We are incredibly excited to feature two extraordinary women on the Hand on Heart blog. Sally Douglas and Imogen Carn run the chart-topping Good Mourning podcast. The friends, who met through their grief experiences, have developed an enormous global online community thanks to their honest and open conversations about grief.
We spoke to the inspirational women about how their community has grown, their brilliant new book (which is now out in the UK!) and the impact of their mission to tackle the topic of grief in a way that isn’t all doom and gloom by sharing candid conversations about grief and loss with honesty and humour.
Hi Sally and Imogen. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us! To begin with, please could you tell our readers a little bit about your own experiences of grief?
We both unexpectedly joined ‘the grief club’ months apart, after our mums died suddenly. Sal’s mum, Rose, died in November 2019 from a seizure (also known as SUDEP), and Im’s mum, Vanessa, died in February 2020 by suicide. Their deaths came as a huge shock as they were out of the blue, and we were catapulted into the experience of grief with no prior warning.
Our experiences with grief have been very different. Sal’s experience has been more practical. Less than 24 hours after receiving the news, she found herself on a long-haul flight back to the UK from Australia – the worst flight ever! As the sole executor of her mum’s estate, she had to plan the funeral, close her accounts, empty her house and do all of the other “dead-min” tasks, all while battling jet lag and trying to come to terms with her loss and her grief. For Sal, although she was heartbroken and in deep grief, she was able to function and sort everything out.
On the other hand, Im’s mum died when her daughter was nine months old, and her experience with grief was visceral. It consumed her emotionally and physically, and she was unable to function for months.
It’s great that you’re doing so much work to raise awareness about how grief is totally unique, and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, as it’s so personal. How did your own unique experiences of grief lead you to create your online community?
We crossed paths at a grief support group meet up and Im messaged Sal after to see if she’d like to go for a wine. We both found grief incredibly lonely, despite having good support. Both being in our early 30s, most of our peers hadn’t experienced a big loss, and didn’t know what to say. Even with friends around, if no one can truly understand what’s going on for you, it can be isolating. We both noticed how little society talks about grief and how many of the resources we felt, don’t talk about what it is really like. We wanted to find grief support that was honest, and reflected the actual experience of grief – because it is all consuming and flips your world on its head.
We became friends and would talk for hours about what grief was like – because it is so much more than sadness! We’d compare notes on things like the full body exhaustion we felt, the anxiety, anger, and brain fog. For the first time in months, we both felt truly seen, heard and validated in our grief.
It led us to talk about how, if we were feeling lonely in our loss and struggling to cope, there must be so many other people out there looking for an outlet to hear real stories about loss and connect with others. And so we had the idea to start the Good Mourning podcast, to create a platform to have honest conversation about loss, in a way that wasn’t doom and gloom.
What was the response like when you started your platform? Did it take off immediately, or has it grown gradually over time?
Our mission was to simply help other people feel less alone, and we didn’t expect it to take off the way it has. Almost immediately, it gained attention and momentum. There was a need for candid, authentic and relatable grief support. And it has continued to grow, as our friendship has.
What do you believe makes your online community special, and how do you support each other?
What makes our community special is that it’s authentic and it’s real. Nothing is off the cards and people really appreciate that. Also, people love our friendship and our dynamic – that is often what we hear from listeners, that they feel like they know us. We pride ourselves on being down to earth, honest and authentic and people appreciate that. We also involve our community in our podcasts and give them the chance to share their stories and voices, and people love that, as it gives them an outlet.
Involving your community sounds like a great way to spark conversations and share experiences in a relatable way. What are some of the most common messages or comments you receive?
We get hundreds of messages each week saying thank you – that our podcast has helped people through their darkest days and in some instances, saved people. It is incredible to know that we are helping people get through such difficult times – it’s what we do this for.
It must be difficult in some ways too, as you’re experiencing grief yourselves. What’s the hardest aspect of speaking about grief so openly through a platform like Instagram?
We’ve learnt that having boundaries is important. Taking time to switch off from talking about grief is key, so that we maintain balance.
How do you think your Instagram has changed your life or outlook?
It’s made us realise our passion and our purpose. That we are all connected in this experience of grief and we can support each other through it.
How do you think your Instagram has changed your followers’ lives or outlooks?
We hope that our content has helped our followers have the outlook that, as hard as grief is, there are hundreds of thousands of others walking this path beside them and they are not alone.
Grief can be all-consuming and people grieving might be going through their darkest days. What would you say to someone who is going through an extremely difficult time with their grief experience?
Hold on. If you are struggling, help is available. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Cruse Bereavement Care in the UK offer free services and Griefline in Australia offer free telephone counselling. Also, there is a community here for you, come and join our Good Mourning private grief support group here on Facebook. Connecting with others can be so beneficial with coping with loss – you don’t have to do this alone.
Is there a number one tip or piece of advice you could give about grief?
To remember that grief is so individual, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Don’t judge yourself, and don’t be hard on yourself.
What an incredible and inspirational story. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sally and Imogen!
We have no doubt that the Good Mourning podcast will continue to grow with the amazing community that Sally and Imogen have created. We’re looking forward to reading their book Good Mourning: Honest Conversations About Grief and Loss. It’s published by Murdoch Books and is now available in the UK via Amazon and in all major bookstores.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to follow Sally and Imogen on the Good Mourning podcast socials.
Buy Good Mourning: Honest Conversations About Grief and Loss via Amazon
Keep an eye out on the Hand on Heart blog for more interesting insights and interviews with leading voices who are paving the way with honest and open conversations about grief and loss.