Real Stories
02 December 2022

Amy and her children's story

Counselling helps whole family come to terms with devastating loss

Amy Auty slide
Real Stories
02 December 2022

One of the messages we are constantly looking to reinforce, is that our therapy services are open to people coping with the death of a loved one for any reason, not just as a result of cancer.

We often describe it as our “best kept secret”, but it is not one that we want to keep to ourselves.

When Amy Auty’s partner Jack died suddenly at home in 2016 aged only 30, she and her two young children, aged only 2 and 4, were left utterly devastated.

As is often the case, after her initial shock she found little time to grieve properly for the loss of Jack as she was so busy with her children and the demands of a life with young family.

However, after a while, Amy and the children began to struggle to come to terms with his death and the enormity of what had happened to them.

“My daughter in particular was really struggling with her temper, kicking off and having tantrums which I felt was down to me not being able to understand how she was feeling. I just didn’t know how to help her while I was still grieving, myself.

“I realised I needed support when I felt like just couldn't cope; with work, with life, with the children, - everything was so overwhelming and new. We also had had to move house two weeks after Jack so had been kept busy with all of that. Once that was over and we were left with this new life I couldn’t manage and I knew I needed something else to help me get through it,” said Amy.

Amy had heard about CancerCare through a family member but had presumed support was only available for people affected by cancer and she wouldn’t be able to access therapy as the cause of Jack’s death was Motor Neurone Disease. But she got in touch and was immediately referred to expert counsellor Helen Fry who specialises on working with both adults and young children.

“The first phone call was nerve wracking. Admitting I needed help was a huge thing for me. It felt like failure. But, in reality it was the best thing I have ever done,” added Amy.

“I had never tried talking about how I felt with someone who was separate from my life. I could tell Helen anything knowing she wouldn’t be upset or annoyed with me. It was a safe space to discuss all the changes that had happened to us.”

Amy’s daughter was referred for play therapy, a specialist technique which involves observing how a child interacts with toys to gain an insight into their emotional well-being.

“She loved it and had no idea it was 'therapy' of any kind. She just enjoyed going to see Helen each week to play. The difference in her was unreal. Calmer, more focused she began drawing pictures which were like a little insight into her mind,“ said Amy.

A while later, Amy also had one-to-one sessions with Helen which had a hugely positive effect on her mental health

“I remember driving to CancerCare each week with excitement at having that space for me to just talk, the safe space to just be with Helen and be me, the real me, the sad me, the happy me, the bitchy me. Helen was the same kind caring Helen she always is. After the sessions it was like a weight had been lifted and my shoulders felt lighter, head a bit higher. I felt heard and really listened to which is something special in itself., said Amy.

Six years on, and Amy said that CancerCare’s support had enabled her family to move forward with their lives in a way she had not thought possible in the immediate aftermath of Jack’s death.

“Where we are now is due to CancerCare. It was the springboard for the rest of our lives. A new life, without Jack, but with hope that there was something better to come. I truly believe Helen is the reason we are where we are today,” said Amy.

Such was the impact on her, it inspired her to train as a counsellor to enable her to help others in similar situations.

“I wanted to be able to give people what she gave me. A space to feel heard, to realise they do matter, to realise they can do anything they want and life won't always be so sad and gloomy. There is hope, there is change, there is a future. albeit a very different future. Jack’s death wasn't the end of us as a family. I now see it as the beginning of our future. Without the support from CancerCare I don't know where we'd be now.”

If you or anyone you know is in a similar situation and could use some extra support, please get in touch.

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