India Eriksen has been chosen to receive a Child Bereavement UK 21 Champions Award in recognition of her family’s commitment to fundraising for Child Bereavement UK. Her 12 year old son, Theo, died in a tragic accident at home in 2003.
Theo (meaning ‘gift from God’) was the most heavenly child – gentle, sensitive, funny, loving, mischievous, full of beans and with amazing zest for life. I miss him so much. After he died, nearly 12 years ago, I floundered for a very long time. I came across Child Bereavement UK having read a piece in the Sunday Times about Flappy Lane Fox (a Child Bereavement UK Patron) and her experience after the death of her son. The article struck a chord with me so I looked up Child Bereavement UK’s website, ordered Flappy’s book (A Heartbeat Away) and found out more about what the charity does. Being based in Scotland, it was enough for me to know that you were there at the end of the phone if ever I needed you.
Fundraising has definitely been a positive experience for us all. Theo’s 10 year anniversary brought us together with a common purpose. As you can imagine, it’s going to be a life-long struggle coming to terms with Theo’s death – something so traumatic, such a shock, the most horrendous tragedy. My children were young when it happened; Oscar, who was 10, phoned for an ambulance, Olivia who was only 6 at the time, ran out of the house to get help, while I began CPR. Thomas was 14 and at school; he wishes he could have done something to help at the time.
It started when I ran the Edinburgh Marathon in 2009 and thought I would do a bit of fundraising for Child Bereavement UK; I raised around £600. Then my eldest son, Thomas, planned ‘112 miles for Theo’ which culminated in an ‘Ultra Marathon’ in the Scottish Highlands in April 2013 on the 10th anniversary of Theo’s death. Thomas said he wanted to fundraise and together we made the easy decision to opt for Child Bereavement UK.Thomas personally raised over £3000 by running – he did a lot of running, in fact he did so much running he sustained stress fractures. I clearly remember he was in his final year as a Medical Student in Glasgow and I had arranged to meet him for lunch. I was puzzled and concerned as to why it was taking him so long to walk to the restaurant; he’d hidden his crutches from me! Three weeks later, he ran a 53 mile marathon, taking in three munroes’ worth of ascent, with newly healed fractures! It was only after this event he told me that during a previous 33 mile marathon the fractures had caused him a problem, but he continued because he was so committed to the fund raising effort, despite medical advice to the contrary!
Together with Harriet, who is now his girlfriend, Oscar completed the Jailbreak Challenge with the objective of getting as far as possible with no money in 36 hours. Together they got as far as Milan, then Oscar made a short film about their adventures, which he put to music and posted on Youtube. He raised over £300. Olivia, along with her fellow school pupils, raised in the region of £1000 through school chapel collections.
Initially, I hadn’t specifically set out to fundraise. I really just wanted to support Thomas in the humungous task of running all those miles. So I organised a lunch at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. The lunch was really hard work but it was very rewarding; it gave me a real sense of purpose. I’m not a natural fundraiser – I don’t like asking people for money – so giving people the opportunity to have a nice lunch was a good way to raise awareness of the charity and the event was a success. I decided on Gleneagles as a venue because it’s quite high profile and we were given a splendid room with a panoramic view. We had around 65 attendees and ran a raffle and an auction. As a family we raised in excess of £10,000.
I wish I’d been more aware of Child Bereavement UK earlier on. Thomas, at 14, wanted to ‘cope’ with the support of those close to him and said at the time that he didn’t need to ‘talk’ about what had happened; however, had he known about the CBUK helpline and that he could have spoken in confidence on the telephone to someone, he might have done. Oscar and Olivia had help from a children’s counsellor from CRUSE who came and saw them at home. I managed to keep going in order to look after the children, but I struggled to continue in all other areas of my life – I would often break down in tears. I was so distraught.
Oscar is now at the University of Surrey doing a Music degree. Thomas is a Junior Doctor in Glasgow; Olivia has just turned 18 and is doing her A-levels, hoping to study History of Art.
I’m amazed and delighted that you chose me to be one of your 21 Champions; I was so surprised when the letter came. I’m extremely flattered, but really, the award should go to my children who have contributed so much to it.