Loss of a marriage: Sue Brayne
Sue: I'm Sue Brayne. And eight years ago, my marriage ended. It was one of the great shocks and sadness’s of my life, but it was because of the loss that I went through, that's enabled me to do the work that I do now.
Claire: Hello. You're listening to the Silent Why podcast. And we're your hosts; Claire Sandys
Chris: And Chris Sandys.
Claire: And we're super excited to be finally launching the first episode of our very own podcast.
Chris: We've been thinking and planning this podcast for a while now, but we finally nailed a subject we feel passionate about, and we can't wait to get started.
Claire: Episode one!
Chris: Hurrah! Hmmm. Through The Silent Why we're exploring an area of life that every single human has experienced or will experience... loss.
Claire: We've experienced loss ourselves through our journey of childlessness. And we've seen how beauty can come from brokenness, but we want to know if it's possible to find that in every type of loss.
Chris: So, we've begun a mission to find 101 different types of loss, and we're going to chat to people who've experienced each one to see if beauty and hope have appeared for them too. Think it's possible in all 101 losses?
Claire: Let's find out! To find out a bit more about who we are, check out our trailer or Episode 3, where we'll be sharing a bit more about one of our own losses; childlessness.
Chris: We're kicking off this first episode with Sue Brayne, who we spoke to about the loss of her marriage.
Claire: Sue is an author, speaker and the host of the podcast; Embracing Your Mortality.
Sue: I thought I knew it all. I thought being a bereavement counsellor and a bereavement therapist, I knew what grief was. No, I did not. But I do now.
Chris: Sue experienced two life-changing events. The first was when she survived and light aircraft crash, and the second, when her marriage suddenly ended.
Claire: Her own journey, led her to help others embrace their mortality, using research workshops, books, including ones that help parents and young children talk about death.
So here we go. Episode one.
Claire: We kicked the interview off by asking Sue what a normal week looks like for her.
Sue: My everyday life is always very mixed. It depends on what's... cos I work for myself it's just it's I have that luxury of choosing my own schedule or doing what I want to do, but I'm very disciplined.
So, if I am writing something, I sit down and I write it until it's done. Cos I'm also a podcast host as well as a speaker and an author. So, I've got a really nice mixture of stuff that I do. And I'm very happy doing that.
Chris: From the bits that I've heard about you and read about you as well. I think what is clear is a real love of going deep, deep into how people think, how people behave, whether that's sort of through choices or not. So just tell us a little bit about what it is about you that makes you fascinated by others and some of the deepest subjects that we can sometimes put to one side?
Sue: Oh gosh. Well, the work in end of life and death and dying, and my whole work is about helping people to talk about end of life, death and dying mortality in a better way.
That is the work that I've been called to do. And it really started when I was a child, cos I just knew I was going to die one day. It was, it was just a complete knowing. And I think that's kind of shaped my life a lot that understanding it, sort of led me to train as a nurse initially. So around about the age of 18, and all nurses do this by the way, it's not special to me, but, you know, I was laying out my first dead bodies when I was 18 and just being fascinated by the whole human condition. And what makes us who we are and why. And I think that, that the sort of three years of nursing that I did and a little bit after I qualified, just really opened up this curiosity.
I am a deeply curious person into people's stories because everybody's got a story, everybody. And you know, you meet somebody and you see the facade and just a little bit deeper. And then the story unfolds and it's just like, oh my goodness. That's who you are. So that's always been like that for me. And I've always been really drawn to sort of a more spiritual understanding of life. And what does spirituality mean to us? And what does it give us? And that's been a huge focus of my life. I don't even want to call it spirituality anymore. I kind of use the word conscious or being awake to life. I think that's more how I put it these days. And it's just been, it's just guided me. I've just felt very guided all my life, you know, to turn right here or go straight on or turn left or meeting a person that completely changes everything for me. And that's what happened when I actually met my husband. I was doing an MA in the Rhetoric and Rituals of Death, and it was just the most fantastic year at Winchester. And I I'd never been to university before, but I've written books and I just got called to go to university. I knew I had to go to university and I wanted to study end of life and death and dying. I just knew I did. I was 46 at the time I was living in Wimborne in those days. And the only course available. Was at Southampton just down the road. And it had the MA and the Rhetoric and Rituals of Death. And because I'd written books, they accepted me straight onto the MA, but I'd never written anything academically.
So that was a big learning curve for me. I can tell you, and then it just, I just so happened that the thesis that I really felt drawn to write about and do not ask me why, but this is what came to me. I wanted to look at the impact that death and dying had on war correspondents. Now I'd never met a war correspondent in my life, but anyway, that's what I did. And my lovely supervisor said, you can't do this, there's no research done on that. And I said, well, I don't care. I'm going to do it. And the only other person then who'd, by the time I got my MA, who also had an MA in this very subject, we were the only two people in the world then, was the man I married, we met through doing our MA's. It was bizarre. And he'd been a war correspondent with the BBC. So, so we had this incredible sort of wow in common. And then obviously, you know, things happened from there.
Claire: That's incredible. So that fascination that you had with death was that just like an intellectual thing or had you experienced loss yourself?
Sue: No, I'd experienced it. Well, when I was 36, like 30 years ago, I was involved in a light aircraft crash and that completely changed my life because it just completely woke me up to understanding the fragility of life. And what my mortality meant to me. And also in those days, I was on the edges of the film industry and life just wasn't really working, you know, and just sitting beside the wreckage of the plane, it was just like, oh, my God, I've got to do something about my life because I can't go on like this. And that really woke me up to my healing journey. And that always led me all the way along the line. It was always about working with people who'd been bereaved or grieving, or frightened of death. And that led me in time to do the MA, and then I trained as a psychotherapist myself.
Chris: I don't, I don't want to take us off topic too much, but am, there's always thought to myself about when you have things like plane crashes, those moments before, whether it was connected with death or the end, what went through your mind in those moments when you realize that all was not well?
Sue: Well, I was just saying goodbye to everybody I knew in my head, cause when the propellers just stopped going round and it was a beautiful, beautiful August evening. And I was in being piloted by a friend. It was his plane and we'd been off to see his girlfriend and, and we were flying back to back to London actually. I don't know why, but the propeller to stop going round. And I thought he was mucking about, I thought you bugger. And then I just saw the blood just drain out of his face and thinking, oh my God, this is really serious. And he started sending out mayday calls and all I did, I just froze. So I just thought, well, this is it. This is it. Cause there was just nowhere to land because you don't realize how wooded England is, you know, and anyway, bless his heart, he got us down into, we crushed, landed into an army field. And then all these army guys are running towards us with fire extinguishers. So, and then I just remember the pilot saying to me, get out, get out, the planes, gonna blow up. And that was just like, oh my God, you know, that was really scary.
Claire: How do you feel about flying now?
Sue: Hate it.
Chris: Because of that experience?
Sue: I think it's a mixture of everything now. I think it's not just that. I think it's also you know, the ecology being responsible for our environment. And I think that there's a huge package for me going on now. I really, I would prefer never to have to fly again.
Claire: Do you think it's safe to say that it takes an experience like that to bring you to the thoughts that you had? Or do you think you could have those thoughts with a lesser experience?
Sue: When I run workshops or do talk, sometimes people ask that question and the answer is; you do not have to have a plane crash to wake up to who you are. You do not. Please don't have one. It's horrid. But a lot of people now are really becoming much more aware of themselves through meditation, for example, or singing in choirs or, you know, being drawn to those questions or who am I, what am I here for? They, you know, that sort of sense of, I need to find out.
And I'm really grateful to the plane crash now. Really grateful.
Chris: There's a very specific element of your life that you've not the plane crash that you've worked through learnt from and processed. Tell us a bit about that chapter.
Sue: Yeah, well actually, it was the end of my marriage to the person that, you know, who I met through my MA. We married late. I was just edging 50 when we married and we were together for 13 years and I think we, you know, we did jolly well together actually. It's always difficult. Second marriages can often be really quite challenging with children and, you know stepping into, certainly I never wanted to parent his children, or he never wanted to parent mine, but, you know, taking a role as the step-parent. Anyway, I really felt that we were going to make it for the rest of our lives and we built a beautiful house and we had a really good life actually. And I think because I was so enjoying being married and living the life that we were living and I was living, I just missed the signs. I think I didn't want to see them. And then it was literally overnight. He went back to his first wife after we were 13 years together and it was utterly, utterly devastating. That's no other word for it, really. And the loss, wasn't just about him going back to his first wife. I mean, you know, it wasn't just that, I lost my home that I thought I was going to be carried out in a coffin from. I lost the life that I imagined I was going to live. And I lost my mate, who I thought I was going to grow old with. And then on top of it, all the financial stuff, when you split up is really tough and finding new homes, it was... yeah, it was on a par with the plane crash, but with knobs on. I've had shocking stuff in my life, we all have, but that one took the biscuit.
Claire: Do you know why, particularly, that took the biscuit? What was it? Just because there were so many elements to the loss?
Sue: Yeah, I think it was, it was kind of, well, what the hell do I do with my life now? I wasn't frightened. Was I frightened? I think I was so shocked that that took precedence for months and there was an insistence to sell our family house very, very, very quickly. So, from the time it ended, which was, I think March the 11th, I'll never forget the day, to selling the house, that was in August the 21st. And then he married again in November. So, it was incredibly, it was just like my entire life was just, it was just like, I was just ripped apart. That's the only way I can explain it really, but I think, you know, this is not, I'm not the only one that this has happened, happens too. And I know a lot of women are leaving their husbands later in life as well. So, you know, this isn't just a woman's story. I mean, it's my story, obviously, but it isn't just, I don't feel victimized by it. I just feel that's what happened. But you know, without that happening, I would not be sitting here today or doing the work that I do.
What I did, was I bought a house very quickly just to shovel my stuff in. And I had a lovely cat called Dewey, and she was my companion and my mate, and I lay in bed with her one day and I went, 'Dewey, what are we going to do now?' And it just went, boom, I'm going to go and buy a narrowboat. So that's what I did. I went and bought a narrowboat and I went off traveling the canals for three and a half years. And the narrowboat was just like my cradle, my crying cradle. And I just spent hours tied up along the towpath wailing. Did I cry! But you know, the thing is, I wasn't, I knew, the weird thing was when he left, I knew it was the right thing, deep down inside me, really deep down, it was just like, look, it's going to be a rough ride right now, but this is going to turn out for the best, I promise you. It was one of those higher-self things. And so being on the narrowboat was just perfect, cos I was a solo boater, and it's really hard physical work, being a solo boater, when you're traveling. Really really hard work. And I just felt that my, I got so fit physically and that kind of sustained this complete falling apart, but I was crying for my life really, and all the stuff that hadn't worked out and the disappointments I'd had in my life. And why hadn't I married at the age of, I dunno, 17 and been with the same partner all my life and had millions of grandchildren and, you know, lived in the same house, all of that. All of those kinds of dreams that you know, that sort of filled my head. Why, why had my life turned out like this? And it just, it just threw, threw me into myself. Like nothing ever, ever had. Nothing.
Chris: And while this is going on, how much are you thinking through, well I've been trained in this, or I know this, or if I was working with others, I'd be saying this, I'll apply it to myself. How much was, was that? Or was it just completely like, nope, this is very different to what I'd normally tell somebody else in this position?
Sue: It's so different when you're in it. You just, I mean, I just, all I knew is, I needed to fall apart to save myself, and to find out who I really was, not through somebody else, but really, and I didn't, you know, I didn't want to be saved. I didn't want to be with other people. I really needed that time. You know, we're not good at crying in this country. You know, everybody says, oh, don't cry. And I thought, sod it I am going to cry. I'm going to scream. So, I did. And it went on for about three years, you know, not every day, like it was immediately, but in the meantime, what I was doing, I was also running death cafes on the boat. So, I go to a place and tie up and then run a death cafe and then, then set off again. So, I was kind of connected in and doing the work that I love to do. But in between the times I was really, really doing my own work. And dealing with what loss meant to me and grief. And I thought I knew it all. I thought being a bereavement counsellor and a bereavement therapist, I knew what grief was. No, I did not. But I do now.
Claire: I think one of the things I've thought over in our, journey with childlessness, especially in things like that, do you think there's a sort of almost, which is worse sometimes is, is what you've lost or like the future that you're not going to have that you thought you would, would you have an opinion on that?
Sue: Oh God, it's such a good, great question. Isn't it? I have children. So, I'm not losing them. Well, assuming I'm not losing them. One never knows these days, I think that's one thing that grief has taught me, you never know what's going to come around that corner at you. But I had a very, very dear friend who never married and her great grief was the fact she was never going to be grandmother. So, it's a different kind of grief. It's loss, but all our losses are so personal to us, aren't they? And what they, what they mean to us and what they mean to our future. Part of grief is grieving the future you'll never have with that person or those people. Absolutely. And I think that's not spoken about enough in the whole grieving process.
Chris: Do you think people in the main appreciate that you can grieve and grief can be present with things that aren't sort of human life? Not just the death of somebody, it can be the death of something or the end of something.
Sue: Oh, we go through ends of cycles all the time. We just don't acknowledge them. And if we were in, you know, living in, tribal ways, we would be going through rituals and ceremonies to mark these beginnings and endings. And, you know, you'd be held by the people around you within the community.
Well, we don't have that in this country. We're all locked up in our own little houses, crying, you know, making ourselves not cry and be stoic, and I just think we're missing a trick here. Grief brings us together, and I think it humbles us, especially in our first world countries, you know, we've got it all haven't we really, inverted commas. I know some people would disagree with that, but you know, on paper, we're doing really well over here. I suppose it's that whole thing of I'm not perfect, I can't do that, or I've lost that, or my perfect life will never exist now because this has happened to me.
Claire: And it can be very difficult to go through something that people can't see in the same way as a bereavement. I think there isn't the pulling around you in the same way. You, do you think that was harder because going through a separation or divorce, isn't the same as a bereavement. So, you don't get maybe the same support. People maybe don't know how to support you. Did you experience that at all?
Sue: Oh God. Yes. I mean really. And I've talked to a lot of people now who've been through the kind of experience I've been through. And all of us agree. I wish they died. It would have been easier. We'd have had a body. We could have gone to the funeral, done the whole thing. I would have still worn a wedding ring. It was huge to take off my wedding ring. I no longer call myself Mrs. You know, all of those kinds of things that I learned about, that caused me intense anguish and pain. Not being connected to somebody anymore, not having anybody special. When I walked into the room, you know, I'd always be looking out for him having those moments, you know, what couples do together. But I think that we don't talk enough about grief and these losses are immense. And we lock ourselves away with them. Actually, I think the best thing to do is to talk about it. And, you know, we're all in this together. Whether it's not being able to have children, or a child dying, or somebody walking out of a marriage, or getting cancer, or whatever it is, this is called the human condition. And I think that's helped me hugely to really embrace what happened for me. It's just part of my life story.
Chris: How long do you think it was for you personally? How, how long before you finished your grieving of the end of the marriage or is it an ongoing thing? Have you finished grieving the end of your marriage?
Sue: Yes, I have. I've definitely finished it. But it was a bit like the menopause. I went through the menopause and every day I was still going through the menopause and it must have been, I mean, a long time, let's say, I mean, I reckon I was going through the menopause for 10 years and I remember one day waking up and I wasn't going through the menopause anymore. I was post-menopausal. And that, definitely happened with my grieving, my marriage and all that I lost. And I reckon that probably happened a couple of years ago. So, it's eight and a half years on now, so it's taken that long.
Claire: Do you feel like you go through similar stages with that kind of loss that you might with a bereavement?
Sue: Grief is grief, isn't it? It's immense emotions that are triggered or whatever you want to call it. It's just intense pain, and because your life has changed, and you didn't ask for it to be changed. And I think that's, I did not ask for this to happen to me, but it happened to me and I, that's why I think it takes, when you're, you're out of control, of what's happening to you, and there is no, there is no way of, of being able to, to mend that, it's intensely painful. And I think this sort of sense of being, hang on a minute, this is my, this is my life. What do you mean this is happening to my life? I don't want this to happen to my life. So, I think there's that, that goes on too.
Claire: Did you find yourself ever asking the question; Why? Did you ever go down the route of Why me? Why now? Why this?
Sue: Not really. Did I? Well, maybe to start, not really. I just took it on the chin. I think there was this, this incredible sense of knowing that what had happened was right for me. And this sense of, you know, hang on in that girl, cos this is going to be a hell of a bumpy ride for quite a while. And this sort of sense of knowing that I was, one day I'd come out of it. And I would, I would be who I really am meant to be. And I felt that happened. I'm a very different person now to what I was, and I would never want to go back to that marriage again.
Chris: That moment that you mentioned that you woke up and just felt like the grieving was over. What were some of the differences with the feelings? How did you feel mentally, physically before and after?
Sue: It's a process, isn't it? It's a long, long process when you're deeply grieving. Well, it is for me, I can only talk about my own experience of grieving, but I wanted it. I wanted it to be really sacred. I wanted this, if even if it was going to kill me, I wanted to do it well. That's what I felt. I wanted to grieve the best I possibly could. The deepest I possibly could, because I actually didn't want to take that pain to my deathbed, to be fair. Then when I realised it, wasn't sort of like I woke up one morning, it was over, it was kind of a sort of, oh, I feel freer. Oh, I don't feel depressed anymore. I was suicidal for quite a while over these, over that year. I just couldn't see the point of living really, because I felt the loss was so huge for me. And then that sort of went and I suddenly thought, oh, do you know, I've actually enjoyed something today rather than, oh God, how am I going to get through this? That kind of heavy. It's heavy, that, that feeling, how am I going to get through this? How am I, I don't want to be sitting here with these people. I don't care. That kind of feeling,
Chris: It really strikes me that there's a clear, well, there's a clarity in the way that you talk about the very, very real choice that you made of. I need to grieve and I'm going to grieve, when you mentioned the sort of the rock bottom, and we listened to a podcast a few weeks ago, someone in a similar scenario a lovely quote from them about one of the great things for them about hitting rock bottom was that it gave them the most solid of services to rebuild from.
Sue: Yeah, that's a lovely thing to say.
Chris: Even though it took a long time, intentionally choosing to cry, to grieve, feels and sounds a lot healthier than trying to just crack on, the smiley face on, and I'm just going to push it down.
[00:26:58] Sue: Well, it's cos you're breaking inside, you know, you might have the facade on and oh, jolly holly, you feel crap. So, I just thought I'm going to give myself a chance to really go for it and you know, if it kills me in the process, so be it, I will do whatever is needed. I didn't expect it to take that long. I didn't expect that. But it did. This sort of sense of, I just feel, I feel deeply connected to myself now. What I realised I had in my world; I had lost everything. Everything, that I held dear to me. So, there was nothing else to lose, literally, nothing else to lose for me. The only thing is my life. And I didn't, you know, for a while, I didn't even care about that.
Claire: Once you'd set yourself on that track of, this is how I'm going to be, and I want to do this well, was there anything that would set you back occasionally? Would you see or experience anything?
Sue: Oh God yes.
Claire: What sort of things would they be?
Sue: Oh, it could be seeing couples walking hand in hand down the street. That was really fun. I went to a wedding and I should not have gone that really, really set me back. That was not good at all. Well-meaning couples who, you know, start talking about 'we' and 'us'. That that wasn't fun. Or we're going on holiday, or we're doing this, or we are doing that. That's a really hard thing for somebody whose marriage has ended. Stepping out of the we and us language is really challenging, really challenging. So, there was it, you know, things like that. It didn't take a lot.
Claire: How did you steel yourself to get through those?
Claire: To grieve those well, do you then grieve again for a while?
Sue: Oh God yes.
Claire: How do you process that?
Sue: Well, gross depression. I mean really black, black depression. Crawling around on the floor kind of depression. Yeah. And I learnt a lot about depression and I really respect it. And I, for me, it was an incredibly important part of the process, but it was agonizingly painful. I wish actually I broken my arm. It would have been less painful than, than the depression actually. But I just think that's kind of part of the deal. You know?
Chris: Did you find you thought, or actually did tell, people on occasions that you were grieving or, or have to try and convince people that you're grieving? Did you, did you verbalize that process with others to try and sort of gain yourself some understanding or compassion?
Sue: Well, I went to a counsellor when it first happened and that was really great. cos I just thought, I don't want you to say anything. I just want you to just be with me. And she was great. She really got it. And I chose well, cos I chose somebody the same age as me. And she, really was a wise older woman. I felt really grateful to her.
And every time I felt like I wanted to cry, I cried, but people lose patience with grief. They kind of think, well, come on, it's been a year now you should be over that. Or it's not that bad that you know, or their, their life's shit. And they'd rather talk about their life. So, lots of people don't really want to hear stuff. Not really. I've never, ever told anybody really what I went through. Nobody really knows. I know it doesn't matter because it's my journey and I know what I went through.
Claire: Sort of sad that that's the situation. I think I would I feel that a lot. I know what that feels like on a level. I would say childlessness is a similar thing. There's so many things along the way that will always make us sad, you know, and we have to accept that is part of the journey and that's not going to end, but like you said, the sympathy, the empathy does. I get, it's very difficult for people and you probably found the same thing, you don't want people to change around you and not mention we and never be happy with their partner, or with their children, but at the same time, you want them to be a little less like that in front of you, and it's a really hard thing to get right into balance in your own life.
Sue: It, it is actually. And it really helped when I stopped taking anything personally. You know, I was so emotionally raw and I think the word is raw. I was felt like, you know, I literally felt like I'd been ripped open from the inside out, you know, that kind of really raw, gosh, it's feeling of, of Yeah. And, and, you know, the thing is, people don't know what to say. And especially when it comes to childlessness, because our whole society is about having children and getting married. And, oh, so I think you have a hard, you, you know, that's a big, really, really big thing that you're doing to talk publicly about that. Because it's very hidden.
Claire: Yeah. It is an awkward thing. A lot of people go very quiet when you mentioned it. I actually tested it at a wedding once, I had people asking me, I was sitting next to various people and they would say, oh, are you married? I say, yes. Do you have children? Always the follow-on comment. And I tested lots of different answers. I thought this is going to be interesting. So, one person I said no, and I just stopped it there. And that was awkward. Another person I said, no that wasn't possible for us. And that was awkward. And other person, I gave them more details about the situation and that was awkward. I worked out there is no way, if someone else feels uncomfortable about it, there's no way you're going to make them feel comfortable. Even if you tell them you're open about it, it still doesn't mean they feel comfortable talking about it.
Chris: Even those people where we sort of give permission to ask us, because we're really open books, and love to be vulnerable, and love to share. And we've found that even though we say to people, you know, ask us anything, you know, we really like to talk, we value conversation, but still that's not quite enough to get through to them that, you know, to, or bring something out in them that they weren't expecting, maybe to bring an inquiry, sort of inquiring nature or, or to take an interest or to follow up. So, it's, yeah, it's, it's tricky. I think it's been interesting to try different things to different people over, over different times.
Sue: I think it's cos you know, to them it's living the unimaginable. You know, I mean, it's sort of, it, it, it it's, it's like when somebody is lost, a child has died and people will literally cross the street rather than speak to the mum or the dad. And we're so bad at this. We're so bad at loss, because I think, you know, it means vulnerability, doesn't it? And I don't know what to say because I don't know how to, I don't know. Maybe I'm going to make it worse by saying something.
Chris: Is that a British thing? Sue, are you talking about as, as Brits or as humanity?
Sue: I think the Western cultures are really poor at it. You go, you know, I think it's much more accepted, or loss and grief is more ritualized, in different cultures. You know, the not having children is a big one. It's a big unspoken one. It is it's. I think it's the same as a child dying. It's big unspoken.
Claire: It's interesting you say that. Cos I've said that to, you know, to sort of close friends we've spoken to, and I said to them, it hit me at one point, that if we had lost a child the, how people would be around us, the level of maybe, I dunno, sympathy, empathy, it's almost seen as one of the worst things you could go through. But the loss of children that you never saw or never had, it's almost like not much happened to you. And it's, it's incredible. I always thought that maybe if, if we had a grave to visit of the children we never had, would we have grieved in a better way if we'd have made it a bit more solid? Because I think when we talk about it for it, we're going to do an episode of the podcast on just this. And I think we're going to talk about it on an invisible grief, because you're mourning something you never had, which is very complicated. So yeah. Difficult.
Sue: It is, it's incredibly complicated because it's no less incredibly painful for you than if something like, I mean, you know, like losing, a child dying or whatever it is for people. It's, it's your grief. That's your loss, that's, what it is.
Claire: It's unusual. I suspect, I haven't asked anyone this, so maybe I'm speculating a little bit, but I suspect if you spoke to parents who had lost a child, they wouldn't not want to go through that to have not had the child, which was effectively the situation we're sort of in. So that is complicated as well. Cos that sort of plays with your mind because you think, gosh, they've been through this awful thing, but they'd rather not be in our boat. What does that mean? And as a British person, when you're not taught to grieve well, that is very complicated as well. Cos you think I should probably be grieving this more than I am?
Sue: Cos you know, the other thing is, about grief and what your, you know, the courage you're doing about talking about this is absolutely wonderful, but it's lifelong. You know, this isn't going to stop tomorrow. You know, it'll come back at every stage of life because that's what grief does. If, when somebody dies, or in your case, you can't have children, it's an ongoing thing that you both learn to live with her. I look at the grief that I've had in my life, it walks beside my shoulder, it is my life companion. And I want it to be actually, because I want it to remind me of, of who I am and the life that I lead, and it's that has led me to do this. And it's, you know, leading you to do what you're doing, which is just such a gift for people. So, in a way, that's how I look at the grief that I've I have it's my shoulder companion.
Claire: I heard a quote a while ago that's really helped me. That basically said you make grief part of you. It's not something you get over. It's something that you incorporate. And that really helped me cos I was like, oh, okay I don't need to get over this it's just part of my story. Something I like to sort of ask people because I'm sort of just curious really, but if you could go back, and sort of say something to yourself, or maybe tell somebody who's going through it now, some word of advice or wisdom, or something, helpful to get you through it, is there anything in particular that you think would be the most helpful thing you could know?
Sue: Gosh, it's just sitting with people, isn't it? And going look, you know, I don't know your story, but I've been here in my own story of what, what happened for me and I'm here. Cos you can't tell anybody anything when they're grieving.
Nothing makes any difference.
Chris: Through your own grief, and that we've been talking about, have you been able to identify elements of, of good through that process? Are there things now where you can say - I'm pleased this has happened, or this has been good, as a result of the bad?
Sue: What has led me to do the work that I do? I mean, that's, what's been so fantastic. So, I was just about, before the marriage ended, I was wanting to retire, actually, I didn't want to be a psychotherapist anymore. I just thought, I just want to hang, you know, hang out in life. So, there was a sort of sense of, of stepping back really. And the marriage ending has just completely forced me out of that. And I'm now in a space where I've never been more productive or creative or willing to be used by the universe, in the best way possible, both, you know, in any way possible, really. I am a great believer in that. I feel very, very strongly attuned to something much greater than me and I've lost my fear of life. I don't feel frightened of life anymore, where I used to, I don't anymore because. What else have I got to lose? I mean, it's done. I kind of feel it's done. And I don't have a fear of death, because I feel like I died. I've died twice in my life. Once was the plane crash, and once when my marriage ended. And I just feel that I, what do I feel? I feel, just really connected to the life that I am leading, until I take my last breath. And I'm very, very excited by that.
Claire: I'm already thinking it. How do I get there? Where do you start? If you want to be that person?
Sue: I think you just got to go down, get dirty with yourself. You know, and know it takes time and know that you'll be feeling shit one day, and okay the next. You know, and it's a rolling process and owning it. I used to draw all the time. I used to draw as feeling and you know, go into the woods and shout and scream. I'd be on the boat, you know, talk, I don't know if just talking about it helps, some people it does, but just owning it, you know, but then I'm a lot older. I'm now 68 and I'm, I just feel like I'm stepping into a completely new phase of my life. And the wounds I carry and I'm really proud of my wounds, now. I like having these wounds. They enabled me to become an elder. And I take that role really seriously because there's not enough of us out there.
It's not about trying to fix anybody or platitudes. It really is about sitting beside somebody and just being there. As they go through their growing process.
Chris: What you say about wounds? It certainly reminds me of a thought I occasionally have about scars because there's two ways of looking at scars, isn't there? One being, it's a reminder of something painful and the other side of things being, it's a sign of healing.
Sue: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, I've mucked up a lot in my life. And I don't muck up anymore. I, you know, I might, I don't make wrong decisions anymore, or God, I can touch my head. Because I can, I know how to listen to myself now. I know when my inner self just goes, Sue don't do that. That's not a good idea. And I listened to it. It's, it's uncovered, that voice is clear and I'm, I like that. I trust myself. And I think before that I didn't, I never trusted, I didn't really trust myself, but the grief that I, the depth of grief, I felt, I think it was the, the, the one big thing for me was realizing that I was living on so much disappointment. I hadn't realised that my life was built on a whole series of disappointments until this happened, and that was a big key for me to really look at what that disappointment meant to me, which was failure, you know, being a crap person, you know, all that stuff that goes on with disappointment. You know, not creating the perfect life, being the perfect person, all that nonsense. And it just, it just enabled me to feel this is, this is my life story. This has made a bloody big chunk in the chapter. And I'm really happy with that. I'm very happy to have it in my life story.
Chris: I think something that's obviously been a huge part of that life story for you in the, in this element, this chapter of your life story was the narrowboat.
Sue: Well, I called her mystic moon, that's what she, she is, she was, to me, she was the mystery of the moon, the dark mother. So, she became my crucible and people today still call me Mystic because of that I'm so aware of, the seen, and the unseen veil, the, you know, the seen world was, is our world and the unseen world, which is, you know, which is just beyond this veil. And I'm very, I'm very conscious of that. And it's made me much more attuned to something, there's something else going on with us, and I feel much, much more sensitive and connected to that. And I liked that. I don't know about angels and guides I've no idea, but there is something which gives me great comfort. I don't know. I'm not alone. I never feel alone now. Never. I've I was terribly lonely at times, I mean really horribly lonely, during a lot of the process, you know, these, years and actually all my life I've been lonely, but I don't feel that anymore.
Claire: Just before we start to wrap up and ask our final question, I just, I'm curious about, I know that you're, you've got this passion and heart for telling children and writing your Granny Mo books.
So just tell us a little bit about where that came from.
Sue: Okay. Well, it's something that I didn't expect, and I'm learning to actually go with the unexpected. So last year during lockdown, I was thinking we need to do something more about, helping parents and children to talk about death and dying. And this all came about because my little four-year-old grandson turned round to me when I was in Hong Kong, and just as before locked down, I said, 'Granny, am I going to die one day?' And I went, what do you say here? And I thought, you know, and I've been talking to adults about this forever, but my grandson turning around and saying it... I took a great, big deep breath, and his mother sort of went, 'Oh my God, over to you', you know, that kind of thing. And I suddenly thought what we need is a book to sit down together and look at the whole concept of death written for a four-year-old. So, it must have been about November last year. I suddenly got this idea about, I wanted to granny cause I'm a granny. So, I wrote a children's story called 'Granny Mo, is Teddy going to die?' And it just answers the questions that Jack asked me, things like, well, what's going to happen to my body when I die or where do we go when we die? Those kinds of questions. I mean, you know, nobody knows where we're going to go when we die. But it's, you know, it's, it's answering it in a way that's acceptable and understanding. And certainly, and I'm thrilled because it's just been picked up by a German publisher, so it's going to be translated into Germany and it's definitely doing its work out there. So, I'm really thrilled about.
Claire: That's brilliant. What an important topic to put children books out on as well.
Chris: Where can we direct people to, if they want to find out more about the book or about your books, or you yourself, where's good to visit?
Sue: Okey doke, because I write for adults too. It's suebrayne.co.uk. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. So yeah, or through my podcast, which is embracing your mortality. So, if you just pop in Embracing Your Mortality podcast, then I pop up there as well. It's about how do we live until we die. You know, what does our personal mortality mean to us? So, yes, so I interview a range of people about, just really inspiring people who are doing good work out in that, in this world to help people live more consciously. For a better world really
Chris: Final question. We ask everybody this question on The Silent Why podcast. What's your Herman? So, so something that you have grown and fed into, something healthy that you can share with others through your experiences. Do you think what, what would be the one or two things that are healthy and you can share with others?
Sue: Oh, embrace your mortality. Know that you're going to die one day. Really get real about it. So you can start living, and totally taking responsibility for your life and your story. That you're writing, you know, when death comes, the book closes. So how do you want your book to close? So that's my Herman.
Claire: A great question to think about from Sue. Would you have an answer, if I asked you that right now?
Chris: Well, I hope it wouldn't end right now end, a bit disappointing, I'd like a few more chapters.
Claire: We want to thank Sue for taking her time to share her honesty and wisdom with us, so much to take away anything.
Chris: If you wanted to find out more about Sue her books, podcast, blog, simply visit suebrayne.co.uk.
Claire: And we want to thank you for listening to our first episode. We hope it won't be your last. And that you'll continue with us on this journey, as we explore loss.
Chris: We'll be releasing a new episode every week with a different story of loss, and we've already got some amazing guests lined up and our own episode where we talk about the invisible, complicated loss of childlessness and losing something you never had in the first place.
Claire: I'm also releasing a weekly My Why episode and a blog on our website. You can find all this as well as our social media links on thesilentwhy.com or just search for us on all the main social medias, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn @thesilentwhypod.
Chris: And if you've heard something that's helped or encouraged you, or you just want to get in touch. We'd love to hear from you. Email us using email@example.com.
Claire: And we're going to end every episode with the words of someone much wiser than us. And this week we're kicking off with Eleanor Shellstrop from the TV show, The Good Place. Wise words for when she's trying to help Michael in a crisis;
Do you know what's really happening right now? You're learning what it's like to be human. All humans we're aware of death. So, we're all a little bit sad all the time. That's just the deal. We don't get offered any other ones. And if you try and ignore your sadness, it just ends up leaking out of you anyway. I've been there. Everyone's been there. So don't fight it.