‘This is a book about how you don’t get over it,’ You Are Not Alone begins. If you’re new to bereavement, looking for a way through the death of a loved one, perhaps this doesn’t scream of optimism. But Cariad Lloyd’s warmth, generosity and gentle pragmatism makes her book one of the most reassuring I have read.
She is a member of ‘the club’ – the Dead Dad Club. Her father died 24 years ago of pancreatic cancer when she was 15. She is also the host of the award-winning podcast Griefcast, through which she has interviewed many bereaved individuals – comedians, writers, actors, chefs, artists – who have suffered the loss of children, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and pets. You Are Not Alone is the distilled wisdom of her experiences and those of her guests. But this isn’t a self-help book – Lloyd isn’t a grief counsellor or a palliative doctor; she is a comedian who happened to lose her father at an early age – and it isn’t a memoir either. Itis an account of carrying grief and living alongside it, imperfectly.
The book is made up of personal narrative, digested grief theory and practical advice, while drawing on the experiences of those she has spoken to on Griefcast. The combination provides an insight into the nuts and bolts of grieving, the rights and wrongs. (There are no ‘wrongs’, Lloyd is at pains to point out, but it doesn’t always feel that way at the time.)
It is divided into practical chapters that explore the realities of how grief feels and mutates, what we can do to help ourselves and others and how we confront our own mortality. Interspersed are vignettes from Lloyd’s own journey. She is an old hand when it comes to grief, variously describing herself as a grief ‘elder’, ‘Captain Grief’, ‘Queen Grief’ and someone who, when it comes to mourning, ‘got there early and set out the nibbles’.