Milly, aged 15
Following the death of Milly’s dad in March 2019, her mum contacted Winston’s Wish for support with processing what happened. This is her story.
Even though Milly’s parents had been split up for a while and she was living with her mum, her dad was still a big part of her life. So naturally, his terminal diagnosis of leukaemia came as a shock. He’d been keeping his condition and treatment a secret until doctors told him there was nothing more they could do, giving Milly only two days to visit him in hospital and say goodbye.
Whilst the death of a parent is difficult for any young person, Milly’s learning difficulties make understanding complex and emotional situations harder for her than most. When Winston’s Wish got involved, she was struggling with relationships with her peers and processing her thoughts and feelings - the worry that her life would be defined by her dad’s death and that she’d forget him.
Her regular support sessions were held over video, allowing 15-year-old Milly to be in her comfortable home environment and fit them in around her home schooling - easing some of her anxieties about falling behind. Having a dedicated space to talk about her dad was really important and allowed her to move forward. Whether it was exploring coping strategies or connecting her feelings with the story of what happened, her confidence and concentration grew day by day.
One of the most significant pieces of work Winston’s Wish did with Milly was the Tree of Life - helping her map out what events shape her identity and future hopes and ambitions.
Hearing Milly’s mum say she was surprised at how much her daughter had opened up and articulate her feelings well was priceless. Her mum added that just because Milly wasn’t crying every day, it didn’t mean that she wasn’t experiencing the feelings. Thanks to the support offered by Winston’s Wish, the communication between the two of them about her dad’s death improved massively.
The future’s bright for Milly, as she looks to follow in her dad’s footsteps and train for a career in the police force.
Kyle, aged 17
Following the sudden death of Kyle’s dad in 2019, he experienced a really challenging time. But Winston’s Wish helped to overcome some of his anxiety and pave the way for a more optimistic future.
Kyle came to Winston’s Wish along with his two siblings (aged eight and two) after losing their dad to pneumonia. The pair were extremely close, with all three children having lived with him since a young age following family break up and exposure to his mum’s mental health issues.
Despite the referral being for the whole family, his step mum was most concerned about Kyle. At age 17, he was preparing to move to university when his world was turned upside down, seeing him experience anxiety and withdrawal from things he loved doing before.
Winston’s Wish stepped in with telephone counselling - a friendly voice at the other end of the phone to chat about his worries. They worked with him to develop coping strategies and using mindfulness, as well as building up his support network. One of the main things Kyle shared over the sessions was his feeling of guilt - that he hadn’t picked up the phone when his step mum rang to say his dad was in hospital. Talking through his problem allowed him to see that nothing he did could have changed the outcome.
Through the charity’s time working with Kyle, his grandfather also unexpectedly passed away - this was another significant loss as his grandfather was one of the most important connections that Kyle still had to his dad. All at the time he was about to receive his A-level results and move on to higher education. After all of this, he received two As and a B, securing his dream university place. Winston’s Wish was able to help Kyle’s transition to his next step in life and join up their work with the sessions on offer from Student Support Services at the university. Kyle had previously shared that moving to University was something he felt wouldn’t be possible as he was concerned about leaving his younger siblings behind. Winston’s Wish helped him to explore these feelings and gave him the reassurance he needed to make this important transition to adult life with confidence and hope.
In 2016, Winston’s Wish supported Isabelle after she lost her father as a result of a heart attack whilst he was travelling abroad. Isabelle’s experience of her father’s death became all the more challenging as she was unable to attend the overseas funeral.
Fast forward to 2020 and the beginning of the first lockdown, now aged ten, Isabelle and her mother moved to a completely new area with a limited support network. Isabelle’s mother called the Winston’s Wish Freephone National Helpline to seek advice on how best to support her daughter who was struggling to make new connections away from her old circle of friends and the home where she felt safe and comfortable. Isabelle’s mum was having issues communicating these problems with her school, so the charity were able to facilitate a meeting between the special educational needs coordinator and the mother - all designed to share best practise on dealing with childhood bereavement.
Winston’s Wish was able to signpost the family towards longer-term therapy for her ongoing care, as well as allowing the mother to have her concerns heard and supporting the school to make sure her learning environment was as supportive as possible.
Winston's Wish real life case studies. Names have been changed and imagery shown is for illustration purposes only.