A grieving mum whose daughter died after a planned operation has been inspired to help children and teachers deal with the loss of a classmate and pupil.
Aimee Wood’s daughter Olivia Wood died at the age of five in February last year, and she was known for her smile.
After seeing how Olivia’s death affected her classmates at Cropwell Bishop Primary School, Mrs Wood, 41, decided to set up a charity to help children come to terms with the death of a school friend.
“It was really clear her absence was noticed, lots of her friends were really struggling,” she said.
She is in the process of raising money to get the charity registered and hopes to hold assemblies about grief and talk to teachers. The charity is called Olivia’s Smile.
Mrs Wood, who works at the West Bridgford Junior School as a catch-up intervention teacher, said: “It was seeing the misconceptions that children had about death, through no fault of their own. Parents struggle to know what to say.
“What drove me to do it was the fear of children growing up with a huge misunderstanding about the unknowns of death.
“Lots of people are terrified to talk to children about death.
“I think people fear talking about death and dying and using those words. People say things like ‘we’ve lost Olivia’ and children think that means you can find her again. It’s about changing the way you discuss death with children.”
Mrs Wood, who lives in Cropwell Butler, said she came up with the idea after spending time with Olivia’s school friends, saying: “It initially started with me having her friends over for playdates.
“I just realised that these children needed to see that life does move forward after something tragic happens.
“A lot of Olivia’s friends’ parents have decided to take part in marathons and raise money for it.
“Another school I used to teach at in Northampton donated all the proceeds from a virtual run they did.
“Olivia’s school are really grateful and have said they still have children who ask about Olivia even now.”
She said “grief does not go away, you have to learn how to handle it”.
Mrs Wood has worked as a teacher for 21 years and said she’d never experienced the loss of a pupil.
She hopes the charity can offer “care and compassion for bereaved school communities” and that it can work nationwide.
On how the concept will work, she said: “Schools would contact Olivia’s Smile charity for bereavement support. I would go into schools, run assemblies, chat to classes and be a support for teachers and parents who need it.
“I’m just really passionate about it and know I can make a difference.”
Mrs Wood has teamed up with printing company The Crazy Aunt Collective to create T-shirts for the campaign, with proceeds going to establish the charity.
The campaign has raised more than £3,400 and Mrs Wood aims to reach £5,000.
The hope is for the charity to become registered by the start of the new academic year.
To read more about Olivia’s story, follow this link.