Angel O’Dwyer explains how difficult dealing with grief is as a teenager.
When I found out that my 18-year-old sister was killed in a bike crash while she was on holiday in Zante I was completely at a loss. There are no words that could describe the emotion and pain.
I was 15 and stopped caring about things that used to matter to me before. School was the worst. I was very angry all the time and got into pointless fights which resulted in me being excluded.
My school provided me with a mentor and I had to attend a programme called Reaching Higher.
My mentor was great but the general support on offer to me wasn’t enough. I needed more help outside of the 9am to 3pm school hours. My mentor referred me to the Palace for Life Foundation which focused on personal development and employability skills.
To begin with I didn’t really want to be there. I felt I was forced to be there to make up for the time I would have been spending in sixth form.
The project manager at the time, Susan Patterson-Smith, and head of community development, Soye Briggs, told me they saw potential in me and motivated me to follow my dreams.
They showed they cared by calling me to ensure I was turning up and contributing. They made me feel confident and helped me improve my sense of worth and self-esteem. They made me feel like I was somebody with purpose again. This changed my perspective on life and made me feel like I could do anything I put my mind to.
Now I give back to the community by using my experiences to inspire and raise awareness of the challenges young people face.
I am currently a coach on many community based programmes with the Foundation. I was also in Moscow before the World Cup coaching Team England at the Street Child World Cup. I worked as a coach and mentor with young players who have experienced homelessness, rehabilitation or social exclusion. However, not every young person is given the opportunity to be pulled out of the hole they are sinking in to nor are they made aware of the support available to them when they are in a similar position and grieving.
Schools can only do so much and in many cases, parents and guardians are not an obvious form of support to turn to because they too are going through their own ordeal.
I didn’t want to talk to my mum about the hurt I was feeling because although I had lost my sister, she had lost her child. Young people are our future and more needs to be done by society as a whole to support them when they need it, even if they feel like they don’t.
While there is a lot of support available in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic situation, the long-term emotional effects are often forgotten and victims, friends and families are often left to deal with the fear, trauma, loss and grief without any support.
If you are affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article and would like support, the CDI (Croydon Drop In) is a charitable organisation that exists to support young people aged 11 to 25 years old.