My mother died when I’d just turned 9-years-old. She dropped dead one Saturday afternoon in April 1987. I’d only been back in Ireland for six months, living with mum, my step-father and siblings and my whole life changed in that moment. I moved to live with my biological father and with my grandparents, whom I’d never met before.
I didn’t know what grief was. I didn’t know how to grieve. The adults around me didn’t have the skills or tools to support me. I think they were trying to protect me in their own way.
It was not helpful. I have carried my mother’s death around with me in shame my whole life.
I have worked with children, in one way or another, all my life. I was drawn to this job at Jigsaw (South East) because it meant I would be working with children. That is still my favourite part of the role. However, it is so much more. I can be the voice for these children. I can challenge their fears around death, and I can offer support to the adults around these children, and that will make a huge difference.
I feel so privileged to work for the ‘Preparing for Loss’ team. It is raw and organic, and every day is different. And it brings me to the essence of what it means to be human. It is also painful but beautiful work. I consider myself to be a children’s champion, and I am proud of the work that I do to support children.
I feel humbled that I can offer support to children and families at the darkest moments of their life journeys. I am honoured to work with schools who want to do their best to support children but often do not know how, as this is not covered in their training. I am currently working with a friend to change this.
I would have benefited from support that was caring and reassuring, and permissive when my mother died, and in doing this work, I recognise that I am healing my wounds too.
I work with a wonderful team; Janice Poplett and Caroline Duckworth are such supportive women, and it’s a space I can be myself and be accepted.
Every day is different, and the support I offer families is different. It is privileged work. Work that I am honoured to be doing.
My advice to people around death and dying is don’t be afraid. Please don’t be scared of someone else’s pain, and don’t be frightened to make mistakes/get it wrong.
You cannot make it worse for any human by acknowledging their grief and giving it permission. Be brave and be with children and families. Allow them their feelings.
I often talk about matching our emotions with our feelings. We don’t stop ourselves from laughing when we are happy, why would we stop ourselves from crying when we’re sad?