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From heartbreak to healing: Stroud mum on a mission to help

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Finding strength from adversity, Stroud mum Charlie Mitchell is on a mission to help others going through a crisis.

A mum of three, Charlie’s life changed in an instant on March 4th this year when she took her youngest son to A&E only to find out a few hours later that Thomas had leukaemia. “Everything turned upside down,” said Charlie. “We were transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital the next day to begin treatment and stayed there for three months.”

It was a tough three months, with no visitors allowed due to Covid restrictions, Charlie wasn’t allowed to see her other two children, only having a couple of hours off the ward each week, thanks to a Macmillan Respite Nurse and in that first month, it was also the four year anniversary of her partner and Thomas’s Dad’s death.

Charlie said: “Family and friends were an incredible source of support for me, sending me messages and keeping me up to date with life in the real world. The other thing that helped a lot was my writing.”

Charlie Mitchell and her children have shown great resolve to overcome such adversity Pic: Helen Green.

While Charlie came to terms with Thomas’s diagnosis, she wrote to express her feelings and a healing story emerged.

“At the start of writing, I didn’t know where it would end,” Charlie said. “Every day I just added a few sentences to it. Over a few weeks, the story became clearer and clearer. I was reading a lot of Julia Donaldson books to Thomas: Room on the Broom, The Detective Dog and Zog. I’ve never written a rhyming story before and after I’d written it out I thought I would give it a try. I realised that a lot of what I had written lent itself to a rhyming story. I asked friends to read it through for me and adapted it from there.”

The story helped Charlie so much, especially as things in her family took a turn for the worse.

“Due to Thomas’s Down Syndrome, he had an adverse reaction to the chemotherapy which meant he was very very unwell for a number of weeks.” During this time, Charlie’s eldest daughter who is 12 and has autism, also developed anorexia. Her family reached a crisis point.

“The words in the story really helped. I read it over and over and it reminded me that there is hope even when things are really tough.”

Thomas responded well to alternative treatment and has been able to spend more time at home. The family have sought support with her daughter’s eating, and she is now at a healthier weight.

An illustration from Matthew Wiggans appears in Charlie’s book

“I know parents can have such a wide range of emotions when there is a crisis. It can feel overwhelming, isolating, with no idea who to turn to or how to manage the ups and downs. I also know it’s possible to heal and even feel joy, amongst the challenges.

“This magical tale gives some sense of what life can feel like when it is stormy. Every storm is different. It can arrive abruptly with no warning, with life turned upside down in a moment. It can rumble around on the horizon, within sight, and threatening for a while before its full force is felt.

“My research has shown that 20% of parents with children who experience the world differently have a disability themselves, compared with just 8% of the general population. We are also at a higher risk of mental health challenges, addiction, and experiencing additional pressure on our relationships, which makes a lot of sense to me having had these experiences this year.

Charlie Mitchell is publishing and donating books to parents with children who experience the world differently Pic: Helen Green

“I’m on a mission to self-publish the story and donate printed books to parents with children who experience the world differently. I am hoping to make some available as a resource in hospitals so that people going through the same kind of crisis my family and I went through can feel this support at a time of need. And also to create online resources for parents who are interested in taking the healing process further.

“The more parents are able to heal and grow from their experiences the more capacity they have to support their children to develop and flourish. Wherever you are within your own personal storm, know that this too shall pass and you are loved, always.”

To find out more about Charlie’s work visit: www.starseedparenting.orgThe Crowdfunder launches on October 19th.

If you wish to donate, please visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/gifts-from-the-heart-of-the-storm-book

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