Tony's Story | Cruse Bereavement Care

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Sir Tony Hawkhead was appointed as Chair of Trustees at Cruse Bereavement Care in 2019. After working in the charity sector for a number of years, Tony is looking forward to giving back to the charity after they supported him and his family after the very sad death of his son, James.

“Our second child James was born in February 1991. We already had a daughter, Laura, and James was a wonderful new addition to our family. It became obvious over the next few weeks that something was badly wrong with James. He was way behind in his development and appeared to be having successions of horrible fits. He had a wonderful smile though. Eventually, we ended up at Great Ormond Street Hospital where a wonderfully patient neurology team gave us the terrible news that James had a rare metabolic disease known as a leukodystrophy. James would have a very short life.

“James died in November 1991. He was nine months old. Although we had known for most of his life that he would die, we were completely unprepared for the devastating grief that followed the initial numb period after his death. Everything was filtered through a mask of pain and anger which quickly turned inwards within our family. We were on the rocks. It was then that we found Cruse. Our counsellor, as she was then known, worked patiently with us over several weeks and allowed us to confront and eventually accept our grief. In turn, it became more bearable and the light began to return. It took a long time. I still miss James today. Without Cruse, however, I am not at all sure that I would still be here.

“Having been a charity CEO for many years, I’d decided that I would work in other areas in my non-executive life. When the opportunity to be considered for Cruse came along, however, I knew that I had to run for it. I’m really looking forward to giving back some of the enormous amount that I gained from this extraordinary charity.

“Cruse has an ambitious but essential change plan which will ally its extraordinary work on the ground with 21st century communications and governance. I’m looking forward to helping bring that plan to life and thus reach ever more bereaved people who need us. For obvious reasons, I am particularly interested in parents who have lost children and also bereaved children themselves. But grief is grief. Every bereaved person deserves to be heard and supported.

“One of Cruse’s biggest achievements over the last 60 years is its continued relevance. Cruse reaches more and more bereaved people every year and transforms lives for the better. It is up to us to continue that work.”


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