My story – by Julien Lawton

My story is quite a simple story. My life was as normal as most; I was happily married to Sara and we had three children; five-year-old Harrison, four-year-old Amelia and had just been blessed with our third, Gracie.

It was whilst breastfeeding Gracie that Sara discovered a lump and was feeling lethargic. After much to-ing and fro-ing to the doctors, Sara was finally and unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

Her prognosis was 1-5 years survival. She was 38.

The shock was numbing and complete. What followed was gruelling chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiotherapy. Sadly, just before Christmas 2011, after a year of treatment and glimmer of stability we received the horrific news that the cancer had spread to Sara’s brain. Further radiotherapy and chemotherapy failed to abate its spread. In July 2012, after our last family holiday to Egypt, Sara lost her fight for life.

I was devastated by the loss of my beautiful wife and had been suddenly left with three children under the age of seven. I was determined to live our lives as Sara would have wanted. We carried on as a family, with the children becoming accustomed to their father taking on both roles and even survived my cooking! We kept Sara’s spirit alive by looking at photos and talking about her regularly.

Although I didn’t want the children to feel different, they were. Their mother had gone.

I found out about Holding On Letting Go through a friend and made contact. At first, I was concerned that the proposed weekend may bring emotions to the fore and cause the children to regress.

They had no obvious effects from Sara’s death but were upset from time to time. I explained what the weekend was all about and they seemed fine with the concept.

I admit to being scared for them as I led them into the venue and waved goodbye to Harrison and Amelia (Gracie being too young to attend at the time).

However, my fears were unfounded. They both came bouncing out at the end of first day full of tales about what they had been doing, the crafts they had made and games they took part in, but I must say eating doughnuts at break time seemed to be the highlight!

The second day was just as good. They met other children who had suffered loss and it helped them to realise they weren’t the only ones. I joined them for the final part of the weekend and we took part in a balloon release with all of the other children and adults from the weekend; an emotional and poignant ceremony.

Harrison, now 16 and Amelia, now 14, came home with memory boxes which they had made to store special items that reminded them of their mummy. They continue to find comfort from the memory boxes and seem more at peace.

Gracie is now 11, but went to the weekend support weekend when she was six.
Again, the experience was extremely positive and she got a lot of it.

I am so pleased I found the charity – it has brought comfort and joy to my children and my family and I know Sara would be happy.


Julien Lawton