Bereavement..the journey

I am of an age where so many colleagues and friends are now facing the loss of their parents. For some this may be expected following long term health problems and for others it may be as a result of something unexpected.

There are of course no easy ways to say goodbye to our loving mentors but the best way to honour their memory is to go onto achieve their dreams and those of your own. So often I talk to people who are torn with regards to how they feel uncomfortable in expressing their personal grief, and, for some, without feeling they are neglecting other family members.

I have always maintained that we keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and by talking about them rather than denying their existence or our feelings of great sadness in their passing. Grief takes on many forms and shapes and there is no ‘normal way’ and  at times something apparently non-related to our feelings will spark an emotion that we may feel unable to control.

Our senses will play a very important role for years to come as we may hear a piece of music which reminds us of our loved one. I found this personally to be the case whilst watching ‘Rocket man‘ (which if you haven’t seen it do so it is a brilliant film.) Elton John was a previous boyfriend’s fave artist – sadly he died at a young age but hearing this music transported me back in time with fond memories of young love.

Our sense of smell will also trigger memories – fresh lavender always reminds me of my maternal grandmother…and of course those mothballs -a firm favourite of ladies of a certain age of the time!

For those of you recently bereaved my thoughts are with you…cherish the memories, and if you need support don’t be afraid to seek it.

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Dementia awareness

The fabulous series of ‘The restaurant that makes mistakes‘ came to a very heart warming and positive conclusion this week. What a great project and awareness vehicle this has been – proving how engagement and activities do actually improve the well-being and sense of self-worth for those living with dementia. Dementia can make people lose their self-esteem and bring on depression so anything we can do to help prevent this happening is a must.

My past three years of working with dementia clients and their carers and families has been a real privilege and a very rewarding challenge. I have seen first hand just how important positive personal engagement is to the person with dementia. How it can achieve such wonderful results in lifting the spirits of those around them who are facing some very sad changes in their partner/loved one on a day to day basis.

I have found that once families start to accept that their loved one has changed and will continual to do so they can cope better. As always I will fly the flag for the great support charities who have amazing literature and advice available…as with most things in life knowledge is power and learning ways to defuse situations will help ease many a challenging situation.

If you know of any families that are coping with this sad situation offer the hand of friendship. Try to support the main carer by giving them an opportunity to have time to themselves – remember caring is a 24/7 role and exhausting physically and emotionally.

Sara Payne

I watched last night’s ITV’s showing of ‘The Untold Story’ – Sarah Payne’s emotive account of the tragic disappearance and loss of her daughter. This amazing woman channelled her personal grief into something positive to benefit all our children in creating ‘Sarah’s Law’.

Some years back I had the opportunity to meet this formidable woman at a Stroke Association function where she was a truly inspirational speaker. Aside of the great things she has achieved she is a lovely woman and oh so humble.

As the summer holidays approach I always remind those with children to keep an eye on them as sadly those that wish our children harm are opportunists. We have to give our children freedom to some extent to allow them to be confident and grow but caution and concern remain with us on a day to day basis…even when they are grown up.

 

Those musical emotional triggers

We all know the value of musical therapy and how it can help to lift spirits in particular in the case of people meeting the challenge of having dementia. As with all senses a song or piece of music can trigger memories and remind us of  particular events in our life.

This is indeed true for me whenever I hear Doris Day’s songs and as  people around the world celebrate her great talent songs like ‘move over darling’ and ‘secret love’ will hold fond memories for many.

Of course she came from an era where not only were actresses expected to act they had to dance and sing and of course she could do all three. Our family favourite film is of course ‘Calamity Jane’   ..just blown in from the windy city!!

The films of that era were of course to inspire the feel good factor after the second world war, the rom coms of the day where the ending was always happy. I’m off to find my box set and have a sing along in memory of that fabulous blond girl next door!

The gardening bug

Any plant that comes into the house stands a good chance of being murdered but last year I started working on a wild small piece of land ‘the island’  as I call it. Slowly but surely it’s improved, with a few donated plants from a green fingered friend, a few bags of stones and pebbles it’s starting to take shape. With friends who know the difference between a weed and a plant I’ve tidied up the results of all the recent rain. But as I was told yesterday  ‘a weed is indeed a flower but in the wrong place!’

Yesterday a kind neighbour and I got to improving my sad attempt of a hedge hog retreat. Inspired by Brian May’s ‘Amazing Grace’ home for hedgehogs I hope other people will also try to help our cute spiky pals by providing a safe haven.

I won’t post a photo of said island just yet but here’s my photo of Ashridge woods looking amazing as usual a carpet of bluebells,

bluebell a

Exam stress -avoid it

So we are now back into exam time and to all those students young and/or mature please make sure you balance out your cramming for exams with some relaxation or healthy pursuits whatever your sporting preference may be.

Remember to keep well-hydrated leading up to exams and take that unlabelled bottled water into your exams with you. Try and keep focused and keep that anxiety level down. If you have worked hard all year, done your revision maybe with the aid of a mind map (great way to focus the mind) you will be fine …..so be confident ‘you’ve got this’.

One tip I like to pass on is to keep your feet under that exam desk flat on the floor it grounds you and if you tie your legs in knots it is bad for your circulation – I can hear a few of you laughing…but trust me it’s true on both accounts try it and see.

For those of you who practice Yoga (which is a brilliant way to unwind) remember the yoga breathing technique – another great relaxer.

Good luck to you all.

 

Losing a parent

Yet again only yesterday I was discussing how life changing it can be when we lose a parent. It is the only time I can honestly say I have felt I have lost my sense of purpose.

We know that one day we will have to say goodbye to our parents and whenever that time comes whether they have lived a long and happy life or not we will feel it is too soon. In our bereavement journey we must remember that the intensity of the relationship will also determine how our grief affects us. Though we must go on living as our loved ones would wish us to do…some days this will feel easy to achieve whilst others  it may feel an effort just to do the simplest of things.

Does it get easier? Yes in many ways though this is often down in part to accepting they are no longer around and this will take time. We keep our loved ones alive in our minds and in our hearts and by remembering the happy times, their achievements and their words of wisdom that they passed on to us. We owe it to their memory to go on, live our life to the full and carrying on achieving in their memory.

At a family gathering last weekend I believe my brother and I surprised some of the younger family members when we revealed how strong and determined ‘their kind and loving nanny’ could be  – a formidable woman not to be under-estimated.

This reminded me how our mum used to say she regretted that none of us really knew my father (who died very young) as a man only a provider…something we surely missed out on.

If you are lucky enough to still have your parents alive..then make the most of them and find out their stories to pass down to the next generations.