Reflections #24: A Month of Personal Growth and Healing

Portrait of Zarina with her eyes closed

Once a month I write my personal review of the previous four weeks. Whilst this year has been mostly characterised by grief and sadness, this month I took my first steps into my healing process. Slowly starting to feel inspired again, today’s blog post includes some of my favourite photos and books from the last month. But also personal reflections and, as always, the list of films and series I’ve watched!

This blog post reflects a sense of optimism and positive developments. Ironically, I wrote it a few hours before the UK government announced a new national lockdown again starting this week.

With the exception of schools, colleges and universities that is – the age groups that have proven to be the main spreaders of the virus during its current second wave. Let’s see how this all pans out in the next weeks then, eh?

Talking to a grief counsellor

close-up of a coffee mug with the text 'Begin.' on it.
The beginning of my personal journey

Like for the most for us, 2020 has been a challenging year in so many different ways. Corona misery aside, October also marked the 9-month anniversary of my best friend’s death already. While normally a new life is created over a period of nine months, I needed this time to work very hard trying to deal with the loss of a life. Recognising I wasn’t up to this task on my own anymore, I eventually sought the help of a professional grief counsellor.

Despite being sceptical about this after Hubby’s experience talking to a grief counsellor when his brother died six years ago, it turned out to be very valuable to me. I found wonderful support in Dutch grief counsellor and mindfulness coach Margreeth van der Oord. Already after our first talk I felt so much lighter. It was just so comforting having someone compassionate and understanding to talk to whilst also receiving useful practical tips I could to try implement in an effort to deal with my grief and depression. I can’t say I’m ‘all better’ now again, but talking to Margreeth has certainly helped me a lot!

Are you also Dutch and grieving in isolation due to Covid? Then try to contact Margreeth via her website here. Until 1 December 2020 she’s offering two free 45-minute Zoom sessions for anyone who’s lost someone during these challenging Covid times, but also for health and social care professionals.

Besides Margreeth, I’ve also had wonderful support my dear friend Fréderique who’s a HSP and burnout coach. She’s helped me to organise the overload of information in my head and deal with certain personal traits that have been both a blessing but also curse my whole life. My high level of perfectionism for example which has opened so many doors for me in my life, but is also extremely debilitating and utterly exhausting (and often ends in tears and frustrations).

Thanks to these two wonderful women, I’ve been able to slowly lifting the clouds from my mind and heart. This has allowed me to let in some (virtual) sunshine again which for me translates into feeling inspired, inspired to be creative and start sharing stories again. I slowly started doing so on Instagram (see below) and am hoping to return to blogging more soon as well!

Getting real on the Gram

Zarina posing in front of a mural of angel wings
Angel wings mural in East London

The picture above was my first Instagram post after two months. I posted it on 10 October, World Mental Health Day. I’ve been very open about my own mental health struggles this year. Not necessarily for myself, but in an effort to break the taboo around depression and mental health issues, but most of all to help others in their own struggles.

Yet, writing the super personal caption to this photo was super scary. But thanks to the overwhelming amount of supportive messages on the post, it also felt very cathartic and empowering at the same time. Click here to see the original post on Instagram.

After sharing my inner thoughts and emotions, I felt comfortable enough to also share a bit of skin on the Gram. Clearing out my cupboard last week and stumbling on some long-forgotten clothing items, gave me the idea for a fun home photoshoot with Hubby. For me a significant moment as it proved I have some space in my mind and heart again for some creative fun. You can see the full photo series here.

Photoshoot with Zarina wearing a leather skirt and fluffy jacket
Home photoshoot

New street art pieces in London

Hubby had to undergo a small surgery a few weeks ago. Although it wasn’t life-threatening, the patch of skin cancer was still potentially dangerous so had to be removed. As I couldn’t go into the hospital with him due to corona restrictions, I decided to venture across London with my camera as a distraction. During my nearly 7-hour non-stop walk, I came across some fantastic new murals, including these beauties by Zabou and Jimmy C. The surgery went well thankfully and Hubby’s momentarily recovering from the doctors digging in his scalp. (Which still feels as painful as it sounds!)

Mural of Audrey Hepburn on Brick Lane, London, by Zabou
Adurey Hepburn mural by Zabou on Brick Lane, East London
JimmyC mural of London skyline by Blackfriars Station
London skyline mural by JimmyC at Blackfriars Station, London

Special October & November blog posts

Halloween ghost candle holder

I might not have written any new blog posts this month, but I have lots of relevant older articles sitting in the archive waiting to be (re)discovered by you!

  • October marks the release of the seasonal bock beer in the Netherlands and some surrounding countries. While I might not be able to sample them in person this year, here’s a blog post about these specialty beers.
  • Amongst music lovers, October is also known as Rocktober. In this Rocktober Special I shared some of my most hilarious rock and roll memories.
  • Still enjoying the Halloween spirit? Then why not watch one of my favourite Halloween films that are even suitable for scaredy pants like myself?
  • If you’re braver than I am, then you might be able to handle the films mentioned in this interview with Kim Newman, film critic and authority on horror films.
  • However, the ultimate Father of Horror is of course Horace Walpole. This British 18th-century author wrote the first ever Gothic story whilst living in his extraordinary ‘castle’ Strawberry Hill House that I went to visit a few years ago.
  • While Halloween has become more popular on our side of the Atlantic Ocean as well, it wasn’t during my chilhood in the Netherlands. Instead, we went going ’round people’s houses on the 11th of November or Saint Martin’s Day. Carrying a DIY lantern (which always caught fire for me and traumatising me for life), we’d sing special Saint Martin’s songs and received treats in return.
  • Finally, also the 5th of November is an important date. No lanterns, but fire nonetheless as there’d usually be huge fireworks displays and bonfires all across the UK in commemmoration of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament on 5 November 1605.

Films and series recommendations

While I reported on the closure of all Cineworld cinemas in the UK and Ireland in last month’s blog post, our local Odeon cinema has thankfully still remained open. We’ve been able to go to the cinema several times this month, but it’s heartbreaking to see only a handful of people at the most during each screening.

The lack of new films probably doesn’t help visitor numbers, but it’s been quite fun to watch some classics such as Back to the Future on the big screen for the first time! But also the Irish heist movie Pixie, the only new cinema film for us, was great fun.

You can see my full list of films and series below. As always, I’ve marked my recommendations with a *.


  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon)
  • Elona Holmes (Netflix)
  • Elsewhere (Netflix)
  • Girlfriend’s Day (Netflix)
  • Klute
  • *Like Father (Netflix)
  • *On the Rocks (Apple TV)
  • *Peanut Butter Falcon (Netflix)
  • *Pottersville (Netflix) 
  • The Brass Teapot (Amazon)
  • The Whistlers

In the cinema

  • *Back to the Future 
  • *Halloween 
  • *Pixie
  • *Silence of the Lambs


  • *Friends SE03 (Netflix)
  • *Good Girls SE03 (Netflix)
  • *Justified SE05-06 (Amazon)
  • *Southpark Pandemic Special

My lockdown tomatoes

Last March, I started growing cavolo nero and tomatoes at home. While we finished all the kale over the summer already (they were yummy by the way!), I’m still ripening the last of the tomatoes indoors. Considering the amount of tomato plants, we didn’t yield that many tomatoes in the end. That’s because I made the mistake of putting them outside too late in the year. Lesson learned!

Online chats with world-famous singers and novelists

collection of the books I bought or read in October
The books I read or bought in October (Note the Life in the UK study book in preparation for my British citizenship application!)

If you read last month’s post, you already know I joined a few virtual book club meetings organised by my bank in recent weeks. These involved great live Q&A sessions with Nikesh Shukla (editor of the esssay collection The Good Immigrant featuring personal stories from first- or second-generation immigrants in Britain) Helon Habila (author of the captivating novel Travellers about African immigrants in Europe, which he based on interviews) and Jesssie Burton (author of the bestseller The Miniaturist and the new book The Confession).

Here’s a screenshot of my comment that was read out during the The Good Immigrant book club meeting!

screenshot of my comment being read out during the The Good Immigrant book Q&A
Authors Hari Kunzru (left) and Nikesh Shukla (right) reading my comment on the book

Hubby and I also tuned into the exclusive Q&A with the amazing singer Skin. It was truly extraordinary to hear her play an acoustic version of the Skunk Anansie hit Weak!

But the highlight of the Q&A was when Skin gave a shout-out to Hubby when she read his name on the screen and remembered she and the whole band went to see Hubby play in Sydney in the late 90s!

Screenshot of Skin during the live Q&A about her biography

It was another highlight when Rob Halford, the one and only Metal God and singer of Judas Priest, answered my question about how he coped with lockdown in great detail!

screenshot of Zarina's question during the live Q&A with Rob Halford
Screenshot of my question to Rob Halford, the Metal God! \m/
Zarina next to the TV during the live Q&A with Rob Halford for his biography
Pretending to be literally close to Rob Halford

So far the main stories I have to share with you from this last month.
Tell me, how have you been?
Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xxx

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