When Grief Affects You Unexpectedly

When Grief Affects You Unexpectedly

Yesterday I heard that the headteacher at Grace’s former school had died. He was  a lovely man who leaves behind a wife and 4 children and I am guessing he was around my age or a bit younger. Apparently he had suffered a heart attack on the school premises after school hours and the ambulance crew couldn’t revive him. Coincidentally, Grace had had her first swimming lesson after school and then we had picked up some food shopping and, when we came past the school on our way home at around 6.30pm, I saw an ambulance at St Bartholomews with it’s lights flashing and mentioned it to Grace. I asked if they had after school activities and we both discussed the fact that may be one of the footballers had injured themselves. Nothing more serious than that.

Many of the children at Grace’s current school had attended St Bartholomews and so, in their assembly yesterday morning, their headteacher told them the sad news. There were tears from many of the children, including Grace, and they all had fond memories to share. Molly, one of her friends, came for tea after school and when they got home they shared they thoughts with me – Grace had tears in her eyes and we had a really good cuddle before her bedtime.

Ever since I’ve been trying to work out why I am so very upset, and I’ve been analysing whether I’m entitled to grieve over someone I knew but not so well as to be on first name terms. I used to find it funny that, like the children, I called him Mr Carter whenever I greeted him, like I was still at school. But you know what? I am going to feel sad about him and here are the reasons why.

I had a huge amount of respect for who he was and how he ran the school. He was such a personable man who used to stand at the school gates both in the morning and afternoon and greet all the children by name. I was always so impressed that he had taken the time to get to know every single one. Whenever either Ross or I contacted him via email, he was always very efficient at getting back to us and answering our questions. He had time for people. 

He would always get involved in dressing up for themed days and regularly made balloon animals as a gift for children who had done well as well as making them at the school fetes. He used to arrange lots of great surprises for the kids. I can recall the first Christmas that Grace was at the school and how he had arranged for Father Christmas to arrive by helicopter. It was a really impressive feat. He took great delight in getting involved in the photo booth I ran for the Leavers Party last year and, when Grace left, I knew that he would be one of the members of staff that we would miss.

The next time I spoke to him was when we realised that it had not been acknowledged that Grace had 100% attendance for her last school year. I informed the school and so, Mr Carter rang me when Ross and I were in Alicante back in July for our initial consultation with IVF Spain. He took a look at the records and it turned out that the register had been marked incorrectly for the day that she had been at Church attending the Leavers Assembly – something that I took photographs of. He was extremely apologetic and said that he would ensure that Grace got her certificate and something extra by way of an apology. When we got home, there, on the doorstep posted by hand, was an envelope with Grace’s name on it. It contained the certificate together with lots of stickers and pencils.

The school was understandably closed yesterday and is again today. I really feel for all the children who knew him and St Bartholomew’s Church is currently open to any member of the community who wishes to pay their respects. There will also be counselling available for any one affected by his loss when they return to school on Monday.

I was looking forward to seeing him again when our boy started school there but, alas, that isn’t to be. He was one of the good ‘uns, is a great loss and will be sadly missed.

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  1. April 25, 2017 / 10:28 pm

    so sorry to hear this news – he certainly sounded like a very special guy. it’s taken me many years to recognise it since i lost my mum in 2002 but I think the grief for ‘unexpected’ loss is different from ‘expected’ loss – not worse, not better, but different and i think that can make it hit people harder and make it harder to come to terms with. I remember my husband suddenly losing a colleague over one weekend at work from a DIY accident and even though neither of us knew her particularly well, the shock of it made it a strange kind of grief to deal with. Thoughts are with you. much love xxx

  2. April 22, 2017 / 8:50 am

    As a family we have known David for 10 years and met him first when my daughter Shakira attended Hinton St George school. He was such a lovely person and nothing was ever too much trouble. He had a huge presence where ever he was, always so funny, helpful and supportive.
    He is the reason my daughter had chosen her career in sport and my husband started the school football team at Hinton and progressed onto coaching.
    We only saw him a few weeks ago in town a smiling bubbly person as ever.
    I went to the school last evening and we left a single yellow rose a sign of friendship. To read all the cards children , friends and aquaintainces had written just summed David up perfectly.
    We will miss him heaven has certainly gained an angel. I hope he’s looking down on us and seeing just how much he touched everyone’s lives he met. Rest in peace my friend xxxx

  3. Iris
    April 22, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Beautifully written piece, echoing my thoughts and opinions of Mr Carter. I knew him from his days as headmaster at another local school and he was just as you say, he’d speak to everyone dropping off and collecting their children, greeting all the children not just the pupils, joining in with afterschool activities. I will never forget him in his spiderman outfit all roped up, clambering up a climbing wall on the school field cheered on by pupils and parents and the model balloon creations which I somehow had to get home intact so the children could show them to their parent’s.
    A lovely man who will be sorely missed.

  4. April 22, 2017 / 7:25 am

    I think you have every right to feel sad about him dying as he sounds like an amazing man and just the sort of head teacher any parent would want for their child. I feel very sad just reading this and I didn’t know him at all! It is always especially sad when someone dies young and leaves behind a young family. x
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  5. Clair Findlay
    April 21, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    This is written so beautifully and shows how he touched the hearts of everyone he met. I feel honoured that he helped me at the start of my journey to a new career and will never forget him for that – including the balloon models and the Spider-Man costume which has had many appearances! I hope his family can take a little comfort from the lovely messages and thoughts pouring in xx

  6. April 21, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    What a shock that with today’s technology a young, seemingly fit and healthy person can just die.
    The older we get, the more people we know die…it gets harder each time I reckon.

  7. April 21, 2017 / 2:28 pm

    Aw that’s so sad Vic. He sounds like such a lovely man and that makes a huge difference to how you feel about a school too. I still have massively fond memories of the male teacher I had at Junior school (who went on to be head of another local junior school) – some people you just never forget. X
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  8. April 21, 2017 / 11:25 am

    You should grieve anyone that touched your life in a positive way, it honours theres. How nice to have a teacher like this. I didn’t realise your daughter was called Grace as well.
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  9. Julie wadkins
    April 21, 2017 / 10:07 am

    That was such lovely words he was a amazing man who was headmaster to all 3 of my children he was always saying morning at the gates and by in the evening he will be sadly missed by many x

  10. April 21, 2017 / 9:43 am

    I think it’s a rite of passage and you mention it right at the start – someone your age has died suddenly and unexpectedly from something that tends to happen more as we get older. That’s why it hits so hard. It makes you look at your own mortality and that of the good people around you. He was clearly a lovely and very dedicated man who truly cared and will be a great loss. I’m very sorry you, Grace and your community, as well as his own family and friends have lost him. It’s a lovely but I credibly bittersweet post xx
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