Desert Island Discs: Martin Lewis recalls the real impact grief had on his childhood

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Finance guru Martin Lewis has talked about what it was like to grieve for his mother when he was a child. 

Martin Lewis admits he’s not actually a big fan of music during his Desert Island Discs episode, which aired over the weekend. You might think this isn’t the greatest of starts to a podcast that asks you to pick the eight tracks you’d take to a desert island, but it actually goes on to be an excellent listen. (Spoiler alert: Ricky Martin’s Livin’ la Vida Loca features.)

Money Saving Expert founder Lewis, who the nation regularly turns to for guidance on personal finances, discusses how closely linked mental health and money problems are. This is part of the reason he remains so passionate about helping people with their financial issues. He feels personally responsible to use his insider knowledge and contacts to make change happen.

Lewis also talks about meeting Mick Jagger, his stint at stand-up comedy, his wedding day and spending time with his daughter. It’s an uplifting and tender listen, perfect for a lockdown daily walk. At one point, he even plays a piece of classical music by using his nose as a trumpet, which provides a truly laugh-out-loud moment.

But there is one thread of conversation that evokes unhappier memories for Lewis, and makes listeners pause for a few moments: his reflection on coping with grief after his mother’s death in a road accident when he was 11.

“My mum was there one day and she wasn’t the next”, he tells host Lauren Laverne. “That was it and none of us knew how to deal with it. We were all stunted by it at the time. This was 1984: you didn’t have counselling. Certainly you didn’t have counselling in rural Chesire! So you had to get on with it. That was the end of my childhood on that day. I struggled very hard as we all did for a long time. I’m still not over it, I’m just better at dealing with it.”

Lewis goes on to explain exactly how much this impacted his life while growing up.

“I never went out until I was 18. I never left the house because I wasn’t at home when that happened to my mum. I couldn’t cope with leaving the house because I thought something else could happen. 

“All my friends from school were going to parties, they were 15/16, meeting girls – which I’d have liked to have done, but I couldn’t cope with it. So I made up this lie that I had a social life…

“When I was about 17 I went to a boys school, but a girl on the coach invited me to her party, which was revelatory for me. I really, really wanted to go. My dad was delighted, he and my step mum were going to drive me because they were really happy to see me going out the house.”

“But I honestly had no clue at 17 what you wore for a party. Did you wear a suit? Did you wear jeans and a T-shirt? What did you wear? I got myself into such a panicked anxiety about it that in the end I said I was feeling sick and didn’t go.

“I never went out to a party or the pub or anything until I left school at 18. So my life wasn’t very happy, not my teenage years at all.”

Although he is now able to talk about the loss of his mother, and he encourages young people to reach out to bereavement charity Grief Encounter, Lewis still finds it incredibly hard.

“I maybe need to forgive some anger within myself and my reaction to not dealing with it properly when I was younger. And how I missed and threw those years away. Now, as a father when I look back, I was a little boy struggling to deal with something nobody should be dealing with at that age.”

Listen to Desert Island Discs: Martin Lewis on BBC Sounds.

If you, or a loved one, would like support with grieving, please visit Cruse Bereavement Care.

Cruse Bereavement Care is the UK’s leading national charity for bereaved people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, offering face-to-face, telephone and website support. Visit the website at cruse.org.uk or call 0808 808 1677

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland can be found at crusescotland.org.uk, call 0845 600 2227

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…