A former graphic designer from St Helens has turned a personal tragedy into a way to help others in similar circumstances, through her counselling studies at the University of Chester.
Ella Haselden, who is 52, worked as a graphic designer in the print industry from the 1980s, becoming self-employed in the mid-1990s.
When her mum passed away in 1999, she inherited her mother’s shop with her sister and to this day they continue working there in partnership. She reached a turning point in 2011 when she decided to close her design business, which coincided with her dad becoming ill.
In the June of that year he died and Ella decided to ‘dip her toe in the water’ by undertaking an introduction to counselling course the following January.
Having enjoyed the course so much, classmates recommended that she enrol for an MA in the subject at the University of Chester. She looked through the prospectus for the MA in Clinical Counselling and saw that it offered key aspects in which she was interested: theory; professional skills development, personal development and membership to the BACP (British Association of Counselling Practitioners).
Ella said: “I applied to the University of Chester on the off-chance of a miracle happening. I was elated when I got an interview for a place on the MA in Clinical Counselling, which was the only course which carried automatic membership to the BACP (British Association of Counselling Practitioners).
“After the day of the interview, introduction to the tutors and outline of the course, I realised that Chester offered everything I was looking for.
“The high standards set by the tutors reassured me that on completion I would be competent and enabled to deal with future clients’ issues.
“I came away feeling that it was the only place for me, and decided to forgo studying if I was not accepted. Hence, it was an amazing moment when news came that I had been offered a place.”
During her MA, Ella was able to further explore a tragedy that was very personal to her, and ultimately to use it as the starting point for her academic research.
She added: “In 2005, I experienced a first trimester miscarriage at 12 weeks. I was planning on telling others about the pregnancy after the first scan, but this point never materialised.
“I was left with little support as I found it difficult to articulate what had happened. When I did, responses were sometimes uncomfortable and indifferent, which silenced me.
“From 2013 onwards, through my MA studies, I benefited greatly from acknowledging my experience through journal writing, talking to student counsellors who were empathic, and through connecting with my baby, who I now perceive in a spiritual manner.
“Personal therapy, journaling and quiet reflection offered me time and space to re-create a narrative and make meaning of my loss, which has been fundamental to my grieving process and journey of reconciliation. I was therefore curious to see if it was the same for others – hence the research.”
Ella is now presenting the findings of her research at the annual BACP conference, which is taking place in Chester this May, and is being co-hosted by the University of Chester.
She said: “The title of my presentation is ‘Ways in which women who have experienced a miscarriage acknowledge the life and death of their unborn child’. The term ‘acknowledgements’ is an overall term I used to mean ‘marking’ or ‘giving personhood’ to the loss, which is witnessed by the self/ others, examples of which could be through narrative, creativity, material objects, symbols and rituals.
“It highlights how early miscarriage can be overlooked by society as a significant loss and that traditional ways of marking the event are therefore often withheld. Due to this, many women create their own ritual, ceremony, or use symbols to acknowledge or mark the event in a way which is meaningful to them.”