I’ve just read Dr Andrew Rowe’s blog, which was posted about 10 months ago, called “Student Minds: The Importance of Support”. I am grateful to Andrew for sharing his experiences and his hope that it would encourage other PGRs to open up. Job done, Andrew, because what follows is a summary of some of my experiences as a shiny new PGR only 3 months into the 3-year journey.
I’m a (very) mature student and I was apprehensive about returning to full-time education after being in the workforce for quite some time. But I knew that undertaking a PhD was absolutely the right path for me so I moved from Edinburgh to Loughborough to pursue my ambition of being a researcher. Two weeks later my mother suddenly passed away and it left me devastated. After I returned to Loughborough I was distracted and unable to focus on my studies for several weeks but my friends, supervisors and fellow PGRs were, and still are, incredibly understanding and supportive. I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to all of them.
However I did feel that I needed to talk more about the significant impact my mum’s death was having on me not just in terms of my PhD but in general as well. I contacted the Student Counselling Service and asked for an assessment appointment. I was seen fairly soon and have now been assigned a counsellor for follow-up appointments. There has been so much change in my life in just a few months that having a counsellor to talk to has been crucial for me. Counselling provides a safe space to talk about anything you need to get out of your head and there is no judgment or criticism nor anyone telling you that you have to “just get over it” no matter what “it” might be. If you have never seen a counsellor then I would recommend that you chat to friends and fellow PGRs and ask if any of them have had any experiences they can share with you. I’ll bet that there will be a few who have seen a counsellor and can tell you the benefits. If you don’t think that counselling is for you then I would encourage you to talk to friends, family, fellow PGRs, supervisors or anyone that you trust and feel comfortable with and let them be there for you. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but a sign of strength and knowledge that your Wellbeing is important to you and to your family, friends and colleagues.
The Counselling Service is available to all students and members of staff and offers an opportunity to talk and reflect with a professionally trained person who is outside your immediate situation. http://www.lboro.ac.uk/disabilities/counselling/
Like Andrew, I hope that my blog will encourage PGRs to open up about whatever issues may be affecting them, both positive and negative or somewhere in between.
I’m still not completely as focused as I know I can be but I have realised that grieving the loss of a parent, or anyone you love, is a process that takes time. I don’t think that I will ever get over losing my mum, but I do think that I will learn to live in a new way without her.
Karin Boers, PhD Student
Loughborough Design School & School of Civil and Building Engineering
*See also the Support Services list under the ‘Links’ menu on the Home page