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On Grief and Healing


I began working in the world of grief in 2007, officially becoming a bereavement counselor for a hospice in Chicago a few months after I graduated from my masters program. I did so almost with curiosity, which is strange to look back on now that this path I’ve been on seems so strong and so clear. From where I stand now it seems as though this is always what I was headed for — helping others through their grief process, but I still remember the day I decided to look up hospices in Chicago. I could do that, I remember thinking.

I worked for hospice for four years and it was an incredible experience. Everything about it led me to writing The Rules of Inheritance, and to where I am now — working in private practice as a grief therapist and writing a second book about the afterlife.

I have an incredible reverence for death, for grief and all the love that it stems from. I have never felt anything but extreme privilege to be able to walk with others along their path as they go through their own experiences in this realm. I think that, in one way or another, this will always be the work I do.

That’s why I’m incredibly excited to announce that in January of next year I’ll be hosting my first-ever weekend grief retreat. This is an idea I conceived of years ago when I was running bereavement groups in Chicago. I kept thinking how transformative it would be to create an entire weekend around working through grief. I envisioned incorporating group therapy, yoga, meditation, writing and narrative into one comprehensive experience that would allow people to really enter into, and begin to heal from their grief.

This year I met another therapist, Thea Harvey, who loved this idea and helped me bring it to fruition. And so January 24-26 of 2014 we’ll be hosting our first retreat in Ojai, California. You can read all about it and how to sign up here.

The weekend of the retreat is of very special significance to me. January 24, 2014 will mark 18 years since my mother died, which means that she will have been gone exactly half of my life. Every day after January 24, 2014 will mean that I will have been alive longer without her than with her. I have been dreading this date for as long as I can remember, but now knowing that I will be engaged in this experience I have long dreamed about creating makes me look forward to it.

I hope that some of you can join us. Please read more about how to sign up here.


  1. I remember when I reached the point of living my life longer with out my mother than with her (I was also 18 when my mom died) and it was weird. I now brace myself for the day that I’ll officially have lived longer than she did. I’ve been meaning to write you and tell you how much I liked you book, and it helped me. I read it this summer, after I lost my brother in May. I’m now the sole survivor of my original family, which is still incomprehensible to me. I wish CA was closer, the retreat sounds wonderful.

    Comment by Allie on October 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

  2. Right on! I’m so glad for you, Claire. If only I lived closer. I lost my mother 2 years ago this Christmas. My first grandchild was born this past August. I delight in just looking at her, however, I have to catch myself because I’ve found lately that I’m trying to find my mom in her. Anything that will show me she’s carrying on. Pretty pathetic, huh? As an aside, I wanted you to know that when mom passed, I clung to your book like a life preserver. Looking forward to #2. Thanks for all you are and all you do, Claire.

    Comment by Brenda on October 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm

  3. How I would love to spend another weekend with you, Claire! xo Janya

    Comment by Janya on October 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  4. My mother died in late July at age 85. She had been living with me for 3 years before her care needs got beyond my capabilities. She spent another 5 months in an aged care facility before refusing food and drink with the inevitable consequences. Her quality of life had sunk into the negative zone as she was bed-ridden, moderately demented, barely responsive and with her vision failing.
    I felt no grief at her death. I felt much sadness as I reviewed her life and thought of the chances she missed because she was so timid, but I thought her death was timely and well chosen.
    That is the difference I think. Your mother was taken from you in an untimely way and you were not at all prepared. I held my mother’s cold hand in mine and I was relieved. Relieved she was suffering no longer.
    Grief is not an inevitable response to losing a loved one. There can be a whole range of reactions.
    The only thing that betrayed me while I writing this comment, was that I cried all the way through.

    Comment by Paul Tredgett on October 27, 2013 at 12:21 am

  5. Losing my Mum was an indescribable feeling. Even today 7 years later there are days I feel lost and alone even with a loving family and a great church family around me I feel alone.
    Today I only wanted to talk to her about how I was feeling. When I realized she wasn’t there I started crying on the train to work beacause it just hit me that I couln’t and I wanted to so badly.
    I’ll never get over not being at her side when she passed. I was 87 hours away and physically couldnt make it in time. I’ve come to grips with it but there are days it still hurts.
    Writing this made me feel a little better but it’s going to be a hard Mothers Day this weekend in London.

    Comment by Nadine Walters on March 28, 2014 at 3:32 am

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