Mind is helping me cope with losing my son Robert
Tracey blogs about how starting a fund on Memory Space is helping her come to terms with her grief.
Robert, our dearest son and brother to Joe, sadly took his own life at the end of April. He was just 34 years old.
Robert lived life to the max, he was a social animal, but he struggled during the recent lockdown – alone for a month with his thoughts, drinking for solace and unable to do all of the things that he enjoyed. He was one of the unaccounted deaths of COVID-19.
He made it clear that his success with work wasn’t making him happy. In lockdown, all these feelings were amplified
Prior to the lockdown, Robert had some existing issues – he was drinking too much and gambled (he was an options broker and the behaviours from work spread into his personal life). Those issues meant his life was, at times, unstable. Even though he was extremely successful at work, having become a director at just 31, he made it clear that his success with work wasn’t making him happy. In lockdown, all these feelings were amplified, and we don’t believe he sought help to deal with them.
We will all remember the fun loving ambitious young man who strived to be the best in his field, his work describing him as 'an extraordinary talent, a maverick, an occasional handful but a lovely person with a genuine heart’.
Robert loved his dog Bruce, who helped him through some of the dark times. He described Bruce as his best friend.
Robert’s message to the world following his passing is to be kind, show respect, act with integrity and to keep your family close. He was also keen to help ensure other young men don’t find themselves in a similar situation to him.
We hope that you can help honour Rob’s wishes by donating to Mind. This will make sure his death is not in vain
We hope that you can help honour Rob’s wishes by donating to Mind. This will make sure Robert’s death is not in vain by funding the provision of support to individuals suffering with mental health issues.
We also wanted to say that we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and kindness from Robert’s family, friends and colleagues. He could not fully understand how much he will be missed.
We have lost a very dear son and brother, a smart, funny, intelligent young man, who could not find his place in the world and could not see his full potential.
Sadly, this is not the first suicide in our family. My brother also took his own life when he was just 28 and it was Robert who helped me through – he was a one- year old baby at that time and I had to keep going for him. My husband’s brother also sadly took his own life at the same age, so it is something we’re all aware of and care about deeply in my family.
Personally, I had some problems with stress at work some years ago, it was pretty much frowned upon to talk about your mental health then. I didn’t fully realise the physical effect that mental illness had until I became sick with stress, and my doctor instructed me to take some time off.
I wanted to raise money in his memory. I was pleased to find that Robert’s story resonated with nearly everyone
The primary piece of advice that I would give about coping with bereavement is that people should not be afraid of being open with others about mental health issues. Within three or four days of Robert passing, I knew I wanted to raise money in his memory. I was pleased to find that Robert’s story resonated with nearly everyone we shared it with and, more than that, people were forthcoming with praise about our honesty. It’s a cause that many have been touched by and wanted to support. So, we decided to pay tribute to Robert by starting a fund on Mind’s Memory Space to help ensure people with a mental health problem have somewhere to turn to.
Robert knew a huge amount of people, partly through work where he had international contacts and was really well liked and respected. We took steps to ensure that his large network was aware of the memorial page by emailing contacts and sharing the page on social media. I started my goal at £5,000 and now it’s at over £18,000. Hopefully it will go even higher, as many people can relate to Robert’s story. Each time someone donates, I feel a little better.
We also reached out to Robert’s old school, who are running a memorial event.
Further down the line, I’m planning to do a Mind Xmas Jumper Day at work. I organise this annually anyway, and this year I’d like to do it in his memory. I was inspired when I came across his Christmas jumper the other day.
Initially I hadn’t told everyone at work. My immediate team knew but due to the lockdown others didn’t even realise I was off work. It wasn’t until I spoke to my CEO, who was really supportive of raising the money, that I asked colleagues to donate. It was a hard decision, but I’m so glad I did it.
I really just wanted to get it out in the open that Robert had taken his own life. I didn’t like the idea of whispers about it among colleagues and have found it much easier just to be honest straightaway. Fundraising through Memory Space helped with that.
It’s also opened up so many discussions about mental health, suicide and bereavement which in itself has helped others. There are countless conversations I’m having, and it always shocks me to hear how many people have been affected by suicide.
When I lost my brother to suicide, I was embarrassed to tell people. Now, we are in a different world and the more awareness the better. The Memory Space site itself has really kept me going too.
The other area I’ve benefitted from is mental health in the workplace. When I was diagnosed with stress at work several years ago, my doctor told me I needed to take time off, which I did, but I really didn’t feel supported at the time or that I could comfortably talk about it.
Now, I am part of the leadership group at a financial services company (Premier) and lead the finance team. Mental health and wellbeing are taken very seriously and the company is great with supporting mental health issues in the workplace. In particular, the CEO is very hands on and has been a massive help.
I’ve also reached out to a local Mind, and they’ve passed on some useful numbers. Cruse bereavement care put me in contact with Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) – they hold regular group meetings via Zoom and I have attended the first one. Through my work I am having weekly one-to-one counselling sessions to help with the bereavement. All this makes a huge difference while I cope with Robert’s passing.
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