Widower highlights importance of bereavement counselling after Prince Harry revelation

Mark Hawkins with wife Victoria, son Max and daughter Izzy. Photo: Nelson's Journey

Mark Hawkins with wife Victoria, son Max and daughter Izzy. Photo: Nelson's Journey - Credit: Nelson's Journey

The need to talk about the effects of bereavement has been highlighted by the journey one family took after the tragic death of a wife and mother.

Mark Hawkins with wife Victoria. Photo: Nelson's Journey

Mark Hawkins with wife Victoria. Photo: Nelson's Journey - Credit: Nelson's Journey

Victoria Hawkins, from Lingwood, was 41 when she was rushed to hospital while on a family holiday in Florida, in 2014.

She collapsed at around 6.30am on October 31, and was pronounced dead at 7.43am. She died of viral myocarditis, which stopped her heart.

Now, as Prince Harry revealed he sought counselling to process the death of his mother, Mrs Hawkin's widower Mark has spoken about the help the family received from a Norfolk charity.

'Shock is the only word I can use to explain what the days after Victoria's death were like,' said Mr Hawkins, 38, who was left to look after his daughter Izzy, then eight, and stepson Max, then 16.

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'We had to stay in Florida while Victoria was seen to,' he said. 'Explaining this to Max and Izzy was hard enough, let alone being in America with no family or friends support.'

Mr Hawkins said he suddenly had to take on the role of both parents, supporting the children, while also grieving himself.

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'Max, who is now 18, did not talk an awful lot, while Izzy is just the most resilient person I've ever met,' Mr Hawkins said.

But only now has 11-year-old Izzy started to ask about what happened the day her mother, who was a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, died.

'There's no time limit on the grief,' Mr Hawkins added. The family were put in contact with charity Nelson's Journey, who arranged away days for Izzy and her father to attend.

Mr Hawkins said: 'Talking about her mum's death with strangers seemed to help. Being that much older Max visited a few times to simply have a chat. The feedback I received back from Max was very positive with what he was dealing with in a teenager's mind.'

For Mr Hawkins, he said the main thing was the encouragement that he was doing the right thing benefitted him most.

'It's about having a place to talk, it's as simple as that. You don't appreciate how important it is to talk and for someone to sit in front of you and help you in the right direction. They ask you the right questions to make you talk, it's unbelievable. I was never a massive talker, but it's so important.'

Simon Wright, Chief Executive of Nelson's Journey, said: 'Experiencing the death of a special person is difficult for anyone at any age. Children may not understand their feelings or how they can express themselves.

'Young children can struggle to understand that death is permanent, while older children may not talk about their feelings for fear of upsetting other loved ones. This will often lead to behavioural changes which can have long term consequences.

'As a society, we need to talk more openly about death, and how bereavement affects children. Prince Harry's decision to talk about his struggles will make a big difference. His experiences of shutting down feelings from a young age, and the impact this has had throughout his life, are shared by many. Nelson's Journey is experiencing record levels of demand. This is hopefully a sign we are as a society recognising the need to support bereaved children.'

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