The one thing a grief expert says you should do.

"The empty middle."

That's how Holly Wainright, the host of the Mamamia podcast MID, describes grief in a recent episode — and damn, if that doesn't perfectly sum up the ache of major loss.

Grief is a reality of life. At some point or another, we're all going to experience the pain of losing a loved one or missing out on something we deeply yearned for — and it's something many of us prefer to avoid thinking about before the time comes. It just... hurts too much.

As Holly says in the ep, "If it hasn't already visited, grief is looming... We hope we can keep it at bay if we just don't mention it." 

Her guest, Dr Jackie Bailey, however, has a different take.

Listen to the full episode of MID here. Post continues below.

An interfaith minister, funeral celebrant, author of The Eulogy, and 'death walker' (someone accompanies a dying person and the bereaved on their journey), Jackie wants us to confront loss — and more specifically, mortality — head-on. This, she says, has the potential to help us all live a better life with the time we do have left.

Dr. Jackie Bailey. Image: Jackie's Funerals.


Jackie describes herself as a "deathy" — a person who is "obsessed with that part of life" (AKA the end of it).

"That's where I'm most comfortable," she told Holly during the podcast. "I'm far more comfortable officiating a funeral than a wedding, for example. It's my comfortable space. It's really intimate, meaningful, authentic — a lot of stuff is stripped away.

"It's not my happy place but it's my most comfortable."

It might sound morbid to some, but as Jackie explained, she's long been aware of the fragility of life, after experiencing grief as a young girl.

When Jackie was seven, her 10-year-old sister was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and told she didn't have long to live.

"I was obsessed with it from a very young age — thinking about the meaning of life and what happens after we die," Jackie explained.

Her sister lived for another 31 years, the tumour eventually causing her death. But with that grief, and other losses faced, Jackie learned some strategies for dealing with loss.

Watch: A Beginner's Guide To Grief. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Now she's made a career out of helping others prepare for grief using a number of helpful tools. And according to Jackie, it doesn't necessarily have to be a grim exercise.

One practice she recommends is creating what she calls a "life budget" of sorts — which, as Jackie told Holly, can help you track how you want to live your life to the fullest.

"Get an exercise book and on each page, write a year — 2024, 2025 — from now, and you'll find that you've probably only got 30 pages," she says.

And, eek. But as scary as that may sound, Jackie explained that the idea is to break down the things you want to achieve in those years you have left.

"I'm 47, I've probably got, if I'm lucky, 20 (at the outer) good years left of work," she said, explaining that it gives you a moment to really think about and assess what you want to and will be able to achieve. 

"How many good books might I get to write in that time?" she shared as an example. "It takes me a few years to write one."

The key, Jackie explained, is to "budget" the time you have left, and how you want to spend it — just like you would with your finances.

"Break it down. Be real with it. Treat your years like a budget."

Just like money, time is a finite resource. But zooming out and taking stock of how much we have left in the bank, and tracking how we want to spend it, can help us make the most the life we have left.

Just ask a death walker.

Feature Image: Canva.