May 24, 2017 Featured

ESP Magazine’s Mikey Clarke talks exclusively to Jeff Brazier about his new book, The Grief Survival Guide…

I was recently given the opportunity to speak to celeb Jeff Brazier, who’s perhaps best known for his many roles on This Morning, as a hub presenter and segment host.

We were primarily meeting to discuss his involvement in the charity, Sports Connections Foundation (or SCF, who are based here in Peterborough) which uses sport to help and inspire children. Years on, their original programme – Prokick – has engaged with over 400,000 children across the country.

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Jeff was the first of many celebs we’ll be speaking to in regards to their support with SCF, so look out for more interviews appearing in the mag throughout the upcoming months and on our website.

During my chat (and pint) with the Dancing on Ice star, we, of course, spoke about the Prokick Schools Challenge and how it’s already made such a difference to hundreds of schools (including ones here in Peterborough and the surrounding areas) and will continue to do so. You can read more about this in June’s edition of ESP Magazine (out now!).

But we also spoke about the mountain of papers he’d brought along to our exclusive interview. After enquiring what they were, he told me, “I’ve written a book called The Grief Survival Guide. I’ll be proof reading these pages after our chat, before they go into print.”

Jeff was kind enough to tell us more.

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The Grief Survival Guide focuses on his own experience of bereavement, which he has experienced in many forms: In his own childhood, helping his two boys through the devastating death of their mother, Jade Goody and witnessing the anguish of his own mum when she lost both of her parents. In the book, we also hear the stories of how he is coaching clients who are coming to terms with loss.

In the book, Jeff provides support and guidance from someone who’s been there. He offers practical advice on everything from preparing for the eventuality of death, managing grief, how best to support family and friends, and moving forward. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach so instead Jeff teaches us that the best we can do is understand, cope and survive.

There are a few books out there on grief already, so I wondered what was different about this particular one. “There are some out there, yes – but many have been written by experts,” Jeff told me. “I don’t claim to be an expert myself. I’m just a normal guy that has personally been through it – just like many people I’ve spoken to on the subject that are in the book too and because we don’t use jargon or phrases that go over people’s heads I think that can only be a good thing. It makes it more accessible.”

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People sadly pass away in a variety of different ways. Some know in advance whilst others are cruelly taken from us unexpectedly without anyone having the chance to say goodbye. Does this affect the level of grief someone is feeling? “Not at all. It’s different for everybody. In fact, some people don’t even need to die for someone to experience grief. You could lose a job, a relationship could end or you may feel like you’ve lost your identity – these are just a few of the many things people can grieve over and because there’s so many different levels and types of grief, I don’t expect someone to read my book from start to finish. Chances are, they’ll read a chapter that’s most relevant to them in that moment, and then perhaps read a different chapter another time when they might be experiencing a different type of grief.”

SCF_034Death is of course a sensitive subject and I wondered in Jeff’s experience, whether people generally found it a difficult subject to talk about. “Yes and no,” he said. “Some people simply aren’t ready to talk about it or some can discuss it in front of certain people – but avoid it in front of friends and family, so as not to upset them. But the majority of people are certainly more comfortable talking about it these days. Some look at talking about someone they’ve lost as an opportunity to celebrate their life.”

Amongst many things, Jeff works as a life coach supporting people going through similar things. With the vast amount of people he’s spoken to I wondered if there was a pattern – an average timeline – that it takes people to finish grieving. He told me, “Absolutely not. As people, we are all so different and deal with things differently. There could be a million reasons as to why one person may be grieving for longer than another. For some it may be that they blame themselves for something and that they need to learn to forgive themselves. The list is endless.”

Finally, I wondered if grief is something he spoke about with his sons. “It’s something we’ve spoken about more as they’ve got older,” he said. “They used to particularly struggle at times like Christmas Day. After talking to them it turned out that they were feeling guilty about celebrating. Because of that, on days such as Christmas, I started taking them to the cemetery first thing in the morning. They were then able to go home and enjoy the day without feeling guilty about having a good time.”

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On the subject of Jeff’s sons, we discussed why he fought to have his kids taken out of the media spotlight. We also talked about whether he felt the pressure of giving advice on grief whilst being live on This Morning – after all, that’s a whole different ball game to writing a book. Again, you can read more on this in June’s edition of ESP.

The Grief Survival Guide is available to pre-order now. It will be released on June 1, 2017.

To find out how the Sports Connections Foundation that Jeff supports could work with youngsters at a school near you (they’ve already helped dozens in the Peterborough area) visit www.scfoundation.org.uk

Mikey Clarke

Photos: Emma Bothamley