Road Victims Trust
“They have become like family to us”
Katie Wellbelove, 54, from Bedfordshire, shares how Road Victims Trust helped her and her family to cope with the tragic loss of her son Archie in 2012
Katie Wellbelove was getting ready to head to the gym for an early morning workout with her husband, Grant, on 7 December 2012, when her world came crashing to a halt. “Grant went outside to get the car warmed up and saw there were policemen outside our gate,” she remembers. “They came inside and, as we listened in total horror, explained that my 18-year-old son Archie had been hit by a taxi while walking home after a night out the previous evening. He had been killed instantly. I fell to the floor in complete shock, unable to comprehend what they were telling me.”
The policemen said Archie had been walking on an unlit road in Warwick, where he went
to university, in an area where the street lights had been turned off just a few days earlier.
“The poor taxi driver just didn’t see him and thought at first he had hit an animal. He stopped and called the police, who then had to get the council to turn the street lights back on so they could find Archie’s body.”
Katie, 54, and her husband drove to Warwick with a police escort and they and their children Henry, now 23, and Matilda, now 19, were taken to the mortuary. “It was just horrendous having to say goodbye to Archie. You never expect to have to bury your child, and we knew none of us would ever be the same again.”
In the weeks that followed, Katie and her family tried to cope with their grief in different ways. “My husband internalised his feelings, whereas I would often take myself upstairs to cry. Grant also liked to have a house full of people – and we were lucky enough to have friends who would drop by to bring us food and to see how we were, but I just wanted to be on my own. It was really difficult to see the pity on people’s faces and, understandably, nobody knew what to say.”
Katie’s children also struggled with their loss. “Although Henry and Archie have different personalities, they were best friends. They were only 18 months apart and attended the same university, so it was very difficult for Henry to have to return to Warwick without his brother.
“For all of us, there was a constant sense that there was something important missing from our family. Archie was a lovable rogue and definitely the naughtiest of my children, but also incredibly tactile, caring and very kind.”
A month after the accident, Katie got in touch with Road Victims Trust, whose details she had received from the police on the day of the accident.
“Following Archie’s death, I spent an awful lot of time in bed – which is very unlike me – as
I just wanted to put the covers over my head and forget all about what had happened. I was really struggling to cope and knew I needed to speak to someone.”
Katie was given support through a specially trained counselling volunteer who came to her home once a week. “It was fantastic to be able to speak to somebody totally impartial yet sympathetic, where I could get all my feelings out without upsetting anyone, knowing it was totally confidential.
“Although the charity offers practical and legal advice to those who need it – which for us wasn’t the case as it was found to be an accidental death – for me, the most helpful thing was just to find a sympathetic person I could open up to.”
Although Katie misses Archie every day, she is now also able to focus on the happier times she had with her son. “For the first year I felt really guilty if I found myself enjoying myself at a party, but now I know that’s what Archie would have wanted – he was always laughing and would just want our family to be happy. Archie was such a character – there’s not a day that goes by we don’t mention something funny to do with him and laugh – he will always be included in our lives.”
Although Katie has now finished therapy, her family continues to be involved with the charity through fundraising events and her son Henry is now an ambassador for the trust. “Thanks to the charity I began to feel a lot better in myself, so I decided to end the counselling – although I know I can always ask at any time to speak to someone again if I need to. They have become like a little extra family to me and I know they will always be there to offer their support when I need it.”
Road Victims Trust – THE FACTS
- Each year there are approximately 80 fatal road collisions across the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Every single family of the deceased across the three counties is referred to the Road Victims Trust for support.
- Road Victims Trust helps in excess of 500 people across the three counties each year whose lives have been affected by a fatal road collision.
- The service involves free weekly visits, offering emotional and practical support for individuals and families in their home for as long as it is useful.
- Visit rvtrust.org.uk for more.
BIG GIVE UPDATE
The £64,463 raised by Road Victims Trust will allow them to offer free support to those affected by a fatal road collision, through professional coordinators and specialist trained counsellors, helping to reduce long-term problems including ill health and mental health problems.