Ruth Strauss Foundation: Sir Andrew Strauss says professional support is crucial for families dealing with loss
According to the Children Bereavement Network, around 41,000 children under the age of 18 are affected by the loss of a parent each year in the UK; Ruth Strauss Foundation aims to support families facing the death of a parent and drive more research into non-smoking lung cancers
Last Updated: 13/08/21 5:25pm
Sir Andrew Strauss stressed the importance of families dealing with terminal illness of a loved one having professional help to support them.
Former England captain Strauss established the Ruth Strauss Foundation after his wife, Ruth, passed away at the age of 46 in 2018 from a non-smoking lung cancer.
The Foundation aims to raise awareness of and funds for research into the fight against non-smoking lung cancers but also offers emotional support to people as they prepare for the loss of a parent.
Speaking to Sky Sports on the day Lord's turned #RedForRuth to support the Foundation, Strauss said: "Ruth was determined we met this challenge head on and didn't pretend that it wasn't happening.
"She had the courage to get the kids involved in it but she also knew we couldn't do it on our own and needed professional help.
"You want to protect your kids from this awful ordeal so having the right kind of support to facilitate those conversations can make life a little bit easier while you are going through it and a lot easier when the children and parents are left behind.
"It is important kids feel they are being told the whole story. You can't protect them from it, you can't withhold information. As you get closer to the death, it is important kids are up to date with everything that is going on, so they feel they are included.
"Then afterwards, they need to know they are supported and loved and have permission to say how they feel and be sad.
"That support network pre-bereavement is about getting you in the right place to be able to offer that support when it happens.
"If you try and do it when it happens, you are in no state to take in any information, you are in an awful position mentally and emotionally.
"The research shows us a large proportion of kids have unresolved grief after the death of a parent and that can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes, whether that's addiction or not taking advantage of their education.
"Since we have launched the foundation, a number of people have come up to me and said 'we lost a parent 10, 15, 20 years ago and never mentioned it again in our family.'
"It was the elephant in the room and that is the big thing we are trying to get away from. We have a lot of work to do as a Foundation. This is just the start."
BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman, whose wife Sara passed away from cancer last year, is an ambassador for the Ruth Strauss Foundation.
Chapman explained how professional support helped him and his family and encouraged those in such situations to take the "timidity" out of death.
"My wife Sara died in June of 2020 from cancer and the two years before she died, from the moment we knew it was terminal, was all about preparing myself and my three kids for the time she wouldn't be here.
"She instigated an awful lot of that and didn't want her life to be defined by cancer or mine and the kids' lives to be defined by it. She was passionate about children and families being prepared.
"That bravery and selflessness to allow us all to go there in the run-up to her death is what the Ruth Strauss Foundation is offering.
"It is very easy to put Andrew and I together and say 'you have both lost your wives' but Andrew's experience is going to be very different from mine.
"Every family is different. The help that is there gets to know each individual family and what works for them.
"There is a timidity around death, we don't like to talk about it but the kids need to know what is going on as they will worry either way.
"It helped Sara to know there was someone there saying to her, 'your kids will be all right' as my wife's biggest worry was we wouldn't be OK.
"I feel the conversations will always be ongoing as it is something you carry for the rest of your life either as a husband or a child that lost a parent. That support could be needed three years down the line."