I didn’t know that was to be the last time I saw her in person…

Submitted by Graham
Macmillan Cancer Support Worker

Prior to the pandemic, colleagues and management were very understanding of my duty to help my grandmother.

I escorted her back up to Scotland for the last time in early January 2020. As I left her house to get in a taxi to Glasgow Airport, I glanced through her living room window and waved goodbye as she smiled at me from her armchair.

I didn’t know that was to be the last time I saw her in person, but it did feel a little ominous as she hadn’t been in good health.

I was planning on traveling back to the airport by train, but she gave me money for the taxi that would take me a few hours later than originally planned; in hindsight I think she knew how precious our time together was.

The pandemic that arrived on our shores around about that time has as we all know meant living with a lot of restrictions.

I was not able to visit my grandmother when she was hospitalised after a fall later in 2020. She spent what felt like a long time in two different hospitals, but told me over the phone how much she was enjoying the care and company of professional and kind-hearted NHS colleagues during her lengthy stays up there.

They helped Gran conduct video calls with me, which I am so grateful for, as these video calls were the last times that I was able to see her.

Sadly, in late 2020, I was informed that she was passing away.

People who know me understand that I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, which has historically meant taking longer periods of time off work sick in comparison to other colleagues.

This may sound strange, but thanks to the brilliant kindness and support from my line manager, and other colleagues, I took no time off work sick before, during and after my grandmother’s passing away.

This was my first time feeling able and willing to come to work whilst experiencing a mild episode.

At one point, a colleague mentioned that she thought I would break out into song whilst I was conducting one of our morning huddles – a sign of an unusual emotional state considering that I had just heard of the loss of my dearly beloved grandmother.

I said to this very understanding and supportive colleague that deep down I am feeling very sad. I am also grateful for another colleague, who kept regular tabs on my wellbeing; on one occasion we briefly discussed in the corridor how different people process grief and loss in different ways.

I was given leave to make the journey up to Scotland with my family for my grandmother’s funeral, which was a very dignified occasion attended by a very small number of close family members, at a time when the whole of the UK was under very tight lockdown restrictions.

Upon my return, I came straight back to work, and over the course of the next few weeks, returned to an emotional and mental state that family, friends, and colleagues are more familiar with.

Jokingly, when I said to my manager that I “feel normal again,” she said “you’re not normal!… normal is boring!”

We reflected how, in my case, continuing to come in to work and keeping myself occupied with appropriate tasks and workplace activities was definitely better than staying at home.

I cannot thank my colleagues enough for the kindnesses and considerations they afforded me during my time at work over a very difficult time.

I am of course not the only person who suffers with Bipolar Disorder; people like me up and down the country often experience difficulties associated with finding and holding down employment, but the way I was treated by friends and colleagues was exemplary, and a testament to our Outstanding organisation.

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