Matilda is 13 years old and lives in Devon with her Mum, her two older siblings and their dog Basil. She loves going to ballet lessons, musical theatre, and watching rugby. Tom Daley went to visit them during his Hell of a Homecoming Challenge for Red Nose Day.
You can watch Tom’s challenge documentary, featuring Matilda’s story, on BBC iPlayer(opens in new window).
In April 2021, Matilda’s dad Ian died very suddenly and unexpectedly at home. The family would later learn the cause was a rare condition known as Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS). Ian’s death was an enormous shock to everyone–especially Matilda: “My dad was quite quiet, but he was really funny. He was a sporty person so we’d go for long walks which was nice.“
I found it difficult to talk to my brother and sister. I didn’t really like speaking about it with them...”
Matilda hadn’t told many people at her school about what had happened. Holding her emotions in left Matilda feeling increasingly angry and confused.
Matilda’s mum heard about a local bereavement charity, Balloons, which received funding from Comic Relief. Balloons provides support for children, young people and their families before an expected death, or following the death, of someone significant in their lives. Matilda’s mum, Lena explains:
“I felt I was failing as a parent because I was dealing with my own grief, and I just didn’t know how to support her. I think the thing for someone Matilda’s age is that nobody knows what to say. She didn’t have the age range of friends who could support her.
"Going to Balloons was somewhere she could express how she felt and knew she would be listened to. It didn't matter what she said, she could just talk. It was a release."
Matilda started attending one-to-one grief support sessions with Louise, a volunteer support worker. Louise helped Matilda understand her experience of grief and together they developed strategies to help her cope.
“When I first heard about Balloons, I was scared at first but I was happy at the end of it, I’m glad I went.
“They’ve helped me because I had someone to talk to. I had kept it all in and it was good to talk to someone about it.
“We made a memory box and a calm box. I learnt strategies for calming my anger down which was really helpful.”
Importantly, the sessions helped Matilda to feel more confident and hopeful about her future. She hopes to study Criminology when she’s older – her mum thinks she watches too many detective programmes on TV!
The support from Balloons has made a big difference. Being able to open up to someone has helped Matilda to feel less anger and to adopt techniques to manage her emotions when she has a difficult day.
Matilda’s mum, Lena is very happy that Balloons was there to help Matilda through this difficult time:
"It was almost like a lifeline, really, when Balloons said they could help. I felt I was able to do something for her by getting it sorted that I knew someone would be there for her. We are very, very grateful to Balloons.”
Whilst the grief will always be there, Matilda knows that her life will grow around it.
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