“My son Sarayan died very suddenly on 8 June 2014 when he was three years old. The hospital was fantastic and lots of people recommended organisations that help parents whose children have died. We didn’t hear back from any of them and then Simran, my youngest son and Sarayan’s twin brother, started having a meltdown. We were very concerned so I rang every hospice that I could think of. Lots of hospice just couldn’t help and it was really quite crushing. Then Jenny from St Christopher’s rang back and told us about Candle.
We all went to see Jenny at the hospice and she spoke to the children and reassured them everything was confidential. At first they wouldn’t speak so I went in with them, but eventually they started going in on their own and she would take them for walks around the gardens. The hospice staff would offer me a cup of tea and when I tried to give them some money they would just say ‘no you didn’t choose to be here’. Even little things like that made me cry, which I know sounds ridiculous, but maybe that’s just what I needed. So even though the kids were getting what they needed, I was getting what I needed as well, which was respite from it all and the chance to chat to other people at the hospice. St Christopher’s is such friendly place and we would end up staying there after therapy to have lunch and wander around the gardens before going home. It’s a very therapeutic place even though I realise that for most people it’s the end of the road, for other people it is salvation.
Some of the best days have been the fun days for children. It’s nice for them to hang out with other children who have all been through some sort of loss, but don’t treat them differently. I think they found that at school friends started treating them differently. Children that weren’t particularly nice to them before started being nice so they got confused about who their friends were. It was just a lovely day for everyone to sit down and talk about their feeling and who they had lost and to see that they weren’t the only ones.
Likewise when I’ve gone to group therapy I’ve found it so rewarding for all the wrong reasons. I went to group therapy because of a situation to do with my son’s funeral that was really upsetting me. Other people opened up about bad experiences that they had had with funerals and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I think you can easily brush it off and think you’re being too sensitive, but a lot of this is about other people, it’s their problem not yours and often you need someone else to say that to you to make you realise it. That’s what really helps with the group therapy. You realise that you’re not the only one who this is happening to. Everyone has very different experiences, but loss is loss at the end of the day. We have lots of different reactions to death, but they all match up along the line somewhere.
A couple of years ago I held a coffee morning to raise money for the hospice. We had a raffle and lots of friends donated great prizes. Amanda Ross from Saturday Kitchen got lots of chefs to sign books and we did a cooking package. I also used to work for Vivienne Westwood and she gave me a handbag to raffle. We ended up making quite a bit of money and so the following year I decided to hold a dinner party, which was great fun. We were very lucky that we have lots of friends who are very generous, but also believe in charity and giving back. Kashmir, my eldest, was in charge of the money. My youngest son, Simran, was in charge of handing out raffle tickets and then they both helped pick the winners, which was really sweet. They felt involved and I think mentally it did them a lot of good. My youngest son was over the moon, he thought it was just brilliant.
Our guests enjoyed finding out about a hospice in south London that just helps everyone and I don’t think people realise that for a small amount of money you can support a whole family. We managed to raise enough money for 23 families to see a child bereavement worker like Jenny for five sessions. When people hear that they realise that a little money from everyone goes a long way. A mere £1.50 buys a cardboard memory box that the children can decorate and put their memories inside. When they are sad or forget something, they can open the memory box and have a look. This has really helped Kashmir and Simran.”