Sisters, Rebecca and Olivia, talk about their experience following the death of their mother from breast cancer when they were small children, and the support they have received from Child Bereavement UK. Both Rebecca and Olivia attended the charity’s Young People’s Advisory Group.

 Rebecca was five when her mother died:

 Since coming to Child Bereavement UK, I’ve been able to grieve properly, understand grief and let those feelings of sadness and exhaustion be there.  I’m now in a place of acceptance.

 “Because we were so young, it’s difficult for us to remember her personality.  It’s made our experience of grief different because we are not missing someone we love, we are grieving because we miss someone we never had.   I’m grieving for what my friends have with their mums, these great relationships, and I miss this kind of person.

 “The biggest difficulty growing up without a mum is just not having the maternal support. It’s all the clichéd things: going shopping, talking about boys, one day having your mum at your wedding.  She will never see my achievements, I find this hard as I know she would have wanted to. My dad and I don’t discuss our emotions, we have a very practical relationship.  Losing my mum meant I lost the ability to have a great relationship with my dad too.

 “Everyone thought I couldn’t understand what was going on, that there was no way I could process this. I think that was difficult for me. I didn’t understand the emotional side of grief, but I knew my life had changed.   The fact that no one would talk to me about it created this sense that I should feel guilty - if no one is talking to me then what I’m feeling must be wrong. It was six years before I realised it was OK to grieve, that this wasn’t a dream, that my feelings were legitimate, and I was allowed to feel them.   No one could take away my grief and there is no time limit on grief.

 “I felt different to everyone in school.  My school classmates were told they couldn’t talk to me about it and so, until I left primary school, no one ever spoke to me about my mum.  It made me feel that no one cared and that I wasn’t worthy of being talked to. I felt really lonely. When I joined secondary school, people were more open about it and I realised people did care. 

 “I then decided I should get professional help. I started coming to Child Bereavement UK when I was twelve. At the time I was really depressed, I wasn’t going to school and my life was at a total standstill. I made an appointment and had individual therapy for about a year. It was great, I felt there was someone I could talk to finally and I was able to acknowledge my feelings, understand they were OK and accept them.

 “Eventually, I joined the Young People’s Advisory Group where I met loads of other people who had been bereaved. That was probably one of the most beneficial things for me, meeting all these people who had gone through the same thing, had experienced the same emotions, and connecting with them.  One of the biggest feelings of bereavement is loneliness, no one else knows what you are going through.   You don’t necessarily talk about it, but you just know you have this special connection with them. I don’t know their stories but there is a mutual understanding between us that I don’t have with anyone else.  It’s a special thing and I’m grateful to Child Bereavement UK for that.

 “Since coming to Child Bereavement UK, I’ve been able to grieve properly, understand grief and let those feelings of sadness and exhaustion be there.  I’m now in a place of acceptance; this has happened and this sucked, but my whole life can’t be dictated by something that happened when I was five. I’ve got to move on in a way that’s conducive and beneficial to my life while still remembering my mum.

 “I am now in a place where I don’t have individual therapy any longer.  I’m in a really good place with my grief and have a really good life now.”

Olivia was three years old when her mother died:

I went to individual sessions with Child Bereavement UK and it really helped me. It’s made me open up all the feelings I had pressed down and not thought about. It made me get rid of the guilt I felt about her death.

 “Because I was so young, I have one memory of my mum. I get told lots of stories about her, and it’s good to hear them.  It’s upsetting when I see my friends with their mums and all the things they do together; the stereotypical things like prom dress shopping or weddings. It’s something I’m going to have to accept and move on past and not constantly think ‘What if?’. 

 “You see people in the street and think your life is never going to be the same as theirs.  You’re never going to have those moments.  You can see that people don’t want to talk about it because they don’t understand it themselves.   I chose not to talk about it with my friends, I rely on my family.

 “Rebecca started going to Child Bereavement UK and it seemed to help her a lot. My dad said it was an option for me to go too, if I felt it would help me. Child Bereavement UK said I could come and have a chat when I wanted to and say how I was feeling.  I went to individual sessions and it really helped me.  It’s made me open up all the feelings I had pressed down and not thought about. It made me get rid of the guilt I felt about my mum’s death.

 “Like Rebecca, I joined the Young People’s Advisory Group. It’s good to know people who are going through the same things as you.  You don’t have to talk about it, you don’t have to feel you are connecting through that, but you make friends.   If you want to talk with someone who knows what it’s like you can, but you don’t have to. I don’t have individual therapy anymore but if I really feel like I need support, I can come and talk to someone at Child Bereavement UK.”