University: Will I be the only one?

Going to university evokes a lot of mixed emotions for young people; nervousness, excitement, apprehension, to name but a few. But how does it feel going to university after a loss?

I remember the anticipation in the car journey when moving to university; what will my room be like, will I get on with my flatmates, will I be the only one?

I remember almost having a feeling of embarrassment, as well as worry, about being the only person moving into accommodation with one parent. I felt like it defined me, and I didn't want to be labelled as 'the girl whose dad died'. I had already gone through this in school, and I felt uni was a chance to start a fresh chapter of my life. 

It was a dull pain, watching so many people moving in with the help of both their parents. I couldn't help but wonder how my dad would feel about me heading to university, if he'd be proud or concerned, or just be glad of some peace and quiet? Who knows. 

I also remember the panic of meeting all my flatmates and them asking about my parents, to which the only response I could muster was, "Oh, it's just me and my mum." I couldn't physically get the words out that my dad had passed away, but I realised that's okay. You shouldn't feel ashamed of your story, and you don't have to share it if you don't want to. After a while I got more comfortable and a lot of people started telling me about their parents' divorce, or whatever their family issue was. It was a comfort to know I wasn't as much of an outcast as I had thought. Nobody's life is perfect, and we all have our demons.

You should never worry about being different, because the world would be an awfully boring place if we were all the same. 

A son who lost a mother

From the title of this post, you could assume I'm talking about anyone. However, I'm not just talking about any son or any mother, I'm talking about His Royal Highness Prince Harry, who lost his mother Diana, Princess of Wales. (I am not forgetting that Prince William lost his mother too, but will be focusing on Harry due to his recent spotlight in the media regarding his bereavement)

It's a tragedy when any child loses a parent, but how much worse would it be when you are known by every person in the country, if not nearly the world? Harry recalls being forced to walk along behind the coffin, which would scar any 12 year old, never mind one that is being watched by millions on TV. When I lost my Dad at the age of 14, I remember the fear, anxiety, and sheer panic of being forced out my front door to see my street flooded with family and friends. I can still remember the feeling to this day, and I couldn't imagine how it felt for Harry and William to do that with the world watching. 

Harry has recently opened up about the loss of Diana, and how he bottled it up for years, releasing his emotions in the form of smoking, drinking, and partying. This happens to a lot of young people after such a big loss, but when you're always in the public eye, and your grandmother is the Queen, it can be frowned upon. With the aid of his big brother, he finally sought help when he was 28. 

After talking about all he's been through, I noticed a lot of people responded rather negatively. People claimed he should get on with it, he didn't deserve sympathy anymore, or that it was 'old news'. Now, just because someone is a Prince and gets a bit more public recognition with these things doesn't mean they don't deserve empathy. If your friend told you about their parent dying when they were younger you'd never dream of telling them to 'get over it'. Harry is made from the same cells as everybody on the planet, and feels the same emotions. Just because somebody is famous doesn't mean they don't deserve to grieve. 

Bereavement happens to everybody in the world, and unfortunately is just a fact of life. If Prince Harry can open up and say even he needed support to deal with the loss of his mum, then it is nothing to be ashamed of. It's okay to not be okay. 

13 Reasons Why

When I first started seeing Facebook posts with #WelcomeToYourTape written on it, I wasn't that interested. That was until I learned the meaning of the hashtag. When I found out there was a new popular Netflix show centred on teen suicide and mental health issues, I felt obliged to watch it.

And that I did, in about 3 days. Once I started the first episode, the story gripped me, and I couldn't stop. For anybody who hasn't seen it, the show follows Clay, a high schooler whose classmate, Hannah, takes her own life. She leaves behind thirteen tapes, each of which explains the wrongdoings of fellow classmates that led to her suicide. When I first watched it, I found it a bit sinister that she would leave a tape to each person, basically saying 'this is why you made me kill myself', but the more I watched the more I realised this wasn't her intention at all. Well, at least not in my opinion, but it is open to interpretation. 

A lot of things happened to Hannah Baker to lead her to such drastic measures. She was bullied, she was objectified, she witnessed her friend's sexual assault, she was sexually assaulted, and she felt nobody was listening to her cries for help. I believe the main purpose of her tapes wasn't to burden her friends, but to show them how little things can build up and easily spiral out of control. You don't realise the impact a photo or a list can have on someone's life, so always be kind. You don't know what silent battles people are fighting.

The show had a lot of controversy surrounding the explicit scenes. People scorned the show for 'romanticizing' suicide. I think it did the complete opposite. It showed just how dark depression can be, and just how ugly suicide is. It shows the aftermath, the parents left totally bereft, not understanding what could have made their beautiful daughter want to leave this world. It shows how suicide doesn't solve anything, it just passes the pain on to everybody around you.

It shows that it should never be an option.

As wonderful as the show was for raising awareness for teenage suicide and mental health, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody feeling vulnerable. I found some scenes difficult to watch, and they could impact people struggling in the wrong way. 

If you have been affected by the show, you can get support here. If you are from outside the UK you can find your local support here:

A New Experience

I remember the first ever Cruse youth event I went to, all the way back in 2009. I was young, shy, and completely unaware of how Cruse would impact my life. Fast forward to 12th April 2017, and there I am setting up the recording equipment in the office for another event, 4 hours before anybody is due to arrive. 

Never in a million years did I ever imagine that one day I would be the person orchestrating an event, never mind one for a group of bereaved young people. I can say without a doubt, Cruse has saved me since losing my Dad, in more ways than one. 

As someone who is naturally very introverted, the thought of organising and running an event terrified me, having all eyes on me whilst explaining the day's events was my idea of a nightmare. But up I got, standing awkwardly at the front, giving everybody an idea of why they were there. 

The day was organised to bring together young bereaved people, letting them get to know one another and share experiences, but also to help with our new 'Vlog Pod' page. The aim was to gather more content, and let everybody that was willing record a vlog of their own choice. 

Despite the stress and slight anxiety of having to run the day, it was humbling to see so many young people who've been through so much stand up and record themselves talking about such a hard time in their lives. Major kudos to them, it's definitely not something I would've done back when I first joined. Watching other young people do this definitely gives me more confidence and strength in my work, and lets me know I'm never alone in my grief. 

You can check out our Vlog Pod page, and send us your own vlog to help someone out there who is struggling. All it takes is one little video to let someone know there's always Hope.


Missing Mum on Mothers Day

Mother’s Day always creeps up on me. Unlike birthdays or anniversaries, I never remember Mother’s Day until it’s here. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by the reminder that unfortunately, my mother is no longer here to celebrate. It’s not a holiday I actively dread, I no longer feel the need to avoid it and seeing the cards and flowers and ads doesn’t bother me like it used to. My family and I decided a few years ago that we would stop mourning my Mum’s death and instead, celebrate the life she led and the happiness she brought to us when we had her. 

It will be 10 years this year since she passed and I still think about her, practically every day. Now, however, I can remember her with a smile. I’m reminded on Mother’s Day that I am lucky enough to still have my father, a strong, brave, and selfless man who raised me and my siblings alone through the hardest years of our lives. I remember I have siblings who make me laugh until I cry and have taught me patience, a great deal of patience! I think of all the amazing, strong women in my life who have let me cry and share and laugh with them.  

No-one can replace my mother, I wish I could know her today and get to know her better now I’m grown. But the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day is not by grieving, but by living. –Living like she did with a mad sense of adventure, never being afraid of who you are or what you want in life and above all, being a great woman—something I can strive to be one day.