Grief is a consequence of loving the people around us.
And for Lisa Gallate, from Sydney, it was that realisation that allowed her to find small comforts during years of tragic deaths and near-deaths in her family.
She lost her sister 21-year-old sister Zoie at just 19 years of age in a car accident, her husband Justin to depression and suicide and her brother to brain cancer – with all three instances forcing her to face her own mortality and wonder: why me?
This photo was the last taken of the entire family together. It was taken the week before Zoie died. From left to right, George (he is a Captain with Emirates Airlines on their A380), mum Iris (who is still alive but has end stage Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), Lisa in the middle, my brother Justin (who was a Police Officer and Dog Handler with the New Zealand Police and died at 32, he was married with two very young children) and my older sister Zoie
Lisa went on to have multiple miscarriages on her road to motherhood and watch her mother deteriorate from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.
While these experiences may have been too much to bear for the average person, this courageous mother – who has since remarried and has three children – has instead created her own ‘manual’ for grieving.
‘I questioned why this was happening in my own life. I lost my future dreams with those people,’ she explained to Pacific Mornings.
Lisa went on to have multiple miscarriages on her road to motherhood and watch her mother deteriorate from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease
‘We don’t heal ourselves from grief, I carry it with me. I have learned to live a meaningful life with that grief. Grief is a part of life like death is a part of life.
‘I had a number of death and near-deaths with my mother and father. It can sneak up on me at any time in the day. I’m learning how to work through those moments. Know that your thoughts, feelings and actions are within your control.’
Ways to deal with grief
*Keep up rituals and traditions you had with those loved ones.
*Rely on more than one person for help – sometimes your most immediate family are grieving too.
*Consider speaking to a counsellor.
*Know that you’re not alone in this period.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Lisa said losing her sister encouraged her to go looking for literature on the topic, but their were only academic books.
So she wrote her own – called Hitting My Reset – to give some practical advice about learning to live a meaningful life with grief.
‘The starting point must be that we will each have our own experiences of grief and there is no right way to grieve or to manage that grief,’ she said.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
‘Learning to talk about your loved one who has passed, even when it causes you to feel upset or distressed. It’s really important to be able to say their name, to hear it in your own voice, and to hear their name spoken by others,’ she said.
‘When people asked me how many siblings I had, I found it very hard to be honest by acknowledging my sister and younger brother had both died, but I realized I needed to be honest with myself and honest with others, even if I got upset.
So she wrote her own – called Hitting My Reset – to give some practical advice about learning to live a meaningful life with grief (pictured with her husband Justin before his death)
‘Rather than hide my grief, I was open to it and resolved to myself that I would live and act from a place of truth, which included being truthful about those who had died even if it upset me, or upset others, or made others feel uncomfortable by my response.’
FINDING YOUR FAN CLUB
‘They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that it takes a village to console, nurture and support the grieving,’ she explained.
‘It is really important to find your grief buddies, and they may not be your most obvious nearest and dearest, but may come from within your own wider network of friends and extended family, including from unexpected corners, such as people that you share other activities with, like sports, or hobbies.
‘I found mine in my running buddies, my ocean swimming friends, other friends, and my extended family. It is perfectly natural to look to our own immediate family and closest friends for support but they are often dealing with their own grief and don’t have the capacity to provide you with the support that you need.’
‘I found mine in my running buddies, my ocean swimming friends, other friends, and my extended family,’ she said
A COUNSELLOR AS PART OF YOUR VILLAGE
‘The great benefit of counsellors who are trained in grief and loss counselling is that they are able to be empathetic, non-judgmental, objective and realistic,’ Lisa said.
‘As a confidential and private relationship, it makes it much easier to be open and honest, not just with the counsellor, but also with yourself. At different times in my own grief journey, I have sought support and guidance from some terrific counsellors and psychologists.
SOLACE IN THE CEMENT
‘I found solace in running regularly, which led me to decide to embark on training for a marathon. I ended up running countless half marathons and four marathons before my Achilles tendons cause problems,’ she said.
‘I found the training, focus and physical exhaustion was very therapeutic. I also made many wonderful friends and their support was invaluable. I credit my running for keeping me sane, and for helping me to live with and work through my grief by allowing me the space to think about it as I ran, and by exhausting my enough physically so that I could find the sleep that so eluded me after my sister died.
‘Continuing the traditions that you used to have with your loved one and creating new rituals to acknowledge significant dates, events, and occasions that remind you of and connect you to your loved one who has died,’ Lisa explained (pictured with Justin)
‘The physiological benefits, physicality, and challenges of exercise and sport can help you to deplete some of the negative energy that is the angst and pain of your grief, helping you to move forward through it, and helping you to fit it into your daily life.’
KEEPING UP TRADITIONS
‘Continuing the traditions that you used to have with your loved one and creating new rituals to acknowledge significant dates, events, and occasions that remind you of and connect you to your loved one who has died,’ Lisa explained.
‘They create moments for reflection, moments to feel the memories, and moments for gratitude and thanks for their lives. As time has passed, I seem to have created more rituals rather than less. It is my way of holding onto my memories of my loved ones, how important they were and always will be to me. It’s also my way of letting those memories into my daily life, honoring them alongside the traditions and rituals that I am now creating with my own young family.’
‘There is no time limit, and no calendar, for grief. It is likely, that just like me, you don’t feel your grief just on anniversaries, birthdays or Christmas,’ she said.
‘Instead, your grief sneaks up on you at times when you least expect it. I have had many moments when I have been blindsided by my own grief and I have learnt from that, that grief is complicated and easily triggered. Whilst it is always real to feel the grief, we can also work out our triggers and prepare ourselves for them, and then seek to avoid them when we need to.
‘It isn’t to deny how we feel, but it is also a step of acknowledgment of our grief, that we need at times to protect ourselves from those triggers, if we are to continue to live productive and meaningful lives.’
YOU AREN’T ALONE
‘In 2011, 55.3 million people were dying globally each year. I like to think that every person who died was loved by someone, by family members, and by friends who now grieve their deaths,’ she said.
‘It is proof that I am not alone in the grief that I feel and that grief is not a disease but a human condition suffered by those who have loved and lost important and special people in their lives. It is and will be suffered by us all.
‘We should try to increase our understanding and awareness, and create discussions about grief and loss in our modern consciousness, in each of our daily lives. It should not be a taboo word, but embraced as an important part of life, or a life in which we care for and love others. My own perspective has made it easier to share my grief with others, in the knowledge that many others will know, and understand, something of my own experience.’