This episode I chat with Cole Imperi. Cole is an author, speaker, founder of the School of American Thanatology and one of America’s leading experts on death, dying and grief.
I’ve wanted to talk with Cole ever since hearing her on Alie Ward’s podcast, Ologies (which you should check out because it’s awesome). Cole has dedicated her life to helping people navigate some of the hardest times that we all inevitably will have to grapple with.
Some of the key take aways for me for dealing with death, dying, grief and loss were:
Use the proper words for things and explain them with complete and accurate information. Don’t be vague and say things like: “Granpa got sick” when he dies because what are the kids going to think next time they get sick?
Kids pick up what bad words are (painfully true in my case) so if we drop our voice when we talk about death, the kids are alerted. Try not to talk about this very normal thing called ‘death’ like it’s something that shouldn’t be talked about.
Grief is not an emotion, grief is a response to loss. Troubles can arise when different family members respond to loss in different ways so try to be aware of that and don’t judge.
There are six categories of signs that you are in the grief response:
One that I totally had never thought of was number 5. Cognitive, and Cole shares a great story that explains this.
And yes, it’s completely natural to want to burst out laughing at seemingly the most inappropriate time during a funeral…Phew, I thought that was just me.
The clear message that comes through though is:
Navigating loss is an opportunity for a family to become stronger, or any of our relationships to become stronger. It's through the difficult parts of life that the most glue is built between us. It's what bonds us together, it's what instantly connects us, but it feels really uncomfortable.
Cole’s suggestion around how to approach another person’s grief was really interesting too, she suggests approaching it with curiosity and asking lots of questions.
Grief is something that just needs to be witnessed, just needs to be seen, just needs to be held, and that's it.
The english language doesn’t have enough words to use when dealing with death and dying, and a lot of the words used to describe grief are borrowed from clinical settings and that can sometimes be the reason that we don’t feel right talking about it.
Cole is dedicated to helping develop more people-friendly ways for us to describe death, dying, grief and loss and I think it’s such an important skill to develop.
Some of the things Cole suggested googling are:
If you are currently experiencing grief, or having to navigate a death, or someone dying in the family my heart goes out to you and I hope you find listening to Cole as helpful as I did.