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Former wife of crash victim unveils new book

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Free books to help children cope with bereavement after road crashes have been brought to the Island in memory of Major Chris Wheddon.

The book was unveiled this morning by Major Wheddon's ex-wife, Sarah Wheddon, and his daughter Katherine, who turns five next week, and who was just three-and-a-half years old at the time of the crash that claimed her father's life.

The copies of “Someone Has Died in a Road Crash”, along with a booklet for children on the sudden death of a loved one, were sponsored by East End Telecom, where Maj Wheddon's colleague Brian Gonsalves works. Lt Col Gonsalves is a former Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment.

“On September 9, 2012, Katherine's daddy and my ex-husband and friend of nearly 20 years, Chris Wheddon, was killed in a car crash in the UK. My first struggle while coping with my own loss was having to tell Katherine what had happened to her daddy,” Ms Wheddon said.

“I knew that I had to be as direct as possible, avoiding any phrases such as ‘he's gone to sleep' or ‘he's gone away' — you have to be direct; you have to use the words ‘he's died, he's dead'. During those first few months, we had to find our own way through it with the help of friends and family.”

Ms Wheddon added: “Three months after Chris died, a former student of mine, Malik Weeks, was killed in a bike crash, leaving a young daughter of similar age to Katherine — and I actually worked with his mother, Terry, and taught all three of their children as well.

“This made me think about how I needed to use what had happened to us when Chris died — how I could use that to help other people. But at that time it was still too raw for us. I couldn't make my way through that.”

Shortly thereafter, Ms Wheddon said, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she and her daughter had to travel to the UK, where they met the Thames Valley Police family liaison officer who had been on site at Maj Wheddon's crash and helped his family deal with the tragedy and subsequent court case.

“There are many reasons why I am such a fan of the books. They are really colourful; they give children a chance to write. There's a space for them to put pictures, favourite memories, to keep them alive. But they're also very realistic, without being too graphic.

“One of the things we came across was that Katherine was very curious, as all children of that age are. She had an awful lot of questions about what happened to Chris — very hard questions — and this book gave us something that we could read through together. For me, this was the concrete resource that was missing during our first few weeks and months. I knew that I had to have something good turn out of Chris's loss, and this was it.”

Ms Wheddon said funding to bring the books came “within hours” from Lt Col Gonsalves and East End Telecom, who said: “As far as I'm concerned, it's the least we can do in his memory.”

Another book on coping with grief is to be imported from the same supplier.

Superintendent Martin Weekes said the books would be given out by the Bermuda Police Service's family liaison officers and are available to anyone dealing with bereavement.

Photo by Glenn Tucker Katherine Wheddon, daughter of the late Major Chris Wheddon who died in a road crash in England, is seen with a new book that helps children cope after a fatal accident. The books will be distributed by Bermuda Police Service who have partnered with East End Telecom.
Katherine Wheddon, daughter of the late Major Chris Wheddon who died in a road crash in England, is seen with a new book that helps children cope after a fatal accident. The books will be distributed by Bermuda Police Service who have partnered with East End Telecom. Photo by Glenn Tucker

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Published March 07, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated March 07, 2014 at 8:25 am)

Former wife of crash victim unveils new book

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