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Bishop Martin Seeley looks at how we start to move on from this stage of the pandemic

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Most of us know the experience of a near miss. It may have been suddenly having to step back as we started to cross the road. Or the car that ran the light and crossed right in front of us. Or something more dramatic still.

We know that immediate shocked feeling, a mixture of startled surprise and relief.

And then, a while later, and at different points in the day and maybe days ahead, that deepening realisation of just how close it was.

Bishop Martin Seeley
Bishop Martin Seeley

Most of us know too the process of grief from the death of a loved one. A process that takes time, a long time, before we reach some sort of equilibrium, living with the loss.

And along the way, just when we think we have come to terms with our loss, something happens, a reminder, a glimpse, a prompt, and the feelings come flooding back.

We are deeply feeling creatures, and our feelings express wells of meaning and response to what has happened, and so when something dramatic or life-changing happens, coming to terms with it takes a long time. A very long time.

We wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. And it takes a long time because we love and we care, for one another, and for ourselves.

We take time to heal.

And that is what is going on now. We have been through the most extraordinary experience together, an experience of near-misses, grief and bereavement on so many levels, over the last fifteen months, and it is not over yet. And we need to heal, as individuals, families, communities, as the world.

The question is, ‘how do we heal?’ and this question, asked by Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals at a gathering of health care professionals, has led to a remarkable county-wide process to explore the answers.

The Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System took the lead to start a conversation across the region about how we will move forward again as we reach a new stage in this pandemic.

And moving forward requires healing – taking stock, understanding what has happened, what we have learned, and what we need to do to rebuild.

Covid-19 has affected each of the one million people living in Suffolk and North East Essex in very different ways.

And those different ways mean we need to pay attention to one another, how each of us feel and how we can build from our experiences of the past year.

We all need to think about ‘How do we heal?’

How do we heal our NHS services? How do we heal our social care sector? How do we heal our health and care workforce?

How do we heal our communities? How do we heal ourselves? And as we have learned through this time of the inequalities in our society, how to help everyone to heal?

Healing is physical, mental, social, and through it all, spiritual. A healing of memories and meaning.

This process has been drawn to a focal point on June 16 at a “Learning Summit”, presenting the reflections of countless conversations across the county, as well as the results of a film competition of short films made by local people conveying what healing means.

I am honoured to have been asked to chair this gathering, and know that this will be a process and conversation that will be continuing for all of us for a long time, as we come to terms with what has happened – something we cannot rush or short circuit.

That is the question for all of us: how do we heal?

- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic

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