography | Wellbeing
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Publication date: May 2023

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When Lizzie Pickering's young son Harry died 21 years ago, she set out on a journey to understand what grief is and how to live with it. In When Grief Equals Love, she shares the lessons she's learned from her own experiences and those of others, who share their thoughts in this moving and tender book.

When we talk about grief, it is natural to think about grief for someone who has died. But grief is experienced in so many situations - death, divorce, diagnosis and workplace change. In the ripple effects of coronavirus on individuals and society. The refugee crisis, loss of home and community; racial grief, ancestral grief, anticipatory grief through a terminal diagnosis and the big one, cumulative grief, when many of these pile up and become too much to bear.

Over the last 21 years, since the death of her son Harry, through working for 12 years in the children’s hospice world and more recently helping companies deal with change, Lizzie Pickering has listened to many people describing the mental and physical effects of grief; what has helped them to survive, grow and even thrive. Each one has required a different tool kit depending on their family situation, culture, neurodiversity, metabolism, diet and individuality. And each of these responses has created potential difficulties for those around the grieving to cope, to walk beside them and to empathise. Lizzie has seen people turn away from the grief of their friends and has had friends walk away from her when they couldn’t cope with her as a bereaved parent. Thankfully these are outnumbered by the friends who could withstand the loss and overshadowed by the strength of the community around her; her grief tribe. Her grief tribe. In this book they share their own stories of survival, showing the depths of sorrow and the heights of joy that we humans can endure.

When Grief Equals Love is about survivors' strength; the joy of breathing again, the joy of living and thriving when it was never thought possible. It describes how Lizzie went from the moments just after Harry took his last breath, when part of her died, through the panic attacks and physical symptoms - not being able to drink, eat or function - until she slowly, over many years, learnt not only to breathe properly again but to feel lucky to be alive.

Lizzie shares her diaries, written in the early years after Harry’s death, with observations on the grief of his siblings and family, what helped and what hurt. Revisiting those diaries 21 years on, the book progresses with thoughts on time passing and what has changed. The memoir includes interviews with bereaved friends who share their own insights into how they too have investigated their many different forms of grief. Lizzie provides a toolkit based on what has helped and what she recommends to the clients and companies she now helps with grief guidance.

In most lives, unfortunately, some grief and loss is inevitable. But living with grief can still be living. This book is for those going through grief and anyone who might need to support them. There are no easy answers, but nobody should have to cope alone.

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