A MELIA Rust remembers every minute of the day when, thousands of miles from home, she was told her dad had died.

When she’d left for southern India and the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery that her school, Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High, has long had strong links with, her father Richard (54) was excited on her behalf.

He was widely travelled himself and was planning a return visit to India later that year.

“On the day that Dad died, I was with a group teaching the young monks,” said Amelia.

“They were orphans, some just five years old, who were being cared for at the monastery.

“I remember they were teaching us the Tibetan words for ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ when Carol, the school librarian who was with us on the trip, interrupted our session to say that she needed to see me.

“She took me upstairs to see the other teachers on the trip, Andy and John. She couldn’t speak and when I asked if everything was alright, she just shook her head and held my hand tightly.

“They sat me down and Andy put his hand on my shoulder and told me he was very sorry, but dad had died.”

That was in April 2017, and looking back now, Amelia says two things emerged from the mist that enshrouded her in the days afterwards.

Carol had offered to take her home straight away, if she wanted, but Amelia felt the monastery provided her with the cushion she needed.

“It was such a peaceful place,” she said. “I felt I had the time to process things before stepping back into reality.

“The monks held a special prayer ceremony. They asked me for the names of my family and they chanted them as they practised for the ceremony, walking along the corridor. It was very surreal.”

She still had another five days in India and she spent much of that quietly reading two of Richard’s favourite books. “Dad also loved India, so reading books he loved in a place he loved felt very special,” she said.

The other ‘thing’ to emerge out the mist was actually a person, in the shape of fellow sixth former Anna McKie.

They didn’t know each other well at that point, but if there was anybody who understood what Amelia was going through, it was Anna, because four months earlier she had lost her mother.

She said: “When I heard Amelia’s news, I just remembered how I’d felt when my mum died. It felt like a punch to the gut and I felt sorry Amelia was going to have to go through that as well.”

Anna wrote a note to her classmate that day which Amelia says she will keep forever. “That letter is now one of my most treasured possessions – Anna understood what I was feeling, then I knew I wasn’t on my own.”

That, in turn, leads us on to the film project the two of them subsequently signed up to. Tynedale Hospice at Home needs no introduction, nor perhaps the Rainbow service that helps young people in particular face bereavement.

But the film shorts the hospice has started to produce, designed to help others get through the darkest times in their lives, are less well known.

In the latest one, entitled Grief as a Teenager, six young people – Zak Smith (14) and his sister Eve (12), Abi Wimbush (15), Anya Jowsey (14), Anna and Amelia – share their experience of losing a parent.

The group came together at the hospice’s film club meetings to discuss topics such as sudden death, living with grief and the importance of knowing the truth, with family support practitioner Emma Andrews.

Hexham film-maker Christo Wallers recorded some of the conversations to make what is essentially a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The strong friendship that has grown up between Amelia and Anna is very clear. But it is the saving grace of knowing your experience is shared – of knowing that you are not alone – that rings out loudest of all.

Anna’s mum, Judith, a social worker, died in December 2016 at the age of 47.

“Mum was diagnosed with cancer when I was in Year 10, in 2014/15. Then the week before I started sixth form, she was told it was terminal.

“I lived alone with her, but I’d never cared for her alone, which I did for the four months afterwards. I grew up incredibly rapidly – I think I aged about 50 years in those four months.”

Helping Hands went in for 15 minutes twice a day, and as the disease really began to take its toll, district and Macmillan nurses began to go in too, but overnight it was down to Anna.

“All of a sudden I had to learn to care for my mum by myself,” she said. “I had to learn to cook, clean and learn basic medical skills. Mum was in so much pain and although district nurses visited, every night I was on my own.

“When you know that you are going to lose the person you love, obviously you want to have as many happy times as you can, but that is not the reality of caring for someone who is dying.

“When I was awake in the middle of the night, helping mum to go to the toilet or cleaning up after she had been sick, I felt so alone.

“You start to feel a divide between you and your friends, when you have seen much more than you should have at 16, and then it is easy to feel that you are the only person in the whole world who is having to do this sort of thing, that you are the only person who has got a mum who is dying.”

Twenty months on, Anna, who lives with her father now, is off to York University to study chemistry and Amelia is taking a gap year, before enrolling to study photography.

But they are both pleased to have contributed to the film before they head off down the road.

In the same way they have drawn sustenance from each other – “You can talk in a way you can’t with other people,” said Amelia – they hope the film will throw a lifeline to others.

Amelia said: “People had different stories in the group, but between us we bring to light what it’s really like to lose a parent and what happens in the grieving process.

“I think it’s important to use what happened to us to produce something good.”

Anna agreed, adding: “Yes, it was good to use our grief in that way, to channel it into helping others.

“You can so easily be angry about what’s happened, so it makes me feel quite proud that we did something positive instead.”

The film, Grief as a Teenager, can be viewed on YouTube.