As I walked across the garden today towards ‘Hope HQ’ (my place of work) the sun was rising in the sky. The rays peeping up and illuminating the garden.

Having just heard/ seen the first person receiving the Oxford vaccine on the TV it felt poignant and right that I should be feeling hope. That we should all be feeling some hope that light is shining at the end of what has been a very long unpredictable tunnel.

I was asked to speak on Nana Akua’s New Year’s Day show on the BBC last week about New Year resolutions. As usual before we went on air, I had given some thought as to what I was going to say. I reflected on this time last year when I was full of hope, excitement, and optimism as my latest gift book ‘The grief garden path’ had just been published and sold out of its first edition. I had put my annual event ‘Rise and Shine 2020’ on hold to concentrate on getting out to a wider audience.

I even set a goal!

It was to reach 50,000 people who were in pain and grieving the loss of a loved one with the sole aim of helping them to feel a little bit better with my short, simple gift of a book. To give them something solid and tangible to accompany them on the journey they were embarking on. The feedback had been so very positive, and it was clear it was giving people something special. A simple understanding of their situation which can be complex as well as a feeling of being understood.

However,

Literally within days of making this decision there were reports like todays one that something significant was happening globally. Something that would potentially change the way that we live and even breathe.

Nana did not want to know about my book and the world at large didn’t want to know or hear about Grief. People were going through their own form of grief. Grief at losing their freedom, liberty and a way of being. I was instead being asked to cheer up the nation regailing lockdown tales from the garden and what I had been watching on the TV rather than sharing my knowledge, expertise, warmth and love to help people on their journey as the pandemic took hold.

I actually enjoyed my first lockdown experience because where we live is rural and with the warm weather increasing along with the birdsong my husband and I spent long hours in our garden beginning to tame the jungle/ 16th century cottage we had acquired only months before.

Then something happened in my own life that changed my world fundamentally.

My younger brother who I had always been an advocate for due to his ongoing battles with his mental and physical health died suddenly. I was acutely reminded of the pain associated with Grief at the loss of a loved one as we navigated the path ahead of us. Telling our parents was unbelievably hard and the restrictions placed on how many attended his graveside funeral was difficult to explain to my 82 year old father.

After the initial flurry of things to do after his death I was again galvanised into action. He was an ardent supporter of my work and especially my books and instead of stopping work I began to increase my mission to reach people who need help to navigate their path after difficult and sometimes traumatic life change.

One Sunday I connected with one of the most incredible women I have had the honour to meet in my lifetime.

Dr Kathryn Mannix. She and I were both painting our cottages and we hit it off through the power of ‘twitter’ (yes we can both clearly multitask)! This meeting led to a conversation hosted by Hospice UK’s CEO Tracey Bleakley and since it’s airing in November’s ‘I remember’ week I believe been watched over two thousand times. My book was the chosen read of 2020 by the Good Grief Trust and I ended my year listening to the exquisite sound of even song at St Paul’s Cathedral when the bereaved and those who had died in 2020 were remembered.

On New Years day speaking to Nana she asked if I had achieved my goal of reaching 50,000 people grieving with my gift books. The answer was ‘no’ however the year had taken me on a journey that I hadn’t expected. My voice was being heard more and hopefully I brought/ bring a smile to the hearts of those I have met on my journey.

You see it is not all about the end goal – it’s about the journey getting there. It is about stopping from time to time to reflect and understand the real meaning behind what is happening and where you are going.

It is my hope and resolution this year apart from being able to get into my clothes again, is that I continue to reach people who need help, encouragement, and support.

Someone to help them achieve their goals however small. In my work in personal recovery it sometimes is literally to open their eyes and see another morning, another dawn rising. To recognise that there is indeed Hope.

What is YOUR resolution for today and 2021, however small? However big?

And,

As Nana said to me – I wish you all a Julie ‘New’ Year! (It had never occurred to me that my name suits this time of year but there is a first time for everything isn’t there)?

Visit The Dying Matters websiteMy book - The Grief Garden Path

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