Josh’s story

Est. read time: 2-3 minutes.

Rebekah and Philip Howlett were supported by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) following the death of their second son, Josh, in April 2015. He was just four days old. The couple made memory items and received help with funeral arrangements.

Rebekah had counselling for over a year and they attended a monthly bereavement support group together.

“Josh was only four days old when he died and all his life was spent in hospital,” said Rebekah, who first became aware of a problem when she was 30 weeks and four days pregnant, in April 2015.

“I realised Josh’s movements were different to usual and went to King’s Lynn hospital to be assessed. However, before I saw the doctor, I had a massive bleed and was rushed into theatre for an emergency C-section.

“It was several hours before I recovered from the anaesthetic and was able to go into the neonatal intensive care unit and see Josh. We were told he was doing well and that we’d be able to hold him soon, which we looked forward to.

“However, at less than two days old, Josh’s lung collapsed. Although doctors tried to get him breathing, he had Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). It meant oxygen was not getting around his body.”

Rebekah and Philip were told their baby needed to be transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. However, the next day, scans revealed devastating news.

Josh had bleeds on both sides of his brain and his organs were starting to fail, so the couple were asked for permission to turn off his life-support machine.

“The doctor mentioned that EACH may be able to help,” said Rebekah, an accountant at Larking Gowen.

“We didn’t understand how at the time, but agreed for them to come and see us. The following day, we were able to hold Josh for the first time as he died in our arms. Together with two of the team from EACH, we spent time with him making memory items. I felt numb and struggled to take in what had happened.

“EACH then supported us with arranging Josh’s funeral, giving us ideas of songs, poems and music other families had used. I had counselling for over a year and we both attended a monthly bereavement support group.

“My eldest son, Ben, also used to attend the children’s group, which he enjoyed. We were able to make more memory items and meeting other bereaved parents and hearing their experiences helped us enormously.

“We’ll always wonder what Josh would have been like. I remember looking forward to him joining our family and talking to Ben about having a little brother. He was only two at the time.

“We didn’t really get much time together which is why the memory items – hand and foot casts and handprints of Ben and Josh together on a plate – are so important. We all appreciate the support from EACH.”

Ben is ten and Rebekah and Philip have another son, six-year-old James.

Published in March 2023

Families’ stories and experiences are unique to them and we have been kindly granted permission to share this family’s story. If you have been affected by what you’ve read or have a question and would like to talk to someone, please contact your local children’s hospice service or Together for Short Lives, the UK charity that supports families caring for seriously ill children (tel: 0808 8088 100).


Would you like us to write and share your own family story?

We give all those receiving support from EACH the opportunity to share their family story. All family members are welcome to get involved if they’d like to and we will never share your story until you are completely happy with it. If you have any questions or are interested in finding out more, please contact Matt Plummer, EACH Media and PR Manager at

We’ll always wonder what Josh would have been like.

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