I was always passionate about being a performer when I was little. At 13yrs old while at drama school, I was catapulted into a wonderful new exciting world of children’s TV when I was cast as Susi, one of the original characters of BBC’s Grange Hill in 1979. While on the show, I happened to work with one of our talented young directors Graham Theakston. 30 years on, quite by accident, fate played its part and we met again. Graham became my best friend and my partner for 8 very happy years, but in 2014 he sadly died after a short battle with a rare cancer and that day my life changed forever.
I struggled badly to cope with my grief and desperately looked for help and support, but to my utter amazement I couldn’t find what I needed. I was baffled to why people didn’t seem to understand how traumatic it was for me and how confusing and bewildering my life had become. Then purely by chance, I found a charity on the internet that offered support that was exactly right for me – it was my lightbulb moment! I realised then that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one trying to get to grips with a myriad of strange, crazy emotions and was looking for something that would help unravel the debilitating feelings that were so overwhelming. Others I met who were bereaved felt exactly the same and they too had seemed to have been left to wander alone in the fog of grief.
So why wasn’t this support offered to us in those incredibly difficult early stages? Why couldn’t all those grieving across the UK be signposted to the right help when they need it most? Whether you have lost a child, parent, partner, sibling, friend or colleague, the death of someone you love can be life changing. It is the most painful thing anyone can ever go through, so I questioned why, as a nation we didn’t seem to recognise the impact of grief? The bereaved need to know that they are not on their own, they are not going mad, that their grief is acknowledged and that help is there if they need it – on day one if necessary.
So I began researching issues around grief and loss and discovered that we had outstanding support services in this country, but they were sporadic and often difficult to find. Health professionals too seemed at a loss to know where to access support services. I knew things had to radically change and that there had to be a simpler way for the bereaved and those working with them to find a choice of targeted support immediately. I felt the answer was to bring us altogether – to collaborate and it had to be an online resource that could be regularly updated. #Strongertogether
I launched my new charity, The Good Grief Trust in 2016. Since then we have built a growing central database of support bringing over 600 bereavement organisations under one umbrella. Targeted help can now be found wherever you live in the UK and whoever you have lost.
I wanted to ensure that anyone who was bereaved knew where to find a comprehensive choice of help from day one if they needed it. I didn’t want anyone to fall through the net and be unaware of everything on offer to them locally and nationally, so we launched our Good Grief card. Our aim is for the card to be supplied to every person who is bereaved in the UK to immediately signpost them to the website. We knew people felt isolated and alone when grieving so we have launched our Good Grief Pop Up Café initiative, opening our umbrellas of support to bring communities together to share their grief over a cup of tea and be offered a big slice of hope by finding others who understand in their local area.
It’s fantastic to see the wave of interest in issues around mental health, grief and loss grow over the past few years. We are driven to continue to try and help improve the lives of those who don’t know where to turn when their world is shattered. Our vision is to offer HOPE and a way forward for the bereaved and to help us all open conversations on a national scale and try to better understand how to help those who lose someone they love.