Resilience is very much one of our age’s buzzwords, but can you compare recovery from setbacks such as redundancy to bereavement?
I’ve been reading a book for work this week which is all about the topic of resilience and building back. An important one, particularly as we face daily crises and ongoing uncertainty seems set to be part of the long-term scenario as a result of so many different factors colliding, from the Covid and Brexit fallout to climate change and technological change. The book, based on a podcast [inevitably – it seems a lot of people did podcasts during lockdown] looks at how individuals can rebuild from a setback – build back better as it were – and there is an interesting chapter on the need to build resilience training into the education process, given adaptability to change is one of the skills people will need most in their working – and personal – lives.
The problem I have with it is the section in the middle comparing ‘setbacks’, from relationship breakdowns to redundancy, to grief. Maybe I’m not the intended audience [my daughter was killed by a speeding car two years ago] and I can see that, if you think grief is about the whole denial through to acceptance cycle, there may be some similarities. But a lot of it seems very trite and the word acceptance crops up a lot. Maybe I’m in the wrong ‘stage’ of grief, but I’m not sure that it is ever possible to accept the death of a child because it is against the natural order. The book is about bouncing back really, how to look for opportunities from every ‘set back’. Maybe sometimes there just aren’t any opportunities, though. Maybe there is just unending sadness. Unending sadness doesn’t really sell well, though, does it?
I guess at some point you may come to be used to the sadness in some way and know how to cope better with the different waves that just keep coming. But you will never be ‘over it’. It will never be ‘better’. How could it possibly be? Surely anyone can see that if they pause to think for just a few seconds. The problem is people don’t want to pause and think. People – and I’m not necessarily blaming them – want to make it better and if they can’t then somehow the grieving person seems to become the problem because they are a symbol of their failure, a reminder that it will never be better. It will only be what it is.
Is that because so much of our world these days is centred around this positive thinking, self-improvement malarky where everything is individualised, where you can sell a quick solution to every problem? The book inevitably mentions Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I know it’s helpful for some, but my daughter was given it for grief. She was advised to go to sleep early, have a calming routine, etc. She did try. She went to bed early, but she lay there awake. No amount of routine could calm her as she dealt with her grief for her sister and also the complete upturning of everything as she studied for GCSEs during lockdown. Sometimes there is not a quick fix. Sometimes it takes a lifetime.
I feel that some of the stuff out there about grief is all about how you individually process it and ‘move forward’. However, grief is not just about the individual who is living. It is about the relationship with the person who is not. So much of what follows from a sudden death seems to be about everyone else but the person who died – the justice system in particular. But your relationship with that person is not over. My daughter’s friend said the other day that she would always be his friend. Always. Grief is, after all, about love, hard core embedded love where the person is as much a part of you as your heart, your face, your mind, and that relationship never ends. The only thing you can do is embrace the love and find a way of expressing it despite the physical absence of the person. That’s the tricky bit and I’m afraid that bears no relationship whatsoever to starting a business.