Good Grief

Channel 4’s Good Grief: this heartfelt new documentary will explore the Reverend Richard Coles’ journey with grief

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Reverend Richard Coles has been through a period of upheaval over the past few years, following the death of his husband in 2019. Now, the celebrity vicar is opening up the conversation around grief in a heartfelt new documentary for Channel 4.

In the realm of public figures who would guarantee fascinating conversation at a dinner party, the Reverend Richard Coles is definitely high on our wishlist. The cleric, broadcaster, crime writer and former member of The Communards has had about as diverse a career as you could possibly imagine, and when we’re not listening to his dulcet tones on Saturday Live or chortling at his regular appearances on primetime game shows, you can often find us scrolling his thoughtful meditations on Twitter.

The most recent chapter in Coles’ life story, however, wasn’t one that was planned. In 2019, the vicar was rocked by the untimely death of his partner, Reverend David Coles, from alcoholic liver disease, leaving Coles alone for the first time in 12 years. Ever since, he’s been sharing his experiences of grief from time to time on social media as he slowly rebuilds his life.

Now, Coles is giving the nation a deeper insight into his bereavement journey in a new one-off documentary for Channel 4.

In Good Grief?, Coles, who recently retired as parish priest of Finedon in Northamptonshire after 11 years, will explore the subject of grief and how to live with it positively. 

Taking viewers on “a literal and metaphorical journey across the choppy waters of bereavement” as he endeavours to open up the conversation about grief, the new documentary sees Coles taking himself well outside of his comfort zone as he throws himself into a plethora of activities across the UK, all said to have a positive impact on grief. 

Good Grief
Channel 4's Good Grief

From unusual laughter yoga, high-energy boxing and exhilarating surfing to playing with therapy alpacas and dining with others who are grieving, Coles embraces every opportunity as he discovers a toolkit of therapies and ideas to help him explore what “a good grief” looks like.

Coles, who wrote about his partner’s passing in a heartfelt memoir, The Madness Of Grief, last year, also journeys further afield in order to find community with people who are going through the same grieving process as him.

The documentary follows Coles as he boards the Grief Cruise in Miami, where he partakes in activities and seminars as well as taking advantage of the luxuries the cruise ship has to offer – from ziplining across the ship to on-board crazy golf. With every new experience, he slowly allows himself to dispense with some of the guilt associated with holidaying post-bereavement and even ends up officiating at his first burial at sea.

As he questions commonly held beliefs in the stages of grief, Coles discovers that it can be beneficial to move away from searching for safety in the familiar.

Good Grief
Channel 4's Good Grief

“It was a fascinating and sometimes surprising journey through the landscape of grief, from a close encounter with a sloth in Honduras to an unbudgeable wetsuit in Bristol,” Coles said in a statement.

“I learnt a lot and hope it will be instructive and entertaining for anyone also on that journey”.

Good Grief airs tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm.

Images: Channel 4

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.