Sheila Burgman – Maidstone Group / Helpline Volunteer / Kent Retreat

My SoBS journey began on Wednesday 6th August 2003, this was the day my world fell apart, the day my life was broken forever. It was the day I found my gentle, beautiful son dead; he was just twenty. The shock was immense, I cannot find the words to describe those moments. He was in bed, I thought he was sleeping, I called out but nothing so I shook him and screamed, wake up Danny, wake up but he didn’t and I didn’t know why. He never suffered with depression and he never appeared suicidal, nothing made sense. 

Those terrible early days were so surreal, I cannot thank my family, friends and Dans friends enough for being so caring and supportive. I know how much they were hurting too. Despite their love and kindness, I still felt alone, I needed to talk with someone who had lost a loved one to suicide. Within days I met a lady whose daughter had taken her life, listening to her story really helped me. This lovely lady Sherralyn was to become a good friend and later help me run the group. 

I asked my doctor if there was any help out there and she told me about SoBS. The nearest groups to me were London and Dover, it was then I decided I wanted to set a group up in Maidstone. Two years later on September 6th 2005, I held my first successful meeting. Verlie who attended those early meetings is now a helpline volunteer.

SoBS has given me back purpose and meaning in life. I found a strength I never knew I had. Some say I’m brave, but I don’t think so, it’s those that have the courage to come along to a meeting for the very first time, I know for a few it’s easy, but for the majority it’s not. If you can attend a group then do so, it will make a difference, for this is no normal bereavement. I know because my beloved husband died of cancer when Dan was just eleven years old. I often wonder if the loss of his dad affected him more than I realised.

Losing a loved one to suicide is so different, only those who have experienced this terrible tragedy can truly understand.

Around 2011 I decided to establish a retreat in Kent. I had been to the Gloucester retreat previously and found it very supportive and friendly. I wanted my retreat to be in Spring, as I see this as a time for new beginnings. After a long search I found The Little Silver Hotel near the scenic town of Tenterden, home to the Kent & East Sussex Railway with steam train trips to Bodiam Castle.

This hotel was perfect in every way. I booked all 16 rooms for March 2012, I wasn’t disappointed, the sun shone all weekend and out of sadness new friendships were made. The Little Silver is a favourite for everyone and we return every other year.


Three years ago, I discovered Howfield Manor, a quirky hotel full of charm near Canterbury.  We stayed there in April 2018 and again we were blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine. We should have returned last year but regretfully the pandemic put a stop to that.



March 2020 the whole country went into lockdown, because of this all groups had to shut down. For the first time in fifteen years my monthly meetings were put on hold. Then I received an email from the head office asking for more volunteers for the National Helpline as they wanted to cover Saturday and Sunday again. Initially the helpline ran every day of the week but a few years ago it was reduced to five days through lack of volunteers. It was inevitable the rate of calls would increase so I offered my services., it’s the least I could do. 

Being a part of SoBS really helped me through those dark early years. I’m not sure I would have made it without them. On the upside I’ve met a lot of lovely people who have become lasting friends.

Since losing Alan and Dan, life hasn’t been easy, I love and miss them so much, sometimes it still hurts, but life goes on and helping others means Dan’s death has not been in vain 

SoBS is Dan and everything I do is because of him and for him…

He lives on….