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How a FAB holiday helped my bereaved family

Amanda Brumpton was just 29 and a mother of two young children when she lost her husband, Leading Aircraftman Gary in 2010. For the past five years, she and son Connor, now 15, and daughter Amy, now 10, have attended a FAB (Families' Activity Breaks) camp. FAB supports bereaved military families and this year we awarded FAB with a £10,000 grant to help them offer four one-week camps in Whitby, Coverack, and Lewes for 50 families.

In this guest blog, Amanda tells us how her holidays with FAB have helped her family through their bereavement.

In his younger years, my husband had served as a royal engineer in the Army. Gary joined the RAF in 2009 and passed his basic training, proud to be awarded the Dusty Millar Memorial Trophy.

As a family we were looking forward to the future, awaiting our posting, when he sadly suffered an unexpected seizure and passed away at camp during a game of football. Connor was 10 and Amy was just five. Our lives where ripped apart and our future was uncertain. Luckily I had a fantastic visiting officer who told us about FAB (Families' Activity Breaks).Amanda with her daughter Amy

FAB had just had a pilot year and the first official FAB holiday was about to start that July. I was not very keen at all when I first watched the promotional DVD as I'm not really an 'activity holiday' sort of person. However my family gently persuaded me, and I am so glad they did.

That first holiday, going away with the children, alone, for the first time was terrifying. You are so vulnerable in the early days of grief and I was so terrified of going that my in-laws actually came to stay not far away so I could be rescued if needed.

My son didn't visually show his grief, but my daughter showed hers through anger, and I worried how I would cope with that on a group holiday. Even so, you do not know which child to worry about the most. But our 'FAB family' in Whitby, North Yorkshire, welcomed us with open arms.

You just cannot put in to words how amazing the volunteers are. Each family is given their own, and they are there every time you need them, which is invaluable when there are two children and just one mum. It was also amazing to see my son talk to people about his dad.

Unfortunately, bereaved children have much of their innocence taken away. They lose so much, and as a mum it is heart breaking to not be able to take away their pain.

You cannot tell them everything will be ok, you cannot give them the thing they want the most. FAB offers them a week to be a kid again, to get away from the sadness, heartbroken family, and sympathetic looks. It's also so good to see your son having fun, instead of worrying about if his mum is ok.

We discovered a haven, a safe little FAB bubble that we knew we'd want to be in again. FAB provided my children with friendships they couldn't find elsewhere. It has shown them they are not alone, and given us a support network all year round. It has also given them a place to feel proud of their dad, and to keep the military in their life.

That first time I had a little girl who wouldn't move from behind my leg; now she runs in each year, beaming. Each year we all gain so much from FAB, on a different level, as the children get older and we all move along this journey.

It has given us all so much confidence. Even though there is no pressure to do any of the activities, you get swept away in the fun and try things you never thought you would.

Although we can talk on about FAB and what it has done for us, there are no words to explain how amazing it is. Words are not enough. There is a reason it's called FAB!

By Amanda Brumpton

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