No, the haircut was fine.
It was the news that he’d lost his mum – which took me straight to losing mine.
And so began that chat that can only be had with people who ‘get it’. The talk of hospital beds, what’s appropriate to put in eulogies, the funniest of moments that happen in the shittiest of times (I still can’t watch that sketch from The Office – “to some extent. Very much so. Don’t know.” without being taken right back to crying with laughter at mum’s hospice bedside), the relief, and the memories.
It’s 15 years since I lost my mum and it’s only on the rarest of occasions that I admit to myself (let alone anyone else) that this is where my work on resilience started. It’s what got me through that shittiest of times, and every one that I’ve encountered since then.
The start of the Autumn Term (I’m no longer teaching but after 14 years in education, I still see the year in terms) will always take me back to the Autumn Term of 2015: 3 losses and funerals in the space of the first 6 weeks (which involved 2 flying visits to family in Scotland, leaving at home my 2 year old and a husband who’d been signed off work); the amazing opportunity (and absolute exhaustion ) of working part-time as an Assistant Head; moving house; and, irony of ironies, leading all the students and staff through the new resilience and emotional wellbeing programme that I’d created with my Heads of Years.
It’s no small wonder that I cried in front of staff on an INSET day the following year when I finally admitted how often I’d stood in front of them wondering if I really had the ability and credibility to talk about resilience. It was only when one of them said to me afterwards that she’d had no idea I was struggling that I realised how important it was to talk about it. It was a bloody hard year and one that I wouldn’t have got through without counselling, the support of friends, colleagues and family – and everything that I learned and shared with others about resilience.
Resilience is what I needed to keep going (and what’s taught me that sometimes stopping is what I need most in order to keep going). I didn’t know exactly what it looked like or how to define it 15 years ago. But I do now. It’s the subject that I choose to read about, watch and listen to more than any other – and it’s the subject I can talk about till the cows come home.
It’s why I have chosen to put resilience at the core of my work. Because I know the difference that it’s made to me. I know the difference it made to all the students and staff I supported in my teaching career. And I know the difference it makes now to those who come along to my talks, take part in workshops and who I work with 1:1.
The highs and lows of life are inevitable. But I am proof that resilience can get us through anything.
Image – featuring my favourite quote and taken from an old edition of Psychologies Magazine.