Fixers

Grief is something we all have to face at some point in our lives.

Both of my parents have already passed away. My Mum had just turned 62 when she died. I was 32. My Dad died three years later – he had just turned 70. At the age of 35 I found myself without either of my parents – the people who had brought me up and taught me more or less everything I know about how to live my life and how to treat others (they did a great job of this bit, which is good).

My journey through this grief has been difficult. But then I always try to remind myself that many, many others have been through the same experience or are currently right in the middle of this. It can also be very frightening – terrifying almost. When someone you love dies, it can feel like the world around you has fundamentally changed. Nothing can be the same again. Nobody tells you about the fear element. I have experienced panic attacks, but I am slowly starting to feel better. Of course, that is the most frustrating part, knowing that grief can not be hurried to its resolution. There is no ‘fast-forward’ button.

Grief sucks

Finding a positive outlet for grief is really important.

Considering how devastating and turbulent this can be, it is pretty amazing that a younger person can actually get through this, can keep functioning in life and move on. As an adult, I would like to think that I would do anything I could to help someone in this position to go through this journey, to feel supported and cared for.

A month or so ago, I came across an amazing youth charity called Fixers. Winner of Best UK Charity Project of the Year 2014, they have a very specific focus: to help young people develop a project that makes their voice heard on a matter that is very personal to them – something of which they have had a specific experience. It’s about empowering them to find a solution.

Through this, I found out about Gennifer. Gennifer’s friend sadly died of cancer when she was just 15. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been for her. She decided to do something about this experience, to help others. Fixers stepped in and helped her in her determination to set up an online resource for young people who have been bereaved: the SOAR website. I think she is amazing.

soar website

The site aims to help young people feel informed and supported. It is also useful for parents, other family members and teachers – to encourage them to have more patience and understanding in supporting someone who is going through this, especially when dealing with the demands of study, exams and other stresses.

Crucially, Gennifer found that there was little advice or information available to her at school and in other settings and that made it harder for her to admit she was struggling to cope. I imagine many young people have been through a similar experience.

On her website, she offers 5 key tips that I think are crucial to remember if you are grieving:

  • Don’t bottle up your feelings. It can be a great relief to talk to someone about how you are feeling.
  • Know that there isn’t a time limit on mourning. Bereavement can affect you for any length of time, some people only take a few months to grieve, where others may take years.
  • Take time out for yourself. It’s not selfish to want to be by yourself sometimes to gather your thoughts.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others in the same situation! People experiencing bereavement learn to grieve/cope in different ways, it’s okay not to feel the same as someone else does.
  • It’s alright to move on with your life and be happy. Don’t feel guilty about moving on with your life and being happy. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about your loved one who has passed away, it just means that you can finally accept what has happened. They would want you to continue your life.

I asked Gennifer how this work has helped her, this is what she said:

 “Working with fixers to create a bereavement support website for young people really helped me put in to perspective everything I had dealt with and overcome. It allowed me the opportunity to turn a life changing event in to something positive through helping and offering support to other young people who were dealing with similar situations to myself”.

Gennifer Graham

Gennifer’s story has inspired me to write this blog post and to share more about myself than I usually would have done. And for that I would like to thank her.

One of my close friends sent me a greetings card this week. The cover is plastered with pictures of girl superheroes (and some female baddies thrown in too!). Inside she wrote: ‘You are a superhero… so don’t forget it’.

Gennifer – you are a superhero too… never, ever forget that.

I think Fixers are an amazing charity. If you would like to find out more about their fantastic work, please have a look at their website.

If you are grieving at the moment, here is something that may help.

grief

Quotes via whatsyourgrief.com

Please look out for any young people you know who may be going through a loss. Let’s support each other.

I recently wrote a post in memory of my Dad and how he taught me to be enterprising in my approach to life. Please check it out.

 

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In March, 4D blogged about the ‘Wolf Review’ that was about to be published regarding, how practical education can be improved. This review, conducted by Professor Alison Wolf concluded that over 167,000 young people in England are studying vocational courses that will not result in a job (The Guardian, 2nd March 2011). This is a fairly damning summation of the current state of vocational education and suggests a lack of quality in this provision.

What does 'achievement' look like anyway?

And the argument continues….In June, Ofsted reported that vocational business qualifications such as BTEC and OCR awards being delivered in schools are weak against the apparent ‘equivalent’ GCSEs (The Telegraph, 8th June 2011). Questions over the comparability of these qualifications with academic routes have led to plans by Ministers to prevent Head teachers from rating the achievement of vocational courses as equivalent to GCSEs in school league tables.

4D would argue that this country needs innovation and creativity, not a renewed focus on traditionally middle class subjects, perceived as ‘worthy’ and ‘deserving’. Above, all the education system should be about equipping them with confidence, an enterprising spirit and the capacity to manage risks and work through failure. There is however one blessing to come from these recent reports: recommendations to improve the level of specialist teaching and business engagement with schools, to further understanding of how the real business world works.

Further reading:

Fancy an educational course? Don’t bother

Will the real NEETs please stand up?

One statistic = EMA’s demise

David Cameron is again pushing forward the value of enterprise – specifically the responsibility of you, me and all in the country to dig in and stimulate economic growth (BBC News online, 6th March 2011). Reading between the lines, this means ‘if the economy and society fails, it’s your fault for not using your own initiative and starting your own business’. In this sense, the sceptics among us are starting to see enterprise as a very dirty word. In addition to this, some academic literature is very critical of enterprise education in schools, interpreting it as simply a means to reinforce a neo-liberal agenda – it’s everyone for themselves and the responsibility is on you to take on the risk usually afforded to government.

 

Yeah - enterprise is about folders and offices and, er wait... (image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk)

What worries me about these assumptions and uses of the term enterprise is that they are masking the very valuable human benefits of this approach. The benefits aren’t just about making money (dear coalition government) or about racking up a male-oriented work force (dear feminist academics). Enterprise and enterprise education in it’s wider sense can be massively effective in building people’s confidence and abilities to stand on their own two feet and manage risks. It’s not about encouraging start ups full-stop, it’s about introducing another means of teaching and learning that can help facilitate improved skills. attitudes and aspirations in life. It can also offer young people another way to develop a sense of themselves and what they are capable of and how this translates to paid work or self-employment. If only we could get away from this negative labelling…

At least that is the message that is apparently due to emerge from a forthcoming report by Professor Alison Wolf, who has been asked by Michael Gove to ‘investigate how practical education can be improved’. This review has concluded that over 167,000 young people in England are studying vocational courses that will not result in a job (The Guardian, 2nd March 2011).

 

 

Oh real opportunities, where are you? (courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk)

And so the argument between the value of hands-on, practical training versus academic work continues. Surely, in this age of austerity, policy makers should be asking themselves how they can ensure as many opportunities as possible, opportunities that enable young people to control their own destinies and that play to their own unique strengths. This country needs innovation and creativity, not a renewed focus on traditionally middle class subjects, perceived as ‘worthy’ and ‘deserving’. Above, all the education system should be about equipping them with confidence, an enterprising spirit and the capacity to manage risks and work through failure. Unfortunately this new report will probably be seen as just another piece of evidence that our young people are seeking inadequate futures. Youth in deficit. Again.

Starting a new school can be a frightening prospect for any teenager. It can mean being in new and different situations, pressure to make new friends and a conscious drive to avoid being bullied. Of course all these factors are very difficult to control and we’ve all been there, some of us being more successful than others in this rather fake environment where to be ‘cool’ is king (whatever ‘cool’ actually really means).

Ah, the memories (courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk)

At such a critical time where we are discovering who we are and what we want to be, the school is key in introducing a range of different structures and environments that force us to develop, re-negotiate and adapt how we present ourselves. This is also about the acceptance or resisting of labels given to us by others, usually as a way to help them ensure their own self-preservation.

In educational geographies, research has also considered external impacts that force down on young people’s identities. For example, it has looked at how they deal with the negative labels attached to them being in a ‘bad’ school or one that is failing academically – a situation which is usually no fault of their own and certainly not down to ‘choice’. What is interesting here is that they can choose to ‘normalise’ negative associations and goings on including fighting and bullying and reframe them as just part of everyday life, helping them to feel more comfortable with the spaces they inhabit. But how does that impact on these individuals in the longer-term? Does this move them away from who they really are? How can this phenomena best be tackled through research and through policy interventions?