Lonely In London: Parents bereaved by knife crime must not suffer in silence alone

Friday, 5th August — By Anna Lamche

love and loss

The Loss and Love group meet at the Arsenal hub

LOSING a child to knife crime can be a deeply isolating experience, but families shouldn’t “suffer in silence,” a parents’ support group has said this week.

Jenny Appleton’s son Stefan was just 18 when he was fatally stabbed in Canonbury in 2015. She said the grieving process can be long and isolating.

Her family was very supportive but “some families don’t understand,” she said. “They say: ‘move on, they’re gone,’ but that’s not what you want to hear from family, because you can never move on. It’s going to always be there.”

“It’s like being knocked down every minute, every step of the way. Then birthdays come and anniversaries and Christmas: it just doesn’t stop,” she said.

Ms Appleton said bereaved parents often lose friends after the death of a child. “Friends I thought were friends stayed away and to this day I haven’t spoken to them,” she said.

“I get things like ‘I don’t know what to say to you, I don’t know what to do’ – but you don’t have to do anything, just come and be here, just give me a cuddle,” she said.

In 2016 Ms Appleton set up Love and Loss, a parents’ support group that meets once a month at the Arsenal Hub. “It’s really important to talk to other families. After a while everyone moves on, but you don’t, you’re still there.

“But if you want to talk about it, it’s nice to have someone you know that’s gone through it – that’s what our space is about, we understand each other, we all know the pain,” she said.

Relatives of murdered young men take a trip together to Camber Sands

At the meetings, bereaved families have the opportunity to talk, play music, share food and do arts and crafts, as well as taking trips away. “We talk about how we’re feeling, not just what happened to our loved ones, because that can be so heavy,” she said.

Jessica Plummer, a member of Love and Loss whose son Shaquan Sammy-Plummer was murdered in 2015, said the experience of losing her child has taught her the importance of connecting with the community.

“Don’t sit in silence,” she said. “We make it worse for ourselves when we don’t reach out to people.”

After Shaquan’s death, Ms Plummer was stuck on a three-year waiting list for counselling. “Sometimes we try to knock on doors and they are closed in our faces, but help is there: we just need to push for it,” she said.

In 2016, she established the Shaquan Sammy-Plummer Foundation, visiting schools and colleges to share her son’s story. She hopes her interventions will help children understand the ruinous impacts of knife crime.

She also stressed the importance of grieving parents spending time together. “We need to not suffer in silence, we need to meet up with other parents and ask what they feel,” she said. “We’re not there to judge them, whether their child was involved in knife crime or not – no one has the right to take a child’s life,” she said.

Over the weekend, several mothers from Love and Loss visited Camber Sands in East Sussex. “We had something to eat by the beach, we were playing music and trying to dance,” Ms Plummer said. “We try to uplift ourselves as best we can.”

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