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The Laura Centre

NEWS letter

Christmas 2010

...for when a child dies or is bereaved...

Welcome to our special Christmas News Letter Welcome to a special edition of the Laura Centre Newsletter. Christmas can be a very special time for a lot of people but it can also be one of the most difficult times of the year if you have been bereaved. At this time of year the theme of Christmas is everywhere – it is almost impossible to avoid unless you cut yourself off completely from the o outside ts sid ide world. rld ld So in this edition we have tried to offer some reflections on how Christmas changes when you have had a bereavement. There is an article from a Mum who talks about how the loss of her husband has changed the way her and her children spend Christmas .There is also an article from a member of staff at TLC whose son died .We have included reviews of two books which are among the many in our library for loan and the authors have very kindly given us their reflections on what Christmas now means for them as bereaved parents. We hope that you find this edition helpful – we welcome your comments as always and don’t forget to send us your contributions for future newsletters .


An Insiders (Christmas) Tale My name is Tony Whitmore and many of you may know me from The Laura Centre. I look after the IT and Business support for the charity trying to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. What you may not know is that the very reason that The Centre exists, is the same reason that brought me here. After our son died I needed to change the way I led my life and, even though my wife and I did not use the services of the centre I was only too aware that many others would find its work invaluable and therefore the ‘change’ brought me to Tower Street. As we approach what the majority see as a festive time I wanted to share with you what our Christmas is now like in the hope that those in a similar position will know that even we that work in this environment still struggle and, those fortunate enough not to have suffered this type of loss will maybe understand why, at Christmas, we sometimes sit quietly in a corner. It probably won’t come as much of a shock when I say that it is no longer a time of year that we look forward to but we have a daughter who, although all grown up now, still sees the magic of Christmas. We also have a beautiful granddaughter who, at the age of 6, definitely looks forward to the prospect of trees and lights and, of course, all those presents. To make things even more difficult the grandchild in question is our son’s daughter and looks just as he did at that age so it is like reliving a time from 30 years ago when, for us, Christmas was a real celebration of family life. We also have a tremendous circle of friends who were there for us when we needed them most and have, year on year, taken it upon themselves to ensure that we are included in their family’s celebrations. The fact is though that Christmas just doesn’t have the meaning it did. I’m not talking from a religious point of view, although that is exactly what Christmas is about, but simply for the fact that it is now a time that we think sad thoughts. Not all the time of course. Much of the time we will be enjoying the holiday atmosphere then suddenly, without warning, a melancholy thought creeps into one of our heads and covers the celebratory mood like a dark cloud covering the sun and whichever one gets the thought first can’t hide it from the other, no matter how much they try. The single sad thought becomes a shared one. The ironic thing is that our son didn’t, as he put it, “rate Christmas” and would spend much of it catching up on the sleep he missed out on during the Eve’s celebrations. The morning of the 25th would generally start with me gently calling for him to get up which quickly descended into a threat involving a cold wet flannel. This though is not what sticks in our mind. That space is occupied by the inevitable thoughts that he should be with his daughter to see her face on Christmas morning just as we marvelled at his. Christmas is not a time that we look forward to, it is not a time we love but it is a time that we think of those that were there for us at the time we needed their support most. It is above all else though a time when we can celebrate having in our granddaughter such a beautiful reminder of the son we lost. I won’t end by wishing you the usual felicitations. Instead I’ll say that I hope that you have the best Christmas you can.


A Walk fo r All

Walk & Scavenger Hunt and Fly a Kite!

Christmas can be a difficult time for many and that period between Christmas and New Year can seem long and drawn out. TLC Walk for All could be just the thing to help fill that gap for you at this time. Last year’s walk was a great success and those that came along said they enjoyed themselves. This year we thought we could make it just that little bit more exciting by having a SCAVENGER HUNT and a short stroll with PRIZES at the end for those who get the most points. This will be followed by HOT SOUP and CRUSTY BREAD at lunch time and then a trip to the beacon to FLY OUR KITES. For those who are more energetic there will be a longer walk in the afternoon. Beacon Hill is situated in Charnwood Forest in North West Leicestershire; the country park has over 335 acres of mixed woodland, grassland, wildflower meadows and adjoining farmland. This is a popular countryside area owned and managed by Leicestershire County Council; it offers peaceful recreation whilst conserving the sites considerable historic and wildlife value. Beacon Hill is the second highest point in Leicestershire and the site of a Bronze Age hill fort. We will meet at 10am in the Upper Beacon car park (charge £1.50 correct money required) and aim to start at 10.15am.If you didn’t know what you wanted for Christmas this year maybe a kite could be added to your list! If you would like to come along then please let me know so I have some ideas of numbers. Contact Alison on 01162544341 or email alison@thelauracentre.org.uk

Thursday 30th December, 10:15am at Beacon Hill Country Park, Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire


Christm to us, and no doubt to a lot of you reading this, Christmas is a ve very difficult time, and the last few years have been anything but festive. What makes it so difficult for an my family is that, for us, Brendan WAS Christmas. By the end of September the combined aromas of fruit, spices and alcohol emanated from our kitchen and over the next few months were joined by heaps of ingredients, and a vast array of bottles, jars and bowls. Orders for various puddings, pies, strudels, jellies, sloe gin and beer were littered over the surfaces and fridge. I f it could be made Brendan made it and every year he would find something to add to his repertoire and take great delight in making all who passed by our home taste it. Brendan was big at sharing food, actually all in all Brendan was big at everything (unless only a pinch was required and even then it would be generous!). You would think that by the time Christmas came we’d be sick of it but this spirit stayed contained in the kitchen until the week or so before when Brendan’s excitement would burst out and infect everyone, even scrooge- like me. So whilst Santa was delivering presents Brendan could be found putting final touches to his creations with a large glass of something tasty in his other hand, singing at the top of his beautiful voice and totally in his element. When, in the summer of 2006, Brendan died very suddenly Christmas wasn’t really our top priority. For the immediate months following his death time in its turn froze or passed at the blink of an eye. Day to day life took immense effort and it became automatic and largely joyless. We were aware of Xmas but in a way that it had nothing to do with us. We allowed ourselves to be carried away on a wave of love and good intentions. In time I was immensely grateful for the love and support of my friends, family and community who took away the planning, and celebration of that first Xmas. I rather believe that had I been single I would have totally ignored it. There was too much life and death going on for Xmas to be a real concern. However we wanted for nothing that Xmas, except the person who we kept expecting to see in the kitchen, the laughing voice that made the room feel full, the enveloping hug that smelt of love and security and cooking. Looking back I liken that first year or so as a terrifying rollercoaster ride. Life with Brendan had never been boring and rarely planned so we were used to a fair few surprises, however, without Brendan in the carriage, we were suddenly plunged into darkness and fully exposed to the extreme elements and totally out of control. Just like a rollercoaster we were tossed and shaken about at varying speeds and at times I have absolutely no idea how we hung on. But somehow we did and as time passed we caught glimpses of a life rather than the constant never ending nightmare. Those rare sightings gave us the hope of survival that we so desperately needed, and although we hadn’t a clue where we were going, it was enough to sit


it out until it was light enough for us to see again. We are still on that rollercoaster and although we have no idea what will happen next somehow it isn’t quite so lonely or frightening at the moment. Over time we have come to accept, but not forget, that our lives have changed irrevocably. By the following Xmas we had survived momentous changes. The biggest being a move to Leicester. Yet again friends and family led us by the hand and guided us as best they could, but we were still desperately aware of the hole in our lives. I remember going Xmas food shopping with Malachy but whenever we picked anything up all we could think of is that it wouldn’t be as good as Daddy’s. I don’t think we came out with one Xmas item yet we had no inclination to cook for ourselves. Xmas lunch was shop bought Peking Duck for we had decided that we didn’t want to be traditional but we did want a meal that would remind us of Brendan. The less said about that Xmas meal the better except to say that by the following Xmas I had taught myself how to cook Peking Duck! Last year was probably the first Xmas where we really started to make an effort to celebrate. There were certain traditions that we re-instated, we tried to introduce new things, some of our own making and some that we felt sure Brendan would have appreciated. We tried our best to be festive and I think on the whole we were successful. To a certain extent we still largely relied once again on the generosity and energies of other people to fill in the more painful gaps, but we did manage to laugh occasionally even if it was through unshed tears. And now another Xmas is fast approaching and it seems unbelievable that Rowan has had more Xmas’s without his Daddy than with him. I feel sad that we have to fill more and more of his memories for him but it does mean that we talk about Brendan a great deal and although it is hard sometimes it brings a spark of him back to us. There are no Xmassy cooking aromas coming from the kitchen yet and we ate the last of B’s puddings last year. But Peking Duck is on the Xmas Day menu yet again and has been joined by Knickerbocker Glories. Not exactly what others will be sitting down to but it suits us. I can’t exactly say that we are looking forward to Xmas and there is a certain amount of apprehension and stress about how we will cope but at the moment it seems manageable. Yet again we will no doubt be supported by friends and family but I rather hope that this year we will be able to live more for the moments rather than going through the motions. One of the main things that I have been encouraged to realise by The Laura Centre is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The same applies for surviving Xmas. We are all individuals and have to decide for ourselves and in some cases for our children, what is best. Our choices might be limited, our hearts and minds may well be broken, and we may still view the world in black and white, but whatever we choose will have to be enough for the time being. Seize each moment, big or small and then build on it. Deep breaths, small steps, be kind to yourself and cut yourself (and others!) some slack. If at any time you feel alone and lost take strength in the knowledge that if you have been to the Laura Centre there is always someone who cares deeply for you and will give you the healing space you need.


Book Reviews

by Tina Williams

Sometimes well chosen books can be presents that leave a lasting impact. Below are a few which have been sent to us during the year that we have found to be helpful .However please remember that we are not recommending these for everyone as personal choice is important whether you are buying for yourself or for someone who you know. 1

‘My True Son- An Anthology of a Journey through Loss’- Gill Hartley This is a collection of poems written by the author after her son, Will became ill and died at the age of 22. Gill also has a web site www.gillhartley.com 2

‘Do You Realize’ - Marion Steele This is written from the perspective of a therapist who reflects on her work at a Hospice as well as on her own losses. It touches on her bewildering journey into emotional turmoil when she becomes overwhelmed by grief.

From The Authors: 1 Gill Hartley:

Christmas is a magical time for children. But for bereaved parents, whether we are now childless or have surviving children, the loss of a beloved child means that the celebration of Christmas can never be the same again. For some of us, it can be particularly painful, especially if it is also the anniversary of our child’s death. Our son, Will, was in intensive care throughout Christmas and died in January 2006. Since then we have dreaded Christmas, Will was our only child and the festivities around us intensify our loss and make us feel very isolated. But last year we spent the time with three friends, childless like us, and I can honestly say that it was the first Christmas since Will died that we can say was “good” We put photos of our sons around the room and lit candles - we were able to speak about them, share memories and yet, at the same time, we felt able to “enjoy” and celebrate Christmas together. No fear of being judged or feeling we could not talk about our sons as and when we wished. We had some good, quiet times, ate a lot, laughed a lot and watched lots of films on DVD. It was lovely, and we all got on amazingly well. I know of other bereaved parents, some with surviving children, who also find comfort in spending Christmas with parents in a similar situation. We all find different ways to cope with Christmas. For us, this worked.


2

Marion Steele: ‘It is always there – the ache… It never goes away…’ The woman sighs. ‘…And soon it will be Christmas.’ We are sitting in my room in the hospital. The lighting is low, outside the sky is gray. For the rest of the day her words echo in my mind. The next week Alissa tells me that she has decided to put lights up all around her son’s grave. She has placed all kinds of decorations there. She tells me how it gives her comfort, how the lights twinkle and flash, how he would have loved it, she says… And she smiles. Her face lifts. His birthday was close to Christmas, too… Then she tells me how it is the strangest thing, but since her son’s death, on several occasions, she has found white feathers and how the other day, she was walking in the street and a white feather floated down right before her eyes… Seated at my desk, after, I look up and the words suddenly catch my eye. It is an E. E. Cummings poem that someone gave me some time ago and I pinned it to the wall. I read: ‘I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth day of life and love and wings’ I see sun, but I read son. The words register within the echo of an ache that never goes away: died, alive, birth and love and wings and day…

Fancy a Challenge?

“Your challenge begins in one of Scotland’s most scenic areas where you will climb Ben Nevis taking in spectacular views as you trek through the sunset and into the night. “On to the beautiful Lake District to begin the second of your 3 peaks-Scarfell pike. Here you will enjoy fantastic views over the hills and lakes. “Your final peak takes place in Wales; Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, is a national treasure with its unique bio-diversity of plants and wildlife and a stunning end to the last of your 3 peaks! “Upon completion of your challenge you transfer to your hotel in Snowdonia for an evening of rest and celebration.” Individual Minimum sponsorship required £1000.00. Deposit required to secure your place. Calling on all Businesses in the Community….why not follow the Weightmans lead and enter your own corporate “Team TLC”


TAKE PART, HAVE FUN, MAKE A DIFFERENCE - Event Diary For details and to book any of our events please contact us on 0116 255 6676 or visit the web site at :- http://www.thelauracentre.org.uk November 20th 2010 70’s & 80’s Disco:- Held at Mkt Harboro’ Football Club. Joint event with AdamSmile. Tickets from fundraising office.

April 2011 Running For Gold: - 5 Gold Bond Team TLC runners will pound the streets of London and raise many £1’s for TLC. Good Luck to you all.

December 5th 2010 TLC Charity Bag Pack - M&S Fosse Park 11.00am-4.00pm. Volunteers needed

June 18th 2011 TLC in the Park: - Taking place in the grounds of the historic City Park-Abbey Park, we are looking for teams of people to take part in this fun run/walk/toddle event

December 5th 2010 Skydive at Langer Airfield - Annabelle Pullen take to the skies in aid of TLC December 18th 2010 Carol Concert- Lead by Leicester South Salvation Army Band and Songsters, with guests Anna Lamplough and Ian French, this evening will delight the audience with a celebration of Christmas Music. Venue: Leicester Grammar School, Great Glen at 7.00pm with doors opening at 6.15pm. Tickets priced £5,00 and available on-line at www. leicestersouthsa.org.uk or by telephoning 07597 085757 December 30th 2010 A Walk for All - Details in this Newsletter February 3rd 2011 TLC Winter Luncheon:- This popular event takes place at Leicester College where a wonderful 3 course lunch will be served, to a very high standard.

Support us on:

July 10th 2011 The British 10km London Run- For the first year ever, TLC is looking to enter TEAM TLC ! Now is not too soon to secure your guaranteed Team TLC place September 18th 2011 TLC Sunrise Walk: - Due to the success of the first ever Sunrise Walk in 2010, organisers decided to run it again. The Walk takes in some of the most beautiful countryside on the borders of the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire beginning and ending in Arthingworth near Market Harborough Finally, on behalf of everyone at the Laura Centre and the children and families we were founded to serve, we send you our kindest thoughts at Christmas and wish you a peaceful New Year.

Follow us on:

The Laura Centre, 4-6 Tower Street, Leicester LE1 6WS Main: 0116 254 4341 info@thelauracentre.org.uk - Fundraising: 0116 255 6676 fundraising@thelauracentre.org.uk Registered Charity No. 517974


Winter/Christmas 2010 Newsletter