Grief in Podcasts

I’m not quite sure how I have come so late to the Grief Channel and podcasts in general. I’m going to blame it on my age – old enough for me to believe lectures and books are for learning and the internet is just for looking things up.

But you’re never too old to learn new tricks, so, having realised that there might be something in this new-fangled podcast trend, better late than never I signed up to several events in this year’s Good Grief Festival, with a subscription for a year.

Created by Dr Lucy Selman of Bristol University and a small team from a variety of academic disciplines, the Grief Channel and Good Grief Festival aim to bring conversations about dying, death and grief to a wider audience to help them feel less alone in their own experiences.

Death is inevitable so why do we find it so hard to discuss? The interviews and conversations around a range of circumstances of bereavement include moments of humour and sadness from a variety of speakers, many of them well known as broadcasters and authors, other experts in bereavement as academics and practitioners.

It took me a few moments to relax into watching and listening to something designed to appeal to such a broad audience, though it was extremely reassuring to hear an academic from the USA give a synopsis of bereavement theory developments in much the same way that I do when presenting on that topic. I have always felt that I have learned most about the experience of grief from listening to the bereaved families I have been privileged to meet over the course of the past 30 years or so. Many of the Grief Channel’s 150+ available sessions are an extension of that, with conversations between people sharing their own experiences of grief, reflecting on them, and identifying where there are similarities and also significant differences. All of the contributors are to be applauded for their courageous honesty and willingness to venture into personal territory that is still emotionally sensitive for them. I won’t listen to everything on the Grief Channel menu but I will be listening to more.

As someone who lived in London for many years, I can attest that the analogy of waiting for a bus and then several come together is based on fact. So, it was not a surprise when a colleague said they had discovered Grief Cast while searching the web. This podcast is hosted by British comedian Cariad Lloyd, and the introduction explains her desire that people should be able to listen to something about grief without being made to feel worse. Initially based around interviews with other comedians, the podcast now has a guest list that includes a wider range of contributors and there are 5 years’ worth of interviews, across 150 episodes, including well-known names such as Michael Rosen, Alan Davies, Arlene Phillips, Fi Glover (she appears in another of this week’s blogs) and David Baddiel. I’ve listened to one episode so far and I found it genuinely funny as well as poignant and very plain-speaking about the experience of caring for a dying relative at home.

Then, just today, I was recommended a series of podcasts hosted by psychotherapist Sue Egan. Her own experience of learning to survive her brother’s unexpected and unexplained death by suicide has led her to use her doctorate studies to research the experience of bereavement after suicide, and to become a public speaker on this topic. Her podcasts also share the stories of people who have survived the suicide of someone important to them, 25 episodes thus far. I have yet to listen to any but fully intend to do so.

Whether, like me, you’re a professional working within the sphere of bereavement, or you’re an individual coping with your own bereavement, learning for the experiences of others can provide some valuable insights. Podcasts offer a simple and effective way to benefit from a wider community on a topic that affects us all.