We Love the NHS…..

Over the last week I have started to notice a slight feeling of distaste growing inside me each time I see another pop concert being offered to NHS workers. Offers of adoration and praise have been coming in thick and fast as these frontline workers are being compared to the soldiers going over the battlefields in the war, putting their lives at risk for us.  How this is enabling us to come together as a nation, to feel patriotic and clap on the streets and bang our saucepans and wave to our neighbors whom we have been ignoring up until now. We are even all looking forward to our post Pandemic street parties.

 I salute and applause all the doctors, nurses and key workers who are all putting their lives at risk performing their jobs, so why am I feeling this way?

This morning, after a session with a client, I made the connection. I am noticing a similar pattern with that of abuse.

The NHS has been struggling and on its last legs for years. Staff have been working ridiculously long work shifts, with very little support for their own mental health and partly because they are told they are heroes and angels, they keep going.  These people are wonderful and without their dedication, endurance and huge hearts, many more of us would be unwell and die. Before any of this started.

So, we tell them how “special” they are.  What an amazing wonderful job they are doing.  What incredible people they are. We lavish praise on them at this time like never before.  This is a known tactic of grooming and exploitation.  Abusers tell their victims how special they are, how much they love them and this boost to their self -esteem often prevents victims speaking out about their abuse and challenging it.  It silences them.

What would happen if all these people put their energy into petitioning the government to get the staff proper equipment and support, rather than delivering them gifts of smoothies or painting rainbows on their faces? How about we vote for a government that supports the NHS.  It’s the changes to their working conditions that are fundamentally needed, as opposed to offers of love and saucepan banging. 

The solidarity on the streets at 8pm on Thursday and the coming together as a community is a wonderful thing, but let’s not fool ourselves that we are doing it solely altruistically for the NHS.

A Community Witnessing of Grief.

“There is a deep longing among people in the West to connect with something bigger — with community and spirit.” Sobonfu Some

Leaving the revelry of Pride behind this Saturday, I took myself off to the beautiful space at the Ecotherapy Centre at Stamner Park to take part with others in a Community Grief Tending ritual. I had little knowledge of what to expect, but soon learned that we were to spend the day – a group of 10 of us, connecting, sharing our stories if we wished and experiencing and expressing our grief amongst each other. So often many of us experience the heart wrenching deep pain of grief alone. For a few days after someone has died, friends pay us visits or check if we are ok, but as the days turn to weeks and the weeks into months, the grief seeps deeper inside us and we can often worry that our feelings of despair, loneliness or anger may not be welcomed by friends. We numb ourselves with alcohol, food – or whatever is at our disposal in an attempt to cover up these feelings and distract us from them. But they don’t go away. The plaster gets wet, worn round the edges and falls off, revealing the deep wound that is still in so very much in need of healing.

In other cultures, such as the Dagara tribe of West Africa, grief is communal and they partake in weekly grief rituals where the community come together to support and witness each other in their grief. This enables those grieving to be able to process and release their grief. Very opposite to our own culture where so much grieving is done behind closed doors, with people feeling ashamed of their emotions, feeling there is something wrong with them for not being “over it” and friends too afraid to ask how they are in case they “upset them.”

The day flowed as we moved across the land creating an altar of gratitude and an altar for those ancestors whom we wished to honour, remember and share with each other. A fire was lit as we gathered around it to feast on the wonderful nourishing food we had all brought to share with one another. The main part of the day was the ritual itself in which those who wished to, were invited to handle objects which represented fear, sorrow, anger and numbness. As each member held the various objects, they shared and released some of their pain and feelings, which were witnessed by each other in an environment that felt safe and holding. There was no judgement, other than for ourselves, and people were able to unlock some of their deeply held grief and express it in front of each other. For some, this took the form of words, for others with tears or anger. I was struck by the courage of every participant to take that risk to show their pain and express that part of themselves which at times can feel so unwelcome in our society. For some the grief was so far hidden they shared their frustration at not being able to access it, knowing it was there bubbling underneath the surface. There was something incredibly powerful about having our grief witnessed and feeling that connection with others. I left that day feeling full of gratitude for the connections I had made and the opportunity to express my own grief and feel seen and heard.

Our society has become so much about the individual, but we need each other. We need communities. We need to come together. We need to be witnessed and held and know that we are okay, however we are feeling that day. We need to know that Grief is a natural process and a journey that will continue to affect us all throughout our lives in one way or another. Yes, it is hard and yes, it is painful and heart wrenching at times and can take us to the pits of despair and isolation. However, if we can reach out, support each other, and accept that this is a consequence of loving and living in this world, then we can make the process of grieving that little bit more bearable for us all.