Something so harrowing happened today that I can't get it off my mind. I took the children to watch the Tour de France come tearing through the tiny country lanes in a neighbouring village and I ended up comforting a woman as she watched her husband slipping away before her very eyes. I just can't comprehend what she must be feeling right now. He had suffered a heart attack just on the outskirts of Moreton village and, after an hour of medical attention, was put in an ambulance and taken to hospital for one last attempt at saving his life which, tragically, was unsuccessful.
I'm not one to just sit and watch when things like this happen, I had to see if everything that could be done, was being done. I was asked to look after the man's wife by the incredible makeshift team of first respondents, including a fireman who just happened to live across the road. Together with a paramedic and a few other helpers they gave the man a fighting chance. I saw the incident through his wife's perspective, not knowing, wanting to know, not wanting to know, wanting to watch, not being able to watch, hope, desperation, realisation.
You can't help but question your own mortality and the biggest gamble you can ever take is to make assumptions about your health. I saw my biggest fear played out in front of me; leaving behind, people that need you, without saying goodbye. I can accept any pain I might endure when my time comes but I cannot accept leaving others in a mess when I'm gone, that's not my choice to make though, is it?
Bereavement is a subject I know only too well. I've seen it rear its ugly head quite a few times now and as a result I feel slightly desensitised. I won't avoid it, I accept it's a big part of my children's lives so I try to work with it. The reason I'm so fulfilled in my training to be a life coach has bereavement to be thankful to.
I've been visiting bereaved families for 18 months now to share what I've learnt and give them the benefit of my six years experience. I'm hoping to be able to extend the work I do with the charity Grief Encounter so I can help bereaved families cope better with the process of loss through empowering them to take control and not to 'be controlled' by grief. With this qualification and new skills sitting as a layer over my invaluable experience, I know I'm about to do a lot of good for a lot of people like the woman I put a helpless arm around today.
I'm able to coach throughout my training and I was keen to try out my new approach on someone that had recently suffered a loss to really see what I could do for them? Coaching is a conversation, as coach I give no advice, I just guide asking intuitive questioning that allows the client to unravel, uncover, release and clarify what's on their mind.
It's a funnelling process that empowers and I've seen so many people make significant progress in unburdening, unleashing and organising themselves leaving with a clear picture, a focus and committed plan of action that will take them to where they wish to be. The beauty of it is that the client will have come up with all of it themselves, their own answers to their own questions.
My bereaved client lost her husband only a fortnight ago. She had responded to something I put on twitter about my course and we had agreed to do six weekly sessions, one can be effective but to see lasting results more than the odd one or two works best.
My client identified a goal in that she needs to relieve the weight of stress. Grief is one thing but there is a house to run and kids to keep on track so stress levels are inevitably going to be high when juggling it all. She was fully charged and ready to attack her stresses, she just needed to identify the cause and that's where I come in.
She identified the areas of stress; work and grief, and apportioned a percentage to each - 30% and 70% respectively. Breaking the 70% of stress caused by grief down client identifies two areas; that her two sons won't cope and equally the fear of her making a mistake. We funnel again, what mistakes could you make? The response, a bad reaction to an emotional trigger and not listening properly - missing something important that one son in particular, a chatter-box, might hint at, a cry for help that needs picking up on.
What's a bad reaction in grief? Crying.
What's bad about crying? It might upset the kids.
What are the kids upset about? Losing their Dad.
What's a natural reaction to that? To cry.
Is crying bad?
The client realises at this point that something they perceive to be bad is actually now in her words, "a natural way to express how we feel and if I don't show it's alright to cry, how will they know? They NEED to see me cry."
It's a powerful questioning process and I didn't give her the answer, I knew it but the principle is because she came to this conclusion herself she owns that belief and is more likely to adopt it as a result.
Misconceptions were altered and replaced by new, healthier ideas and concerns like the listening fear were eliminated by constructing a plan as to how she could find out how he was feeling instead. Again, by asking the right questions we came to the idea that asking HIM how he feels at four points during the day was how she could find out if he needed to express how he felt and so again that fear fell by the wayside.
The boys not coping turned out to be a red herring, it became evident on focussing our efforts into that area that it was HER who was not coping, the boys were doing really well when we looked at it in closer detail and the stress continued to reduce.
This accentuates my theory that our emotions are dictated by our thoughts. Because my client was starting to THINK more positively she was able to FEEL more positive. Society generally believes it's the other way round but I think you start to really get on in life when you realise the power of your thoughts.
The 30% of her stress caused by work was explained that her current job didn't allow her as much time with her sons as she needed. However she had applied for a new job, one that fitted perfectly with her domestic responsibilities, and would find out the next day if she had been successful.
As far as the session could be measured she was at 100% stress levels when we started. The 70% had been dissolved by simply giving client the ability to shift her perspective. She was very happy with the work we had done in the hour and was even happier the next day when she reported back to me that she had got the job; she was now at 0% stress compared to the day before because she had answered her own problems.
Of course life has a habit of giving us more reasons to feel stressed and as much as it made her feel great in that moment I don't suppose she won't experience similar doubts and insecurities moving forward. Coaching isn't a magic wand and it shouldn't be presumed to be as such but like beauty, it's certainly in the eye of the beholder and if something makes someone who has suffered feel uninhibited for a time, be it days, weeks or months then who are we to judge?
In the tweeted words of this very client, 'It's not until the horrible ugly mountain of stress is cleared that you see and appreciate all the beauty that's around you.'
Finally, I will find Jill in time and in offering her my condolences I will also offer her my services. I was meant to be there for her on that day and while I was helpless on that occasion, I will be more useful in the next. If anyone reading this feels like they would benefit from a coaching session, please contact Grief Encounter to get more details of what they can do to help on 0208 371 8455.