28th November 2019
In this guest blog written for next week’s first National Grief Awareness Week 2019 (#NGAW19, 2-8 December), founder of Freddie’s Wish charity, Charlotte Jolliffe, shares her experience of losing her son Freddie and the work it has inspired. We especially thank Charlotte for her insights and for inviting us all to join her in #Donut Day on 7 December to remember Freddie.
On 23 October 2013, all my dreams came true as my beautiful son Freddie was born into this world. He was everything I had ever dreamed of and I couldn’t believe how much love I had for someone so small.
Freddie and I were so lucky to be supported by a wonderful health visitor who was part of a fantastic team at our local children’s centre, who we used to see regularly as we attended the breastfeeding support group every Friday there.
Freddie’s life was full of fun, laughter and so much love. He was so advanced for his age – walking, talking and being very cheeky. However, unfortunately on 7 December 2014, Freddie was involved in a road traffic collision where he sustained such serious injuries – he tragically lost his life three days later on 10 December 2014, at just 13 months old.
This was obviously the most horrendous, heart-breaking time for myself and my family, and my lovely health visiting team kindly posted a card through my door to say they were thinking of me and they all attended Freddie’s funeral. Although I didn’t speak to them personally in those first few weeks, knowing that they were thinking of me and paying their respects to Freddie was so incredibly important to me.
After the funeral my health visitor reached out again and offered to come around for a cuppa. When she came around, she sat with me and apologised for not knowing how to help me. She said that she was supported with packs for lots of different eventualities but, unfortunately in this situation, she didn’t know where to turn. We both felt like we were trying to run through mud blindfolded.
She had turned to Google the same as I, yet she had drawn blanks on anything directly within this area. I felt awful that she was in this situation and sad that appropriate training and guidance wasn’t in place for her. This is why health visitors need to be aware of The Good Grief Trust and the amazing work that they are doing in providing an umbrella organisation for signposting – this would have meant that my health visitor would have easily been able to access the knowledge of what was available locally for a child loss and then pass that information on to me directly, easing a lot of anxiety on both sides – www.thegoodgrieftrust.org
Due to the lack of support in the area, I chose to put all of my energy in to creating a legacy for Freddie and founded a charity in his name: Freddie’s Wish – www.freddieswish.org. The charity has 3 main aims which are to: support bereaved parents and families; educate professionals about bereavement; and educate parents through first aid courses. I am very proud of everything the charity has achieved and this year we have partnered with Child Bereavement UK to have a bereavement support service in Warwickshire for parents who have lost a baby or child, from the moment of conception up to the age of 25. More information about this service can be found on all our social media channels (Twitter – @Freddies_wish) or please do email me on [email protected].
This year we are proud to be supporting the first National Grief Awareness Week from 2-8 December 2019. This will be a week where everyone is being encouraged to open up to grief and share in their experiences of grief and bereavement, and hopefully will learn from each other. It will be amazing to have as many health visitors as possible supporting this week, whether it be in their professional role or in their personal life – unfortunately we all experience loss at some point and knowing how to support others is vitally important. My biggest advice is, if you don’t know what to say, don’t be afraid to say that. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are being abandoned and people don’t want to talk to you – it is lonely enough grieving. Sometimes just being there and acknowledging the loss is the most important thing, unfortunately nothing you can say can ‘fix’ the situation.
During National Grief Awareness Week, Freddie’s Wish has an awareness day called Donut Day on 7 December. Donut Day is where we ask you to take a selfie eating a donut and sharing it with us on social media using the hashtag #DonutDay. This is all because on the morning of the accident that tragically took Freddie’s life, the last thing he ate was a donut – so we thought an amazing way to sugarcoat a tragic day would be to embrace the donut and get people talking and opening up to grief. So please do pop it in the diary.
Finally, I hope this article gives you confidence that you are all incredible at what you are doing and trust in your compassion and humility, if you were tragically in a situation like my health visiting team were. It is always appreciated, even if you don’t hear that directly, and don’t be afraid to be honest as that will always earn you the most respect. This is my personal story, so I appreciate that everyone’s experience of grief and what they need is unique to them. But over the last 5 years, from all the families I have met I have learnt that we don’t expect you to have all the answers, but knowing you are there means the world. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you do for Mums whose babies take the natural path in life and for Mums whose path through motherhood is slightly different!