My wife passed away in 2017. She died at the hospice, Dorothy House. We had some support from Dorothy House, we had some counselling, me and my son Finlay and that went on for about 24 weeks, while he was at Hayesdown School. That went well, he said he benefitted from that, it was play therapy.
While he was at Hayesdown he developed a really good bond with Mrs Williams, the pastoral support person. Unfortunately, she herself developed cancer, he missed her towards the end of his time, the transition through to Selwood School. But he had that close bond and he felt that he could leave lessons if he needed to. He felt as if he could unload and talk about what was on his mind.
Fast forward to Selwood, we were under the impression there was going to be some support, a similar person in place for him to go to if needed. Nothing was forthcoming, so we got in contact with the school and they thought the support for Finlay had finished. I said that Finlay would like someone to engage with, and that’s when the teacher made the referral to their pastoral support person, who went on to make the referral to WHY, to help him with that transition to middle school
The referral went in, and Ruth, the idea was that she was going to either do some virtual sessions, which Finlay wasn’t keen on, or wait until lockdown was over and they were back at school and have face-to-face sessions, which is what happened. It was tough.
I knew about WHY, my mother-in-law, Sophie’s mum, she had some counselling and so did Vanessa, when Sophie passed away, they had some counselling through WHY. I was aware of what WHY does in the community and sponsored things, raised money myself, so I was aware of what you do.
I was offered some (counselling) by Ruth, when I was having the assessment conversation about Finlay, what I thought he needed, I was offered. I’d had some support at Dorothy House, and I’m quite a private person.
Initially it was a little bit different because he’d done play therapy at Dorothy House and neither of was quite sure what it would look like. Ruth, because of Covid, had to wear a face shield and was quite protected. I think Finlay did find it a bit disconcerting to start off with. Ruth did share with me that that’s what it would be like, so I could share it with him, so he was prepared.
Overall, he found the sessions really good. I think there were a lot of things, there were a lot of questions about the cancer itself, about whether or not it was contagious. A lot of questions he didn’t ask me, whether or not he thought he couldn’t ask me…but he had those conversations with Ruth and you could see that he felt a lot happier, a lot more confident having attended those sessions. They were definitely worth having. He’s not expressed any interest in going back, but if I look at where he started with those and where he finished, how much more confident and happier.
It was more play therapy at Dorothy House, then at Hayesdown it was just a place to sort of unload really, play games, draw in his diary, on a one-to-one basis, get things out, off his chest. One of the things I found he was doing was keeping everything close to his chest, then he’d sort of spiral into this really quiet, withdrawn, isolated person, then it would come out and he’d cry for an hour or so, just wanting his mum, missing his mum, and getting it all out, all the things he’d been holding on to. Since he came here, he’s not done any of that, so it was really positive, really positive
I discovered the service that WHY was offering through the school, so if you need help, I’d say have a conversation with your school, or come directly to the office in town, or get on the website, have a look and see what support is available. I found everybody approachable and flexible and people are only too willing to help.
It felt a bit more grown up this time, for him. Apparently he’d been worried that I was going to catch cancer, because his mum had had it, he didn’t understand what it was, or what effect it had. It was one of the biggest things. Once Ruth was able to explain to him, a bit more about it, about the disease and how it develops and that it’s not transferable, he was happier because he was worried what was going to happen to me.
I thought I’d covered most things, we have quite an open relationship, I’ve encouraged him to talk about things. I’ve noticed that he’s a lot more confident, a lot more content. The transition from one year group to the next is usually a really big thing since Sophie died, but this year you wouldn’t know he was going to a different classroom, new teacher. He’s very settled, very content.
Sophie was popular, a really good mum, wife, family member. She was lovely, she just tried to get on with everybody. Bearing in mind she wasn’t from Frome, she developed a lot of friends in Frome.
It’s a lot easier talking about her with Finlay now than it was before. We’re close, we’re quite protective of one another. We’re ok.
It's great to have something in your town, a resource like this. For me personally, for my family, it’s been an excellent support for us. It’s helped Finlay moving forward, processing and dealing with losing his mum.