Jillian Rosoff on grief: heartache, healing and humour (#45)

We don’t like to think about death. But death will confront us even if we don’t want to confront it. And with death comes loss and with loss comes grief, which is the topic of this episode. My hope is that this conversation helps us to prepare (even in a small way) for when we experience grief or for when we can support others who are grieving.

In this episode we talk to Jillian Rosoff. Jillian is a licensed marriage and family therapist specialising in grief, loss, and life transitions. Jillian has a decade of grief counselling experience. She works with people who have experienced many kinds of losses. She’s also facilitated workshops for cancer survivors focused on finding meaning after a life changing illness.

We hope you find value in this meaningful conversation with Jillian Rosoff.

You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast.

Show Notes

1:31 – Radical Candor in the Rosoff household.
2:08 – what drew Jillian to grief counselling.
4:30 – people are scared to talk about death.
7:06 – what to say when someone is grieving.
9:47 – we will all say the wrong thing at some point.
10:50 – people get less support during grief than we think.
12:25 – avoiding resentment when people don’t reach out.
14:39 – when the platitudes don’t fit.
16:40 – don’t give advice.
17:59 – we grieve in context.
19:50 – different styles of grieving.
20:45 – grief has more emotions than sadness.
21:54 – can grief lead people to detrimental paths?
24:41 – healthy ways to deal with grief.
26:27 – scared to be in the present because that’s where the emotions are.
28:09 – how to stay calm and take care of yourself to help others?
32:55 – not feeling the “right” emotions when grieving.
35:06 – what value does a grief counsellor add?
37:48 – kids communicate through play.
41:51 – people can have very different rituals when grieving someone.
44:28 – the impact of not being able to attend funerals during COVID.
48:48 – we only know how to live if we’ve been confronted with death.
51:02 – the power of humour.
55:40 – feeling like we have to be strong for others.
1:0:24 – enjoying the present vs reminiscing about the past.
1:01:55 – what is most important when people look back on their life?
1:03:23 – sharing our stories can be a way to connect with each other.
1:06:00 – connect with Jillian.

Links to References

Intuitive versus Instrumental grievers 

Dr. Alan Wolfelt – Grief Expert  – Therapeutic Thirds 

Process called “Life Review” that dying go through 

Palliative Care Doctor – Physician  Ira Byock – 4 things people need to hear

  • I forgive you 
  • You forgive me 
  • Thank you 
  • I love you 

Key Quotes 

“The death experience was positive in my grandfather’s life but people didn’t want to talk about it.” 

“We got to share memories and important things.” 

“End of life can be precious and does not need to be scary.” 

“People tend to be scared to talk about end of life and when it is brought up people tend to shut it down rather than acknowledge it.” 

“I have been doing this work for a decade now and I still say the wrong things.” 

“I will say the wrong thing – let me know when I do.” 

“So often people assume everyone must be calling and I don’t want to bother them.” 

“A lot of the platitudes that people like to offer did not fit…” 

“There can be a stigma around losing someone who is young…is it a drug over dose or a suicide…” 

“Avoid giving advice …” 

“Often with kids the most common expression of grief is anger…” 

“Sometimes people don’t realise that they are carrying a lot of tension.” 

“Having some mental separation with this work is important…” 

“There is a lot of expectation on what grief should look like.” 

“Not everyone is a big crier…we all have different ways of expressing emotion.” 

“Not everyone needs grief counselling  and most people don’t.” 

“Some of the process is getting more comfortable with the ambiguity  of life.” 

“Kids communicate through play.” 

“Food plays a big role in helping someone connect with the person who has passed.” 

“Life is finite it can be incredibly short, we don’t know what is going to happen.” 

“It benefits all of us when we can make more intentional choices.” 

“Not every moment is deeply serious, you can also share lighter stories…the end of life is a such a rich time for so many people.” 

“Always know your audience…humour can be a way to build trust…the permission to be different ways in your grief is really freeing.” 

“You can be so profoundly, crushingly sad and also be happy that your team won their soccer game.” 

“We are lots of different things in our lives simultaneously.” 

“Humour can be used as a deflection, but it can also be an invitation.” 

“I think that there is also this idea of being strong and for some people that means that they are not going to show emotion.” 

“It takes a lot of strength to be able to share fears around dying.” 

“If we can’t have any language around [our fears] it is hard to have any conversation.” 

“People are often still living while they are dying.” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.