by Shandi Pace
Claire Bidwell Smith had an extremely difficult life as a young adult. Both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer months after each other when she was just 14 years old. Her mother ended up passing when she was 18, and her father when she was 25. She had only lived a quarter of her life, yet both parents were already gone.
Over the years, when her parents were battling cancer, there were numerous hospital visits, good days and bad days, maybes and heartbreak. As an only child, she was now alone in the world.
When her mother passed away, Claire began suffering panic attacks daily. At the time, no doctors could figure out the problem even though she had increased levels of anxiety before and after her mother’s passing. Eventually, Claire self-diagnosed after multiple trips to the emergency room and learning more through psychology classes. She eventually realized her anxiety was directly related to her grief.
This anxiety kept her always on edge about her grief. “I had been kind of running from what I had been through for a long time, trying to escape it in any way possible. And when I finally learned how to sit with it, I began to heal,” Claire said. To help with her healing process, Claire went to therapy and discovered the powers of meditation and yoga.
She also turned to writing during this time. The first book Claire wrote was her memoir titled The Rules of Inheritance, written about a woman alone in her mid-twenties. That book helped her determine her good coping skills: writing, reading, discussing her grief, and some of the bad ones: alcohol, bad relationships.
Claire’s experiences helped her discover the grief therapy industry and how few psychologists want to work in that field. She understood how much her story could help others, and grief counselling would allow her to do something meaningful with her career. Claire decided she would dedicate her life to grief therapy.
Today, as a grief therapist, Claire recommends that people write down their struggles with grief. It doesn’t have to be for anyone else but yourself. She suggests doing a bit of writing, especially if you’re a busy person that has other commitments throughout the day. “Just getting up in the morning and writing some of your feelings out can help you get through the rest of your day,” Claire said.
Another way Claire mentioned dealing with grief is by writing letters to the people you’ve lost. You go your whole life speaking to this person, and suddenly they’re not here anymore. Writing these letters helps you to feel more connected with loved ones, even if they’re not here anymore.
The ongoing pandemic has led to more tragedy over the last year than anyone could’ve imagined. The loss of family, a job and health have taken a toll on everyone. “We lost a whole way of life, and I think that it’s important to honour that, to recognize it, to grieve for it. And I think when we don’t, people find themselves very irritable,” Claire said. Finding an outlet to express repressed emotions and writing to those we’ve lost is the best way to begin to heal throughout this unprecedented moment in time.
Other than having a successful career as a grief therapist, Claire has also written three books. Her newest is titled, Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief. This book touches on personal experience with anxiety during grief and how it’s missing from the original five stages.
For more information on Claire Bidwell Smith, check out her website.
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