John James Brought the World Grief Recovery and Changed my Life Forever
Posted on 20th August 2021 at 09:17
This is a hard blog to write – I’ve known I needed to write this for ages and normally when I sit with something the words start to come together in my head but interestingly my thoughts about this man who used few words seems to be well, coming up with few words!
It was 2007, not that many months after my husband Kevin had died aged just 41 and life as I knew it ended forever, when I found myself on Amazon (other booksellers are available.) I was looking for a book that would help me deal with the overwhelming feelings that were dominating my life. One review said “well this book is ok but...
...it’s not as good as the Grief Recovery Handbook", so of course I immediately looked at the handbook instead. It wasn’t available in the UK then, so I ordered a used copy and waited. Finally, after several weeks it arrived.
It was the first thing that had made sense since Kev had died – everything else I had read was a story of someone else’s pain or baffling theory.
John James saved my life from thousands of miles away and he didn’t even get a royalty!
Reading that battered little book was a revelation – following the instructions was transformational. It talked about people called Grief Recovery Specialists that could take you through the actions, but frustratingly I couldn’t find any in the UK.
After a lot of trying, I finally found a friend willing to “do” the book with me. I was struck by how strange it seemed that these two older men from the US in a book written years earlier reached into the heart of an English widow and knew what was going on in there!
It wasn’t until 2010 that I got to meet John in person. I’d done my training to be a Specialist with his partner and co-author Russell Friedman. It was Russell who asked me to help them bring Grief Recovery to the UK and he was planning to come over in 2010 to start my training as a trainer when John apparently decided he wanted a look at “this girl Russell thinks is going to be a trainer” so it was with excitement and a little terror (what if he didn’t like me!) that I waited at the airport to meet him.
We got on immediately, although I was a bit intimidated, a bit star struck, and John was a man of few words. His style, very different to Russell’s, was direct and his humour so dry it was hard to spot until I knew him better.
I learned so much from John, he would chide me gently when I went wrong so I never felt crushed and I never tired of watching his skill in bringing people to tell their emotional truth.
Beyond the professional relationship he was always protective of me in a fatherly way and when I told him I’d started seeing someone he demanded that he be allowed to interview him! Luckily for all of us Ian passed the interview in 2013 and we were both thrilled when John and wife Jess flew in for our wedding in 2015.
I love this photo that Ian took in Oregon - we were all out for a family dinner and love how John's shadow symbolises how he always had my back.
It is hard to believe he is dead – he always seemed as though he was indestructible even though in the work we do, we know in a really powerful way that no one is. He died last week – peacefully, at home surrounded by his loved ones. My heart aches for them in their huge loss and I’m sad that current restrictions mean we can’t just jump on a plane to offer real hugs in person.
John helped so many people directly with his workshops and hundreds of thousands via his books that have been translated into so many languages and circulate globally.
His legacy is immeasurable. He was my friend, my mentor, my father figure and I miss him and yes I grieve. He bought the world Grief Recovery and changed my life forever. I will always be grateful so in tribute to his succinct style:
Thank you, I miss you, I love you, Goodbye John.
If you have stories or comments about John we'd love to hear them - please share using the form below- thank you. Carole x
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