Surviving the first year of grief by Robbin Miller

Surviving the first year of grief by Robbin Miller

My name is Robbin Miller. I am a professional counsellor, providing comfort and support to my grief-affected clients. My empathy is genuine, my guidance made more poignant by my own journey through grief. So, let’s talk about grief and how I survived the first year after the death of my son.

I felt like I had walked, bang into a glass door. My view of the real world was jolted off kilter, the shock to my senses, profound. Acceptance was swift. I was there! I saw my darling’s head roll off the pillow as he was wheeled to the ambulance after a heart attack. And just like that, my beloved son was gone.

I thought my training would kick in and it did. All at once! Everything I knew, had read and all the experiences of my dear clients, swirled around in my head, leaving me exhausted, as well as traumatized by the sudden death of my boy.



Everyone’s response to the death of a loved one is unique to them. There is no quick fix. Here is my personal guide to surviving the first year of grief.





During the first few days, I turned up my music to hide my angry howls and bouts of sobbing. I was the only person in the world suffering this gut-wrenching pain and it felt good to release it with the help of Jimmy Barnes, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi and all the greats.




Every day I took a long walk to a nature reserve where wallabies stood watching and birds called, reminding me that, indeed, life went on despite my sadness. The exercise tired me out and sleep came easier.




Yoga is a part of my daily routine but I was introduced to Yin yoga which involves stretching and holding the body in various poses, deep breathing and mindful meditation. Staying present centered with a calm mind offered relief from my jumbled thoughts and feelings.




My other son was a rock of resilience, compassion and love. Although dealing with his own grief, he helped process mine by spinning yarns and stories of youthful escapades with his brother. Some tall tales were news to me. We laughed and cried too as we reminisced about a life lost too soon.




I will never under-estimate the positive energy of my friends. They came with wine and food and took over my kitchen. They offered kindness and understanding, love and laughter. No pity party for me. Thanks girls.




Grief came in waves, sometimes slamming into my very core. Other times grief was like gentle tap on my shoulder. No matter, I felt all alone with this awful pain. To offset the loneliness, I went about my town, engaging with people with a cheeriness I faked at first then felt.




I blamed others in my son’s life for contributing to his death, then felt ashamed and guilty for my negative thoughts about these people. Releasing this bitterness took an effort of will that challenged my belief in a fair go for all.




I have always loved word puzzles and bought difficult ones to focus and exercise my brain. I chose library books with convoluted plots to hold my interest. The movies, Top Gun, Maverick and Elvis lifted my spirits. This mild escapism helped me to think of my son without the mule kick of grief.




I was lucky to have a lovely psychologist friend to provide professional advice about my return to work with clients suffering from grief. It wasn’t about being brave or risking the exposure of my own vulnerability, It was about recognizing the thoughts and feelings of the grief-affected clients on a personal level rather than a clinical one.




I marked the first anniversary of my son’s death by driving to his favorite beach. I shed a few tears as I watched the surfers catching the rolling waves into the shore and felt like a heavy burden had lifted from my shoulders. There was relief and a little shiver of pride in myself. I had survived the first year of grief.



Throughout the worst year of my life, I learned that I had nothing to fear from the intense emotions of my grief. I found ways to express my feelings through music and exercise, friendship and love. I made a conscious decision to let go of the bitter judgement of negative people. Consulting a mental health professional cleared my mind, enabling me to return to working with clients in the grip of grief. I can honestly say to them that I know how they feel.



If you or a loved one is suffering from grief, please know, you are not alone and there is help available. An excellent online resource can be found at:


If you are in the Mid North Coast Area of NSW, Australia and wish to book an appointment:

Robbin Miller Counselling 


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