Yes I’m obviously terribly upset, but I’m also terribly angry…..quite simply put.......because it just wasn’t his time.

I don’t want to allow Covid to take centre stage and block out all my incredible memories of an equally incredible man, but I do want to briefly dwell on the absolutely inhumane reality that this evil virus has inflicted on us all.

My dad is one of 5 children, a remarkable family of doctors born to an immigrant father, who tragically lost their younger brother 20 years ago on a charity bike ride.

With 16 first cousins, and 10 aunts and uncles, i feel blessed to have shared so many happy times together over the years as part of a close-knit, warm, loving extended family, but we were all hit hard by that tragedy, especially at such a young age.

And so once again dad has lost another wonderful sibling – an amazing patriarch, loving father, husband, grandfather, and uncle.

He was equally adored by all of his family and friends and was a beloved doctor for his thousands of patients.

But what fills me with rage is the injustice of him having caught the virus shortly before he would almost have been fully protected, having spent the better part of a year waiting and looking forward to getting back to some sort of normality.

To be unable to run to my parents, aunt and cousins to comfort them, in the way that is usually human nature for anyone, just hurts...a lot.

To have to watch the funeral sitting at my kitchen table, staring almost voyeuristically down the lens of a zoom link, all feels so wrong and slightly distasteful.

How can they or any of us grieve properly?

His beautiful wife of over 60 years kissed him goodbye from home, via an ipad, whilst he was in hospital.  She had also caught covid, around a similar time and so was not allowed to be with him.

The only saving grace, in his final peaceful few hours, was the hospital allowing my cousins, his two children, to be by his side, albeit fully enveloped in head to toe ppe, which must’ve given him and my aunt, enormous comfort.

I know we are not the only ones suffering, and this sort of scenario must be playing out all over the world right now, but it doesn’t take away the pain that so many of us are feeling.

We are determined, to celebrate his life properly in the way he deserved, when this pandemic is all over, surrounded by the hundreds of people whose lives he touched, so that we can have some sort of closure.

He will be remembered for his warmth, kindness and beautiful approach to life and we will hold on to the most special family memories, we’ve all shared together over our lifetimes, forever.

If you have suffered a bereavement and are struggling to cope with your grief, please do reach out for help either on our Facebook group, via our directory of professionals or on our helplines page: https://www.lattelounge.co.uk/helplines/

Stories of Freshers Weeks like these have been shared around our kitchen table to our two younger kids over the years and my third child was beyond excited about experiencing a similar time as we planned and prepared to send him off to Uni last month.

So to hear how his fresher weeks have been so far is pretty sad really; the contrast is stark from the experience of his siblings who have gone before.

Hopeful anticipation

Over the summer I was very worried about how he’d cope going to university during a pandemic. Having only just nursed him back to full mental health this summer, we were always feeling cautiously optimistic about how things would pan out.

He purposely chose a uni where he didn’t know anyone as he wanted to have a fresh start and immerse himself in a totally new experience, hopefully meeting new people from all walks of life and from all corners of the UK & the World too.

Thankfully, he struck lucky with his flat of 12. Maybe it was luck or maybe it was because the uni had promised to match kids together with similar interests, it worked out well. Although him being a philosophy student who is an aspiring playwright, film director, actor, author, journalist, theatre director, who loves supporting QPR football, we weren’t sure how they’d match him up!  

But sure enough he is now living with an English Lit student, a football fanatic, a psychology student and a media & theatre studies student – so they have all immediately bonded over their mutual love of thinking and writing a lot about the arts and football – oh and of course a bottle of cheap vodka!

Week one away from home

The first week they became very close and although nothing much was going on within the campus they did venture out to a pub and the gym and a footie trial once.  That was until one of the 12 caught covid.

Now, like so many students up and down the country they are all in lockdown for two weeks waiting to either get it or get out.

Finding ways to cope

When I asked my son how he was coping he told me he was on page 300 of a 700 page book about the Beatles, he had finished writing a play, he had put a call out for actors and a film crew to support his play (which he was hoping to film in an outdoor setting) and he had been interviewed on the uni radio station discussing the championship league.

He’s also attended some zoom seminars and lectures so 5 days into lockdown, he's keeping himself busy and that's fantastic and reassuring.

Continued isolation

But what worries me, and is starting to dawn on him too, is the looming reality of constant and repeated isolation. He lives in a flat of 12, all sharing a kitchen, so with one flatmate now positive they are all in isolation. Let's play this out further - if he doesn’t get covid, does this mean that every time a new flat mate does get it they will be back in lockdown for another two weeks?

If so, in theory, he could be in lockdown for 22 weeks (or in other words half his time at uni). 

And with scientists saying that immunity may only last for 3-4 months – is his entire first year of uni going to be spent inside a flat of 12 with no fresh air and no exercise? No meeting anyone else, no societies joined, no in-person seminars, lectures or parties?

'The best time of your life'

University is constantly dubbed 'the time of your life'.

But for current students, I can’t begin to imagine the impact this is going to have on all of their mental health and with all the money it is costing them, I’m not sure what the point of being there is right now.

Many kids aren’t as lucky with their flat mates, perhaps not gelling with anyone and hoping to meet others over time, how lonely an experience will that be for them?

Struggling to eat well, unable to go out and exercise, socialise, perhaps feeling a bit homesick. I’m worried the drop-out rate this year will be like no other and I’m also seriously worried about the increase in depression, self harm and far, far worse for kids who are locked away in their rooms with nobody checking on them.

Supporting this generation

We need to relook at this whole situation for our Uni kids.

2020 has already been a disaster for them with A-levels being cancelled, along with all the end of year celebrations that normally accompany it.

But if we don’t get it right now for them, I fear that many will never return and will be joining the unemployment queue along with hundreds of thousands of others who are already much further along the queue than they are.

BUT what we didn't talk to Philippa about, is the part of covid anxiety that NO-ONE is talking about:
THE BLAME GAME AND THE TROLLING
So forgive me, but after receiving a load of messages and emails about this tonight and all week, I've decided to use my soap box to address the issue of how a small minority of kids and parents are behaving towards other kids and parents, who have either tested positive for Covid or are waiting for their test results.
Like us, our children have been tested to the limits with this pandemic. Many have tragically lost loved ones and not even been able to say goodbye. But most have followed all the rules pretty much to the letter, especially in the first few months and, understandably, slowly by slowly, as lock down ended and restrictions were eased, they started to socialise more and more, as did we.
Granted some of the messages were confusing - bubbles of 6?, weddings/gatherings of under 30?, outside/inside? Go to shops and pubs, but not on public transport, etc etc. We, and they, have done our best.
But it was, and is, inevitable that at some point someone in their or our friendship crowd was going to get Covid from someone and somewhere. And they, or we, will UNKNOWINGLY pass it on to another child or parent and then another.
But, NOBODY goes out of their way to get it and nobody goes out of their way to purposely pass it on to someone else. And MOST kids and parents behave responsibly and don't go out, if they are positive or waiting for a test result.
And yet i have heard, and seen first hand, that there are a lot of children and their parents, who are not only being harassed by other parents and children on the phone or online, but they are being trolled and bullied consistently, over a prolonged period of time, and it is now affecting their mental health terribly.
So i want to say, on their behalf, that it has to STOP. Ofcourse the timing is terrible, we all despearately want our kids to go back to school, college and uni and us back to work and our parents to be safe, but there is never going to be a good time for an outbreak, if its not now it will be in 2 weeks, 2 months etc etc.
But where is the compassion?
Where is the; 'I'm so sorry', 'i hope you are ok', 'can i help you?', 'call if you need anything'.
The rhetoric has turned nasty; Who gave what to who, when?. Who was responsible for the chain of events?, Who can be embarrassed, trashed, humiliated, reported even?'.
I can't tell you the amount of emails and texts i've had on this subject and i've seen it first hand from adults and kids in my own community too.
Its nothing more than peeping tom syndrome. It doesn't help anyone, all it does is make a poor child and their parents feel terrible about themselves, guilty (for doing nothing wrong) and some kids have had their mental health so badly damaged by this blame game, that they are turning to dangerous and worrying coping mechanisms to deal with it.
So PLEASE, if you hear of someone that may be positive or is waiting for a test result or are isolating at home for two weeks now and missing school and their parents therefore cant work, please just be KIND.
Ask how they are, rather than blame them and gossip. We know its a stressful time, we know some people have let their guards down more than others, but we are still all in the same boat together and if you are not sure of the 'right guidance for your own family', please go to the OFFICIAL government website in your country, to find out what the next steps should be.
Stay well, keep safe, look after each other and let these beautiful children* (Generation Z) in their Covid Pandemic Lockdown song 'STRONG', remind us all of whats important right now. #Staystrong.
N.B. every download on Spotify, iTunes or any of the major streaming platforms, will raise money for Young Minds and Grief Encounter.
*shameless but relevant plug as it features one of mine!

Sir Andrew McFarlane, who is in charge of family courts in England and Wales, gave this and other guidance to parents in April 2020 due to the increase level of disputes concerning contact arrangements for children during the current Covid-19 crisis.

He urges people to focus on the child’s welfare and to try and ensure children are in touch with both of their parents. Communication between the parents is the key.

He goes on to say that the country is in the middle of a Public Health crisis on an unprecedented scale. The expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.

Whether there is a court order or an informal arrangement in place, the government guidelines are that children under 18 can travel between their separated parents, if safe to do so.

This does not, however, mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s  parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.

A child’s safety with regard to the virus is a matter for parental judgment, as is the use of practical alternatives to minimise any potential risk, and to alleviate any potential concern the parties may have. This may mean parents coming to an agreement to facilitate contact in a different way, for example to change the mode of pick up and drop off to avoid public transport.  They could change to video/telephone contact as opposed to direct contact as a short term agreement, if for example one of the parents is a key worker or there is a vulnerable person in the household.

Essentially, a sensible assessment of the circumstances should be made. It is a matter of personal judgement and agreement between the parents, if possible, with the welfare of the child always being of paramount consideration.

This of course only applies to contact between two separated parents. Contact with respect to grandparents, or extended family must still follow government guidelines on social distancing, which is for everyone to avoid close contact with anyone you do not live with.

In some situations, it is clear that contact will have to be restricted and a common sense approach will need to be adopted by both parents.

The government has from Monday 1 June updated its guidance with the aim to return life to as nearly normal as possible. This  includes more relaxed rules, but the ultimate message of staying alert, controlling the virus and saving lives will continue to require parents cooperation.

The key aspects of the new guidance include:

Spending time outdoors, including private gardens and other outdoor spaces, in groups of up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines;

Going to work if you cannot work from home and your business has not been required to close by law;

More shops opening, with a plan for more to do so later in the month;

Children in early years (age 0-5), reception, year 1 and year 6 can return to childcare or school in line with the arrangements made by their school;

People can be tested as part of the test and trace programme, which will enable them to return to normal life as soon as possible, by helping to control transmission risks;

This guidance is for the general public who are fit and well and can be reviewed on the government website, on the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing

There is separate, specific guidance on isolation for households with a possible coronavirus infection.

For example, if you, your child, or anyone in your household has coronavirus symptoms, and you are self-isolating or indeed, if anyone in the other parent’s household has symptoms or they are self-isolating, contact should not take place. But this will of course be for only a set period of time in accordance with government guidelines, currently at least 7 days if you have symptoms and 14 days if you live with someone who has symptoms.

If contact is suspended for a short period of time due to the above, alternatives should be discussed, for example, telephone or video contact.

It is important to distinguish self-isolation and social distancing which has been mentioned above from shielding, which is advice for people at high risk from coronavirus to stay at home to avoid getting the virus.

This can cause a bit of a stir for parents who need to weigh up the risk of allowing contact to take place if they are living with someone who is shielding.

The Government guidelines for those living with people that are shielding are that if one person in the household is shielding, the rest of your household do not need to start shielding themselves, but they should do what they can to support the person shielding and to carefully follow guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing).

The guidance recommends that the person shielding should minimise the time other people living with them spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated. They should keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people they live with and everyone in their household should regularly wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.

Following these guidelines would allow parties to come to an agreement to keep contact with the children open. However, once again, a sensible risk assessment taking into account all circumstances should be made by both parents.

Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, it is clear, from some children contact disputes thus far, that this may not necessarily ease parental concerns. Unfortunately for some, this is having a knock on effect on children maintaining any form of meaningful contact with their separated parent.

In an ideal situation, both parents would be able to discuss the children contact arrangements and come to a sensible solution, putting the welfare of the children ahead of any other need. However, there are of course some situations where either an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order or enforcement of an existing Order may be the only recourse.

For some, doing something for the sake of the child, even when you they don’t want to, is just not feasible.

To discuss these or any other children or family issues, please contact Shahzea Tahir on sat.solicitor@gmail.com or visit Rights of Women website on www.rightsofwomen.org.uk for further details on our free confidential adviceline for women.

Removing the need for an alarm clock to get kids up for school, us up for work and the dog out for a walk, has meant that the one bonus of being a prisoner in our own homes, for almost 3 months now, is we have all there or thereabouts 'caught' up on our sleep (whatever that means!).

So why am i feeling ridiculously weary right now?

It's not my diet or fitness levels to blame, as I am one of the very few that has miraculously managed to commit to a weight loss and home fitness programme for the first time in years! (I know mad right?).

It's not my hormones, as that little (well huge actually!) issue was finally all sorted a few years ago, thanks to HRT!

It could be the endless housework and cooking for 7 of us, whilst also trying to juggle work commitments, but honestly everyone is mucking in surprisingly, and its not 'that' sort of tired anyway.

Really the only way to describe it is, in the words of my kids, i just feel a bit blergh!

I was speaking to one of our Facebook group psychologists today, whilst commissioning her to write a new blog for this website, and i thought i'd bring it up.

She reassured me that i am absolutely not alone. Many of her patients are feeling unusally tired and irritable right now. Apparently its a natural part of a crisis response.

She told me that there are 3 stages of a crisis which we can translate into our current covid crisis as such:

  1. Emergency: When our PM announced we were going into lockdown, we all seemed to have a very clear sense of purpose, the panic and adrenaline many of us felt, some how gave us the energy to get things done. Hunkering down for the foreseeable future.
  2. Regression: The emergency phase doesn't last forever however and nor do our energy levels after 3 long months.  Life returning to any sort of normality still feels like a very long way off and this is the stage where many of us are currently sitting. We have run out of enthusiasm for homeschooling (did we ever have it anyway?) for having all our chickens home to roost, for spending more 'quality' time as a family together, for not having to jump on public transport at stupid o'clock. The novelty has worn off for everyone, so naturally we are feeling more tired, annoyed and less productive than in stage 1. But we feel guilty for being grumpy, especially if we have our health, a job, a home and a family, when so many around us have far less. So we get more weary, as we try and keep our emotions inside, for fear of upsetting others who aren't so lucky, and so the cycle continues.
  3. Recovery: This is the stage we are all desperately waiting for, hoping for some good news, some clear dates as to when our lives can get back on track, but right now it still feels so far off.  And when you are trying to support children who rely on you for giving them reassurance and certainty, it just adds to the 'feeling tired' burden, constantly having to say 'i just don't know' and watching their deflated faces as they retreat slowly back into their rooms.

She told me to keep remembering we are still in stage 2 and to not beat myself up for running low on energy, even when the sun is shining.

So here are some of her top tips if, like me, you are also feeling a bit 'blergh'!

  1. Don't feel guilty about having a snooze in the day, if that's what your body and brain is calling for, just go with it. Unless you are driving a bus, car or train of course!
  2. Don't force yourself to 'feel' energised if you are dragging your feet out of bed each day, even in the unlikely event, you have slept a full 8 hours. Just ask those around you to help you out more. Perhaps try some mindfulness or  yoga? Or just read a book, and/or catch up on some Netflix - if work/kids will allow you that privilege.
  3. Do check that you are eating well and fitting in some sort of exercise.
  4. A phone call with a best friend or family member is great for lifting the spirits when your immediate family members just don't quite cut the mustard any more.
  5. It may be helpful to check if your hormones are playing havoc with your energy levels too. Obviously speak to your gp practice about any 'unusual' feelings of tiredness.
  6. Remember that, although the Recovery stage right now is pretty much out of our control, it won't be forever, and there are genuinely glimmers of hope already out there on the horizon.  Apparently in Italy the virus is almost non existent right now?! Take advantage of the warm weather and the opportunity to meet with family and friends again. Often socialising can really invigorate us as much as exercise can.
  7. Before we know it, we will be running back to our old lives in whatever new shape that will take and be wishing for this time back again, as we hit that snooze button on our alarm clocks, so hold on to that thought tomorrow morning when you first wake up!.
Meanwhile if you need some support, please visit our helplines page or you can email us too.  You can also compare notes with other women on our Facebook Group here.
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