Sometimes, something happens in your community and you can’t help but ask why.
It is so tragic, so devastating and so heart breaking that everyone struggles to make sense of it.
That’s how I – and countless others – felt last year when I heard that Ashley King had lost her teenage son Ethan (17) in a road accident.
The whole community was shocked, tributes flooded in and a special football match was arranged to celebrate young lives lost too early.
But after everyone else returned to “normal life” Ashley continued to face what no mother should ever have to.
In this moving account in her own words, she talks about the volunteering that has helped her try and make sense of her year without Ethan.
Make no mistake.
Telling her story hasn’t been easy for Ashley but she has found strength to share her feelings here because she wants to raise awareness and encourage others to volunteer and become a mentor.
Let’s recognise the courage it has taken her to trust the Queendom of Fife to tell that story of her thoughts and feelings about losing Ethan.
I for one am hugely proud of her and am honoured to be the one to write this down for her. Thank you for choosing me Ashley, I believe your journey will inspire others to do good.
My journey since losing Ethan is difficult to put into words. It’s something no mum should ever have to write down.
I can’t believe I have lived a year without seeing his face, hearing his voice or receiving a hug.
He was just getting to the age where it was ok to hug your mum again!
I have always had anxiety, am a terrible over thinker and as you can imagine my anxiety is off the scale just now.
That along with grief, my brain just simply isn’t functioning as it was. I have trouble retaining information, concentrating, planning and processing is also difficult for me.
This has made my life very different now.
I am trying to accept that not only is my life different, I am a different person.
I have not been able to get back to work and I have gone back to university after a year off. I am still technically a mental health nursing student, but I am finding university hard. I just don’t have the concentration.
Trying to make sense of it
I suppose in basic terms the last year has been me at home trying to make sense of everything. Being here for my partner Gordon, his daughter and my youngest son Kyle.
In with that is my volunteering which I do once a week with Intandem.
Focus and purpose
The volunteering and being a mentor gives me a focus and a purpose to get out the house.
I really enjoy it. I want to be positive role model to my young person but also to Kyle. I am so proud of him and all that he has achieved this year.
I used to have dreams, goals and ambitions and now I don’t.
What I do have is a desire to spend more time with Kyle, my partner, Kayleigh, my family and friends who have been an amazing support to me.
They have been so patient when I have at times been really quite unreasonable and not been making sense. I confuse myself!
This last year has made me really take stock of what is important in life.
It’s not about working all the hours and having money and “the stuff” it’s about being with the people you love.
Getting involved with Intandem
Intandem mentoring is funded by the Scottish Government, supported by Inspiring Scotland and delivered across Fife by Kirkcaldy YMCA.
It is a mentoring service for young people ages 8-14 years, who are Looked After at Home. Intandem mentoring aims to improve outcomes for vulnerable young people who have been through the Children’s Hearing System and are on a Compulsory Supervision Order but still living at home with their parent(s).
Intandem provides an additional positive role model in these children’s lives by matching them with an adult volunteer who they can form a positive, supporting, trusting relationship with. The mentor encourages young people to engage in community-based activities to increase confidence and self-esteem, reduce social isolation and help to improve relationships.
I got involved with Intandem at the start of 2018. That New Year I set myself some goals that I wanted to achieve and volunteering was on the list.
I had no real specific area in mind but one day on Facebook a friend shared a post from Intandem looking for volunteers and it felt right so I made contact and the ball started rolling with training and I was matched with my first young person.
I love loads of things about being a volunteer. I like seeing you have made a difference to their confidence, for example when they order their own food or drink, open up and talk to you or just give a simple smile.
My Line manager Linda Watson nominated me for the Mentor of the Year award from the Scottish Mentoring Network and when she called to tell me I had won I didn’t quite understand what she was saying.
I thought she was telling me I had been nominated and I was like “oh great” then she said I had won and I thought she meant her team, then Intandem as a whole, but NO it was bigger than that and I was very overwhelmed!
Linda added: “Ashley is such an inspiration and so dedicated. She has truly demonstrated the commitment and resilience that is the bedrock of mentoring. I couldn’t be more proud. She has been supporting her mentee for 8 months, was a mother, worked as a carer and was studying full time at university but she always made time for her mentee.
“Ashley is a very bubbly, caring and nurturing person with a heart of gold. She always went over and above what was expected of her role and had a fabulous relationship with her mentee.
“Ashley had only been mentoring a year when she lost her son. She some time off mentoring and I had not expected her to return.
“Ashley reached out on a few occasions and was keen to keep in touch with the programme and keep in touch with her mentee even during what can only be described as the most heat-breaking and difficult period in her life.
“She was still more concerned about the welfare of her mentee and explaining why she had to take a break.
“5 months later and Ashely wanted to return to mentoring. She has had her fair share of struggles since then including dealing with a court case in relation to her son’s death and picking up her university degree but she has still continued to meet her mentee weekly as well as attending all our team and mentor events.
“Ashley is the most dedicated, caring and compassionate person I have ever known who always puts others before herself. She deserves to be recognised and rewarded for the commitment and support she offers young people on Intandem in Fife even in the face of such devastating personal life events.”
Ashley added: I only agreed to speak out and be out there about this so I can raise awareness for Intandem and hopefully encourage more people to volunteer as a mentor.
If you are making a New Year list as I did with things you’d like to do – why not try volunteering?
Even if you think you have nothing to give, you do. Also, if my story helps anyone at any time then I would be happy.
Even if it’s just one person.
I know I put on the brave face and it is exhausting and I know I am not the only person that does that.
We all have things going on that are challenging and sometimes others don’t know about – so I just want to encourage people to be kind to each other and be kind to yourself.
If you are interested in finding out more information on how to volunteer with Intandem, please contact Linda Watson, programme manager at firstname.lastname@example.org