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Mom Immortalizes Daughter Who Died At 12 By Publishing Book To Help Children Cope With Loss

PA Real Life

A grieving mother whose 12-year-old daughter died just 24 hours after saying she felt “giddy” has found a unique way to face her terrible loss – by immortalizing the little girl in an enchanting modern-day fable.

One minute, Kelly and Mark Owen were bursting with pride as they watched their eldest Abi flitting about the stage, flashing her winning smile at a dance recital.

But by the following evening, their little girl with the big personality was being rushed to hospital, where she was hooked up to a life support machine after suddenly losing consciousness.

Abi's mum hopes her touching book will help other grieving families

(PA Real Life/Collect)

Discovering she had suffered a sudden brain bleed, doctors did all they could but, tragically, she could not be saved.

Until that moment, life had been close to perfect for proofreader and editor Kelly, 42, and insurance worker Mark, 44, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, who, as well as Abi, at that point had two other children, Jenny, then 10, and Joe, then five.

But, after Abi’s death, not only did they have to deal with their own devastating loss, they had to find a way of telling her siblings that their big sister had left them forever.

The family at Abi's grave on her birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)

Looking back at February 10, 2013, when Abi’s death changed their lives, Kelly said: “Telling our other children was incredibly hard. What do you say?"

“That’s what gave me the idea to write a book."

“Someone sent us a lovely fable, designed to help explain death to children. It’s about a water bug, who leaves its colony to climb above the pond’s surface and fly freely as a dragonfly.”

An example of one of the pages (PA Real Life/

Kelly, who has now had two more children, Jake, four, and Naomi, two, liked the tale and said it helped them to break the news, but also felt it needed modernizing.

So, combining her language skills with her personal experience of loss, she retold the tale in a moving book, which she self-published earlier this year, forever immortalizing Abi as the dragonfly.

“The story is framed within our real situation and what we went through,” she said. “It’s my way of honoring Abi and what she was to our family.”

Kelly and Abi (PA Real Life/Collect)

She added: “I want it to offer hope to others at a time when it feels there’s none left in the world.”

Remembering her beloved daughter, Kelly describes Abi as a bundle of energy, who made an impact everywhere she went.

“She had a real zest for life. Even though she was young, she had big plans,” continued Kelly. “She wrote down this long list of countries she wanted to visit, and dreamed of traveling the world. She had only been at secondary school for five months when she died, yet had already made a huge impact.”

A lover of swimming, dance and even kung fu– earning her black belt after four years of hard work – Abi was always on the go, never showing any signs of an underlying health problem.

But inside her brain, some blood vessels had been silently weakening over time.

“Doctors said they could have gone at any time,” added Kelly.

An example of one of the pages (PA Real Life/

Only the night before she fell ill, Abi had seemed fine, when she performed at a dance recital.

But the next day, she sent her mum a text from school, saying she had fallen over and hurt her back.

“She asked me to come and get her, which I thought was odd as she wasn’t one to complain,” said Kelly. “I took her home, gave her some paracetamol and watched her as I worked. She seemed to perk up, enough for her to go to her grandparents’ for tea that afternoon.”

Abi when she was little (PA Real Life/Collect)

But, at around 8:30pm, by then back home, she complained that she felt giddy and began to vomit.

Initially, Kelly phoned an out-of-hours doctor for advice, assuming Abi had a simple sickness bug, but when the youngster began to slip in and out of consciousness, she dialed 999 instead.

Paramedics arrived, and, after being whisked to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, doctors discovered from a CT scan that Abi had suffered a brain bleed.

A framed photo of Abi (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We were told that Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, a specialist brain injury center, may be able to operate, but that the chances were slim,” recalled Kelly. “We begged and begged and it was agreed she’d be blue-lighted over."

“There, the doctors told us there was a five percent chance of her surviving and that they were going to cut away Abi’s skull to relieve the pressure.

“It was tortuous waiting, but we clung on so hard to that five percent.”

Kelly and her daughter Abi, who passed away aged 12

(PA Real Life/Collect)

The operation went as well as could be hoped, and Abi was placed in an induced coma.

But, checking her vital signs – including her pupil dilation – frequently, doctors noted that her brain did not appear to be responding.

She was then transferred to intensive care at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, where she was closely monitored.

There, family began to gather at her bedside, including her siblings, who had been looked after by Kelly’s sister.

Eventually, though, medics concluded there was nothing more that could be done.

“They told us that even if Abi came round, she’d be effectively brain dead,” explained Kelly. “It was all such a sudden, horrendous shock. There was never any sign of anything being wrong.”

An example of one of the pages (PA Real Life/

She continued: “Doctors said she may have fallen over, because the bleed had started and she’d have blacked out for a second – but even that would’ve been so quick she wouldn’t have known."

“The hospital staff were fantastic with us and gave us all the time we needed to switch off the life support."

“Abi was also an organ donor and saved four lives, including a teenage girl. We really, really wanted that for her. One last act of kindness.”

Abi was an active child, who enjoyed a range of hobbies

(PA Real Life/Collect)

After losing Abi, Kelly – who has not met any of her daughter’s organ recipients – felt there were not enough resources readily available to help the bereaved.

Then, when a kindly friend sent her the fable, Waterbugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney, she decided to create something herself to help people in their darkest hour.

The plan was put on the back-burner slightly after she fell pregnant twice more, with Jake then Naomi, but in mid-2017, she contacted illustrator Helen Braid, who she found online.

Kelly self-published her book earlier this year (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We’ve actually never met in person, but she’s been amazing,” said Kelly. “I wrote the story myself, then Helen brought it to life with her colorful illustrations.”

After taking out a loan to fund costs, Kelly self-published The Dragonfly Story in April 2018.

She also set up a JustGiving page to help with the print fees and was met with an outpouring of support.

Abi, pictured here in a nativity play as a youngster (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I didn’t want to cut corners. I wanted this to be something special that families could keep forever,” she said.

“Once I set up the JustGiving page, the first donation was $115.75 from a couple I have never met in the USA. I was blown away.”

Now, with 1,000 copies printed, Kelly’s book is available on Amazon.

In preparation for the billions of book orders I'll get for my children's book (Ha, dream big!), I've had some small…
Posted by Chasing Dragonflies blog on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Keen to add the personal touch, she packages each order herself, also offering people who donate to her JustGiving page the chance to add their own lost loved one’s name to a special memory page in the book.

Eventually, she hopes to get the title into schools, and said she feels a connection with the families she has helped around the world.

Nominated for a prize in the ninth annual JustGiving Awards, which will be held in London on 20 November – touchingly, days before what would have been Abi’s 18th birthday – Kelly is keen for her book to help grieving people around the globe.

Kelly, pictured here with Abi (PA Real Life/Collect)

Hugely proud to have been nominated for one of the gongs, designed to celebrate some of the many amazing individuals, charities and teams who have used JustGiving in the last 12 months to change lives and make a positive contribution to a good cause, she hopes it will help to raise awareness.

“To even be nominated is such a great honor,” said Kelly, who is one of 34,000 nominees, honed down to find 24 finalists.” I’m so humbled to be counted among these amazing people."

“This has all reassured me that I am doing the right thing with my book. It’s never been about money – I send out free copies wherever I can – but about sharing hope.”

An example of one of the pages (PA Real Life/

She added: “To other parents out there, I want to say, you aren’t alone. There is always something worth hanging on for, even if it’s your child’s memory.

“It’s five years on for us, and while things are still very raw, we’re living on and finding happiness.”

To donate, visit and to vote, visit

A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.

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When you know your kids backwards and forwards, this is the best tool in your arsenal.

Getting our kids to listen to us is not always the easiest of tasks. They're willful and stubborn, but we've got a mighty weapon they are rarely prepared for: reverse psychology. Getting them to convince themselves to want to do something against their own initial intentions takes some work and a whole lot of creativity, but a little sneaky manipulation goes a long way. Here are some clever parents' tricks that are definitely worth taking notes on.

Redditor u/LeanderD Asks:

Parents of reddit, what's your best example of reversed psychology on your kids that actually worked?

He Floated His Idea Through A Back Channel


Wanted to name my boat. Anything I would think of was dismissed as stupid by my 13 year old son. After deciding on a name, I confided to a male friend my son liked. Made my friend suggest the name as though it was his idea. My son thought the name was perfect. Done.


We Always Want What We Can't Have

One of my best friends through childhood used to be punished with no salad if she misbehaved. She cherishes salad now and would always try to eat as much as possible during school lunch. Coincidentally, her now husband used to be punished with no books, it had the same effect. I think it's hilarious that they'd be hitting the salad bar and library like some black market their narc parents couldn't reach hahaha.


A Deceit That's A Cut Above The Rest


Don't know if this counts, but, at my high school (private, boys only) in the 1960's, they made a big deal about how long your hair was, and would occasionally order a boy to go home and "get a haircut".

I thought it was stupid, until years later, a master confided to me at a reunion that the policy was deliberate. The school figured we'd spend so much energy rebelling about hair length, that we would ignore other aspects of teenage rebellion. (Not?) Surprisingly, they were mostly right.


Damn! That's smart. Wow.


Oh they don't like long hair?

I'll show them. I'll grow my hair out as lon- what?! No I don't want to go "party"? I gotta try out this horse shampoo.


The Forbidden Book

Hi I was a victim,

There was a forbidden book that I was not allow to read on the shelf. My parents said I could only read it if I behave myself.

It was summer holidays and I was playing games all day (after 6 hrs of summer homework). One day I was home alone and had the opportunity to grabbed it. I read like half of it in one go. It was 5000 years of Chinese history.

Safe to say I was bamboozled.


Flowers Of The Queen

My parents always told me my broccoli were the flowers of the queen and that I really shouldn't eat them, or else the queen would get very upset! I, of course, ate the whole broccoli in a few seconds.


I'm telling the queen and she's gonna be pissed


Sleeping Beauty


I taught my kids when they were toddlers that no amount of yelling, shaking or hitting can wake a sleeping adult. The only thing that works is a gentle hug and/or a nice kiss on the cheek.

Edit: Probably needed some more details for the reverse psychology aspect to be clear. It went something like this - Step one, tell the kids I'm going to sleep and nothing they do will wake me (head buried face down is the safest position). Step two, after the initial onslaught dies down pretend to awaken on your own. Tell them you got a bit of nap left in you and nothing can wake you, especially not hugs and kisses.


Holy sh*t...if my daughter woke me up like this I would buy her a pony.


I am saving this comment because this will save lives if I ever have kids, stg.


A Walk In Someone Else's Shoes.

Split custody with my ex. When my son was around 10, he visited two weekends a month. I was waiting tables and didn't have a huge amount to spend, but he was so needy from divorce (and I'm not blaming him, it was ugly), he begged constantly for MORE when he was with me. Whatever more was, it didn't matter... he'd be eating ice cream cone and begging for teriyaki.

I finally realized that he just felt empty, and getting MORE whatever from me wasn't filling him up. His next visit I handed him $100 in cash and told him it was our food/fun budget for 3 days and two nights, and he was in charge of it. I bought him his own wallet to carry. We figured out how many times we were going to eat and what we were going to do, and he paid. He got to keep whatever money he had left...thought he was rich...then realized just how much everything cost. Well. Shoe on other foot then. If we had no money for food, we ate leftovers - and I didn't contribute more to pot. After a few weekends of running short or not getting something he actually wanted because he was foolish with funds, he started to really think about how to spend that money. He budgeted and kept to his budget. And a few times he actually went home with a little cash for his private stash.

Many years later, he thanked me for this. It really changed the way he thought about money and love.


This Is Worth Giving A Shot

Took my 3 year old son to one of those doctor's visits where he was going to get a shot. He was worried about the shot on the whole drive over, almost to the point of tears. We get to the doctor's office and a nurse subtly lets me know that my son is not just scheduled for 1 shot, but 5 of them in the same visit.

I turn to my son with an exaggerated smile and tell him, "Good news! They figured out how to take that one big shot you were going to get and instead break it up into these 5 little tiny shots so it won't hurt nearly as much!"

You could see the relief wash over his face. He stopped squirming and relaxed completely. He took the first shot and even smiled and said "It's true! The small ones don't hurt!"

We actually made it through the third shot before the effect wore off and reality kicked in. Still... I counted it as a victory.


Put This To The Taste


My mom would tell me she only lets me eat soup after candy and she'd only buy me candy that i didn't like. After a few times, i stopped trying and begged her to let me eat soup first. She gave me a smirk and told me go ahead. This doesn't sound as evil as it was. But trust me i suffered.


So what was the candy?


Mint chocolate, raisins, stuff like that. I still hate them to this day. Who the f--- thought while eating chocolate "hmm id like some tooth paste with this."


This is Truckin' Awesome

Mum had sworn a bit around the house.

When 4, while out at the supermarket, I said F word really loudly.

Very quickly and intently, she asked if I had just said "Truck" and said that was a bad word and not to ever say Truck like that again.

I thought that was the bad word so used that when being naughty.


The "Silly Mom" Routine

The "Silly Mom" routine.

My kid, and a few other kids I've known, would balk at getting ready to go. I'd grab their clothes and say, "Well, if you won't put on your clothes, I guess I'll put on your clothes. Cute shirt, by the way! Does it go on my foot?"


"Does it go on my head?"


"Oh, that's right, thanks! So, it must go on your legs, right?"


"I just can't figure this out! Where does this adorable shirt go?"

[kid grabs shirt and puts it on] ON MY TUMMY! SILLY MOM!

"Oh, thank you so much! Now what about these pants? Shirts go on tummies, so...the pants go on the tummy, too, right?"


[continue until kids have dressed themselves]

I would also do things like hand the kid my keys and say, "Alright, you're driving, I'll sit in the booster seat in back," attempt to feed the kid by putting a spoon up to his ear or his belly button, and attempt to put away his toys in the refrigerator.


Some Foot For Thought.


My mum would always yell at us "if you don't do X, you have to go to bed without socks!"

I never wore socks anyway, and I'm ashamed to admit that this worked.


That would work really well on my son, or make him cry for a really long time... He's 3 and over the last few weeks has decided that he is fully unable to sleep without socks on.


Toddlers man. Completely unpredictable.


I'm Greens With Envy

My mum had a friend that would put vegetables on her own plate and not the kids.

When the kids asked she would be reluctant to share, "that's grown up food. But I suppose I can let you have a little."

Her kids grew up loving vegetables.

I sat at the dinner table for 3 hours staring at the yucky cauliflower I refused to eat.


This reminds me of an instance when my child convinced my wife and myself to change our plans for dinner. We were in a grocery store to pick up something quick and easy to eat that we wouldn't have to prepare. Our daughter, wanted none of that, she demanded that she wanted a salad from the salad bar. We started to argue back, but then realized: "Our child demands that we feed her vegetables for dinner instead of a microwaved meal, why are we saying 'No?'"

We had salad for dinner that night.


The Power Of Choice

I don't so much know if you would call it reverse psychology, but I didn't realize it until my dad told me this.

When there were chores that needed doing, he noticed if he asked me to mow the lawn, I would complain and procrastinate. But if he asked would I rather mow the lawn or wash the windows, I'd pick one and just get it done.

Shattered my brain when he told me when I was in my twenties. I use it when I'm coaching or baby sitting all the time and it almost never fails.


The Boy Who Cried 'Ouch'


I've done this one with tens of kids. Any time a kid gets "hurt" (falls down on grass, gets gently hit in the face with a ball, etc.) instead of stopping the activity to pick the kid up and see if they're ok you just scoot them off to the side and resume. Within 10 seconds of not getting all the attention and seeing the fun is resuming they pop right back up and are magically healed.

This of course is only for the "injuries" that aren't actually injuries.


Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images

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