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  • So my mum died when I was five.

  • She had breast cancer.

  • I was so aware of everything,

  • I just didn't have the words to describe it.

  • It makes you so tough because it's just like

  • when you lose your primary caregiver when you're so young

  • and having to overcome that is the hardest challenge.

  • When we're faced with death I think that it's like that veil

  • kind of gets lifted up and we feel fragile.

  • You are faced with just sadness and numbness

  • and extortionate pain and sometimes it feels like a living hell.

  • My dad had been admitted to hospital

  • for what was thought to be a routine operation.

  • My aunt appeared and she said, "Albert, your daddy has just died

  • and you have to be the man of the house now

  • and look after your mummy and your sister."

  • My childhood ended.

  • It's almost like a table, a leg of a table coming out

  • and so there has to be a kind of readjustment.

  • As a 10-year-old, I wanted to become a doctor

  • to stop other boys' and girls' mummies and daddies dying.

  • And that was the motivation, the purpose in my life

  • which has persisted until now.

  • He said to his private secretary, "Have I done enough?"

  • And his private secretary, sort of, was taken aback

  • saying, "Of course Sir, look at what you've done world peace and so on."

  • And he said, "No, have I done enough to make my father proud?"

  • It's called post-traumatic growth.

  • There may be things that children and young people take from it. \N \N \N \N \N \N \N \N \N

  • A greater sense of maturity,

  • a different sense of purpose.

  • There's something about empathy - somebody who's been through

  • an experience like that may be a better listener.

  • Whether that leads to leadership or not I don't know.

  • One would like to think it might.

  • I think the correlation between a significant early loss,

  • like the death of a parent,

  • and leadership, particularly successful leaders

  • doing great things,

  • is probably to do with passion and drive,

  • wanting to make a difference

  • and somehow at some level wanting to make that person proud.

  • There's a disproportionate number of children who end up in prison,

  • unemployed, etc. So the downside can be simply staggering.

  • Everybody is different, but what we know about grief

  • generally is that it doesn't really go away.

  • There has been different models of grief over the years

  • that have kind of said that it starts off overwhelming

  • and slowly gets smaller and smaller over time

  • but actually it's not really what we've found to be true.

  • What seems to make a lot more sense

  • is this concept of growing around your grief

  • and creating a bigger world so that you're not suffocated by the grief.

  • I have never, ever, been allowed to say goodbye to my dad.

  • And that image of him on my shoulder -

  • he never knew I'd passed the 11-plus,

  • he never knew I'd met a wonderful wife

  • who has been with me for 54 years -

  • that regret is also very, very powerful.

  • People who have done quite a bit of work on it

  • and work on themselves and they've

  • found a way of making sense of what happened to them

  • and they've got this growth mindset as it's called,

  • they can be fantastic leaders - real inspirations.

  • They have a kind of optimism, ironically.

  • I'm such a happy, optimistic person now.

  • My identity and the things that I like most about myself

  • are directly from being bereaved.

  • When you reach a point where you have accepted it

  • and reframed it into a more positive narrative

  • you have gained so much determination, so much resilience.

  • Compared to that, everything else is nothing.

  • It's a walk in the park.

So my mum died when I was five.

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'Losing a parent made me more resilient' | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/08
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