For mother of two, Laura Robbins, knowing that her children would grow up without their Dad by their side was a painful reality.
Husband and father, RAF Squadron Leader Nicholas Robbins passed away in September 2014 following a three-year battle with lung cancer.
For Laura and her children, Tanith (15) and Ewan (14) the last four years has a been an uphill struggle with them learning to adapt to life without their Dad.
41-year-old Laura shares her story and explains how together they’ve had to support each other and how Scotty’s Little Soldiers, which provides support to bereaved British Forces children, has helped the family smile again.
Laura said: “Nick and I met in 1998, we just started chatting in the pub one night and our relationship grew from there. Nick was in the RAF when we met and within a few weeks of meeting him he was deployed to Sierra Leone, so much of our communication at the start of our relationship was through email and letters. But we stuck together and married in February 2001.
“As military life tends to unfold, Nick was deployed to Iraq hours after Tanith was born in 2003 and returned when she was five and a half months old. Then in 2005 he was deployed to Afghanistan for six months when Ewan was three months old.
“In total, Nick completed three tours of Afghanistan and the whole time he was away I was always thinking the worst.”
For Laura and her children, the worst came in 2011. Laura explains: “It was after Nick’s third and final tour of Afghanistan that he went to see the doctors. He had ongoing pins and needles and sensation changes in his arms and legs which they initially suspected to be MS, so they sent him for an X-ray. It was a week or so later that we got the results which showed a tumour in his right lung. They operated to remove the tumour but by this point the cancer had already spread to his left lung.
“Nick was a life long non smoker and really in to his fitness and was never going to let his cancer change his life, he served and worked right up until the day he died.”
Nick passed away on 28th September 2014.
Laura said: “Although the kids knew that their Dad was very ill, it didn’t make his death any easier to cope with. Nick was very prepared, he wanted to get everything in place.
“Tanith and Ewan have both dealt with Nick’s death in different ways, they were at an age where they understood what was happening and have had to grow up a little quicker than other children their age.
“Ewan is much happier to talk about his Dad than Tanith, she is much more private. Before he died, Nick wrote a letter to each of the children which he left sealed in an envelope. Ewan opened his on the morning Nick passed, but Tanith still hasn’t opened hers.”
Laura added: “Military life does prepare you well as you’re always expecting the worst, we came together as a family, worked together and supported each other. They have both coped amazingly well and have been my rock over the last few years.”
In 2015 Laura was introduced to Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Laura explains: “Following Nick’s death I soon realised there were other families out there who were like me. I got in touch with Nikki as I’d struggled to find counselling for the children. She was amazing!
“We were then quickly put in touch with other military families who like us had lost their husband or partner and missed the support network offered by the military community. They got it and understood what my children were going through.
“The first thing we did with Scotty’s was go on holiday to one of the lodges, just the three of us. It was really tough without Nick but was exactly what we needed. It made us all feel like we were not alone, that there were people out there we could talk to any time we needed them.”
For Laura, one of the most important support programmes offered by Scotty’s has been the grant scheme. She said: “Having access to the Scotty’s grants has been life changing for both Ewan and Tanith. For Ewan, we used his super-grant to pay for an educational psychology assessment for him, which has just been amazing, he’s like a different person. He’s gone from being bottom of his class to top and it’s given him a huge boost in confidence.
“Tanith has always loved the violin and we used her grant for violin lessons which helped her secure a musical scholarship meaning she could stay in private school. Having access to these grants has meant so much, without them my children’s lives would be very different.
“Without Scotty’s there would certainly be a big hole left in our lives, we’d have no military connections and me and children wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people who are all there for one another. It’s like being part of a big family.”