Crisis Comforts – Victoria Milligan & Henry Scowcroft
August 4, 2023. Series 7. Episode 70
This Crisis Comforts episode features previous guests Victoria Milligan and Henry Scowcroft.
Victoria, who joined us early in Series One, described how in a moment she went from a perfect life to becoming a “widow, a bereaved parent, a single parent and an amputee” all in one horrific boat accident in 2013. In her Crisis Comforts, she explains how she navigated her appalling grief by focusing on doable, achievable goals and learning how to seek out and embrace joy in the small pleasures of life.
Henry, a guest from Series Four who lost Zarah, his girlfriend of six years to cancer, explains how through the writing of his book Cross Everything he was able to provide not only a powerful legacy for her but a useful guide for others facing down a cancer diagnosis. Henry also talks movingly about avoiding the ‘shoulda’ woulda’ coulda’ trap that often comes with facing the loss of a loved one. As he says: “Focus on the horizon, not over your shoulder.”
Please listen to their full and inspiring episodes here:
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream: https://open.spotify.com/track/5OX9XgJufFz9g63o2Dv2i5?si=b2f9397c92084682
Traction in the Rain by David Crosby: https://open.spotify.com/track/0qexU8674Ii6vaeFolN6Gb?si=3b629d7bc7eb48c4
Child Bereavement UK: https://www.childbereavementuk.org/
Host: Andy Coulson
CWC production team: Louise Difford and Jane Sankey
With special thanks to Global
00:00:00 Andy Coulson:
Welcome back to another crisis comforts episode – renamed by the brilliant Julia Samuels who those of you who heard her interview earlier this year will know, caused me to change ‘cures to comforts’ because as you know there are no cures when it comes to crisis. Here we offer short but perfectly formed advice for getting through the tough times, delivered to you by some of the amazing guests that we’ve had on the podcast over the last couple of years.
The clips you’re about to hear, feature two incredibly brave people – who have both endured the loss of loved ones in very different but equally cruel situations.
In 2013, Victoria Milligan was involved in a catastrophic accident when she, her husband and four children were thrown from a speeding boat whilst on holiday in Cornwall.
Her husband Nicko and their 8-year-old daughter Emily were both tragically killed, leaving Victoria, who lost a leg in the accident, with the frankly, unthinkable task of not only carrying on, but also providing support for her three surviving and traumatised children.
Victoria says, “In a moment, I went from a perfect life to becoming a widow, a bereaved parent, a single mother and an amputee”.
Henry Scowcroft is an award-winning scientific writer for Cancer Research. In 2016, Zarrah Harrison – his girlfriend of six years was diagnosed with an aggressive stage four Bladder Cancer and after a short and brave battle she sadly passed away.
Henry who was clearly struggling with such a profound loss, channelled his grief into a powerful memoir, “Cross Everything” which provided a unique dual understanding not only of the science and timeline behind Zarah’s illness but also documented how as a couple, they fought against and coped with all that her disease threw at them.
For Victoria, it was a practical approach which got her through, living hour by hour and moving forward in very small incremental steps. I remember being struck by her basic survival instinct when she described the immediate aftermath of the accident, her sheer determination to get through each appalling challenge one moment at a time – just remarkable.
Victoria talked about the importance of positivity also, exercise and planning joy into your life – the small critical pieces of self-care – This is a woman who through tragedy has learned to live in the moment – for herself and of course for her family.
And Henry like Victoria is a man who has prioritised the importance of taking the time to look after himself, something which in crisis is all too easy to lose sight of. During the final months of Zarah’s life it was incumbent on him, to ensure all her needs were met and Henry knew that to do that, he had to demonstrate the kind of resilience which was going to use up all of his reserves.
He talks about falling into the trap of the ‘what ifs?’ And how important it is to steer clear of those negative thoughts and, as he said, “know that you did what you did, with what you knew at the time.”
Finally, he talks about the power of music and one track in particular which became over time the soundtrack to his recovery…
So if you feel moved by these two powerful testimonials, why not listen to the episodes in full and please subscribe and give us a rating and review. It really helps make sure that these stories are heard by more people.
Thanks again for listening.
00:03:25 Victoria Milligan:
Okay, so I would say, I mean, I’ve mentioned them already, but for me step by step. So that’s small achievable goals, not planning too far ahead into the future, that I think has massively helped me and still does massively help me. That whole area of self-compassion and realising, as Nicko did, that we are good enough. Don’t wake up in the morning and start your day in a bad way go, ‘should have got more sleep, I shouldn’t have drunk as much, I should have done more yesterday’ it’s like no, start the day in a positive way and mantras of we are good enough to start the day.
00:04:03 Andy Coulson:
And exercise is a key part of that for you.
00:04:07 Victoria Milligan:
Well that’s me, how I start the day in a positive way and that rolls into the area of nutrition as well, that self-care area. And also just being a little bit selfish. It’s like you know, we have to put ourselves first. We are all natural care-givers and we do feel good looking after other people but we have to make sure that we put enough time in for joy, happiness, looking after ourselves, because if we’re not in a good place emotionally and physically we’re not in the right place to look after others as well as we can do. So I think being a little bit selfish is not a bad thing.
00:04:49 Henry Scowcroft:
My first crisis cure is to carve out time for myself and to make sure that I’m looking after myself so that I can be as helpful to the people around me as I can. And I think in Zara’s case it was making sure that I was able to support her as well as I could by making sure that I wasn’t constantly trying to be somewhere else. You know, making sure that I was fed and watered and well-rested and carved out time for the emails and the writing and just make sure that I’m able to be the best person for those around me as I possibly can.
00:05:27 Henry Scowcroft:
My second crisis cure is not to get caught in the ‘could-a, should’a, would’a’. There’s always a way to look back at the way you ended up in the situation you’re in and think if only I’d done X, if only I’d done Y, then I wouldn’t be here. But the fact is you are where you are, you’re here now, look forward, don’t look backwards and try and just keep focused on, even if it’s only a little bit on the horizon, try and keep focused on where you’re going rather than looking over your shoulder.
00:06:02 Henry Scowcroft:
My third crisis cure is music and particularly my guitar. I think I’ve always loved playing the guitar I play in a band to this day. I love listening to music and I think music is so powerful at being able to get your head in a different space than where it is. And if that’s that you want to have a weep, then music is incredibly good at taking you into that zone. When you’ve just lost someone maybe steer clear of music with any lyrics whatsoever. Because whatever they’re going to be, they’re going to set you off. But I think music is such a huge part of my life and being able to use music to rescue me out of certain situations or to take me into certain situations is something that I’ve always been able to do and it was especially important after Zara died.
00:06:56 Henry Scowcroft:
Which brings me to my crisis track which is by David Crosby. It’s a track called Traction in the Rain. It’s from an album that I came across while I was travelling across America to a small cabin where I was going to start writing Cross Everything. And my friend Kieran pointed me in the direction of the album. I stayed with him in America before I set off on a long train journey. And it was an album that I just fell in love with over the course of getting the train across America. And I finally end up in a cabin where there was a guitar, so I learnt to play some of the tracks on it. This track in particular really stuck with me. And it was only after I’d got really into this album that I looked up why David Crosby wrote it. He lost it because he lost his girlfriend in an accident and the fact that the album is infused with grief but also looking forward and this extraordinary track just means a lot to me.