In the first of a two-part series, 13-year-old Betsy Banks tells Bev Creagh what it was like to lose her much-loved younger brother.
Betsy was only 11 when her 13-month-old brother Sidney died suddenly from a streptococcal infection.
“I miss him so much,” she says simply, before explaining: “He was a bit of a miracle baby – there was a 10 year gap between us.
“My parents had given up trying. Then Sid came along.
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“He was always really happy and healthy. But he got croup one night and passed away.
“He was always so smiley – he was almost perfect. I did everything for him. I got him up in the morning and Mummy said I was like a second mum to him.
“When he died I was staying with my grandparents. I didn’t cry at first, I just felt sick. I wanted to go straight home to see my parents.
“Daddy was so distraught he sounded like a girl. It was all surreal.
“Mummy wouldn’t eat at all. She just said: ‘I want my baby.’”
“My parents talked about him a lot but it was so raw at the time and I was really emotional.
“I’ve got some amazing friends but just mentioning his name made me really upset. I’d spend the whole afternoon crying.”
Betsy realised she wanted help and her school suggested CHUMS.
“Jan my counsellor came to my home every week,” Betsy recalls.
“We did a lot of creative activities at first and we had such a good relationship that when she came into the room I just calmed down.
“I could say whatever I liked to her.
“Sometimes Mummy would phone Jan and say I wasn’t my normal self.
“When I had a really bad day I couldn’t see the point in going to lessons. Some of the teachers weren’t very helpful. I got quite embarrassed about crying and wanted to leave the classroom with my friend . They didn’t seem to understand.”
Attending a CHUMS workshop at Dell Farm with other youngsters who’d been bereaved made her realise she wasn’t alone.
Betsy says: “It was really, really helpful. It was really comforting.
“I’m so glad I went. It has this buzz that’s magical and it’s so easy to be there.
“When Sid died, I thought I was the only one who’d ever been through a loss like that. But everyone was in the same position. Everyone knew everyone else’s situation. And it gave me reassurance that I was all right.”
Being given a Schnoodle puppy called Dennis was another step towards coming to terms with what the huge hole in her life.
“He was someone I could pick up and love and cuddle,” Betsy says. “It was good to focus on something else.”
Now she has another reason to smile – a brand new baby brother called Stanley.
But she will always be grateful to CHUMS for being there when she felt she had no-one and needed them most
> For more information call 01525 863924 or visit www.chums.uk.com