Denise Robertson: New service will help to ease pain for millions of families

Relate aims to raise awareness of the problems parents face once they decide to separate and is a vital service as Denise Robertson explains

Jake Darling Relate councillor Adrienne counselling a couple
Relate councillor Adrienne counselling a couple

We tend to take services like Relate for granted, and we shouldn’t.

Now it has a valuable new campaign aimed at helping the one in three UK families affected by separation. “Being Parents Apart” will offer guidance and support to separating mums and dads across the country, helping to make sure that children and young people cope with heartache and inevitable change in the best way possible.

Relate aims to raise awareness of the problems parents face once they decide to separate, such as explaining it to the kids and coming to an agreement about contact arrangements.

They will also be campaigning for the government to do more to support separating families.

As I outlined a few weeks ago, we have tended to underestimate the damage to children caused by messy divorce. I’m also aware of the strain on children when parents “soldier on” for the sake of the children.

Our offspring aren’t fools – they know when a home is a genuinely happy place and they know when it isn’t.

The separated family population is said to be 2.5 million, a hefty chunk of population overall, so help is needed if they are to rebuild their lives without damage or distress. has guidance on managing the practical and emotional realities of separation and services, like mediation, face-to-face counselling, courses for parents and children and young people’s counselling.

:: I did not watch a single second of the Roy/Hayley story in Coronation Street, which has re-ignited the right to die controversy.

Knowing she was dying of cancer, Hayley arranged her own death as Roy, her husband, looked on. I have watched too many loved ones die to want to watch it enacted on screen and I worry about the effect that storyline may have on cancer sufferers.

Nowadays, cancer is not the automatic death sentence that once it was. But I was moved by a letter to a national newspaper. The writer’s dearly loved wife is dying. “Her death is as inevitable as night follows day. No treatment, save pain relief, is being given. She has received no nourishment for 14 days and no water except for drops in the mouth and still her body will not shut down. When you look into her ever-open eyes you see a pleading look. She is receiving exceptional love and care from this NHS hospital and we are assured she is being kept pain free, but how sure can we be that she is not suffering enormous mental anguish? Not administering nourishment and water is simply euthanasia in slow motion.

“We love her enormously but after this harrowing experience our children and I are going through, for me there is no contest. If death is inevitable, then it is only humane to shorten the process.”

Once again, I am reminded of that old saying: Thou shalt not kill but need not strive, officiously, to keep alive.

:: If there can be a better way to spend an evening than quaffing champagne at the O2 Arena after your programme has won its fourth Best Daytime Programme award while listening, on Eamonn Holmes’ phone, to your football club beating Man United in the semi-final of the League Cup, I have yet to discover it – although the stress of those penalties nearly did for me!

I must say that Eamonn, Man U’s staunchest supporter, was a very gracious loser, not surprising since he’s a true sportsman.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer