Sharing Experiences

Six young people who have all been bereaved of a parent have made a unique film about their experiences in the hope that it will bring comfort to other young people in the same situation.

Zak and his sister Eve, Abi, Anya, Anna and Amelia all received one to one support from Tynedale Hospice at Home’s Family Support Service which provides pre and post bereavement support to families.

The group came together at the Hospice’s fortnightly film club to explore their thoughts, feelings and hope for the future whilst creating a giant collage as a visual display of their experiences – from how they felt at the start of their bereavement journey, to how they are feeling now.

Hexham film maker Christo Wallers joined Family Support Practitioner Emma Andrews to record fly on the wall-style conversations as the young people came together to discuss a range of topics, including sudden death, the importance of knowing the truth and living with grief.

The result is a frank and honest account of the rawness of grief, how it changes you forever and how everyone’s experience is different and deeply personal to them.

Anna, who is now 18, was just 16 years old when she cared for her mum with cancer before she died in December 2016. She says: “When you know that you are going to lose the person you love, obviously you want to have as many happy times as you can but… that is not the reality of caring for someone who is dying. When I was awake in the middle of the night, helping Mum to go to the toilet or cleaning up after she had been sick. I felt so alone. I knew that my friends wouldn’t be doing the same. It is so easy to feel that you are the only person in the whole world who is having to do this sort of thing, that you are the only person who has got a Mum who is dying or that you are the only one who has lost a parent.

“I just keep in mind that this happened to me and there is nothing I can do about that but the emotional skills it will have equipped me with will last me my whole life. Nothing will ever, ever be as scary as going to my Mum’s funeral, and if I can face that, then I can face anything.

“Soon I am going to university to study chemistry. Looking back, it’s been good to have the opportunity to reflect, pause and try to put what I’ve been through into words.

“Grief is a weight that you carry around, it is unexpected and it will get you at the worst of times. You can’t decide what day it’s going to be, grief will decide. But it does get easier and you learn to live with it and it’s a bit nicer when you’ve learned how to live with it.”

Amelia’s dad Richard, died suddenly in April 2017 whilst she was away on a school trip in India.

She, said: “I remember they were teaching us the Tibetan words for “happy” and “sad” when Carol, the school librarian who was with us on the trip, interrupted our session to say that she needed to see me.

“She held my hand and took me upstairs to see the other teachers on the trip, Andy and John, in the library. She couldn’t speak and when I asked if everything was alright she just shook her head and held my hand tightly.

“They sat me down and Andy put his hand on my shoulder and told me he was very sorry but that Dad had died. From that moment on, everything “was a bit of a blur”.

“It’s been great to be part of the Film Club, to talk with the others and share our thoughts and feelings.  We have all faced bereavement but our experiences are so personal. No two experiences are ever the same.

“I know that I feel and think about things far more deeply now. It’s really helped me to be part of this group and realise that I’m not alone. We hope that the film will help others like us who are feeling like that, who may be lost and isolated and overwhelmed.  Just knowing that other people understand really helps.”

Emma Andrews, Family Support Practitioner at Tyndale Hospice at Home, said: “Whilst each of our young people’s experience of bereavement is very different they were determined to share their stories and tell it like it is without ‘sugar-coating’ their experiences.

“I think it can be especially hard for teenagers to open up and talk about how they are feeling. They can be self-conscious and they worry about what people think.  These six young people have done a tremendous job in talking so honestly about their feelings and I’m extremely proud of what they have achieved.

“Already, it’s making a difference to other young people who are receiving our support. We show the film as part of one to one and family sessions and it really helps open up the conversations around death and bereavement.”

To find out more about Tynedale Hospice at Home’s Family Support Service, please call 01434 604 321.