Miranda Ellis is a transformational life coach. Here she talks about the 13-year journey she has been on since losing her 15-day-old daughter, Alice – and why now is the time to help others
There have been plenty of times over the past 13 years when Miranda Ellis has felt that the universe is against her. Back in 2007, she was expecting her second child, experiencing a normal pregnancy and everything was going well. Then, in late September, her daughter Alice was born six weeks early and it quickly became apparent that she was very sick.
Alice was diagnosed with a very rare condition and urgently needed a liver transparent. At just five days old, she was transferred from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to King’s College Hospital in London. Sadly, Alice didn’t get the life-changing liver transplant that she needed and she died at just 15 days old.
Miranda talks of a chasm opening in the ground in front of her and falling headlong into it. She didn’t know how to go on – or even if she wanted to. What she did know was that her son Sam needed her. She recalls: ‘Alice actually died the day before his seventh birthday.’
Some sort of survival instinct kicked in. For a start, Miranda threw herself into fundraising in Alice’s memory, co-founding the Alice Rowlands Memorial Society and organising gala dinners.
And she continued along her chosen career path. Before Sam came along, Miranda had been in a string of admin roles. ‘When I was pregnant with Sam and took my maternity leave, I had an opportunity to do a little bit of adult teaching at Easton College, teaching basic computer literacy courses. I got to thinking that teaching would be something I would enjoy doing.’
After Sam was born, Miranda embarked on an Open University degree and became a teaching assistant. She was about to sit her exams when Alice was born prematurely.
Then, after Alice passed away, Miranda recalls: ‘I had this crazy notion that I needed to carry on with my plans to go into teaching. I was absolutely determined to finish. Six months after Alice died, I finished my degree course.’
By September of that same year, Miranda had started a PGCE course at the University of East Anglia. And a year after that she was starting out as a Newly Qualified Teacher.
‘Five years later I had a massive breakdown,’ says Miranda. She attributes the breakdown to ‘unresolved grief – I hadn’t really allowed myself the time to grieve. I went back to work early 2014 then quit that job by the Easter,’ says Miranda. ‘I took a sideways step and went into museum development for the Norfolk Museums Service.’ There, she was able to use her teaching and fundraising skills to good use. ‘It was an environment where I felt really nurtured and able to grow.’
Life’s ups and downs continued, not least her mum being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. However, as Miranda continues: ‘Despite all of that I was in a really good place. I lost five stone in 2016. I’d got to the beginning of the year and thought I’m a heart attack waiting to happen, so I set my mind to do it and did it.’
The following year was not so good, however. Her marriage broke down. ‘We’d been growing apart for years and, with all the strain we’d been through, we’d reached a point of no return.’ Not only that, she adds: ‘My mum got Legionnaire’s disease and was critically ill in intensive care for three months. 2017 was a difficult year.’
The next year, Miranda’s contract came to an end, so she launched a freelance consultancy business, offering fundraising, training, evaluation and project management. And she also started working part time as a fundraising coordinator for St Martin’s Housing charity. Then, in 2019, she lost her dad, ‘which was out of the blue and very sudden,’ says Miranda. ‘It really rocked me and my mum.’
And we all know what happened in 2020. As a freelancer for the museum sector, work dried up for Miranda. ‘That was my wake up,’ says Miranda. ‘I thought right, okay, this situation needs to change. I need to be doing something different.
‘Coaching was something I’d done informally,’ she continues. Miranda decided to take a formal coaching qualification. ‘I needed to be doing something with everything I’d been through. I needed to be helping people.’
Miranda’s resilience was tested again last year. During one of her daily walks on Mousehold Heath in Norwich, she slipped and broke her ankle. Her mum helped to nurse Miranda back to health. Then her mum found out that her breast cancer had come back. Treatment is continuing: ‘She’s still going strong – she’s an amazing woman.’
Miranda reflects: ‘I did get into a place where I felt quite fatalistic – ‘why me?’ But the more she talked to people the more she realised it wasn’t the only one who had been suffering. And if she has learnt anything about life over the past 13 years it is that she could use her life lessons to help others, so they can also learn and grow.
‘I’ve had a string of really crappy years right up to the present time,’ admits Miranda. But she adds: ‘I’ve got to try and turn that message around and work with ‘what is it teaching me?’ I’ve got a lot of knowledge that I can share with other people.’
The result is Miranda Ellis Coaching which she launched in November of last year. Transformational Life Coaching, together with hypnotherapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming, can help people to make rapid, positive and lasting changes.
She says: ‘You have two choices. you can either mope around about it and say ‘oh woe is me’ or you can say ‘how do I deal with this? I still have my son and need to be a good example to him.’ Sam, she says, has turned into ‘a fantastic young man. He is studying psychology at Teeside University.’ She adds: ‘You have to carry on.’
What Miranda has learnt over the years:
The first thing I learnt was really to reach out for help. It’s not weak – it takes a huge amount of strength and courage. And it’s not selfish either. Self-care is never selfish. Back in the days when we could go on aeroplanes and fly, they’d always tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first, in the event of an emergency. That’s because you can’t possibly be of use to anybody else if you’re not okay.
I learnt to talk openly and honestly about what was going through my mind, because by talking about it, I was able to process things. I was able to work out and discover the solutions that were already within me. I just didn’t know it until I started talking about it.
I learnt the value of mindfulness, of being aware of my body and my mind and my thoughts and just noticing what was happening. I learnt how gratitude and positive affirmations can really, really help to keep your mind positive, and keep anxiety and depression at bay.
I learnt the value of making time for myself and really sticking to it, again remembering that self-care is never selfish.
I learnt the value of healthy living, of healthy habits and lifestyles, of making wise eating choices, and of exercise (I always thought that exercise was a special torture devised just for me by PE teachers). Exercise is so good for your physical and your mental health. I wouldn’t go for a day without going for a walk ever again.
I learnt the value of good quality sleep, and the clarity of thinking that comes after a good night’s sleep.
I learnt how to take things one day at a time. And, if necessary, one hour at a time or even one minute at a time, because every journey begins with just one single step and sometimes it’s too scary to look too far into the future. To be able to cope with the here and now and be okay – that’s the way you get through it.
I learnt to be more compassionate to myself. How many times do you berate yourself when something goes wrong? ‘Oh, I’m such an idiot!’ ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ ‘I should have said that instead!’ ‘Oh, I’m so stupid!’ Hang on a minute! Would you say those things to a friend? Of course you wouldn’t, so don’t say them to yourself, either. You deserve better than that. Show yourself some love and compassion.
I learnt to focus my energy on those things I could control and not the things I couldn’t control. It’s something I continue to do now. I don’t over focus on the news and I don’t over focus on social media. I try very hard not to compare myself with other people. I reserve my energy for focusing on me and what I can do to help myself and to help others.
Visit Miranda Ellis Coaching. Her six-week Spring into Wellbeing course begins on April 14