TV presenter Simon Thomas praises 'lovely and kind' Norfolk community for support
PUBLISHED: 11:21 02 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:21 02 June 2019
TV presenter Simon Thomas has hailed the "encouraging kindness" of complete strangers in Norfolk after opening up about his wife's shock death in a poignant new book.
The Norfolk-born former Sky Sports presenter regularly returns to his home county, with his parents living in Cromer, and praised the local people for their reactions.
After initially starting to post blogs early last year, Mr Thomas says the reaction to his "sometimes brutally honest" writing has been positive.
He said: "People are always really lovely and encouraging. I was at the Take That concert at Carrow Road and it was great to see everyone's kindness from total strangers.
"I have had incredible support from my family and friends but when you get that from people you've never met before it is incredible.
"The reaction seems to be that people have found it helpful. It is helping people and giving hope to them. It is about knowing you are not alone.
"Death is accepted as part of life and losing a parent at a ripe old age is to be expected, but when death interrupts then we are not great at talking about it."
As father of nine-year-old Ethan, the former Blue Peter presenter has laid bare the devastation at telling his son the heartbreaking news.
The 40-year-old's death sent shockwaves through the family, with the grief-stricken journey detailed in his new book 'Love, Interrupted: Navigating Grief One Day at a Time'.
With it set to go on sale later this month, Mr Thomas toured Bungay-based printers Clays last week to see the book rolling off the press.
He said: "I wasn't planning on a book. In those early weeks after losing Gemma my sleep became so bad I was up and awake most nights.
"Rather than fighting it I would get up, sit on the sofa and start writing things down, particularly the things Ethan was saying.
"I had been writing away one morning when Ethan came downstairs and asked if I was going to write a book, and that is where the idea first came from."
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Mrs Thomas passed away in November 2017, just three days after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
Mr Thomas said: "The really important message is to know about the symptoms of blood cancer that we were ignorant of.
"The signs were all there but we just didn't pick up on them. Maybe it will help people look out for it."
In an extract of the book, Mr Thomas says: "My hands were trembling on his shoulders as I started to speak. I said: 'Ethan, you know mummy hasn't been very well.'
"He slowly nodded but said nothing. 'Well, today mummy became really, really poorly, which is why you came into the hospital to see her.'
"He was silent and carried on looking intensely into my eyes, and my heart was beating faster and faster.
"I said: 'I'm so, so sorry. The doctors tried everything to make mummy better, but...'
"Before the words could even form in my mouth, tears filled his eyes and he cried out: 'Has mummy died?'
"Every part of me wanted to somehow sugarcoat what I had to say but I knew, for his sake, I couldn't.
"His legs began to buckle and I said what I'd never imagined saying in my worst nightmares: 'I'm so, so sorry, but mummy's died'."
Mr Thomas also discusses his depression after failed IVF attempts and knowing the couple would never have a second child, as well as his battle with anxiety throughout his life.
In the book, he says: "The reality is that life doesn't feel worth living anymore when you're in so much pain. You think 'what's the point?'
"You will have moments when you lose sight of what's important.
"I'm prepared for people to say I was selfish and thoughtless, but grief is messy. It snaps you in two. You think and behave in ways you'd never imagined.
"But thankfully both times I reached a really low point, the thought of Ethan flashed into my head and gave me the strength and purpose to carry on."