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How Slide Away Began

I formed the idea of setting up a service for bereaved children in 2002 and since then I have been asked many times why and how my family set up the charity and what is the meaning behind the name ‘Slide Away’. I could at this point provide numerous facts, figures and statistics, all of which would provide evidence for the need to support bereaved children. However, Slide Away was not founded on the basis of national research and statistics, but from the very personal experience of my family.

In September 2001, my precious son Daniel was killed in a road accident. My training as an Educational Psychologist had provided me with the theory, but nothing in my life had prepared me for the pain of grief. When I eventually returned to work after a period of compassionate leave, I received a letter from one of our local secondary schools requesting support for a group of teenagers displaying a range of difficulties related to learning, behaviour, problems with peers and loss of motivation. All of these pupils had experienced at least one significant bereavement. I worked with this group over a number of weeks and the seed of setting up a bereavement support service for young people was sown. I had another opportunity to work with a group of bereaved children in a primary school and, with the support of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, provided this group with a range of creative activities based on the Winston’s Wish publication Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine.

In March 2003, my husband Terry and I had a long awaited appointment with Winston’s Wish to get advice on how we could set up a similar service. We were totally overwhelmed by the organisation - how on earth did we think that we could ever get anything off the ground which came remotely close to calling itself a child bereavement service? Soon after this visit, we had the opportunity to visit See Saw, a bereavement charity based in Oxford and, as a result of their wonderful encouragement and sound advice, we contacted the Childhood Bereavement Network in London. Sarah Willis and Alison Penny from the CBN listened patiently to our ideas, were incredibly supportive and told us that we needed to set up a steering group to support us. We took their advice and our Steering Group went on to become Trustees once we obtained charitable status in 2005.

It has always been my belief that grief is a normal to reaction to losing someone that you love, but life can become very difficult when trying to manage all of the emotions that come as part of the grieving process.  

I therefore thought that it was important for Slide Away to work closely with schools in order to raise awareness of the needs of bereaved children and how their grief may impact on their learning and behaviour. Also, because we were a very small charity working from home, it was important that we had a contact in school who could liase with the child, their family and school staff. I came up with the idea for a School Bereavement Co-ordinator, but a teaching colleague suggested that Co-ordinator was not such a good idea as this title usually involved writing policies etc. The role of School Bereavement Contacts was created and has been a vital and important link in our work.

In order to take our work forward, it was important to get our message across to schools and I decided to begin our work in just one Cluster and shared my ideas with Joy Ackroyd who was, at that time, Local Education Officer for Maidstone Cluster 1. With Joy’s support it was not long before we had identified School Bereavement Contacts in this cluster of schools. The following year we moved into Maidstone Cluster 2 and since receiving lottery funding in 2008 we are now able to support children in both Tonbridge and Malling.

Why Slide Away? The Oasis song Slide Away was my son Matthew’s choice to be played at Daniel’s funeral. Both Daniel and Matthew had been keen Snow Boarders for many years and when not on the slopes, relived the experience by watching Snow Boarding videos - over and over again. The first video they bought, which has become a timeless classic, is Odd Man Out, which shows a track of a professional rider effortlessly riding through the mountains in deep powder snow to the backing of Slide Away. Matthew told me that this piece of filming captured the meaning of snow boarding for them. For me, the mountain theme continued. When going through some of Daniel’s photographs, I came across a photo of him and his friends at the top of a mountain with the caption ‘30 minute hike for a 5 minute run’. Grieving feels a bit like a hike up a mountain. After a hard climb, a glimpse of a distant view before the slide down. There are sometimes many falls on the way down, but the brief moment of feeling ok at the top, somehow gives us the energy to start that hike to the top again.

I hope that this gives a brief picture of the story of Slide Away but please do contact me if you have any further questions.

Denise Ross