I get a lot of satisfaction from visiting families who have suffered a loss and talking them through a few of my own observations from the last six years. Doing this makes me feel like I am doing something positive with a negative situation.
For those who are unaware, I have recently enrolled on a fantastic course in Life Coaching at Cambridge University. It seemed like a good way of adding an extra layer on top of the experience I have unfortunately amassed in the bereavement stakes, turning it into a more positive tool with which to help people.
Firstly, I can apply almost all I have learnt on the course to my own personal performance in the roles of presenter, father, friend, boyfriend etc. and it has improved me significantly in all areas. Secondly and more importantly, I feel a complete sense of purpose when I am sitting down with a client listening intently to their words, looking closely at their body language and helping them shift their perspective to a much better place with a flurry of intuitive questions.
Coaching is technical and a lot of thought goes into each question and whilst not every session will feel as though you've made the earth move for your client, I do feel that I have a gift. I feel I can make a huge difference with just an hour of someone's time and I seem to have an ever increasing list of clients who would like to take advantage of my passion for lending my ears and my brain to their particular needs.
Focusing on my needs for a second, my youngest, Freddy, just can't seem to settle at school. He is great for me at home but as soon as he walks through the school gates the devil horns seem to appear. For some time now I have questioned what the source of the issue is and what needs to be adjusted in order to prevail but still, Freddy is a mystery unsolved.
In my training it would make sense to coach people who are likely to represent a challenge I would know a fair amount about, so it sounds a little absurd that I would even dare suggest to a teacher that the best way for me to help her get an improvement from my own nine year old son would be to coach her!
There's certainly no point me saying for the hundredth time that "he behaves really well for me and you seem to be talking about someone else's child at school", because that's not particularly helpful and, whilst I had no idea on a Thursday morning at 8am that what we were about to do was for the best, thanks to the open mindedness (or desperation) of Ms H we were about to find out.
Most sessions do tend to start off with the negatives, I don't mind hearing the harsh truth but I had detached myself from being Dad now anyway. There's always a positive to every child and I'm relieved we seemed to be finding quite a few. How can these be encouraged, what opportunities can you give him to play to his strengths?
The session was proving very constructive and Ms H now had a renewed optimism about what she wanted to achieve and how she would go about getting it. The real magic happened half way through when examining what Freddy may have behind the barrier/persona she accurately perceived that he hides behind. She listed what could be behind there. Grief was an obvious contender so we opened up on his loss and what she knew of it.
I discovered that in the two months she had been at the school she had never discussed his mum with him. She had avoided the topic, which any teacher is entitled to and maybe forgiven for doing. She offered that bringing it up could help so she committed to having a conversation with him that day. Although she had taken a step in the right direction the subject came up sooner than she had expected.
In an R.E lesson the subject conveniently turned to the afterlife, and, without needing any cue, Freddy got up and spoke wonderfully in front of the whole class about Jade and most poignantly about how he sees her as a beautiful butterfly. Heart melting stuff and Ms H took the golden opportunity to elaborate and congratulate Freddy on such a brave show of emotion. Realising she was beneath the barrier, something wonderful happened between teacher and pupil and an understanding was made.
This was confirmed when a Loom-band bracelet appeared anonymously on her desk with a note proclaiming her to be the best teacher in the world. Subsequently Freddy ended that day, and the next, on Gold for his behaviour.
There is much to be said for the satisfaction I gained from knowing my small but timely intervention paid off in full. However the real hero here is the teacher. Without that willingness to try something alternative she wouldn't have changed tactics that day and Freddy wouldn't have achieved such good behaviour for the rest of the week.
To learn something about your nine-year old, especially something as vital as understanding the grieving habits he exhibits, most often at school, is a real breakthrough. Grief must be like a build up of pressure which affects children in lots of ways, evidently with Fred it raises barriers and causes bad behaviour, defiance and a desire to impress his classmates more than is necessary. Ms H allowed him to release that pressure by talking openly about his mum in class and the difference in him was clear, he released the grief and was a different child almost immediately.
Ms H unsurprisingly followed up by allowing Freddy to draw and colour in his butterfly which is now stuck up in class for all to see, a symbol of the new understanding my son and his teacher have found and I think a sign that Freddy has let Mummy out of his pocket so she can float beautifully around an environment he needs her to be recognised in the most.
I say unsurprisingly because Ms H represents the kind of teacher who is a credit to her profession. She wasn't too quick to judge or label, she persevered, she cooperated, she focused on what was good and allowed me to assist her in the best way I could. This small success, temporary as the nature of grief may allow it to be, I hold as pricelessly important and is shared equally with her.
By sheer coincidence, a butterfly landed on my window ledge the very next morning seconds after I had opened my eyes. I think it's lovely to believe in reincarnation. If it brings you comfort then it's right. Fred's face lit up when I told him about my visitor, particularly when I described its colouring; orange and brown just happened to be the colours he had used for his butterfly at school. Priceless.