Today we feature a guest blog from Clare Shaw, author of children‘s bereavement book, ’Love Will Never Die’
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors has been established in Horsham, West Sussex, since 1855. With branches across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint – the company is keen to continue evolving in order to provide the best possible service to customers. Earlier this year, the team met author Clare Shaw, who has written and developed an excellent book as a resource to help children with bereavement. Today, she guest blogs here, to explain more about how the book came to exist…
My writing career almost happened by accident. I had spent nearly twenty years working in business administration, having a variety of roles in many different industries. Then, in 2016 my husband took an opportunity to go away with work for six months. Our children were nine and six at the time and we totally underestimated the impact it would have on them.
He already worked in London and commuted from Portsmouth each day. This meant he left the house before 6am and didn’t get home until after 7.30pm. Often, the children were already in bed so we felt they were used to him not being around. When he first left everything appeared to carry on as normal. We were even more convinced that everything was going to be fine!
When our youngest son started school, on day three he stopped half way across the playground, took his bag from me and said, “See you later, Mummy!”. He was so confident and loved being at school. A few weeks after my husband went away, this same confident little boy started to fight against going to school. He used to cry each morning and it got to the point where I would need to carry him in to the classroom for the teachers to peel him from me. It was heart breaking!
My husband was feeling useless and was getting a little down himself so I took the decision to visit him for a weekend. Without realising, his colleague had booked his wife onto the same flight so they arranged for us to meet at the airport and travel together. Having never met her before, I knew nothing of her background. She asked how the children were so I told her, very honestly, how things had been recently. As it turned out, she was an educational psychologist, as well as a military wife and mother, and was able to talk me through all the behaviours that the children were displaying and how to ease them. It all made perfect sense.
I travelled home alone and during the flight wrote a poem about Daddy being away. I incorporated all the ideas that I’d been given, along with various things my children had told me they were doing and feeling while Daddy was away. I’m not sure where it came from but once I started I knew it was going to help my children feel better.
The children loved the poem and felt I should share it! I put a note on Facebook to see if any friends would like to read it and pass opinion. Quite a number did but one in particular stood out; a friend who I don’t see too often. My eldest is great friends with her son and so our friendship is based upon them. She had always worked with teens in an educational setting but her former husband was in the Navy so I thought she’d be able to view it from that perspective.
She replied with great excitement! What she hadn’t mentioned was that she had just started working as a Deputy Head at a local junior school. In our area there are a high number of service children and she wanted me to go and read to a group at her school. I put some pictures to the words, printed it on A4 paper, stuck it together with sticky tape and off I went. As it turned out, the kids loved what I had produced and asked where they could get a copy. Well, I wasn’t expecting that.
For the past four years I have managed a mini rugby team, from Under 6’s to our new season this year at Under 10’s. During this time of asking friends to read my poem and reading to the children at the local school, I went out with the coaches of my team for a curry. As we only see each other on a Sunday morning and all the chat is around rugby, we didn’t really know what each other did. This was a good opportunity to get to know each other. The gentleman I sat next to was telling us how busy he was preparing for Christmas and getting all the new J.K. Rowling books printed and shipped in time. I could not believe what I was hearing! We had a quick chat about what I had done, met up again the following week and he arranged and printed my first batch of ‘Sometimes: My Daddy’s Gone Away with Work’.
I had so much interest from local schools and charities, this was clearly a much-needed resource. I adapted the book into a Mummy version too and spent a lot of time visiting schools and reading with the children. While chatting to teachers, I introduced the idea of writing a book around bereavement and asked their opinion on what was already on the market in comparison with my style of writing. They were all super positive about the idea and encouraged me all the way.
When I was just eleven, my brother died quite suddenly. We had his funeral on Christmas Eve and it was really confusing. I went back to school in the January and life went on. Back then there wasn’t as much in the way of bereavement support as there is today. I was left to navigate my grief alone.
I have suffered mental health problems all through life and a few years ago started to see a therapist. So much of what I have been through can be tracked back to when my brother died and how I dealt with it. The idea of a bereavement book to help children now going through what I went through seemed the most natural next step.
I spent a lot of time writing notes, speaking with people and reading articles on how to help a child following the death of someone close to them. I used my own experience to bring it all together and I produce ‘Love Will Never Die: Helping Children Through Bereavement’.
The book uses straightforward language but is written in such a gentle way that the child isn’t alarmed by it. It encourages the child to ask questions and to express their emotions. Some funeral directors have fed back to me that the book has inspired the whole family to open up and talk more. This is something I am immensely proud of.
‘Love Will Never Die’ talks about the different emotions a child may feel, it mentions the funeral and it lets the child know that it’s fine to be confused, happy or angry. It has a packet of tissues to reiterate that it’s ok to cry and it houses an envelope for “special things”. With areas for the child to write and draw their own emotions and thoughts, it becomes a fabulous keepsake for that child to have with them forever.
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