03:06pm Monday 18 December 2017

How personal heartache led to understanding loss

“Loss is a universal concept…it comes in all areas of adversity,” Dr Murray said.

“We only need to see each day the agony on the faces of refugees, people bereaved through suicide or illness, people facing relationship breakdown, or children being removed from their home.”

UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences researcher Dr Murray’s personal story is heartbreaking, but one she insists is no more painful or exceptional than that of many others across the globe.

A former mathematics teacher, she embarked on a career in psychology amid a harrowing time in her mid-twenties when she endured two miscarriages and an early neo natal death.

“My circumstances brought a sense of shared loss with others who faced hardship in some way,” she said.

“Friends move away, early relationships start to fail, a loved one may pass away, or there could be career challenges that you find overwhelming.

“Everything can hit at once.”

In her new book, Understanding Loss, Dr Murray explores the idea that loss is what characterises all low points in life.

“It need not be loss from death, but loss of a job, loss of trust or faith, loss of function or status,” she said.

Aside from her many years of study, Dr Murray has extensive ‘real-life’ experience, having worked in palliative care, with aid organisations, in the substance abuse field and with foster children.

Besides working in psychology she also works part-time as a cancer nurse at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, engaged from first diagnosis to caring for the dying and bereaved.

“The language of loss is universal and you see that working with aid agencies worldwide,” she said.

“Loss affects the whole body, heart and mind…an intense sensory and physical experience, that can leave you with a broken heart and stomach that churns.

“While it can be devastating, it’s also of some comfort to know it can lead to personal growth and that it is a universal experience and that we are not alone in grieving.”

A major aim of Dr Murray’s book is to improve the integration of care from health professionals for those coping with different facets of loss.

Understanding Loss is published by Routledge.

Media: Dr Judith Murray,  Judith.murray@uq.edu.au ,  +61 7 3365 7181; Robert Burgin, UQ Communications, r.burgin@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364.


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