Empty Spaces

Many years ago I published a fund raising publication raising funds and awareness for a cancer charity one of my lovely writers at that time donated a piece entitled ‘Empty Spaces’ which talked about the empty places at functions at his local cricket club as one by one his dear friends were gradually dying around him.

I am mindful that last weekend a lot of people will have experienced Father’s Day without their Dad, (myself included) and may have found the day difficult. I have heard it often said that grief is the price we end up paying for loving those we hold dear.

As I discussed over the weekend with a personal friend the intensity of our grief is related to the depth of the relationship we had with the family member or friend that has died. As usual, one of my positive reminders I like to share is to celebrate their life rather than focus on the way they died or what caused their death. I.e. Cancer, heart attack, stroke, a tragic accident and possibly suicide.

The time to tell those you love them is of course whilst they are here and you may just be saying it on a day that they really need to hear it and appreciate it. As always we keep those we love alive, in part, in our mind and in our hearts.

Conflict of interest

How refreshing it was to watch the two part BBC programme ‘The Doctor who gave up drugs’ it certainly was thought provoking and revealed such blatent clash of interest between the medical profession, drug companies and producers of non-cow’s milk! Dr Chris Van Tulleken showed just how our children can be helped with alternatives to drugs for such issues as AHD and teenager depression including mindfulness.

Friends know that I am anti-drugs so it comes as no surprise I would agree with his findings. However, it does disappoint and alarm me that GP’s seemingly dish out anti-depressants to children and the bereaved when counselling and emotional support is the safer bet. I know some parents will scream and say unless you are living with a child with these challenges you have no idea..but I would rather not put a child’s life and well-being at risk. The second part showed how some teens were suicidal after their dosage of certain anti-depressants being increased and that is not just coincidental.

It was extremely worrying to see Dr Tulleken’s visual presentations in terms of the sheer volume of drugs our children are taking as well as the horrendous amount of Calpol we are administering to babies and young children.

Today I am not ranting just concerned but maybe more so that the documentary revealed how drug companies and babymilk manufacturers fund Doctors’ educational conferences where their products are certainly marketed well…if that isn’t a conflict of interest then my name isn’t Manning!

Helping the bereaved not ignoring them

Earlier this week during a visit with a bereaved lady we both agreed how we put on a brave face with those around who are also struggling in coming to terms with a loss of a loved one. Why is that? Over the past few years I have read many books on the beravement journey of others and have my own experiences to recollect too and what is blatently obvious is that to deny somebody’s right to grieve openly is of no use.

I am certain I would have said this before -my own mother said people crossed the road to avoid having to speak to her after my father died suddenly. It made me cross and upset then as a child and still does. However, shall we just be angry with the person that does that or should we feel sorry that they cannot find the words…any words?  As I have written in various articles just a hand on the arm or shoulder and ‘i’m thinking of you’ will suffice nobody who is recently bereaved expects you to say something profound honestly!

What we need as a bereaved person is for people to acknowledge our pain and the existence of those we have loved and lost. We have such a long way to go still in this country in dealing with how we approach the subject of death and it is something all of us will have to encounter and deal with at some stage of our life.

In a world where people post so many private things about their life (which frankly I would rather not see) I find it hard to believe that talking about death leaves them dumb struck.

As always I am sending a little reminder that it is after the funeral people need you to to phone or visit and let them know their loved one is not forgotten.  For anybody who is feeling alone in their grief then please talk to somebody, your loved one would not want you to suffer in silence and most of all celebrate their life.

Cherishing those we love

The pace of life for most is fast, often too fast and so easily we neglect friendships and loved ones. We all need to slow it down at times and remember to tell those we love just how important they are to us.

I know I have said this many times before on my blog but in life we meet many people and some leave their imprint on our hearts forever. It is never a case of how long the friendship lasts but the depth of that relationship and that is what hurts the most when they leave our lives.

The journey of bereavement is a difficult one, sadly, for many without a quick exit route. Anniversaries can be extremely painful but in their own way they are good for us as it gives us the opportunity to release some of our grief. Only yesterday talking to a recently widowed friend I reminded her how it is good to cry. However, we silly English people think it inappropriate to cry; whereas many other countries openly grieve -the latter being far more beneficial.

If we are missing somebody we have lost then there is no shame in saying so. I was personally touched yesterday learning of how a young girl continued to send her grandad text messages after he had died – talking to him in heaven. For us writers we do that constantly, and I am told that my own honest rantings help others too.

Celebrate the relationships you have with those that are with you and continue to do that when they are no longer around as I am certain that is what they would want.

Sending a spiritual hug to those that really need it today.

Remember the tallest poppies are often picked first and that they were beautiful and loved.

Student wellbeing -The RVC

Our Prime Minister spoke this morning in support of awareness and assistance in terms of mental wellbeing within education. The move to train teachers to spot signs of mental health may be seen as a step in the right direction -however what we actually need is more funding within schools to employ more trained counsellors/pastoral staff to deal with the growing stress factors that face today’s students.

I sadly often hear how schools fail children in respect of not adhering to the anti-bullying processes they are meant to follow and/or taking individual cases as seriously as they should – much to the distress and frustration of both students and parents.

However, I must take this opportunity to congratulate The Royal Veterinary College who do take the wellbeing of their students seriously. This starts from day one aiding students considerately in preparation of their interview for a place. During a recent visit to the RVC’s Hawkshead Campus it was also good to see their new sports centre named as ‘The Sport and Wellbeing Centre’ which is free to all students.  I think this speaks volumes of how valued their students are and how the RVC recognise both education and preventing student stress need focus and investment.

Here’s hoping some of the stress can be reduced if our government address and implement some of the financial improvements being muted for students persuing a university education.

Supporting students

I am mindful that this week is mental awareness week for children and these events give us all a platform to encourage our children to open up, if they are able. Over the past few weeks I have had several discussions with colleagues working within education and one common theme is recognising how stressful it is for today’s students.

Thankfully proactive schools consider positive intervention which can take many shapes. I write often about the value of mindfulness and, of course, taking regular exercise and considering yoga both are great ways for staying relaxed and fit. The various breathing and calming exercises that take just a few minutes can really make a difference in quickly regaining a position of tranquility and calm.

As parents we must ensure that communication between our children during exam time is kept open without appearing to be nagging but encouraging and offering support.  Providing a base that is quiet when needed and positive social inter-action to stop them from suffering cabin fever by isolated studying!

As I discussed with a mother recently – at times we feel we are going through the exams with them! Good luck to both students and parents this coming year, stay focused, positive and be proud of your achievements.

 

Xmas Tree Festival

St Saviour’s Tree Festival is in full swing. I visited Sunday to see all the amazing trees decorated and sponsored by local charities and organisations.

This year there are two lovely memory trees where one can add a message in memory of a loved one lost. As we know it is a times like Christmas when we may be missing and remembering somebody we have lost this year. As I often post bereavement is not an overnight process and for those mourning the pressure to feel happy and festive can be overwhelming. For those who may have nursed a loved one with cancer the bereavement journey can be a complicated one with delayed grief mixed with feelings of relief that a loved one is no longer suffering.

Kindness and time

My own mentor and amazing mother always used to say the best gift we can give is our time. As we approach the Christmas period we should be mindful of those that live alone or maybe have lost a loved one with year. The first Christmas may be the hardest the family will have to face.  I have always maintained that Christmas time can place huge pressures on people to be happy when actually they may be feeling sad for many reasons.

What we can all do is to make an effort to give our time when we can spare it and of course show a bit of kindness to those that would really appreciate the sentiment perhaps more so this year.

Speaking this week with a close friend we were both in agreement that those who are bereft need our consideration long after the funeral week…but perhaps we are all guilty of forgetting that at times.

Remember life goes by quickly but kindness on the other hand lasts for ever.

If you are feeling the pain of those who are missing try and remember the happy times you shared or a funny experience and keep their memory alive in a positive way as best you can.

 

Cyber bullying

Glad to See Prince William discussing and supporting the modern day problem of cyber bullying. As I have written many times before school time bullying was just at school now its 24/7 and its effect can bring heartbreaking outcomes for families as victims feeling desperate sometimes take their own life.

Online bullying seemingly has no escape and it is so personal. Sadly we have a generation of people who post first think after…or not thinking at all. Parents, teachers need to remind all users of the ramifications of their actions.

Please read my article on Innovate My school’s website

http://www.innovatemyschool.com/industry-expert-articles/item/1670-how-schools-can-tackle-cyberbullying.html

What’s under the surface?

A lot of my friends and colleagues have ventured into pastoral type roles the past few years and recognise the importance of the support they give more often than not as a vocation to our struggling teens.

Modern life is a stressful path for our students aside of the stress of exams they have a lot of what many may see as self-imposed pressure via modern media. However, the emotional pain runs deep for many who suffer with various forms of peer pressure, cyber bullying and body conscious issues.

I am reminded today how we cannot always notice the signs as it is difficult to help somebody who is doing everything they can to hide their feelings. The following simple example explains a lot!

Think of a flower and its roots: The flower is things you can see happening  – what people say and do.  The roots are things you can’t see  – what people feel and think!

Delve deeper, ask the questions and give your children the platform to share they are our most precious gift.

To those in education holding the purse strings invest in our youth they are the future! We need more funding in pastoral departments not staff cutbacks.