Your Independent: Your letters on childhood bereavement

Last week's interview with Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, drew a huge and emotional response. Sir Al described how, as a 10-year-old boy, his father's death changed his life. Beginning a regular series featuring contributions from readers, here are some of your moving stories of childhood interrupted
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'I cried myself to sleep for years'

I was six years old. I remember arriving home after school to find my father sitting on the sofa talking with a vicar. Both looked uncomfortable and the vicar made his muttered excuses and left. My father reminded me that my mother had been seriously ill for some time. I remember asking "Is she dead?" and my father was too choked to answer me. I had never seen my father cry. I was reeling and confused with the shock.

The next couple of days were a blur. On the day of her funeral it was decided I was too young to attend so I was sent to a neighbour's house for the afternoon. Then I went home; mum and her coffin were gone. I have no recollection of anyone talking about mum. I grieved constantly, crying myself to sleep most nights for many years, but never telling anyone how I was feeling. It was wrong to talk about people who had died wasn't it?

Months turned into years and I continued to grieve privately and guiltily. In my twenties a clinical psychologist helped me to grieve, to re-experience my loss and finally say goodbye to my mother, something I had never done. This changed my life for the better. It allowed me to move on without the burden of guilt and fear of saying the wrong thing. My mother wasn't a bad person because she had left me, I wasn't a bad person for acknowledging her. I am no longer sad, angry or bitter about the way the people around me behaved and I have a great relationship with my sister who has filled in a lot of gaps for me. It has after all made me the person I am today and I am a great believer that ultimately what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Ian Chaplin, Cornwall

'The letter it took me 48 years to write'

My childhood as I knew it ended one summer's evening in 1960 when I was 11. I had been to a Guides Jubilee rally for the day; when I returned, my father told me my mother had died, our ancient dog had been "rehoused" and we were going to live with my father's rather Victorian parents for the summer. Then my sister and I were to begin boarding.

My sister and I were allowed about 10 minutes of crying, then we were told to stop by my grandfather. I pleaded with my father to be allowed to see my mother's body, but he refused. He also refused to let me go to her funeral and unfortunately had my mother's ashes scattered in the rose garden.

Last summer, my GP referred me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The counsellor suggested I wrote a goodbye letter to my mother. This was a revelation. I was so excited and gobsmacked that I had never thought of it. I wrote a letter to my mother, shredded it, and raced down to the beach. I couldn't wait to wade into the sea. I shook the letter out of the bag and was delighted that it floated away immediately. Several tons had been lifted off my shoulders. I can start coming to terms with the fact that my mother is never coming back.

Celia by email

'We had no opportunity to grieve'

My mum died when I was 11 years old and although I am now 53, I still feel this huge loss has deeply affected my life and shaped my character. When she died I was not allowed to attend her funeral and we were not given the opportunity to grieve or talk about her loss. My dad probably thought he was doing the best for us but was so sad, he seemed to want to protect us from everything. One of my biggest regrets is that I can't see her face, recall her voice or remember much about her. How could it be that an 11-year-old does not have memories? At significant moments in my life, such as my marriage, the birth of my children or during success at work, I ache for her.

Jane Eaton by email

'Am I looking for the love I lost so young?'

It's coming up to 40 years ago on 21 June that my mother and younger brother died in a car crash. I was nine years old. My father and I escaped with minor injuries. An articulated lorry jackknifed across the motorway, ripping the roof off our car. After being treated, I was taken to see my father. I asked about my mother, Dad told me she was dead. I asked about Pete, he was dead too. I felt guilty. While my father and I were sitting in a police car at the accident scene, Dad had asked me to pray for my mother. I had seen him brushing glass off Mum's face. Dad thought Pete was OK, so I didn't pray for him.

At home I remember my grandmother closing the curtains and I kept opening them, I didn't understand. Dad told me a few years ago that he never got over losing Peter. I married a man 17 years older than myself: I am not sure if I was looking for the sense of security and love my mother gave me. I am now divorced. I have missed my mother and brother more as the years have gone on. Finding a newspaper cutting reporting the accident a few years ago devastated me. The brakes on the lorry had failed and a vital "pin" was missing. These small things ...

I think I have always been looking for someone to love me; maybe no one loves you like your mum. I am sorry someone decided we were too young to go to the funeral. I wish I could have seen them again. I even thought that maybe I was dead and they were alive in a parallel universe (I thought of it first, Stephen Hawking). My life would have been very different.

Christine Thomasson by email

Do you have insights into any of the issues featured in 'The Independent?' Tell us your story and we'll publish a selection of responses. Write to us at: yourindependent@independent.co.uk

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