Women of Reverence welcomes Nicola Seevaraj as a guest blogger.
Nicky Seevaraj was born in Zimbabwe to English parents and grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. She now lives in Brighton, UK with her husband and children since 2003 where they lead South City Church.
Nicky has worked in the charity sector as a Community Fundraising Manager for the past three years. Before that, she was a company director at Hayes Warren, a legal recruitment consultancy formed by her and her husband, recruiting top talent in the oil and gas industry, and working with some of the world’s leading magic circle law firms headquartered in London. In her spare time, she loves being creative in her studio or going on walks with her Labrador, Chase.
At twenty-two years old with the call of God on my life to church-plant in a country I had not yet been to with the man I had been married to for just over a year, I remember being asked if I was ‘ready to become a mother’? My eyes widened – our pastor meant spiritual children, but also physical children to come. I answered with an emphatic ‘yes!’, excited to discover what that meant as it had always been my dream to be a mother.
Jean and I left Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and arrived in Brighton, UK on the South Coast of England to lead South City Church. Within three months of our arrival I was pregnant with the our first of five babies who would all be born in under ten years – my husband jokes that this is evidence of our commitment to church growth! Joseph Daniel was born in December 2004, but just after his third birthday, he died suddenly of Sepsis in 2008 – a secondary infection from the tonsillitis he had been diagnosed with on Saturday, but which had been missed by the medical team on call that weekend. We kissed him goodnight on Sunday, laying hands on him and praying that the Lord would heal him. On Monday morning, we went to wake him and found his lifeless little body in his cot in our bedroom. I was 26 years old when I became a bereaved mom which has transformed my life forever. A lot has happened in the past 12 years since Joseph went to be with the Lord. I have learnt many lessons about well-being which I feel privileged to share with you. It is my hope that you can learn from me without having to experience what I have had to gain this depth of insight. Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are all independent topics but are intrinsically intertwined. Let me also say right off the bat, that every loss is unique – we are all impacted by some form of ‘loss’ in varying degrees and we should try not to compare losses. I will try my best to sum up some of my lessons so far… Firstly, grief is not linear and it is not a mental illness however it can trigger mental illness. In the first year after Joseph’s death, we had to endure the ordeal of a Coroner’s inquest which found gross failings by the doctor who we placed our trust in during that critical time when his life could have been saved. I spent my nights researching medical journals and on google to try and get some answers. I felt enormous misplaced guilt as a mom – my primary job is to nurture and make everything better and I wasn’t given the option of trading places, my life for his. All these thoughts and bargaining games with God was not healthy for my mind or my faith. Our second child, Abigail, was nearly two years old when her brother died. I had to put my grief aside to help her with her grief.
It was only seven years later that I discovered ‘talking therapies’ which helped me enormously, ten weeks of specific counselling that was focused on me. It was life-transforming! Having a loving, caring and supportive community of friends and family is great, but there is real value in having some form of counselling, preferably Christian counselling in your church setting, which I highly recommend you seek that out, or if you are unable to do that for yourself, assign a trusted friend with the job to do that for you. (see link to Griefshare in South Africa) I feel my grief in my throat, and many people who have had to endure pain or loss, often express that they ‘hold their breath’. Without even realising it, I was doing this. The Lord spoke to me and without intentionally looking for this key myself, He opened doors for me to take part in activities that would enhance my breathing. My grief often made me feel foggy-headed – my memory was awful and I struggled to make decisions, and I can attribute this to an obvious lack of oxygen to my brain due to a lack of proper breathing. I took up running which is very much an exercise in breathing technique, and the discipline of training is good for me too, finding that it improved my mental health as well as my physical health. Running is a great metaphor for life and is often referenced in the Word, for good reason. When I run, I can feel the lifeblood in my veins and my heart thumping, reminding me that life is a gift, every heart- beat, every breath. I also got involved in a choir – singing and music has always been a very important part of my life. While working at a heart charity, I discovered that when a choir members sing together, their hearts beat in unison which I think is amazing! This is because they are breathing intentionally to sing, which also regulates heart rhythm – a great benefit to alleviating stress. So, when you hear people say, ‘just breathe’ – it’s very true. It’s a simple thing, but something very powerful to physical and mental well-being. Additionally, I learnt early on in that first year, how important a few other ‘simple’ keys helped me: getting enough sleep which meant going to bed on time and waking up on purpose; drinking enough water and avoiding too much caffeine or alcohol; eating the right types of food that nourished my body, and not just ‘comfort eating’ – very easy to do! Self-care is not always spa days, it can be as simple as having a shower and getting dressed for the day. Other things that have truly helped me: maintaining a routine; journaling – giving myself permission to ‘feel my feelings’; getting outside and appreciating the beauty in nature; helping others; reconciling the season that I am in with the immovable truth of God’s Word by spending time at his feet, allowing God’s perfect love to drive out all fear and having my identity based firmly on Christ; keeping Joseph’s memory alive – this really puts me in a good space, and I love it when people share in this with us. Vulnerability is powerful, it is not a sign of weakness. It is also okay to make an effort – put some make-up on and buy a new outfit, be ambitious. God can do great things with anyone who is completely yielded to Him, even while enduring great pain and suffering. I now work for the UK’s leading child bereavement charity as part of how I forge meaning from this experience. Much of what we do is to educate and normalise how we communicate about death, dying and bereavement. It is very rewarding to be able to give back in this way and to help newly bereaved children and families. Child Bereavement UK: https://www.childbereavementuk.org Griefshare: https://www.griefshare.org/countries/za South City Church: https://www.southcitychurch.co.uk Worship Diaries: https://www.worshipdiaries.com