A woman from St Neots who lost her son and father has spoken about the devastating impact of grief and finding strength with other bereaved people.
Carol Fleet’s life changed forever when her only son, Tristan, died aged 32 in February 2015.
It had been a normal day, Tristan was preparing for his night shift that evening when he collapsed and died instantly after suffering an inter-cerebral haemorrhage.
He had no underlying health conditions and there was no warning.
He worked night shifts and was also studying two Open University degrees – he had the rest of his life waiting for him.
When Carol and a friend of Tristan’s couldn’t get into Tristan’s house, they alerted the police to force entry.
“I looked at this policeman coming down the stairs and that was it, it was just the look on his face,” Carol, 59, said.
The horror and shock for Carol left her in a daze for many months.
“The anger stage was dreadful,” she continued.
“I couldn’t blame a disease, or a road accident or a murder because there wasn’t one.”
Carol recalled how Tristan was popular among his friends, and how they also became part of her life staying at their house during his school years.
They too were in despair at Tristan’s sudden death.
She said: “There are so many different sides to grief.
“I now think ‘before and after’ the death of Tristan – it could be something like the date of a newspaper article and then I’ll think how he was still alive then.
“Having now lost a parent too, I now know that it is completely different to losing a child.”
Tragically, during lockdown Carol also lost her father earlier this year in April, after he developed coronavirus while in hospital.
Ken Fleet, 98, a well-known cyclist in Huntingdonshire, passed away just days before his 70th wedding anniversary with wife Edith.
“He went into hospital because of swelling in his feet and they found he had an irregular heartbeat too,” Carol, who works as a receptionist, said.
“My mum would phone every night to say goodnight, but then we were told that a Covid test had come back positive for him and then he began to deteriorate rapidly.
“I thought ‘you can’t be dead, you’re my immortal dad’.
Carol’s journey with grief sparked raw emotions once again and she said she doesn’t feel she’s had the time to fully process that her dad isn’t here anymore.
She explained: “I feel that I’ve not had time to grieve for my dad and it has also brought all the grief for my son back to the surface again.
“I know that I move forwards now with them both beside me.
“I was once told this analogy of grief: One day you’re in a beautiful pool at the top of a waterfall and everything is great, then your life collapses and it’s like you fall to the bottom of the waterfall.
“For weeks, months, however long it takes, you struggle to make your way back up to the top, until one day you realise that you’re never going to get back there and a new stream starts to form in front of you and one day at a time, you take little steps down that new river...
“You never go back to who you were before.”
Carol joined a peer-to-peer support group called The Compassionate Friends (TCF) shortly after Tristan’s death.
It supports bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents who have suffered the death of a child or children of any age and from any cause.
They hold regular workshops, group meet-ups and have a wide-reaching online support system.
Carol said: “They [TCF] do not get a lot of recognition.
“It’s a bit of a taboo subject even to say ‘I have lost a child’.
“Before I went through this devastating loss, I did not know what to say either, because when someone says they have lost a child it is the unimaginable.
“People recoil in horror.
“TCF hold retreats where parents can socialise and listen to speakers and it is non-secular.
“When we are all together, we are all the same.
“You form friendships with these people because you have a common bond.
“It is the group that nobody wants to be part of, but we are.” For more information visit: www.tcf.org.uk/
The Hunts Post has produced a We Need To Talk...Grief podcast. It is 40 minutes long and discusses the debilitating pain and distress felt when dealing with grief, but it also offers support and advice and hope and comfort for anyone out there who is struggling to cope with bereavement.
Listening to audio programmes, or podcasts, is simple if you have access to the internet.
You just need to find a podcast platform or app that suits you and most are available via many different apps.
You can listen via our host Audioboom online at www.podfollow.com/need-to-talk
If you have an iPhone you can use the Apple podcasts app, which should already be downloaded on your phone, so search your apps for ‘podcasts’.
Or use the digital music service Spotify by searching under ‘archant podcasts’ or listen on the TuneIn/ Deezer app.
Podcasts are a great way to listen to discussions on topics that matter in your community.