An experienced psychotherapist who specialises in grief counselling — Julia Samuel MBE, is quite the pioneer in the field of child bereavement. During her role as a bereavement counsellor at St. Mary’s Hospital paediatric department in Paddington — she was the first to introduce the discipline of a maternity and paediatric psychotherapist. Julia helped launch what was originally called the Child Bereavement Trust in 1994 and is now known as Child Bereavement UK.
As the Founder Patron of Child Bereavement UK, she is still very active in this organization that helps people who have been affected by the loss of a child as well as bereaved children. Her 2017 book “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving” was published and has been a successful tool for helping others navigate the emotions of grief.
Grieving is a natural process that follows the death of someone close to you. Julia Samuel tells us that she witnessed her parents not grieve the death of their close siblings and parents, who all died young, which impacted their lives for years to come, even decades later.
“When my mother talked to me about the death of her brother, killed in the war, when she was 17 years old, at age 75 she spoke about it as if it was yesterday. The pain was so raw.”
Julia explains that counselling is by no means the right approach for everyone experiencing grief. Rather, individuals need to find ways to express their grief, which could be sharing feelings with close friends or through journal writing. In her book, “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving”, she shares lots of ways to express grief and work through the feelings of bereavement.
However, grief counselling can be the best course of action, especially in certain situations. Julia shares her opinion, “I do think if there is a complex death it is probably necessary to seek professional help.”
“The hardest task of mourning is to face the reality of the loss, and by going to the funeral or memorial service that helps to acknowledge the person has died, and you are saying goodbye.” — Julia Samuel MBE
At Heart In Diamond, we create custom cremation diamonds made from the remains of loved ones. In our experience, we have witnessed first-hand how owning custom memorial jewellery can help those who are grieving.
We asked Julia if she sees that people find comfort in tokens of remembrance, such as memorial jewellery: “Absolutely wearing or having something that acknowledges the death of the person you love, and wearing it so others can see it too, is a way of making visible what is invisible.”
While many people would view working with those who are grieving, especially concerning the loss of a child, sad, difficult or even depressing — Julia derives deep satisfaction from this type of work.
She tells us that, “I feel privileged to work with the people I do, and grateful for the connection we build over the time I see them, so of course I feel both pride and enriched when I see them beginning to rebuild their lives and allowing themselves to feel alive again, I also feel sad when they leave.”
As you may imagine, working with grief and helping people sort through a difficult loss profoundly impacts the person’s life and their relations with the people in their life. Julia explains how it affects her life, personally:
“I am not able to pretend that death happens to other people, and so it does mean I am very grateful for each day of being alive, and recognising nothing matters more than the people we love.”