A new perspective in grief

Typically, the beginning of a new year has always prompted in me a fresh resolve to begin or recommit to a resolution that fell by the wayside long ago; usually a casualty of the inevitable hurly burly of life and the big beautiful mess that it so often is. The turning over of a brand new calendar page will evoke in me an optimism for the year that lies ahead. I am an optimist at heart and therefore am hopeful that a new year will be a little better. Summer has naturally been a time to take stock and plan for the year ahead.  However, this year I’ve approached things very differently. The events of the past 18 months have left on me a big heart wound. Last year was filled with so much sadness and grief, one does not simply turn the page and move on as if all that was in the past has no lasting impact on the present. While the end of a year naturally brings to a conclusion some things, feelings and emotions are a little more elusive to box up. Rather than resolving to do and be someth

Lessons in Mental Health

 If you had asked me 5 years ago, “What is mental health?” I would have given a vague answer that showed my ignorance; highlighting a subconscious idea that mental health held negative connotations. However, a growing awareness and education on this important part of well-being has shown me how little I knew. 

While the experience of others has taught me, (and is still teaching me) that taking care of one’s thought life is extremely important and healthy; it was not until I began to explore what mental health meant in relation to pain management (concerning my back), that I have appreciated the value and importance of it. 

For years I have struggled with bad back pain; to the point of which I lived on paracetamol and ibuprofen to get through the day. However, it was not until I started seeing a new Osteopath, that I began to have a new perspective.  The holistic approach to health encouraged me to examine more closely how I thought about pain, and consequently helped to change my thinking. 
To begin with, I was unsure how my thought life would effect my overall well-being, but as I’ve slowly adopted new ways of thinking, supported by treatment and exercise, I have seen a huge improvement in how I manage my back. While it as not as simple as, “Change your thinking and you’ll be better” it has significantly altered my approach to life. 

As I have engaged with these new concepts, it has opened my awareness to a whole range of great resources and programs that support mental well-being.

This growing appreciation has been of value not only to myself personally, but also to my children and how I parent them. In the ten years that the children have been attending school, there have been numerous times when I’ve allowed them, what I term ‘mental health days’. Meaning: days at home, taking a break from the pressures of school. Recently, these days have become more and more needed for my teenage daughter.

Whenever you keep a child at home from school, you must give reason for their absence. On one particular day, when the stress of school was too much, I kept her home stating a ‘mental health day’. For which I received a prompt phone call from the Year Level Co-ordinator, asking me to elaborate on what was happening. This conversation set in motion a chain of events of which I am so grateful for.
After talking with the school counsellor, it was recommended she go to talk with a Psychologist. It was at this point we learnt about a ‘Mental Health Care Plan’; a wonderful government subsidy for such times. Something I had no previous knowledge of, but now am so truely thankful for. This was an opportunity and a life-line in what has been very challenging time. 

Her particular struggle is with anxiety, and while my husband and I can relate to her anxious fearful worries, we have been unable to successfully coach her through this challenge. So talking with a Psychologist has been an added support. As the old saying goes, “A problem shared, is a problem halved.” 

More than this, it is the wealth of knowledge and techniques that are being added to not only her, but our families toolbox for times of trouble. Skills that all of us need to negotiate the challenges that life so often throws our way. One particular skill that we are learning is ‘Mindfulness’; a conscious time of focusing intently on the present. So often we can go about the normal routines of life, but have our minds in a completely different place (often mulling over all our cares). Being mindful can set aside our worries, and helpfully ground us in the present. There are even mindfulness apps that she now uses on her phone, and a mindfulness group she has joined at school. 

Being willing to ask for help, is acknowledging that we can’t do life on our own. Having an open mind to learning new things, and courage to seek help outside of ourselves is a sign of strength not weakness. I am so grateful for these lessons in mental health.

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