Mother and son to skydive in aid of Isabel Hospice bereavement service that helped them in the wake of Grandad Bill's death
A mother and son who were supported by Isabel Hospice’s bereavement service during their family’s darkest days are skydiving to raise money for the charity.
Single mum Sarah Hollingsworth says family life reached crisis point when son Nathan Smith struggled to process his grief after losing his adored grandfather to cancer during the 2012 summer holidays.
Nathan, then just 13, was so bereft that it triggered extreme separation anxiety and agoraphobia, resulting in him missing two years of secondary school, becoming isolated from his friends and too afraid to leave the house. Even more worryingly, he started to harm himself.
Now aged 20, Nathan said that he was incredibly close to his grandad, Bill, with a shared love of the outdoors and gardening.
“We had a very close bond,” he said. “We always liked being out in the garden together and I remember when I was very little I used to have my toy wheelbarrow and follow him about.
“When he was ill, I’d help Nan in the garden and Grandad would instruct us from the side. After he died, I continued keeping his garden for him.”
Sarah, 45, added: “He was a brilliant, caring and very hands-on grandad to all four of his grandchildren. He was always changing nappies when they were little or getting down on the floor to play with them.”
But after Bill passed away, Nathan struggled to cope.
“I was worried about leaving Nan on her own in case something happened,” he said. “I was always worrying whether Mum and my sister were okay. I’d get to school and start panicking that I wasn’t there with them. I just wanted to be at home all the time. I was terrified that something bad was going to happen and of losing them.”
Sarah, a domestic assistant at Hockerill Anglo-European College, added: “It was the hardest thing that’s ever happened to us. My daughter, Amber, was only nine at the time and didn’t really understand what was going on, but I had to deal with her seeing her big brother upset and shaking. It was a very difficult period.”
During his first counselling session provided by Isabel Hospice’s children and young people’s bereavement service at the family’s home in Northolt Avenue, Nathan was so emotionally distressed that he hid the entire time trembling behind a pillow.
But with weekly support, he slowly learned how to come to terms with his loss, overcome his anxieties and return to Birchwood High School to sit his GCSEs. He is now studying horticulture at Writtle University College, inspired by his grandad, who was a groundsman for East Herts Council.
Sarah said that without the support of Isabel Hospice, Nathan would not be where he is today. She too has benefitted from grief counselling, as has her mother, Gloria.
“If we hadn’t have had that support we wouldn’t have got through it, and Nathan wouldn’t be where he is now, at uni doing his degree,” she said.
The pair hope to raise £500 each through their skydive at the North London Skydiving Centre on March 15.
“It’s going to be pretty amazing, especially doing it together – it’s going to be mother and son bonding time at 13,000ft!" said Sarah.
“I think Dad would be extremely proud of us both, but especially Nathan, not only because he's following in his footsteps with the gardening but also to see how far he’s come.”
You can sponsor Sarah and Nathan via their Justgiving pages at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nathan-smith-2020-skydive and https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-smith-2020-skydive.