Grieving mother describes 'horrendous' lockdown months after losing Sunderland teenager Thomas Brookes

The grieving mother of Thomas Brookes who found the beloved teenager dead at their Sunderland home has described the loneliness of lockdown as the first anniversary of his death nears.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 4:00 pm

Sixteen-year-old Thomas Brookes died suddenly and was found by his mother, Helen Wardropper, at their Grangetown home on September 28, 2019.

The devastated mum tried desperately to save him but was unable to resuscitate him.

Now Helen is hoping to raise awareness of invaluable support group, Sunderland Grieving Parents Support, as she describes the excruciating loss and the impact a global lockdown has had on her mental health.

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Thomas Brookes and pictured with mum Helen Wardropper (left) and aunt Cheryl Coggins (right)

"My world had already changed forever with my son not being here. Then all of a sudden the whole world stopped,” said Helen.

"Lockdown has been horrendous. I lost my son at the end of September, then there was the first Christmas without him which was a huge smack in the face.

"We went into the New Year where a lot of people are really positive. I found I had nothing to be optimistic about. It was just grey.

"When lockdown came it was just like another thing in the grand scheme of things – my world had ended already.

Messages and floral tributes left at Thomas Brookes funeral

"But I’ve never felt more alone. Being a grieving parent is a very lonely experience anyway.

"One of my releases was going out for walks and being out in nature but that was restricted.

"Your life has ended with your son and then everything else is closing in your face.

"Nothing is as bad as losing your child but it was almost like a double hit.”

Sunderland Grieving Parents lit candles in memory of their loved ones on Roker seafront

The lockdown has also delayed inquest proceedings into the 16-year-old’s death meaning Helen is facing an agonising wait for answers

Now she is hoping to raise awareness of Sunderland Grieving Parents Support – a group which has proved invaluable to her.

The 41-year-old says there’s not enough professional mental health and bereavement support available and, unlike other groups she has attended, the members know exactly what each other are going through.

"It’s nice that we have found each other but we wish it was in better circumstances,” said Helen.

Parents in the group met to support one another.

"I’m always in a bad place but I would have been in a much worse place if I hadn’t found them.

“They absolutely know what you are going through.

The group meets every Monday afternoon at Sunderland Area Parent Support, based at Doxford Park.

During lockdown the group had been meeting on Zoom calls but came across digital hurdles.

Now they meet in a gazebo outside the base but this is only a temporary fix and they are hoping to find more premises where they will be able to meet.

On Friday, September 12, members of the group gathered on Roker seafront where they lit candles in a special memories tribute to the children they have lost.

The group, which was founded last year by two parents who had suffered the loss of a child, have started applying for funding grants to help them grow.

And members are looking to meet with other groups and charities to ensure people in the community get the best support.

The group is open to any parents who has lost a child, regardless of age. To find out more see their Facebook page or calls Sunderland Area Parent Support.

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