EVERY FAMILY experiences bereavement and sorrow.
Joanne Smith and Leanne Ellam, close friends and business partners, have both known what it is to grieve.
But through the stresses and strains of caring for sick relatives and their four children they have learned the importance of giving support to those around them.
Each has a story to tell. Joanne, 34, a children’s speech and language therapy assistant and mother to Leah-Devon, 7, and Jenson, 3, spent her second pregnancy caring for her terminally ill father, John Scadden, who died from cancer three years ago, aged just 59.
“I was seven months pregnant with Jenson when my father died.
“And then when Jenson arrived, after a long-distressing labour, he wasn’t breathing and there were worries that he might have a heart problem.
“It was a terrible time but Leanne helped me through it. She was my rock,” said Joanne.
Leanne, 31, mother to Noah, 8, and Seth, 3, relied on Joanne’s support when her eldest son was born with damaged neck muscles caused by a traumatic forceps delivery.
“He couldn’t lift his head from his shoulder and when he started to walk he used to fall over all the time,” said Leanne.
“I was told it would correct itself but it didn’t. In the end he had an operation when he was three years old to correct it.
“It left me with a lot of post-natal depression and I was distressed on his behalf.”
During her second pregnancy Leanne discovered that her baby was suffering from a rare condition caused by the production of antibodies.
“They found out I had anti-E, which means that he could have been born with a lot of health problems,” explained Leanne.
“When Seth was born he was in special care for a week and had to have a blood transfusion at six weeks.
“I was told that almost certainly any further pregnancies would be affected.”
Although both Seth and Noah are now fit and healthy, Leanne says she has never forgotten the trauma of their early days. It was a trauma shared by Joanne.
“We were both fighting these big emotions all the time but we had each other,” said Leanne, who is now a full-time childminder.
“When Seth had to go to hospital for blood tests Joanne was always there to look after Noah.”
The two families share a remarkable bond. Leanne and Joanne originally met because their husbands, Jonathan and Lee respectively, were old school friends.
They now say that they each think of themselves as having four children, not two.
“We go on holiday together and the children do everything together,” said Joanne. They even live near each other in Linthwaite.
And so it seemed inevitable that when they were thinking of a hobby they could share they would start a small joint business enterprise.
In October they launched Something To Sparkle, a website selling little gifts, keepsakes and worry beads. They make most of the items themselves.
The idea behind the website is to provide small comfort items for children and those facing loss, worry or anxiety.
They had discovered for themselves the psychological power of token objects to relieve stress.
“When her grandad died I made Leah a ‘hold-me-tight bag’ and told her to hold on to it and all her worries would go away,” said Joanne. “It comforted her.”
And when Seth was in hospital Joanne made his brother Noah a worry knot.
“He worries a lot,” said Leanne, “so it was useful for him. He could tell it what he was worried about and carried it around with him.”
Their creations range from Bravery Bags and Forever Bouquets to Magic Me Happy Wands.
“We’ve been through a lot ourselves so we know what it feels like to need comfort,” said Joanne.
Joanne and Leanne want their website to support the work of the charity Cruse Bereavement Care, which helps grieving children and adults, and once it’s established they plan to donate a percentage of profits to the organisation every year. Joanne has been asked to train as a children’s bereavement counsellor.
They are also setting up a network of keen knitters to produce clothing for special care baby units at hospitals around the country - Huddersfield and Calderdale included.
“When Seth was poorly the hospital was crying out for little hats and booties for the special care baby unit,” said Leanne.
“My grandma loves to knit and wanted to help so she started knitting for them. We’ve now got four knitters on board but we’d like more.”
Joanne added: “We want to send bundles with a blanket, mittens and bonnet for each baby so that mums don’t have to worry about getting clothes.”
Something To Sparkle will provide the wool but needs knitters on board. Anyone interested can contact the women on 07879642639 or 07929025777 or through www.somethingtosparkle.webeden.co.uk
The website was designed by 15-year-old Ben Craven, head boy at the Colne Valley High School.