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What Did I Learn During The Pandemic?

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Just before the pandemic hit the UK, my dear Dad passed away at age 77, after a brave, 3 year battle with bowel cancer.  

It left our family reeling in shock – he’d felt well enough to take my Mum on holiday in February 2020 when he suddenly fell seriously ill. My two older brothers, older sister and I wrote in our funeral tribute to him that “he was the best Dad anyone could ever have.”  

So – like many people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic – we all had, to learn after the shock had diminished slightly, especially my dear Mum, to whom he’d been married for 57 years – to go on with life without him. And then, a week after his funeral, the country entered into a lockdown and self-isolation that none of us had experienced before. And like the Queen, who recently lost her long-term partner too, my Mum has been a real source of comfort and wisdom to our family, in the way that she has taught us to remember to nurture self-reliance and resilience. It reminds me of that very British, stoic trait, encompassed in the phrase “keep calm and carry on” – borne during the WW2 Blitz, which has been variously likened to the pandemic experience this year.

And so, to nurture self-reliance and resilience are the most important things I’ve learned during the pandemic. While I have of course dearly missed person-to-person contact with family and friends this year, I have also been reminded of my strength of character that has helped me to carry on alone, during all of these very hard, life-changing events. And I have surprised myself – I haven’t just carried on, but rather, I’ve taught myself to alchemise what became a very difficult epoch – converting a terrible situation into an opportunity to read many books (from neuroscience to South African crime fiction), to learn oil painting, to learn to change the oil in my car and fix a puncture on my bicycle in the middle of nowhere, to discover that I can make great banana and walnut bread, and that I am a dab-hand at gardening!  I’ve taught myself to do a regular morning 30 minute yoga practice before work, and to explore on my bicycle the beautiful coastal and forest countryside.  And so, while I’ve felt the loss of my family member profoundly this year – I’ve also been reminded, that I’m my own best friend in times of need – and that we learn most about ourselves during times of struggle.

Moving forward – here’s to a healthy, positive year of regained freedom and resilience!

My PGCE Graduation in 2001, University of Greenwich, with my very proud Dad!

Click to read all previous articles by Dr Samantha J. Brooks Ph.D.

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