With lockdown now easing for most of the UK, it is hard to measure the lasting impact it will have on society. Many of us have dealt with individual struggles, from job loss to decline in mental health. Jenny Wallwork, Training Manager at The Women’s Organisation shared with us her personal journey of dealing with grief, and its implications during lockdown. 

“Where do I start?  Lockdown for me has been a huge mental health rollercoaster for myself and my family. In normal times, the thought of being in isolation, staying and working from home, would seem quite appealing, time to reflect, plan, slow down and have more family time.

This sadly was not the case for me, my mum passed away during lockdown (not COVID, however the impact of COVID was huge) within a 10 week period my mum had gone from living independently, to hospital/care, to know longer being here. I cannot explain the loss and gaping hole this has left in my life.

The impact of lockdown and COVID has meant that one of the most difficult and hardest situations to deal with has not being able to hug people or have contact with family and friends, which is our normal human basic instincts, to hug and make better.

Not being in control, we are being told what we can and cannot do.  We could not visit mum when she was deteriorating rapidly, knowing everyday was precious, the anxiety and desperation this caused is indescribable, I was allowed into the care home in the last few days of mums life, which I am eternally grateful for. Only 10 people were allowed at the funeral, the difficulties of deciding who was attending, how do you make those heart-breaking decisions, grandchildren missing out on attending their nans funeral.

This raised anxiety levels to new heights, I have experienced a lot in my lifetime, but this was on another level. I then started to what I call ‘have a word with myself’, this is to challenge my thoughts and realise that I can only do what I can do as this was unprecedented times, do the things that I can and try to park the things that are out of my control, this would happen many times a day, incredibly challenging, but I tried to keep at it.

My work colleagues at ‘The Women’s Organisation were supportive and caring, you know you have good leaders when your CEO and line manager, message you on the day of mums passing, to send their condolences, I cherish those messages from my colleagues and friends.  The lack of emotional contact with family and friends was and is the hardest, as I write this I have had lots of virtual hugs and hugs from my immediate family (household), but cannot wait for the day when we are allowed to hug whoever we like.

This blog is not a self-pity ditty, it is about understanding how we all react to adversity, loss, grief a pandemic.  There are not one size fits all, we are all different and that is okay, it is okay not to be okay, when people ask me how I am?  I have stopped saying okay or not bad, I have started being a little bit more honest with myself and saying if today is a better day or not.  I have tried to practice what I preach with clients who attend my training at The WO, it is about changing how I think, to look at what I can do, not what I can’t.

The thing is, people may look from afar and say how resilient I am, on the whole, over the years with my experiences of being in the forces and dealing with the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, I would probably say yes to a point.  Resilience is not about thinking positively with a gung-ho attitude, it is how we deal with adversity, how we react to difficult life events.  It does not mean that you do not experience stress and emotional turmoil.

Going forward for me, I am on a long journey of change, dealing with grief, I will continue to challenge my thought processes, I will start to live life differently, life with and without mum.  As we can all relate too, life before COVID and lockdown and life after. The positives of lockdown are, that in my opinion, it has brought communities together, we have started speaking to neighbours for the first time, people showing compassion and kindness.

I am hoping that we all continue to support local independent businesses, many have been a lifeline for offering their services during the pandemic. Opening pop up facilities and home deliveries, thinking outside the box, keeping their business afloat and moving with the times.

For those independent small businesses, who have struggled during this time, The Women’s Organisation can offer invaluable support with 1:1 support on business advice and training opportunities, we have already supported 300 clients within the 60 day lockdown period, which is an incredible achievement.  Zoom has become the go to tool, for meetings and training which we all seem to have adapted to.

Life will never be the same, moving forward we can look for different opportunities, maybe life will become a little slower and the world will become a nicer place to be.

For me personally, I know I am on a journey of huge change, one thing I would say for those looking on, if you know someone who is dealing with grief, don’t be frightened to ask how they are really, check in with those people often and be ready for that huge hug you will get once lockdown has finished, as although we have had at present nearly 40,000 people dying of COVID, within that lockdown period there are on average 1500 additional people dying each day from many different conditions and causes, were COVID has also had a huge impact on their families and friends, due to lockdown.

What I will say, when this Pandemic has faded, there will be an awful lot of love and hugs to go around, which I am so looking forward to.

This current climate that we are dealing with is a difficult one, but it can also be a chance to look at what we really want in life.”

If lockdown has left you struggling, we are here to support you with our programmes Change it: Renew and Managing in a Crisis – Be Resilience 
Change it: Renew is helping women in the Liverpool City Region build their confidence and make a positive changes in their lives that they want, whatever age and background or stage of life you are at, this programme will help build a more positive future.
Change It: Exploring Opportunities booking information below
Enterprise Hub Skills: Managing in a crisis – Be Resilience 2-day session will look at what it means to be resilient, offering you practical tips to strengthen your personal resilience, business resilience, and other areas of your life that have been impacted.
Managing in a Crisis – Be Resilience booking below
If you would like more information about Change it: Renew or other upcoming programmes at The Women’s Organisation, you can get in touch on hello@thewo.org.uk