NEARLY 30 years ago, when Graham Edgington was left with a 16-month-old son to care for after losing his wife Jennifer in a car accident, he had nowhere to turn for emotional or financial support.
Mr Edgington, aged 57, says he was even asked by social services if he wanted to give baby James up as it was “unusual” for a man to be on his own with a child.
But the doting father brought his child up the best he could with help from his family.
The father and son, from Bradshaw, who found fame as semi-finalists in the 2010 series of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent as the singing duo Father & Son, have been through some tough times coming to terms with their loss since Jennifer died in 1985. But their unique bond, which has developed from such tragic circumstances, is evident.
Four years ago they used their experience to set up a charity to provide a support network for widowed fathers and their children, offering financial and psychological support throughout a carefully selected network and programme.
After an overwhelming response from families around the world, The Jennifer Charity now hopes that 2014 will bring a new dimension to its work by carrying out research into statistics.
This will in turn allow it to apply for funding from bodies such as Children in Need to reach more families like Graham and James.
- For more information about The Jennifer Charity visit jennifercharity.word press.com or call 01204 361723.
Graham’s story: There was nothing for men back then
"It was late January in 1985. James was only a baby
"I remember we’d had a really bad snowfall and her car skidded and hit a lamp post in Crompton Way.
“People say: ‘How did you cope?’ But I didn’t cope. There was nothing for men back then. There has always been support for women — financial support and social services support — but I wasn’t eligible for anything.
“Social services monitored me for a while because I was a man on my own with a child. They even gave me the option to give James up a week after Jennifer’s funeral. They said it was unusual for a man to look after his child.
“I had family support, which was fantastic. I believe that women have a natural support mechanism with each other, whereas men usually don’t say anything.
“I found out as time went on that I could turn my hands to things that I never thought I’d do. I could cook.
"I didn’t know how to look after a baby, but I soon learned.
"It was a life-changing experience with this little thing attached to my hip needing me all the time. I had to do all the bottle feeding, changing, getting up at night.
“It’s given us an amazing bond really. We are best friends. That’s something I might not have had if I wasn’t so involved.
“The charity came about because I wanted to do something to help others who were widowers with children. It’s been going for four years now and it’s been amazing.
“For me Jennifer never died. She left a left a legacy and I have got to battle on in her memory.”
James’ story: One-parent family was all I knew
“I suppose it was a given for me that families were all one-parent families because that’s all I knew.
“But when I went to Bolton School and started going to friends’ houses for parties, I realised that wasn’t the case.
“I suppose I went through school oblivious to it all. I didn’t feel grief because I didn’t remember — although dad never kept anything from me. There was just a gap in my life.
“Because of our situation, my relationship with dad is on another level — he’s my best friend, and more so now. He was everything to me when I was younger. He disciplined me one minute and consoled me another.
“It was like being in a two-parent family, the ‘mum’ for one thing and the ‘dad’ in for the other. One weekend we would be playing tennis or football and the next day he’d be sewing buttons on to my jacket.
"That was amazing. I know that dad has had his moments when it’s been hard for him. I don’t know whether what he’s been though is harder than what I’ve been through. I think our grief is different.
“I didn’t know mum and never will — it’s not like I have been adopted and there’s a chance I’ll see her again. I won’t ever see the woman that is supposed to be massive in my life.
“In 2010 I started looking for support groups to help widowed fathers and their children. At that time I was 27 and it all hit me.
"I’d gone through mum’s stuff and saw her wedding dress and it was the first time I had grieved for her.
"I thought this must affect others. So we set up the charity, not knowing the response we would get.
“We started to get emails from people saying: ‘We’re so glad you’re there for us.’
“The dads just want someone there so they can pick up the phone when they need it.”