Woman who lost five loved ones in five years says her story is one of hope

Video report by ITV Granada correspondent Rob Smith

A woman who endured the deaths of five of her closest relatives in five consecutive years says her story offers "hope" to anyone who is bereaved.

Yolanda Clarke says she went through both emotional and physical pain. She describes her repeating grief as if someone was "scraping out" her insides.

It began when her grandmother, Carmen, died in 2012, followed by her uncle Anthony who passed away the next year - followed by her father Alex in 2014.

Her mother Barbara died in 2015 and her brother Audley in 2016.

Yolanda's grandmother, Carmen, was the first of five of her closest relatives who died. Credit: Family photo

She said it took time for "all the grief" to hit home and, when it did, it was a minor event that triggered it.

"One day, I was trying to open my car and my key wouldn't work.

"I just lost it. I sat on the pavement and I thought: I can't do this anymore.

"I couldn't do it. I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything."

Yolanda eventually found the strength to get up and go home, where she climbed into bed, staying there for "weeks."

Stopping, and allowing herself to cry, then changed everything.

"I lay in bed," she said, "and I just put whatever was on my mind in a journal, through the pen.

"One day, I was writing and this tear just dropped on the page and I drew around the tear.

"I thought it was really important to remember, at that moment, that's when I cried."

How we can better deal with bereavement after a pandemic where so many died in such a short space of time? We take a look in the latest episode of our podcast, From the North.

The administrator, from Manchester, is among a number of grieving people and support experts who have spoken to ITV News for a series of special reports on how to better deal with bereavement.

Barbara, Yolanda's mother - seen here on the left, was the fourth relative to die. Credit: Family photo

To try to process what happened, Yolanda decided to join a one-day grief awareness course. Her brother, Audley, helped to pay for it.

"My brother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and he gave me half the money for it," she said.

"He died, two days before the course.

"I remember going into the course and telling them."

Yolanda's brother Audley gave her money for a grief awareness course. He then died, two days before the course started. Credit: Family photo

She now helps other people who have been bereaved and believes telling them what she went through makes a difference.

"That gives people hope. They see my story and they say 'I can get through this.'

"I've moved on with my life and I'm living life, and enjoying life, because you can still smile after you've had a loss."

Yolanda describes writing as "instrumental" to her healing and she wrote a poem - called 'Exploration Of Grief' - which she has shared with ITV News.

It is her "message of hope" to anyone who is grieving.

During the filming of this special series we asked those taking part for their hopeful messages too.

They spoke of finding support, finding happiness again and finding ways to "feel alive."

If you are grieving, know someone who is, or have been affected by any of the issues raised above help is available here.