Feathers etc.

10 weeks back I was surprised to find an all-day course in ‘Mindful Self-Compassion’ for Health Professionals advertised on the Trust intranet. It sounded great and it was for free. Wow! We are recognising the pressures on health care professionals and moving slowly but surely in the right direction. To organise a course like this and make it available to all staff at no cost is nothing less than super-fantastic.

I enrolled instantly and waited patiently for the day to arrive. The day arrived.  I entered the room to find all these items scattered neatly around the room: a bowl of smooth tactile pebbles in purple, maroon, white and yellow, little bottles of lavender and vanilla extracts, fantastical eye-catching postcards, maracas and manjiras, a white rosary in a tiny wooden box, sketch pads with charcoal tree sticks, a bunch of sea shells, sprigs of fresh rosemary and mint, a dried corn on the cob, a few white and brown feathers, a spongy red ball and a spiky yellow plastic one, a tiny hand-crank music box and an hour-glass with pink sand. These things were for us to appreciate, touch, feel, smell and listen to.

Two gentle young women led the day taking great care of everyone in the room and in complete harmony with each other. We started with a ‘soft landing’ – becoming aware of our feet on the floor, bum on chair, our breath and our finger tips. They called these short snatches of peace, the ‘green moments’. We were encouraged to create/access these green moments to transition from seeing one patient to the next or from work to home mode and vice versa.

The word ‘discernment’ was brought into my awareness. While the dictionary meaning of it is “the ability to judge well”, we were encouraged to scan our thoughts and ‘notice what’s not helpful’. It was a useful concept. It helped me locate stuff that was unnecessarily cluttering up my mind and blocking light from entering this sacred space.

I remembered that as a teenager I had a big scrap book filled with my collection of feathers of all kinds, my favourite being the peacock feather. Where did that dreamy girl with 2 pig-tails go?

For a while I could hold the little girl in me lovingly in my arms and marvel at her innocence and beauty, appreciate her child-like sense of wonder and creativity. This sweet girl is me. Perfect and complete in every way. All she needed was to be seen. By me.

Caring with compassion for you and me.

Day 715


She’s my friend.  She sees hearts everywhere – in candle flames, on flower petals, on unevenly toasted bread, on random clouds and other unlikely places. Basically everywhere. She actively seeks them out as though they are quietly waiting to be discovered, playing hide and seek with her. They fill her with child-like wonder and glee. She goes on to excitedly share her hearts with the rest of the world. It’s infectious and now I see them too.

The heart is the ‘chakra’ that balances the body and spirit, with 3 chakras below and 3 above it. It is also known as ‘anahata’ in sanskrit which means ‘unhurt, unstruck and unbeaten’. It is green in colour.

This morning’s yoga session was about opening up the Heart chakra. It made me aware of the sensations in and around the chest. At times it felt like a flutter and others like an ache. It brought up the tears easily and induced a sense of expansion where I felt like all the kids in the world were mine and all I wanted was for everyone to be happy and free. My spirit seemed to have taken wings, soaring high while my mind and body stayed centred right where I was.

I am free to just be.
I am free to be happy.
I am. I am. I am.


Day 708

suicide_homicide_warA survey of 500 people revealed that a third of people didn’t feel comfortable at all talking to someone at work about mental health related issues and only 15% have had a colleague speak to them about their mental health.

The survey also uncovered an interesting trend: nearly a third of all male respondents have never had a friend, family member or colleague speak to them about their mental health. Worryingly, this statistic rises to 42% for males aged 45 and over and increases yet again to 60% for males aged 54 and over.

( Source:  www.team24.co.uk/suicide-prevention-day )







“I would say that the vast majority of people who die by suicide, don’t necessarily want to be dead—they want to end their suffering and don’t know what else to do. We know from our clinical treatment research that suicidal suffering can be effectively treated. There is hope; suicidal states can be effectively treated and people can and do recover from suicidal suffering.”

David A. Jobes, Ph.D., ABPP. Professor of Psychology. Author of Managing Suicidal Risk

Prevention starts with a conversation.

Let’s start the conversation.

Day 700

When our GP heard of Saagar’s death, the first phone call he made was to the Medical Defence Union and they advised him not to call us. Despite having known us for more than 7 years and seeing Saagar every 2 weeks with us for the last few months of his life, he did not call us on his death.

A qualitative study of GPs’ experiences of dealing with parents bereaved by suicide by Emily Foggin et al was published last month in the British Journal of General Practise.

It acknowledged that bereavement by suicide is a risk factor for suicide but the needs of those bereaved by suicide have not been addressed and little is known about how GPs support these patients, and how they deal with this aspect of their work. 13 GPs in the UK were interviewed in a semi-structured format. It explored experiences of dealing with suicide and bereavement.

GPs disclosed low confidence in dealing with suicide and an unpreparedness to face parents bereaved by suicide. Some GPs described guilt surrounding the suicide, and a reluctance to initiate contact with the bereaved parents. GPs talked of their duty to care for the bereaved patients, but admitted difficulties in knowing what to do, particularly in the perceived absence of other services. GPs reflected on the impact of the suicide on themselves and described a lack of support or supervision.

It concluded that GPs need to feel confident and competent to support parents bereaved by suicide. Although this may be facilitated through training initiatives, and accessible services to refer parents to, GPs also require formal support and supervision, particularly around significant events such as suicide. Results from this qualitative study have informed the development of evidence-based suicide bereavement training for health professionals.

Ref : http://bjgp.org/content/early/2016/08/15/bjgp16X686605

This evening a vigil was held by SOBS (Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide) at Hyde Park to remember those lost through suicide. Some of the people there had lost a brother 25 years ago or a sister 5 years ago or a friend 1 year ago and so on. Some of the families had not been able to speak about it for many years. Others had kept quiet as they were not sure if anyone would understand. But in that space, we sat together on the brownish-green grass with the pictures of our loved ones and lit candles in their memory and we opened our hearts. For about 2 hours we claimed that space and made it our own knowing full well that we are being listened to and perfectly well understood. What a rare gift that is!

When it comes to suicide, post-vention is pre-vention.


Day 697


Last week, Saagar’s bench was dedicated to his memory at his old school. I was asked to speak. It’s never easy but I do have a lot to say and so I did speak. I also wore a sari as Saagar would have liked that.  It was attended by many of his teachers and friends, some of our friends and family and some who didn’t know him at all. Here is an except of what I said:

“We got married in 1990. I was 24. Very close to my ‘sell by’ date, which in India is about 25 for a girl.

3 years on and no kids! Both sides of parents were politely not asking, only hinting obliquely every now and then. 3 years was too long! Concerning! I was a junior doctor and Naresh was a captain in the Indian army. In the 4th year of our marriage, Saagar was born. He was beautiful! First grandchild on both sides of the family. Much adored and absolutely adorable! At 5 years of age, while moving from nursery to Kindergarten, he was asked to write numbers from 1 to 10 and then all the alphabets. He started with 1 and wrote all the numbers till 9 which he wrote the wrong way around and it became a P. He then carried on writing QRS…Z.

As he was growing up, he coped with many changes, moving from one city to another in India and then to Northern Ireland and then London. The reading homework in Primary school was more about the accent of the day rather than the reading. He had a great sense of fun. He made good of wherever he found himself. He never made a fuss. Although, age 9, after school one day he did ask me if his name could be changed to ‘Aron’. He had his own brand of humour and an infectious laughter. He loved dressing up. He valued his friendships greatly. And grew up to be a talented young man. His accomplishments far surpassed our expectations, as an academic, as a musician and linguist, a sportsman and as a human being. I always thought he was too good to be true. It turned out he was.

His brief illness was very painful and confusing for all of us, most of all for him. He did his best to manage it. He followed every advise he was given. He wanted to get better but sadly that wasn’t to be.

In the UK suicide is the leading cause of death for young people, both male and female, 3 times more than road accidents. Every day in the UK alone, 4-5 young people take their own lives. 3 times more men than women. Majority of people don’t know this. I didn’t know it. But it is the sad truth and it is closer to home than we think. It needs to be treated as an urgent priority. I am immensely grateful to the college for honouring Saagar and keeping his memory alive in so many ways. Thank you for recognising the need to raise awareness and to empower everyone to be able to make a difference.

I am very proud of Saagar. He would be very proud of me seeing me use an i-pad today. He was the one who coaxed/encouraged me to move from my good old Sony Vaio to Apple. It always amused him to see ‘old people'(me) work on a computer. Even today when I am stuck, my first instinct is to call out to him.

For me this bench is a reminder of Saagar’s friendly, creative and playful nature, his wit and charm and his ability for compassion. I hope the boys will enjoy it and know that they never have to suffer alone. I hope that it will be a source of strength and hope for many for a long time to come.

Thank you all for being here today.”

Thank you.

Day 694

Last Friday morning I was struck by a young lady I met at work. She was perfectly healthy but was in hospital to donate her eggs. It meant she would have to undergo the risk of an anaesthetic and a minor surgery. But this would make it possible for another couple, unknown to her, to have a baby. There was nothing in it for her – no money or recognition. I asked her what her motivation was. She said, “I do it because I can.”

I instantly saw her humanity shine through. I have always believed that it is in our true nature to help each other in whatever way we can. When asked, we are more than happy to help in whatever way we can. When I was convinced that I could not survive Saagar’s death, many acquaintances and strangers who reached out and helped. Many didn’t have to but they did.

Saagar’s friends have run half marathons, hosted open-mike nights, golf events and walked many miles to help raise awareness about suicide prevention. This is their opportunity to make their humanity shine and bring more light to this planet.

What can I do? I can walk. So, I am walking 50 K tomorrow to mark the World Suicide Prevention Day. It should help raise funds to create more resources for young people in distress. I hope to meet many new people and chat with them about Saagar. I shall carry his picture with me for everyone to see. I am really good at showing him off.


For the first time in my life I will also participate in something called ‘The Thunderclap’ – Talk Through the Taboo.


Just a few things you could join me in. Thank you very much!!!

Day 689

What does life want from me?
Now, after all this, what do I want from life?

When I was 20 something I thought that most 50 year olds had the answer to those questions. Ha! I look around and find many others my age in a similar place.

A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message was and he replied, “My life is my message.”

I suppose life just wants us to live as joyfully and meaningfully as we can. At present it feels as though the orchestra is playing and the dance floor is ready and I am standing at the edge, listening but completely dumb-founded and frozen.

Is it my ‘ego’ that keeps me feeling this way or is it natural? Am I capable of turning this around? What does that even mean? What would that look like? I think I am doing my best but am I really? There is no yardstick. There are no comparisons. Whatever the question, the answer is love. Being with love, being in love and being love.

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