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How Becky is helping her children to keep their dad’s memory alive

Alison Birkett
by Alison Birkett | Personal stories

21 April 2023

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Becky and Joe with their three children
Becky and Joe with their three children

Helping children make memories when they have lost a parent is key to their healing process. It can empower them to feel stronger and can encourage them to talk openly about their feelings.

During Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we talk to Becky whose partner Joe died in 2018, leaving her and their three young children to come to terms with his death.

Without Joe, Becky was determined to help her children move forward and learn how to share their grief, whilst sharing family moments, making them feel connected to him throughout their lives.

Navigating grief

Joe was given the devastating news he had stage 4 bowel cancer at the age of 29, after months of coping with crippling stomach pains and struggling to even walk up the stairs.

His death five years ago, left a gaping hole for Becky and their three young children – 12-year-old Harley, 22-month-old Elsie and Arthur who was only six months old.

But she has been determined to keep the memory of Joe burning bright and is sharing memories with her children during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout April.

One of life’s most difficult experiences is losing a loved one. It’s human nature to want to avoid pain and when we lose someone close to us, we may feel we won’t be able to cope with the pain of grief. But as Becky has navigated through the death of her partner, she has also had her three children to consider and being young, she has made sure that their father’s memory is kept alive.

Having been through the death of her own mother in 2009 to suicide, Becky wants to ensure her children are made aware that it is ok to talk about his death and also the legacy he leaves behind.

Becky has spent years campaigning to break down ‘poo taboo’ barriers and also mental health issues and to have open discussions with her children about death.

“Memories make a big difference and talking openly with your children can help them in their future too,” she explains.

There are many things we do as a family. The little ones love to re-watch videos of them with Daddy and look through all the old photos. This often brings up questions and leads to me telling them stories of times we had together.

“As they have grown, so have their curiosity and questions. Harley has a pillow made out of Joe’s t-shirts and they all have an identical teddy which Joe also has and he was buried with.

“The little ones often like to have tea parties with Joe’s picture and we look for Daddy’s star through the children’s telescope. Joe is spoken about all the time.”

A new, blended family

Becky and Tom with both of their children

Becky and Tom with both of their children

Since Joe’s death Becky has met and married Tom, who she had known as a family friend for some time. And together they have shared memories of Joe with Tom’s two children so much so that they know all about him.

“Joe has become and will always be a huge part of our blended family. We will forever keep his memory alive. Tom’s children have grown to know all about him too.

We talk as a family and share in the memories we have of him and it helps the children to know who he was and the love he has for them.”

Helen Breakwell, a qualified Integrative therapist, explains:

“I’m so sorry to hear about Becky’s experience of losing Joe, and the children’s experience of losing their Dad. It sounds like she has been really sensitive and pre-empted their need to keep him in mind.

“Unfortunately, it will be a loss that comes up in their lives as they grow up. Especially around celebrations and milestones where it’s natural to have mixed feelings, with hopefully having joy, but maybe feeling some sadness and regret that he isn’t around.

“Keeping open communication and sharing memories is such an important part of their bereavement as a family. And it says to their blended family that it is a loving place to be.”

A new chapter has begun in all of their lives with Becky and Tom now expecting a baby together in September. They decided to capture the moment on video to tell her three children and Tom’s two from a previous relationship that they will have a new sister or brother on the way….


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