“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”
Before last December I had never written about my feelings before. It wasn’t something I felt I needed to do and to be honest I found “sharing” every thought a bit self indulgent. But back then, in my naivety before these things became real for me I didn’t want to hear sad stories or to admit that life wasn’t something that could be controlled, planned and organised like a school forward plan. How many children shall we have? Where should we go on holiday next year? What should we eat tomorrow evening?
Now though, I’m fully initiated into a world I never wanted to acknowledge, a world where people cope with terrible ordeals, worries and pain and they selflessly share their experiences online for people like me to read. Now I understand that it isn’t self-indulgent in the way that 140 characters can tell me what Will.I.Am had for breakfast or what’s pissing off Stephen Fry today. It is a lifeline to so many people who are desperately clinging on to the hope that things get better. Not the same, they are all at great pains to point out, but better than they are now.
My network of survivors have become like a security blanket when I’m having a good day and a life raft when I’m at my lowest and sadly it’s a big network. Deprived of access to wifi I become the only one in the room who has lost a child. I feel exposed, pitied and critiqued, I am a reminder to people that bad things happen.
I was at a wedding this weekend and although I knew it would be difficult, I don’t think I was prepared for how hard the whole day would be. It was a huge occasion with too many relatives and not enough friends but it was exactly the kind of wedding I would’ve loved last year. Obviously I wasn’t drinking and I might’ve felt better if I’d had a glass of wine but the whole day was like a balancing act of emotions. Don’t look too happy, people will think you’re all better now. Don’t look miserable for god’s sake, it’s a wedding. Guests were keen to pat my expanding stomach and tell me how happy they are for us and ask how I was feeling “with the pregnancy,” making sure that I wouldn’t misunderstand and start to unload my grief on them over Pimms on the lawn (as if).
I have been exhausted all weekend from the effort of smiling through the Mass, whilst burying my nails into my palms to stave off the tears and making small talk with people I haven’t seen in a million years. As occasions without Jude go it was probably the longest and hardest. But, and there’s always a but, I’ve done it. It will surely be easier the next time just like the second school run, the second trip to the cinema and all the other unbearable things we’ve had to do without him. Tomorrow we go on our first family only holiday without my boy and I can only say that I’m looking forward to it being done.
As a very wise friend reminded me recently, “if you’re going through Hell, keep going”
When Jude was one a really dear (and sadly departed) friend from work advised me that, despite our concerns over spending too much money, holidays were important and the time we spent on holiday together as a family could never be replaced. I took her advice and we had our first family holiday away together. It was amazing and I thank her everyday that she encouraged us to make those precious memories because now I really know that you never get the time back.
Because we are both teachers the summer holidays have always been a time for excitement and fun in our house. We usually go away at the start of the holidays and we keep on extending our trip whilst we’re on the road. Last year we surprised the kids with a last minute trip to Legoland at the end of our holiday in Center Parcs. We had planned on waiting until this year to go but thank god we threw caution (and £500) to the wind and went last year!
It was such a good holiday and in traditional Jude style he kept telling us how much fun he was having and how much he loved Legoland. I was showered with cuddles and kisses and we ate ice cream until it came out of our ears.
This year we aren’t going away. We explained to Isla that we wouldn’t go away but that we could be tourists at home. Lovely weather for it too 😉 She has been amazing and she hasn’t complained about it once so we decided to brave a short trip to Alton Towers for her birthday. This serves the dual purpose of being away for her birthday instead of throwing a party and looking at the empty chair, and it gives her a wee holiday too. She is such a sweetheart and I know she misses her brother like mad but she’s coping so well and she could do with a treat.
The holidays have passed gently so far and days out with friends have helped keep us all going but I really miss my boy.
Almost as soon as we came home from the hospital without our boy, once our parents felt it was safe to leave and after my mum insisted I be given sedatives from the out of hours surgery, “just in case” (I didn’t use them) I hit the net. I wish I’d kept a record of the kind of phrases I was searching ” dead child – suicide +survival” “will I survive?” and all sorts of bizarre combinations to try to find out what the fuck people did when their child died. I found the Child Bereavement Charity pretty quickly but it was a site that didn’t seem to be used by many people. I also found The Compassionate Friends but I was initially put off by the registration process and lack of immediate answers. I’ve since found this group to be helpful but it’s still disheartening to find that people who have lost their child 20 years before still seem to be in such a dark place when you are at the start of your grief. It does make you wonder if it’s possible to survive. David reckons these forums aren’t representative. I guess his point is that if you want to share recipes you go on a cookery forum and if you want help with your grief you go on a bereavement thread and never the twain should meet. It made sense to me that nobody popped on these sites to share interior decorating tips but it didn’t mean that they only thought about their loss.
The place where I found most solace and the most realistic idea of where my grief might go were in blogs written by bereaved parents. The first one that I stumbled on was Susans. Here was someone much further on than me and clearly grieving for her gorgeous daughter but somehow there was humour and honesty (and sometimes brutal realism) but it really gave me hope that one day I’d be there. Today as I checked her blog I was immediately lifted by her plans for the future, not the plans per se but the fact she was making them. It means so much more than any counselling session. Thank you Susan.x
Something else that is giving me a bit of hope right now is the little baby that’s kicking the life out of me as I type. In three months time I should be holding Isla and Jude’s little brother or sister. I still say should because I’ve lifted the curtain and it’s damn near impossible to unsee what I’ve seen. But it still gives me hope.
It also terrifies me and raises a whole lot of new questions. This has happened so quickly and it means that I’ll have a two and half month old by the time Jude has only been gone a year. Maybe I should’ve waited the appropriate amount of time until I thought about having another child, apparently it’s between one and two years. Perhaps after that amount of time I’d be over my silly old grief and be better placed to make such a huge decision. I always wanted more kids, I loved being pregnant, having babies, toddlers, children and it was really the easiest and most rewarding job I’d ever done. But in the days before we knew you can’t micro manage life we felt we shouldn’t push our luck or stretch ourselves financially, after all those holidays, lunches out and expensive handbags don’t but themselves do they? And we already had two healthy children right? Now our priorities are back in some kind of order and having a baby was at the top of my list in terms of doing something positive and life affirming after such a devastating loss.
Here it is my little 26 week old baby who I hope will turn out to be a happy child just like its older brother and sister.