My Story – Ray Chapman
Candis Club has given over £54 ¾ million since 1962. Here’s how your money is still helping real people…
The Charity: Road Victims Trust
What they do: Provide support to the victims of road collisions.
Who gets help? Since 1995 the charity has helped thousands of families. Each year there are approximately 80 fatal road collisions across the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, with every single fatal collision across the three counties being referred by the police forces to The Road Victims Trust.
“We’ve had to learn to live without Jake”
Ray Chapman, 54, tells how the Road Victims Trust helped his family deal with the grief of losing their youngest member
Just after Christmas 2009, my wife Janet and I were enjoying a night out with friends when we received a call from our daughter, Gemma, to say our 14-year-old son, Jake, had been hit by a car while riding his bike.
Terrified, we rushed to the scene, where a policeman drove us to the hospital. I’ll never forget how he looked – his face was white and full of anguish – and Janet kept saying to him, “You’re taking us to see his body, aren’t you?”
At the hospital, we were told Jake had been killed instantly. It’s impossible to put into words the emotions you go through – the pain was physical. It’s something from which you know you will never recover.
After the accident, our friends and family rallied around, helping in any way they could. They did so much for us but, despite being surrounded by people , I had never felt so alone. Jake was so bright and cheeky, so spirited and full of life. He made us laugh every day. It was impossible to imagine life without him, yet every morning we’d wake up to discover the nightmare was our daily reality.
Following the funeral, Janet decided to return to her job at a care home. She was completely devastated but knew she had to carry on for the sake of our children and decided work might give her another focus. Our children Gemma, 26, and Lee, 23, also went back to work and college respectively. However, I was off work due to ill health and remained at home, where I went downhill very quickly.
I was wracked with guilt. It’s a father’s instinct to protect his family, yet I could do nothing to protect my son. I became angry at the world, but I didn’t want my grief to make people feel awkward so I bottled it up. There were times when I felt I wanted to take my own life, just to make the pain go away.
Thankfully, two weeks after Jake’s death a friend noticed how distressed I was and called the Road Victims Trust to put me in touch with our local counsellor, Frances, who visited us later that week. To be able to open up to someone who understood what we were going through was a great relief.
Frances went on to support us over the next two years, with both group and individual, practical and emotional sessions. We shared our memories of Jake, what the world was like for us without him in it, and the more we talked about it the easier it got.
One day I realised I’d talked openly about Jake without bursting into tears. In fact, I could think or talk about the funny things he used to do and smile to myself. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s more that you gain the tools to cope.
For so long, I couldn’t bear to hear the sound of sirens, they would almost send me into a panic attack. But now when I hear them, if I’m driving, I pull over and imagine I’m somewhere else, in a ‘safe place’. It takes a few minutes then I can carry on with my day. We all still have times when everything seems too much but we know we can pull through. It’s a case of expressing your emotions, not letting them get the better of you. It helps to know we can still count on the Road Victims Trust if we need their support again.
How has Candis helped so far?
The £54,516 the Road Victims Trust raised in The Candis Big Give will help them to offer free support to those affected by the trauma and bereavement of a fatal road collision, through professional Coordinators and specialist trained Counselling Volunteers, helping to address the emotional and practical needs of road victims.
How can I help? Click here to donate or find out more: www.rvtrust.org.uk