The Milburn family were referred to Nelson’s Journey following the death of 31-year-old Charlie in 2011, after he contracted swine flu and spent months in hospital battling the illness. Joe was just 3 years old when his dad died, and Sophie was only 8 months old.
Sandra tells us ‘My friend told me about Nelson’s Journey, so I contacted them for help. I didn’t know anyone else in my position, with such young children, and I was also having to deal with Joe’s anger, which manifested as part of the grief process, after his dad died. I was suddenly in a position where I had a 4-year-old lashing out at me and shouting at me, and a 1-year-old who was terrified at this behaviour.
Nelson’s Journey helped me know how to deal with the situation and understand Joe’s behaviour and how to manage it. It took a long while to work through Joe’s anger, but he is now a calm and very grown-up 9-year-old.’
In March 2015, almost 4 years to the day that Charlie died, the family was dealt another blow when Sandra’s dad, Bill, died aged 74. As the main male figure in Sophie’s life, it came as a huge shock to her, and she struggled to cope with his death.
Sandra says ‘Joe dealt with Grandad’s death remarkably well, but because Sophie didn’t remember her dad dying, this was the first bereavement she had really had to face. Because we had received support from Nelson’s Journey, I felt able to deal with her grief and questions, and manage the situation myself. I always knew Nelson’s Journey was there if we needed them, but I remembered and used a lot of the things they’d taught us when we were supported by them. It’s helped both children be able to have conversations more easily, encourage their positive memories and talk about their dad and their grandad on a regular basis.’
The children were keen to walk in memory of Charlie and Bill at this year’s Walk of Smiles, an annual memorial walk held by the charity. The event, sponsored by Westcotec, takes place from 10am – 2pm on Saturday 3rd September at the charity’s headquarters, Smiles House, in Little Plumstead. There are two routes; a 3.5 mile and 2 mile route up to the village of Little Plumstead and back. It will allow families who have experienced the death of a loved one to come together and walk in their memory.
‘Joe encouraged us to do the walk as a family – he says it’s always a really enjoyable, fun and happy day, so it’s nice to know that the children get something so positive out of the event. For me, there is a real sense of belonging, being amongst other families who share similar experiences. There’s definitely a feeling of making the best of the situation and celebrating the lives of those who are no longer with us.
Nelson's Journey were there for us when Charlie passed away in 2011 and it’s great to be able to give something back to them by raising money so they can be there for more families like ours in their darkest days. I would encourage anyone to come along and be part of this special event.’
Gena Moore, organiser of the Walk of Smiles said ‘Our memorial walks are always respectful and poignant, this year we will be doing a minute’s silence and balloon release before the walk, to remember those whose lives we are celebrating.
This event is very important for us to keep in touch with families we have supported in the past, like the Milburns, to see how they are getting on. After the walk, we have a lovely afternoon filled with fun games, face painting and activities for all ages, along with a chance to make some items to remember the person or people who died. There is a lovely atmosphere of togetherness at the event and we look forward the Milburns being a part of it this year to remember Charlie and Bill.’
To register to take part in the Walk of Smiles, on Saturday 3rd September, which is open to everyone, not just those supported by Nelson’s Journey, please visit the website: http://www.nelsonsjourney.org.uk/memorial-walk-registration.aspx. Registration is £2 per person, with under 5s going free. Any funds raised from the walk will contribute towards Nelson’s Journey’s work supporting bereaved children and young people living in Norfolk.
To support Sandra, Joe and Sophie’s fundraising page visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SandraMilburn
Joe with his Dad, Charlie