A Mildenhall teenager whose mentally ill father died just a month before she was born has mounted a fund-raising effort to get him a proper gravestone in time for Father’s Day.
Stevie Miller, 19, decided to launch an online appeal to get her late father a headstone to replace the wooden cross which has marked his grave for nearly 20 years.
Her father, Christopher Forden, who suffered from bi-polar disorder, died in May 1995 following complications from his illness when he was just 19.
Stevie, who also suffers from the disease, said: “If you go back 20 years, mental health wasn’t so well understood. My dad was really unwell, he was in and out of hospital.
“At the time he passed away none of my family could afford a gravestone, they could barely afford the funeral.”
It was conversations with her mother and the start of a delayed grieving process that prompted Stevie’s decision.
“A few months ago I started talking about my dad and his death. I know I never knew him, but I thought, ‘I have to get him a gravestone’,” she said.
“The last couple of months have been really difficult. I felt silly for being upset, but my mum told me I was grieving.
“The main feeling I’ve had is annoyance, because I never got the chance to meet him.
“My mum keeps it together, she always has, but she told me she misses him every day.”
Having previously done a sky dive for mental health charity MIND and a dance marathon for Children in Need, she decided to reach out to the community for help with her own cause.
“I thought if I ask for help this time perhaps people will help me, so I started the fund-raising page and people have been amazing,” she said.
“I’m going to do a bungee jump in Cambridge to help, I wasn’t going to just sit around and expect people to donate.”
Stevie, who turns 20 in June, secured a deal for a half-price headstone from Mildenhall Monumentals and has already raised £840 towards it and other costs, but hopes to reach £900.
She said: “I hope this will bring me closer to him. I’ll have somewhere where I can talk to him and be with him.
“So many people have supported me. I can’t put across how much I appreciate it.”
To donate to Stevie, visit www.youcaring.com/astoneforsteviesdad.