Helping the Holmes’ through bereavement

For the Holmes family, having their 6 year old son constantly in and out of the Royal Children’s Hospital that was 2 hours away from their home in Shepparton wasn’t always easy.

Henry experienced his first stroke when he was still inside his mother’s womb. It was discovered he was vision impaired very early, later on falling under the umbrella of cerebral palsy, but when his family found out he couldn’t walk or talk either- it was surreal.

During her pregnancy, Jess, Henry’s mother, said everything had been completely normal and that she had carried him well. There were no warnings, no faults, it just happened. As time went on many more health issues struck Henry. From epilepsy to asthma, he was flown out and air lifted from Shepparton to Melbourne 6 times.

This wasn’t easy for the family, as when he was good, he was really good, everyone including his siblings, Gretel now 12 years old and Billy 11, loved having him around for every activity possible. But the illnesses always came on abruptly. Meaning Jess had to drop everything, call her husband Paul home from work, and leave her two other children behind, hopping on the plane with only one bag in her hand.

Henry passed away on the 19th of December 2013, after a 19 day battle in hospital with 10 days in the ICU. Jess said “his lungs had ran out of puff, but his heart didn’t want to stop, it just kept going until it couldn’t”.

Henry was in kindergarten at the time and was adored by all of the other children. Although he couldn’t speak or move around too much, the kids loved being in his group, and were very understanding of his situation. Jess told us “it was a privilege to see the relationship he built with those around him”.

“He was a pretty good looking dude, those glasses did something. He just had this aura about him, he didn’t need words to get people in, the relationships just formed”.

One of these relationships included the one with their Very Special Kids family support worker, Jenni.

Jenni was always there, and told Jess she never felt like supporting the family was work, she felt privileged to be a part of their journey. Seeing as Henry did need constant care, Jenny sometimes would give his brother and sister attention and company that they sometimes missed out on, ensuring everyone felt special.

Jess told us during her time with Henry she had made many connections with people through the services they received. Very Special Kids, with its bereavement support, ensures these connections are maintained after the passing of a child.

“You don’t only lose your child, you lose so much more” Jess explained “The one constant thing has been Very Special Kids – Jenni was always there. She knew what to do, when I didn’t”

“I cannot put enough value on having someone there during and afterwards. Still to this day we have a connection, she is a beautiful person and extremely passionate about what she does. She gets it.”

Very Special Kids provides a Bereavement Support Program that offers a safe and affirming space for families to explore the impact of their child’s death. Find out more information here.