How diary notes for my dead son saved me from drink and drugs

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DOHERTY

THE MOTHER of a young ac­tor who col­lapsed and died while play­ing foot­ball has spo­ken about the ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths she went to, to escape a de­pres­sion that saw her spi­ral into drink and drugs.

Rochelle Saun­ders and her hus­band Ed­die say they lost a year of their lives, mix­ing a cock­tail of drink and pre­scribed drugs and aban­don­ing their parental re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to cope with the pain.

The only way she got through it was by writ­ing it all down in the form of a diary as a way of try­ing to keep a con­ver­sa­tion with her son.

Dean Saun­ders, 16, had just scored a goal for Win­gate and Finch­ley when he col­lapsed and was rushed to St Al­bans hos­pi­tal. He died of the rare con­di­tion, adult death syn­drome.

Rochelle’s Diary has now been pub­lished as a book which she hopes will help peo­ple fac­ing the same tragedy.

She said: “I never ex­pected it to be a book. It was just a place to speak to Dean and to write about the pain I was feel­ing, each day as it came.

“Our life stopped when Dean died and for a year as par­ents we were out of it.”

The cou­ple from Chig­well sold their fam­ily busi­ness in electrics and en­tered a down­ward spi­ral of grief and iso­la­tion.

Mrs Saun­ders said: “We were drunk all the time, we took pills all the time. I don’t know how Jolan, our el­dest son, sur­vived watch­ing his par­ents fall apart.

“He didn’t just lose his brother he lost us, for that first year we were aw­ful, we didn’t ex­ist at all and he had to be the par­ent. There were times I for­got to cook be­cause I’d been drunk or I was cry­ing. To go out shop­ping was the big­gest or­deal.”

As a child ac­tor, Dean had ap­peared in EastEnders as Ian Beale’s step son for six weeks.

He also played Gavroche the street tear­away in the stage show Les Misérables, for four months while at Chig­well School.

Ten years on from his death Mrs Saun­ders, now 62, said tak­ing each day as it comes and the gift of a grand­child has given them a new joy to fo­cus on.

Her 72-year-old hus­band said they be­came so­cial out­casts in the months fol­low­ing Dean’s death.

He said: “At first ev­ery­one gath­ered around us but soon peo­ple just van­ished, they avoided us, they crossed the road when they saw us com­ing. We stopped be­ing in­vited out by most of our friends. Peo­ple don’t know what to say, they don’t know what to do, so they do and say noth­ing.”

As mem­bers of New­bury Park Sy­n­a­gogue in Il­ford, reli­gion has always played an im­por­tant part of their life.

But Mrs Saun­ders said she strug­gles to feel pos­i­tive about her faith “I still be­lieve in God but I don’t like him.

“I never go to shul and I won’t go to the lev­ayah or the grounds. ” Rochelle’s Diary is avail­able on Ama­zon, Pub­lisher and Water­stones.

Fam­ily snap: Rochelle with Dean ( left), Jolan and Ed­die

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