Gina’s husband, Stuart, died by suicide when their daughters, Mia, and Izzy, were nine and four. Gina and Mia, now aged 11, talk about how they were supported by Child Bereavement UK in Cumbria. 

I didn’t know how to tell the girls; they knew that their Dad had passed away and that it had been horrendous. But I didn’t know what they were feeling inside and how their emotions might differ as there is a five-year gap between them.

“After the initial shock and the funeral was over, I thought I needed to get help, but I didn’t know where to turn,” says Gina. “I didn’t know how to tell the girls; they knew that their Dad had passed away and that it had been horrendous. But I didn’t know what they were feeling inside and how their emotions might differ as there is a five-year gap between them. 

“I had no idea where to get help or how to deal with things as I’d never been in this situation before. When you have partner, you can go to them for advice but, suddenly, I was on my own and didn’t know what to do. The rest of the family were all in complete grief as well; you’re just in this fog of grief.

It was crucial to get some help for the children because if bereavement isn’t dealt with properly when they’re young, it comes back when they’re older. They needed to be able to talk, to explain their feelings and to be able to talk to each other.

“I started looking for something on the internet. I wanted something for the children and solely for the children. My husband had mental illness, he was very poorly and had been poorly for such a long time. So, from an adult’s point of view, I understood what was going on. It was crucial to get some help for the children because if bereavement isn’t dealt with properly when they’re young, it comes back when they’re older. They needed to be able to talk, to explain their feelings and to be able to talk to each other.

“I contacted Child Bereavement UK, and we met with our bereavement services practitioner. I didn’t realise what grief was like for children until she sat down and explained that there are different stages of grief. She explained it as being like being caught up in a waterfall and asked the girls where they thought they were in their grief. I thought ‘This is amazing, this lady just knows how to deal with Izzy’s age, Mia’s age, what’s coming, all the different emotions, that the girls would have these emotions at different times and what’s going to happen.’  She also understood the emotions that I’d had – the anger, the sadness, the wishing I could turn the clock back. As a parent I needed to be prepared and understand.

“Child Bereavement UK also helped by going into the girls’ schools as they hadn’t experienced a situation like this before. Mia’s headteacher was grateful because other children in the school had lost grandparents and parents, so Child Bereavement UK’s help had a snowball effect in the school. The charity also delivered bereavement training to a teacher in Izzy’s school, so now they have that expertise in the school. The teacher was able to give me regular feedback by phone on how Izzy was doing. 

At school, the girls felt they were the only children in the world that had lost a parent. On Father’s Day, the school made cards and the girls both felt entirely on their own.

“At school, the girls felt they were the only children in the world that had lost a parent. On Father’s Day, the school had made cards and the girls both felt entirely on their own. Now it has been brought to the schools’ attention by Child Bereavement UK and they’re doing a lot more awareness in school. The teachers get involved, and Child Bereavement UK came in and talked to the other children. This meant that support was there that wasn’t before. It’s a massive positive that has come out of something that’s been tragic.

“Before we started a subject that was something to do with loss, the teacher would come and talk to me first,” says Mia. “They would say, ‘Look, we’re going to do this, are you OK?’.  Also, I would see my practitioner from Child Bereavement UK, and we’d talk, which helped me quite a lot because, sometimes, when you’re with your whole family, you can’t say the things you want to. The one-to-one with Child Bereavement UK really helped me at school and the training they gave helped a lot of other children too. 

Before we had the support, it was like we were all in different places. We didn’t know what to say to each other and we didn’t really talk to each other, we didn’t know where we were. The family sessions really helped us as a family and brought us back together again because knowing how each other felt meant we could be there for each other.

“Before we had the support it was like we were all in different places,” she continues. “We didn’t know what to say to each other and we didn’t really talk to each other, we didn’t know where we were. The family sessions really helped us as a family and brought us back together again because knowing how each other felt meant we could be there for each other.”

“If you need support and help and you want the best for the children involved, get help,” says Gina. “Without it we could have been on different pages. I was worried that Mia was OK, I was worried about Izzy. I didn’t understand what was happening until Maria explained to me what children understand at different ages and how they ‘puddle jump’, jumping in and out of grief. I didn’t understand about any of that. Who knows about that in your everyday life before something tragic happens? 

Without the support, we would have been doing our own thing and not talking. We know that Child Bereavement UK is there for long term support. Mia and Izzy know that if they have a difficult time in the future, they have someone to talk to. Knowing that lifts the weight off your shoulders as a parent.

“Without the support we would have been doing our own thing and not talking. We know that Child Bereavement UK is there until they’re 18 for support. Mia and Izzy know that they have a difficult time in the future, they have someone to talk to. Knowing that lifts the weight off your shoulders as a parent. You want the best for your children, you want them to grow up feeling secure and loved and looked after. If you have that little bit support in place it takes a massive load off your shoulders. “