Experiences like coronavirus change you forever

Grief

Nicola Welsh reflects on a feeling that the world is in hibernation as it copes with the pandemic, and hopes we all come out the other side stronger

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7th April 2020 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Coronavirus is beginning to feel a lot like grief. I speak from someone who knows a lot about grief.  The death of my precious son when he was just three weeks old. Then there was the sudden death of my dad five years later and recently the loss of my dear mum after a battle with cancer. 

So here’s what I know about all these experiences. They change you…forever. You cannot go through these catastrophic times without being changed. You cannot spring back to who you were.  You have to learn a new you and this may be true of this time. This experience will change us all forever. 

Grieving parents often talk about hibernating after their loss. They feel vulnerable and that it is safer to hide and avoid large gatherings or social events as they feel they don’t have the energy to manage these situations. It is tiring having to put on ‘a face’. Through speaking with recently bereaved parents during Covid-19 many feel like the whole world is hibernating with them and this brings comfort. The pressure is off to go to work and function normally - they can grieve in peace for a little longer. Staying home makes bereaved parents feel safe and this resonates with us all at this time.  If we stay home, we remain safe. 

If this situation is like grief then we know it won’t always feel like this and we can emerge stronger and more resilient. We will be better equipped to have a clearer perspective on situations. “I have survived worse” thinking may come easier to many. We will take less things for granted and be grateful for the small stuff. The small stuff like a hug, smiling at a stranger, acts of kindness and giving. At the worst of times in my life I give. It makes me feel better and gives me some control back.  I have bought breakfast and coffees for strangers. Gifted flowers and cards to those who cared for my son. And so we must all look to give. I believe if we give freely from our heart without expecting anything in return, then good things will come. If we all collectively do this, we will see the world through different eyes which could shape the future. 

Nicola Welsh

Nicola Welsh

My son Theo left lots of gifts. Lifelong gifts like deep compassion and an understanding for pain and loss. With this experience, I am now the chief executive of Held In Our Hearts - a charity which offers befriending and counselling to families whose baby has died. All our supports are free and open ended. We all understand the pain of losing a child and we give our time and compassion because we want to give something back to help others at the worst time in their life. Many staff do this in memory of their much loved baby. We have purpose. It is a powerful thing and demonstrates good can come from bad.

As leaders, we must remain calm and positive. Anxiety breeds anxiety in others. If we remain calm, this will be mirrored in others. The days may feel long just now but they will pass and this time will be a dot in our lifetime.  What will be remembered is the care and compassion we gave to others.   

When we emerge from our hibernation, I hope we will all feel better connected and more resilient.  When we step outside and enter our work places and meet our friends and colleagues again, I hope we are filled with a renewed sense of purpose and kindness.  Surely this is what we must do in memory of all those who lost their lives at this time. 

Nicola Welsh is chief executive of Held In Our Hearts