Parys, aged 15, was supported by Child Bereavement UK in Milton Keynes following the death of her father.

I was eleven when my Dad passed away. I’d just started at secondary school, so my mind was all over the place. It really affected my behaviour and I didn’t know how to feel. Then my Great-Nan passed away when I was 13 and it brought up all the emotions I’d had with my Dad.

So, we thought it would be best to find someone who I could talk to who wasn’t a friend or part of my family. I just felt that with a family member I might shut off a bit or not say the things I wanted to say in case they told other family members. I wanted someone a bit more confidential and secure to talk to.

 After my Dad passed away, I didn’t really want to talk to anyone at all. I was always tired, but I could never sleep. I felt very alone and in my own bubble, which was upsetting.

After my Dad passed away, I didn’t really want to talk to anyone at all. I was always tired, but I could never sleep. I felt very alone and in my own bubble, which was upsetting. I had a lot of time off school, so I did tell my friends what had happened. But none of them had gone through the same thing as me, so they couldn’t really help or know how I felt. Eventually, I moved from the school I was at as the teachers weren’t very supportive; they only really cared about grades.

At one session, we made a memory jar full of different coloured sand. The different colours represented a memory or a feeling about my Dad, which helped. I have it on the side in my bedroom so I can just think about my feelings when I look at it. 

The first session at Child Bereavement UK was with my Nan and Grandad. I did think about going to the Group for Young People  but decided I didn’t want to because my anxiety was high at the time. After a couple of sessions, I came by myself. At one session, we made a memory jar full of different coloured sand. The different colours represented a memory or a feeling about my Dad, which helped. I have it on the side in my bedroom so I can just think about my feelings when I look at it.  We also talked about how to cope with my feelings and that what I feel is normal and it’s OK. I wrote a poem about my Dad, I’ve always found writing things really helpful, especially songs and poetry.

 Before my sessions I felt very alone and isolated, I thought: ‘Am I allowed to feel like this? Is it taking too long? How are you meant to feel?’ After several sessions I discovered that I am allowed to feel how I feel about my Dad, that it can take any length of time and having these feelings is completely normal. You can’t just shut them off overnight, there are going to be worse days and better days, it’s something you just learn to move on with.

Before my sessions I felt very alone and isolated, I thought: ‘Am I allowed to feel like this? Is it taking too long? How are you meant to feel?’. After several sessions I discovered that I am allowed to feel how I feel about my Dad, that it can take any length of time and having these feelings is completely normal. You can’t just shut them off overnight, there are going to be worse days and better days, it’s something you just learn to move on with.

 I know that when my Dad died it really affected my Nan and Grandad. Communication was a big problem because if I wasn’t feeling very good on a particular day, I wouldn’t say to them: “I really don’t feel up to talking,’” but I’d shut off, which would lead to problems at home. After a while I discovered that communication was important, saying “I’m feeling a bit down,” or “I’m thinking about Dad today,” really helped. I gained an understanding that my Nan and Grandad had lost their son and I had lost my Dad, and he was a big part in all our lives but in different ways.

Having feelings is like carpet. You get a new carpet and you think: ‘Ooh, shall I take my shoes off? Where do I need to stand?’. You’re so careful around it. It’s the same with feelings, you don’t know where to tread, what to say or what to do. But then, after a while, it’s like: ‘I’ve had that for a while’, and you walk on it with muddy shoes. With feelings after a while they’re not protected as much as they were. That’s a bad thing in that feelings last forever, and you can’t switch them off so you should always be careful with your own and somebody else’s feelings, especially when it’s around grief.

 Having feelings is like having a carpet. You get a new carpet and you think: ‘Ooh, should I take my shoes off? Where do I need to stand?.’ You’re so careful around it. It’s the same with feelings, you don’t know where to tread, what to say or what to do. But then, after a while, it’s like: ‘I’ve had that for a while,’ and you walk on it with muddy shoes. With feelings, after a while they’re not protected as much as they were. That’s a bad thing in that feelings last forever, and you can’t switch them off so you should always be careful with your own and somebody else’s feelings, especially when it’s around grief. It’s bad if you just throw away your emotions or treat someone else’s emotions as if they’re nothing. Some people may grieve for three months, three years or even longer – every person is different.

 I would tell another bereaved young person that feeling the way they do is completely normal. There are going to be days where you don’t want to talk to people or you just want to lie in bed and not get up; I went through that. Having someone to talk to is really important. I know what it feels like to feel alone, just being able to express how you feel in any kind of way – talking, writing, art or whatever – is really important. People cope with grief in different ways but it’s important not to shut yourself off from people. You don’t have to tell everyone how you feel but have close people who you trust and find a way that helps you to cope in your own way.

The most important thing I learned from coming to Child Bereavement UK is that the way you feel and how you handle things is completely normal and not to compare yourself with other people who have lost someone.

 The most important thing I learned from coming to Child Bereavement UK is that the way you feel and how you handle things is completely normal, and not to compare yourself with other people who have lost someone. I know that my sister and I feel completely different about losing our Dad because she was younger, and I was older and had a better understanding. I’m going through grief and I know that other people in my family are; it’s all about communication and understanding everyone else’s feelings as well as my own.