Jen's Journey from Client to Volunteer

In this moving blog post, Jen our volunteer, opens up about losing her parents and raising her daughter. Jen's story covers the journey from reaching out to our support services, to volunteering with us.

March 05, 2024

"I was age 31 when my Mum died. Three years after my dad died with Cancer. I won’t go into all the details but my Mum died in ICU after nine days of being on life support machine with multiple organ failure. She survived three years and three days after losing the love of her life.

Around this time, my baby was 11 months-old. I was planning a funeral and a first birthday party within the space of weeks.

I had no time to think and as sure as fate, my Mum’s funeral, despite Covid restrictions, was a day to remember. It wasn’t a packed-out Crematorium the same way my Dad’s funeral was but everyone that was close was there. There were people who joined outside watching the live stream from their phones. Both funerals, three years apart, were beautiful June summer days and both were a time of celebration with a few beverages afterwards to mark it. We had beautiful Summers both these years too.

After my Mum died, I put all my focus into my daughter. I felt like I had already been sad enough after my Dad died. I didn’t want to be sad again. My life needed to go on for the sake of Freya. I was feeding the empty hole inside me literally with chocolate, along with distracting myself with activities, shopping and holidays.

Being an only child I had my Mum’s estate to deal with, a straightforward Will took a year through probate thanks to the backlogs of Covid in the courts. I decided early on that I wanted to move ‘home’. It took me a long time to go through my parent’s belongings, not wanting to part with things. I still have an attic full of some treasure.

It was difficult to go through their belongs, I could only manage it in short bursts because I would suffer awful migraines. I could never cry; I wished for the tears to come and release some of the pain, but they never would. Instead, the tension built up until my head felt like it would burst. All I could do is rest.

When I was ready, I was able to organise workmen, choose paint colours and think about the positives of moving ‘home’. Raising my daughter where I was raised, surrounded by my wonderful childhood memories, gave me that feeling that my Mum and Dad are never too far away.

Of course, that also brings a stark reminder that they “should” be living there. Who else has that word should going round their heads?

The anger and resentment really started to kick in around the time of my 33 Birthday. I was parentless, with my daughter. What I felt was most unjust was thinking of my upbringing. Memories came flooding back of how on most days, I would spend my time at my Grandma and Grandpa's.

Both my Mum and my Dad were 65 when they died. They were two very special people who had worked hard and saved their whole lives for a good retirement. My Mum had retired at 56, she was a Senior Mental Health Nurse. Thinking of all those people she had helped makes it feel even more unfair. My Dad basically worked right up until his cancer diagnosis.. How was this fair? Why was it my parents? Why is life so cruel? I am sure I am not the only person who asked these questions.

I was very close to them both. My Dad was so easy going, loved a cuppa and a chat. He was the cook of the house and when I was learning to drive, he took me out in my car to practice every night and all day on Sundays. My Mum was my confidant, we spoke everyday and she knew my diary better than me, we both enjoyed shopping until we dropped with a nice lunch to break the day up.

I am however, so very grateful that I got to have them as parents. It would have been great to have them both for longer but I have realised it was quality and not quantity. They made me who I am, loving and raising me to be the person I am. Without them, I would not be the positive person that I am today. The person with the strength to carry on and get through these hard years.

Throughout this journey I reached out to Cruse Scotland Helpline and then decided to find my own counsellor (who actually used to work for Cruse Scotland but I didn’t know that until much later). With counselling, I managed to retell my story to someone who understood. I discovered journalling and realised the written word was the most helpful remedy. I began to rediscover myself and who I was. I was not just Freya’s Mum, the identity I adopted and that helped me survive. I was more than that.

In time, I felt that I needed something else. I was ready to start a new challenge and help other people, creating a sense of purpose. I went home that night and visited Volunteer Action and found nothing I could see myself doing. A few days later, on my Instagram I saw a post from Cruse Scotland looking for Fife volunteers, I ignored it and it popped up again. This time I decided to apply.

Here I am, a step-by-step volunteer and a volunteer for the Helpline. My daughter is thriving and loving her social life at nursery and childminders. My life is building up round my grief. My grief will always be a part of me. I think of my Mum and Dad every day and some days the pain of missing them still feels very raw. I expect that forever because grief is the price we pay for love. And I am proud of myself and the life I have created."

Thank you Jen for sharing your moving story with us, and for all of your hard work.

If you are interested in volunteering with Cruse Scotland, please register your interest here. 

If you are struggling to cope with grief on or around Mothers Day, please reach out to our support services.

Please phone our helpline on 0808 802 6161

We're open from 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and 10am-2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Alternatively, access our GriefChat online service here. 

Jen's Journey from Client to Volunteer