Supporting bereaved children & their families in Kent

Holding On Letting Go

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Samuel’s story

Published by Jane Cornwall, 2 Feb 2017

samuelby Jane Cornwell

The sudden and unexpected death of my father left us as a family in a state of shock and devastation. He had been in hospital for 2 weeks and the day of his death it had been agreed that he could come home for a few hours, with the view of coming home permanently later the following week. Samuel, then 3½ years old, was very close to his Grandad and our initial thought as a family was not to tell him that anything had happened. The following morning he asked if we were going to see Grandad in hospital and so we told him the news. We told him that Grandad wasn’t in hospital anymore that he had had a very poorly heart and it had stopped working. We explained that Grandad had gone into a magic sleep and that the angels had taken him to heaven and reunited him with our little doggie Scarlet. It was possibly the hardest thing we had ever done. Samuel didn’t appear to show any emotion at the time.

For the next few months not a day went by when he didn’t talk about Grandad. He became obsessed with things that had been my Dad’s, we were not allowed to move things or change things and any balloon had to be sent up to heaven for Grandad.

When he started in Reception we began to realise that all was not well in Samuel’s world. He was disruptive in class, didn’t really form any real friendships, was controlling and just didn’t seem to be learning. At this point at home we were experiencing similar behaviours and although he slept very well, he would only sleep in our bed and getting him to bed was a feat in its self! This continued into Year 1. We even went so far as having him assessed by a Paediatrician for ADHD. It was at this point that we were told about “Holding On, Letting Go”.

Caroline came to see us at home and Samuel was absolutely awful. Wouldn’t listen to her, was rude and just went like a lunatic! However we were invited to the weekend and how truly grateful and thankful we are.

Not sure of what to really expect we arrived on the Saturday morning. Sam went off quite happily and Tony and I went off to meet several other families with children attending the weekend as well. It was reassuring for us to hear that other families were experiencing similar difficulties to ourselves and also to share the experience of our journeys that resulted in us coming together at Demelza House.

Everyone was so lovely and we were made to feel comfortable by the team.

Samuel didn’t really talk much about what he had done on that first day, he just said “stuff”. He was keen to return on the Sunday. Samuel had been quite quiet on reflection and played lovely with his toys, this was a rare experience in itself. After the Sunday session was completed Sam was quite a live wire and we did find ourselves thinking “what have we done, it’s just made things worse”. The next couple of weeks were like a roller coaster of emotions for all of us, lots of lows and a few highs.

Samuel then started to talk about the weekend and got the things out that he had made during the weekend. He talked about the Memory Box, the layers of coloured sand in a bottle, the clay stones and the candle holder. He speaks less frequently about Dad and gradually we have been able to make subtle changes. However he does often speak to Dad’s photo when he thinks he is alone. We never discourage him from talking about Dad and we still let balloons go, just not as often. He has settled at school and is now learning and achieving at an age appropriate level. His behaviour has settled, we still have little outbursts, but my goodness nothing like they were. He still has to go to sleep in our bed at night, but in contrast to how things were this is fine.

“Holding on, Letting go” truly gave us the turning point that we needed and speaking to other families was a reassuring thing for us as you realise that you are not alone. In fact our story and journey was mild in comparison to some of the other families we spoke to. We cannot thank Caroline and her team enough for helping to turn our little boy, and indeed our lives, around. Thank you

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