“It makes me feel as though I’m not alone going through this, and that I’m not the only person.” – Grace.
Grace, 10, used her love of baking – first ignited in the kitchen with her dad – to excellent effect when she and her younger sister, Keeva, 6, and mum, Leanne, held a mouth-watering bake sale at St Oswald’s Hospice to help raise funds for other children using the Family Bereavement Service.
When Leanne’s husband, Graham, died by suicide in 2019, she didn’t know what to do or what to say to her two young daughters. In her own words, she describes the family as “sinking”.
“I didn’t know how to explain to the girls what had happened. I felt I couldn’t support or help them to understand what they were feeling.”
A friend who works in palliative care at St Oswald’s Hospice, suggested to Leanne she contact the Family Bereavement Team at the Hospice.
The grieving mum spoke to our Family and Bereavement Practitioner (Children’s Lead), Beth Gregan, on the phone, and Leanne and her daughters – Grace and Keeva – met with Beth and fellow Bereavement Support Practitioner, Sarah Beaumont, for a few sessions before COVID lockdown moved sessions online.
“Beth would have FaceTime sessions, mainly with Grace, as Keeva hadn’t turned three yet and was still very young.”
As lockdown restrictions eased, Grace and Keeva could attend face-to-face sessions at the Hospice where Beth and Sarah helped the sisters talk about their complex emotions through fun games and arts and crafts, including making a memory book about their dad.
According to Leanne, her daughters have wonderful but very different personalities.
“Keeva is a tornado of happiness. She loves to dance and sing and is very theatrical. Grace, on the other hand, is a bit quieter. She loves reading and baking and, once she’s interested in a topic, she goes out of her way to find out everything she can about it. You can ask her anything about David Attenborough, Mary Anning or, at the minute, bioluminescence.”
Leanne is in no doubt the benefits the four years of bereavement support she and the girls have received at St Oswald’s Hospice have brought her family.
“Without Beth and Sarah’s support, we wouldn’t have moved on as much as we have. We would have struggled a lot more.
“Grace and Keeva are more emotionally mature now, and they understand how to talk about their feelings.
“I can’t thank Beth and Sarah enough for the support they’ve given the girls and me.”
Leanne explained that Beth even attended a school meeting with her to help suggest ways the school could better support the girls during the day. Having Beth by her side at that meeting, Leanne said, meant a huge amount to her.
Grace and Keeva’s mum goes on to reveal that Graham was always the chef in the home and he often baked with his older daughter.
It is a skill Grace has continued to develop since her dad died, and she narrowly missed out on a place in the latest series of Junior Bake Off.
Grace loves nothing more than whipping up some delicious baked goods in the family kitchen and often uses the special cookbook her dad made, which includes a very important recipe – Leanne’s Cheesecake.
Mum’s cheesecake was just one of the tasty treats Grace made for a St Oswald’s Hospice bake sale, which also included a selection of scones, a Victoria sponge, beetroot brownies and cupcakes that her younger sister helped to decorate.
As Leanne explained, the bake sale was Grace’s idea after she told her about a similar event that had taken place at her work.
The girls’ bake sale took place at St Oswald’s Hospice and was a huge success.
Visitors, volunteers and staff could all indulge their own sweet tooth by making a purchase, before extended family and friends visited the stall to lend extra support to the girls and their mum – and snap up some of the last remaining treats.
“The bake sale helped bring out a different side to Grace. She’s usually very quiet and shy around people she doesn’t know but she was so confident on the day telling everyone about the ingredients she’d used. She had the best time.
“Keeva even helped out by selling the cakes and telling people what they should choose.”
Grace was overjoyed at the amount the bake sale made.
The youngster explained:
“I decided to ask Beth if I could do a little bake sale at St Oswald’s Hospice because they’ve been helping me for quite a while since my dad sadly passed away.
“I hoped we’d make a little bit of money but I didn’t expect to make a lot of money. We made £167.40!”
Asked why she likes visiting Beth and Sarah for bereavement sessions, and the 10-year-old deftly articulated the emotional intelligence her mum speaks of.
“It makes me feel as though I’m not alone going through this, and that I’m not the only person.”
Leanne is rightly very proud of her daughters holding their bake sale – and of the huge progress they’ve made thanks to support from St Oswald’s Hospice.
“It’s been a lifeline for us, and so I will always try and support St Oswald’s Hospice wherever and whenever I can.
“Grace and Keeva will definitely be holding more bake sales in the future.”
The impact the bereavement support has had on the family is clear to see – and the fact that the girls decided to raise funds to help other children in their situation – makes their journey so far that much sweeter!
Shaun the Sheep on the Tyne Preview Event
To thank Grace, Keeva and Leanne for their fantastic fundraising, the family were invited to a special sneak peek event and be the first to see the full flock of Shaun on the Tynes before they were let loose around Newcastle!
Mum and the girls had a great time seeing all the colourful Shauns ahead of the big launch, while enjoying Shaun-themed cupcakes and cake-pops – which are bound to give Grace some more baking inspiration!