Learning to thrive despite family breakdown and bereavement
Benjamin’s family life had never been easy. His parents had a very difficult and argumentative relationship and although they split up when he was young they continued to be extremely aggressive towards each other, which affected Benjamin’s relationships with both of them.
He lived with his mum, but they regularly clashed over her constant stream of short-lived boyfriends and Benjamin often talked about wanting to live with his dad. But thanks to his father’s alcoholism, and a stint in prison after a particularly violent fight with Benjamin’s mum, this wasn’t possible, and that relationship began to deteriorate as well.
Then, when Benjamin was in Year 10, his dad was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Combined with ongoing health complications that had resulted from his alcoholism, this meant that his condition was terminal.
Benjamin had been working with an east to west Relational Support Worker (RSW) for several months by this point, supporting him as he tried to rebuild key family relationships. But after his dad’s diagnosis we realised that what Benjamin needed most was help to prepare him for losing his dad – so his RSW focused on working through a number of practical and emotional strategies to give him the grief-management tools he’d need when the time came.
Benjamin’s dad died over the summer just before he began Year 11, which made that year a very hard one. But he clung to the support of the RSW and made use of the strategies he’d learned, and worked hard to move forwards positively. Against his school’s expectations he not only sat his GCSEs but earned a place at a local college, where he later graduated with excellent grades. Now he’s working at a local business, thriving and really enjoying what he’s doing.
When Benjamin left school, he spoke with his RSW to thank them, saying – “You made me feel like life could be normal again. You helped me laugh and smile when I didn’t think there was anything to laugh and smile about. You made me believe that I could do anything, not just because you believed I could but because you helped me to believe I could. Thank you.”
* All children's names and photos have been changed to protect their identity