A story of grief by a man and a boy

grief encounter

My mind is racing this morning as it has been all through the night. My head is so full of thoughts that I can barely decide how to commit them to the keyboard I’m typing on.

Last night I attended an event that I’m positive I’ll never forget. Four friends joined me at a comedy night organised by Grief Encounter, an incredible charity that helps bereaved children through the confusion and pain of grief. I imagine there are those who might feel that there’s a tension in such an organisation trying to make people laugh. But not me. I understood just how powerful a proposition it was as soon as I took to the stage.

Naturally I wasn’t there to tell jokes. I was invited there to introduce a film that I made with the wonderful and inspiring people behind the charity. The film would briefly interrupt the humour to challenge the audience to think about how grief can affect any child who has lost (or one day may lose) a parent or sibling. And the result was palpable. The room, so full of laughter all evening, fell absolutely silent. The contrast of light and shade made the message feel stronger and more powerful than it might if the whole night had been serious. The laughter turned to tears and the tears turned into a colossal sum of money raised to support kids through what is likely to be the most difficult time of their lives.

But the reason my mind is racing is because in amongst the acts, I met a family whose life has been turned upside down over and over again by a cruel tragedy that befell them some ten years ago. I was sitting next to the parents and brother of the murdered Soham school girl, Holly Wells. Her father Kevin and I chatted and we found common ground in our approach to accepting that our grief will be with us for life, but still trying to plan a positive future for ourselves and our families.

As he put it so eloquently earlier this year, “Time doesn’t heal, someone got that wrong. It anaesthetises. Grief does not diminish, but you can manage the intensity and learn to live with it. Murder has the capacity to destroy more lives than the one taken. I recognised that from the start, so I tried to take control, to make plans and to exert positive thought.”

A rather inspiring attitude from a man who could so easily have gone under facing the gravity of the situation that struck his family.

Yet it wasn’t until later this morning that I could finally put my finger on what exactly was racing around my head. I realised that I was thinking about Holly’s brother, Oliver. Now 22, he was just 12 when his ten-year-old sister and her friend Jessica Chapman were murdered by their school care taker.

How does a 12-year-old boy get his head around that?

Isn’t a part of him destroyed too as his childhood is taken in the blink of an eye?

How does he learn to trust such an apparently devastatingly cruel world once more?

And that’s why I was there last night. To help make people think about how grief affects our children. To encourage people not to take the ‘they’ll be fine’ or the ‘they’re too young to understand’ approach. And to explain that there are services out there that can support bereaved children and help them to alleviate the pain caused by the death of someone close.

As I entered the building I was already convinced. I think the audience left convinced too. And when I walked out the building late last night I was more convinced than ever.

Bereaved children need to be shown compassion and offered support. Please take the time to watch this film and perhaps even contribute to the charity if you can. This wasn’t an easy film to make, it may not be an easy film to watch, but the message is so important. Thanks for taking the time.

11 comments on “grief encounter

  1. Mitchell Kaye
    July 7, 2013

    Amazing amazing amazing amazing post

  2. Mitchell Kaye
    July 7, 2013

    And while I’m not sure you can remember, thanks for saying what you said about me over a toat on Thursday night, it meant a huge amount

    From: Mitchell Kaye
    Sent: Sunday, July 07, 2013 09:27 AM
    To: ‘’
    Subject: Re: [New post] grief encounter

    Amazing amazing amazing amazing post

  3. Neil H
    July 7, 2013

    I just watched your video Ben with my little one, Iona she’s two and a half. She said “he is a lovely daddy”. Having worked with you I remember when Jackson was first born, the photos, and your elation at being a dad. You don’t get sent on a course to be a parent but this campaign and your blogs will give Jackson huge pride now and into later life. Keep going because your blogs give us all incredible energy too.

  4. G
    July 7, 2013

    A powerful and important message – even 9 yrs on my boys still have unanswered questions …… Remember its ok to say ‘I don’t know!’ But do try and follow that with ‘let’s try and find out together!’ Support is vital to help our children become responsible adults – sadly this support needs funding – well done Ben for taking on the challenge while you are still in the early days of our grieving xx

  5. katherinecolombo
    July 7, 2013

    Absolutely beautiful post. Your determination to not marginalize your son’s grief experience and loss is really beautiful. I was told that people who offer advice like “they won’t remember” are projecting their own fears about death onto you. My reply to them is, “Julia will. Because Wesley is still a vital part of our lives and with every breath I take I talk about him and his love for us.” Desreen lives on for Jackson and you because you weave her beautiful story into your lives together.

  6. Hannah
    July 7, 2013

    Beautiful post.

    I lost my Father when I was 12 and wish Grief Encounter had been set up then as really could have done with their support. Instead I battled with depression alone, with other family members telling me to “get over it”. Not the most helpful of comments!

    I’ve really loved (? not the right word, but can’t think of a better one right now) reading your blog Ben. A lot of what you talk about resonates with me.
    Hannah xx

  7. cocoazoitei2013
    July 7, 2013

    I follow your blog from afar (virtually afar, but goegraphically close, in NW6!) and I wanted to say only what an inspirational human being you are and how much I love that there are human beings of your quality in the world. Thank you for your writing, and for just being you… Love and blessings. x

  8. Sarah Pointer
    July 7, 2013

    Well done Ben x

  9. jennifer Bonus
    July 7, 2013

    Ben that was amazing to watch my daughter needs something like this but unfortunately not here in Ireland or if it is I don’t know about it. It was my husbands 1st anniversary on Tuesday and I got all his friends and family to meet at the grave in the evening time just about the time Noel died and asked them all to write a note to him. I had balloons and attached all the notes to them and got the kids to put stickers and decorate them even though it was a sad day it was nice for everybody to put their feelings down on paper and release the balloons god only knows where they ended up!! Anyway your blog inspires me to keep going wishing you all the best.

    July 9, 2013

    What an amazing strong person you are Ben. That was a hard video to make but you did it perfectly. Jackson is very lucky to have you as his daddy

  11. Pingback: Comedy Night 2013 - Grief Encounter | Child Bereavement

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