Hi everyone – Rachel from the bereavement team here. I originally wrote a short blog piece for World Book Day at the start of March. But a lot has happened since and it feels all the more relevant now with increasing isolation and all the changes to our daily life. Some people may find ways to navigate the disruption and anxiety between the covers of a book. It may be the opportunity to finally get around to finishing a classic novel or to seek a more light-hearted read for escapism.
I love books and am always reading when I can – a good crime novel or psychological thriller are my usual favourites. Whether to relax, learn, a form of escapism, self-care or a break from our increasing focus on phones and screens it can be a great joy.
New research published by Oxford University Press suggests that reading could be hugely beneficial for our mental health. Whether you are feeling stressed, have lost someone close to you or are dealing with a difficult personal situation, you may find comfort, solace and help in the pages of a book. Some may choose fiction or poetry for escapism, or to seek out their own experiences reflected on the page.
Here are some of the books that helped me after my own bereavement by suicide and other personal losses. There can be something comforting and cathartic about well chosen words and language. In addition reading recovery narratives can increase connectedness, validate our own experiences and help to reduce stigma.
Studies have also indicated that reading works of fiction can increase reader empathy, reduce stress and strengthen your brain as well as prevent memory loss. Enough reasons then to pick up a book regularly – as well as providing enjoyment it may be helping your body and mind too.
I’m Stacey and I’ve recently joined the wonderful team at Harmless in the role of Suicide Bereavement Officer on the Tomorrow Project, supporting those who have been affected in any way by suicide.
Taking up my new role at the beginning of March 2020 gave me just a short time before the Coronavirus pandemic started to affect us all both individually and as an organisation. The team is working incredibly hard to ensure continuity of service, but as someone who has a hereditary lung condition my intensive induction training will now be continuing from home for the foreseeable future.
The commitment and dedication at Harmless towards both staff and service users has been truly inspiring, and in these challenging times everybody has pulled together – I feel privileged to be able to say I am part of that team.
I come from a varied background although my most recent role has been working as an Independent Funeral Celebrant for the last 7 or so years. I have officiated over 1000 funeral services and part of this role involved visiting families, hearing their stories and offering support. Sadly there are a percentage of those families who have been affected by suicide. It is their incredible stories and courage that inspired me to take on the role of Suicide Bereavement Officer.
On a personal level my number one self-care measure has to be getting back to nature. Most weekends will find me at my happiest sat looking out over a river, lake or pond feeding the ducks whilst the sun shines through the trees (weather permitting). On a rainy day Netflix is most definitely my second choice!
And so life continues in temporary isolation for so many of us. I am relying on social media for some interaction (there are some great groups and sites out there offering support) researching and learning everything there is to know about my new role, before the day comes when we are safe and I can actively support the team and service users as we look to hope and recovery.