Heartbroken parents create film project to help other grieving families

Jane and Jimmy
Jane and Jimmy

Tragically, they were delivering the worst news any parent can hear – her son had been killed.

Josh had taken six months off work to go travelling in Asia, but just a few weeks into the holiday in 2011 he was killed in a road accident in Vietnam. He was only 22.

“When you see two policemen coming to the house, you wonder what they want,” Jane, originally from Troon, said.

“Facing up to the reality of what you’re being told, the unexpectedness and awfulness of it, you can’t digest it.

“It’s not a life event you think will happen to you.

“Losing a child – that’s the wrong order of what’s supposed to happen.”

Jane and husband, Jimmy Edmonds, were obviously devastated by the loss.

But as they tried to deal with the heartbreak they realised they were tackling their grief in a way that made others uncomfortable.

Rather than shy away from talking about Josh, they made a point of keeping him a constant presence in their lives.

This approach led therapist Jane and Jimmy, a BAFTA award-winning editor, to set up a website in his honour, Beyond Goodbye, and produce a number of films examining how we deal with grief.

They’ve just returned from a road trip through America and Mexico, where they spoke to 12 families who have lost a loved one, for a feature-length documentary called The Good Grief Project.

“It all started with the funeral,” explained Jane, also mum to 23-year-old Rosa and stepmum to Joe, 37.

“When Josh died it was like we entered a new world. Everything became different.

“We had never organised a funeral before but we decided to do it all ourselves, even building the coffin we wanted for him with help from our local community in Chalford Hill, near Stroud.

“Jimmy and I have always filmed and photographed important life events and so we decided to film the funeral.

“We wanted a record of it. People are often uncomfortable with recording at funerals but it was what we wanted.

“Rosa, who was 18 when her brother died, reminded me that Josh wasn’t just ours.

“She felt, and we agreed, that it was crucial to involve his friends.

“Being open about our grief made it easier for them to express their emotions and engage more at the funeral.

“We had great footage of his friends speaking at the funeral and we wanted to honour their bravery.

“Learning about death, they told us, made them think about life.”

The result was a documentary, Beyond Goodbye, and a longer version, Remembering Josh, both of which have been viewed thousands of times online.

“We were very public about our grieving and people found it uncomfortable,” Jane admitted.

“That stiff upper lip way, keeping it all to yourself and not expressing the pain that comes with it, wasn’t for us.

“We wanted to bring death into the open. It’ll affect us all at some point.

“After the funeral, you’re just supposed to try to return to a normal life.

“But a year later I felt very isolated. I think people believed if they talked about Josh, it would upset us.

“We were already upset – because of what wasn’t said rather than what was.”

Jane and Jimmy joined The Compassionate Friends, a charity that supports parents and siblings after the loss of a child, and discovered there were a lot of other people who also felt “cut off and isolated”.

So when they were asked to make a film that addressed that, they jumped at the chance and a year later Say Their Name was released. It’s since been viewed all over the world to help people understand what being a bereaved parent is really like.

The couple set up the website Beyond Goodbye, which became a gathering point for people who have suffered a loss, and two years ago it won the best internet bereavement resource from the Good Funeral Guide.

Josh’s friends, inspired by his passion for travelling, also set up Postcards for Josh.

“They send a postcard to him whenever they go away,” Jane said.

“Just to say they’re thinking of him or to recall a story about him. It sounds strange but it’s actually really comforting, bringing him back into the moment.

“His friends also organise a walk every year in his honour and I think they see Josh as the glue that still brings them together.

“It can be bittersweet. One of the group has a child now and you realise Josh won’t ever have that, but at the same time you still feel happy for his friends.”

Travelling across America and Mexico filming for their latest documentary allowed Jane and Jimmy to meet a number of inspirational people who have managed to battle through a major loss.

“Everyone comes through it differently,” said Jane.

“There are lots of reasons to feel anger and not forgive, but the project is about looking at the hope and positivity they have found on the way.

“They would all say they didn’t think they would make it through, but when faced with the unthinkable you have to be creative.

“Nothing makes up for the loss, but we’ve learned more in the last five years of what’s important, what matters, what hurts and what helps, than I have in the rest of my life.

“Bereaved parents really like to hear their child’s name – it matters.

“That’s probably the same for someone who’s been widowed.

“You carry them with you but you move on as well.

“You never get over it – you learn to live with it.

“Just because they are dead doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Your child is always your child.

“Someone asked me if I’d found closure yet but I don’t want closure.

“What does that mean – when you shut a door and that’s it?

“We’ve found lots of openings but never closure.

“I learn more about him all the time because his friends talk to me about him and the things he did.

“Josh is very much in our lives and I don’t think that’s unhealthy.

“It’s better to grieve and remember than to lock it away.”

Visit beyondgoodbye.co.uk and tcf.org.uk for more information.


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