Lorna and Shinobi talk about their experience following the death of her husband’s mother (Shinobi’s grandmother) who died from a stroke whilst on holiday in Jamaica, and the support they have received from Child Bereavement UK in Newham.

 He was grieving the whole time, without us knowing, because we were trying to deal with our own grief. So the counsellor put us in touch with Child Bereavement UK 

Lorna

Shinobi and his grandmother had this bond that nobody could come between. When he was born, he was just the apple of her eye and he used to love going to see her, and looking after her. When we would go round, he would say, ‘Mum, has Nan had a cup of tea?’ for a young child to have that bond with an older lady was just lovely to watch.

When she died, she had gone on holiday to Jamaica, we dropped her off at the airport, you know, thinking we would be seeing her in a couple of weeks’ time but we got a phone call to say she'd had a stroke.  We made arrangements to fly out to see her, but unfortunately she died before we got there.

Shinobi's dad told him the news, they were at judo, and his dad got the phone call. He saw his dad crying, and when he went over to his dad that’s how he found out that his Nan had passed away. Then when I came home from work I sat with him and also told him what had happened.

I was concentrating so much on how his dad felt, and trying to console him that I think I kind of forgot about Shinobi in the mix of things. Although he was aware of what was going on, after the initial telling him that Nan had passed, I didn’t really check in on him to see how he was doing.  I thought he was doing ok, and then I got a phone call from the school – maybe three or four weeks later saying, you really need to come into school, we need to speak to you.

I went into the school, and the school counsellor said, he is really struggling with his Nan passing and he’s displaying things at school. He’s quite a quiet boy and at school he was being disruptive in class, and would be crying for no reason. The school thought he was taking the death of his Nan really badly. We were going through our own grief, so I was trying to console his dad and be there for his dad, and also help with funeral arrangements and the practicalities – so hearing from his counsellor at school – that actually he’d been grieving alone – was really quite hard.   He’s a boy who would normally come and speak to me and tell me what’s happening at school, so to hear that he didn’t feel able to come and tell us how he was feeling about Nan passing was heart-breaking really – really heart-breaking to know that I had left him alone in his grief.

The school counsellor put us in touch with Child Bereavement UK. I immediately sent an email and within a couple of hours I received a response back from Rosie asking if we would like to come in and meet with her for an initial session, to find out what Child Bereavement could do to help.

They were really fantastic from the first meeting Shinobi was very comfortable with them, and immediately he was able to express how he was feeling. That was hard for me, because he hadn’t said it at home but it was really good to see that he was getting the help that he needed.

 I always thought we were a really close family, communicated really well, but this knocked us for six. Going to Child Bereavement UK showed me not to take things for granted, to always be open with Shinobi and his brother Cairo, and to talk about things as a family. If Shinobi is feeling sad, angry or emotional now he’ll come and say 'This is the way that I feel', 'I think I feel like this because...'. Child Bereavement UK has helped him to learn tools to express how he was feeling, how to find somebody to speak to. It has helped us to learn to take that time that we need and spend time with him and his brother to talk about his day, talk about what’s happened for him that day, how he’s feeling. We also have what we call the ‘blob tree’. It’s a picture of a tree, but it’s a tree of people, and each person is facing in a different way depending on how they’re feeling. So often I’ll say to him, which person are you today, how are you feeling today? If he’s the person with his back to the rest of the world, I’ll ask him to explain why he feels like that. If he is the person who is happy for that day, I’ll ask him to explain why. That’s been a big thing, that’s been on our fridge at home at the moment. I use it with him, I use it with his dad which is great for our relationship. The tools that we’ve learned from Child Bereavement UK have been fantastic; they help us to open up more to each other.

Shinobi

I didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody because it just felt like they wouldn’t understand, - they wouldn’t know what I was going through.

My Nan was really happy, and she loved it when we came and visited her, she never spread any negative energy. She liked to play with me, liked to talk and she liked praying too. She was kind, she was funny, and she liked to joke around with me, and she loved her family very much. The best thing about her is- that she never really tried to annoy me, or tried to discourage me in any way.

I was at judo, I was happy playing and I saw my Dad on the phone. When he put it down he was sad, he spoke to my teacher, and the teacher was nodding to him. I went over and I asked him ‘Are you ok, is it about Nan?’ and he said ‘Nanny has gone’.

I remember, thinking that I thought she was going to come back from her holiday, whenever I thought about it, I started crying in class. My teacher would ask me what was wrong, and she would have to take me outside of class, and that disrupted me from having my lessons and learning.

I didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody because it just felt like they wouldn’t understand - they wouldn’t know what I was going through. I was feeling guilty - like it was my fault, and that I thought at that same time I knew it wasn’t my fault, and it made it worse.

I couldn’t talk to my friends and whenever I cried, I didn’t want them to see me because I thought they would think of me differently – and they wouldn’t think of me like how they do.

That made me feel really bad, because I knew that I had no-one to talk to properly. I thought that my parents were really sad already, so I didn’t want to put a burden on them. I thought they were going through enough already, so I shouldn’t put more things on them.

It was like I had to bottle up all of my feelings and I tried to be happy for my family and I had to be there for my brother as well. So I kept my feelings at home but when I got help from Child Bereavement UK it felt like I could answer everything that they questioned me on.

I felt better when I went to Child Bereavement UK, they were really kind even though I had never met them. We were put into a group of children and parents who all had lost someone close to them. We all talked about our loved ones, told our own stories about what had happened to them, who had passed away and we bonded from there.

Knowing that they had experienced what I had gone through, that they knew how it felt and how bad it was helped. I felt happy, I felt like all the anger and the guilt had been pushed away. I just felt better and that I could talk to someone again without getting upset quickly.

The ‘Blob Tree’ was the first time our group had done an activity. It’s a picture of a tree, but it’s a tree of people.  I remember that there were different characters and each one had their own personality. There was an angry one, there was a shy one, there was an upset one and there was a happy one. We used it at home and whatever we felt like on that day, we would point at the character and speak about our feelings.

I think that people who know a friend or family that is going through what I did, they shouldn’t let them deal with it by themselves they should ask them if they are ok and if they want to talk, but don’t keep questioning them because I know that that will make them become more upset. Don’t try to force your friend, or anybody, to speak; let them talk when they want to talk.