Mark Lemon is a children’s author, podcaster, and bereavement ambassador. He lives in Bristol with his wife Simone and their two children, Otis (9yrs) & Thea (5yrs).
Mark started writing and publishing books after noticing a lack of diversity in children’s books, and as a father of two dual heritage children himself, knew something had to change. His series of books features his own children, Otis and Thea Lemon, and his debut title Otis Lemon & The Spectacular Submarine was awarded the Platinum Junior Design Award for the Children’s Book of The Year in 2016.
With his latest award-winning book, The Magical Wood, Mark drew on his own childhood trauma following his father’s murder when he was just 12 years old. Published on the 26th anniversary on his father’s death, The Magical Wood has been praised by families who are coping with grief or anticipating the death of someone they love. In 2019, Mark launched his podcast, Grief Is My Superpower, in support of children’s bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish.
On Tuesday 12th May 1992, my world changed forever.
I woke up, got dressed, and went downstairs for breakfast. My dad finished his coffee, picked up his briefcase, and waved goodbye to me in the doorway. This would be the last time that I would ever see him. I was 12-years-old.
At 3pm my teacher asked me to go home urgently. I will never forget that heart-sinking feeling at the thought that something terrible had happened. I arrived home to be greeted by police cars and the sound of my sister crying in the front room. At 3.20pm my mum took me upstairs to the spare room to tell me that dad had died. The room was filled with the most unimaginable pain and loss. My mum kept saying that she didn’t know what we are going to do, or how we are going to live without my dad.
Later that day my uncle sat me down to tell me that dad was murdered by another man. I will always remember going up to my bedroom, dropping to my knees, and crying myself to sleep. I kept asking myself over and over why this had to happen to my family. From that moment my life changed forever.
The impact of grief and trauma as a boy instilled in me a lack of confidence in myself. When your role model, friend and father is cruelly taken away from you, all of your trust in life extinguishes. As a teenager, my grief took over and manifested itself in emotions of anger, anxiety & depression.
Bereaved children and young people are now expected to navigate their way through the added pressures of social media, body confidence, school, and now the impact of Covid-19 has instilled a feeling of anxiety and depression. Charities are struggling to offer face-to-face bereavement support and we need to teach all young people how to channel their feelings for the good of their future.
The impact of grief at an early age can stay with a child for the rest of their lives, but it shouldn’t affect their mental health. I want all children and young people to know that through this life-changing time, you can go on to achieve good things in life.
I believe the power of creativity is a positive tool when expressing feelings. Whether its music, writing or drawing, simply getting strong emotions out is a powerful process that has always helped me with my own grief and mental health.
I find my favourite way to pause, is to go for a long walk or listen to music. My mind is always going one hundred miles an hour, so to just sit and pause is necessary for my mental health.
My favourite way to play, would be to go for a run or play football. My son loves his sport, and we love playing cricket or football together. Exercise is a wonderful way to release difficult emotions.
The Magical Wood is available to purchase here.
If you or someone you know are in need of help or support or you would like to make a donation please get in touch with Winstons Wish.