In the days and week’s following Ollie’s death I have huge memory blocks of many of the events, conversations, visits and gifts we received. You are almost living in a dream floating from one moment to the next, still in shock and disbelief that this has actually happened. I still have cards and letters in a memory box for Ollie at the top of my wardrobe that 4 months later I still haven’t read, some gifts are still unopened because if I open them or read them it makes things real. To begin with people are gentle, kind, cautious. They send regular messages to ‘check in’, they make time to visit, they respond to requests for help, they send flowers. But what happens when what I call ‘allottable’ grieving period is over? I believe Reece and I have reached that period of time where people begin to consciously or subconsciously think we should be starting to ‘pull ourselves’ together and start ‘moving on’. Gradually people have stopped checking in, stopped responding to messages, stopped mentioning our son’s name. People presume that you are now getting on with things, I have started going out of the house more, running, I have taken up a phased return at work, I laugh a little more. I have started our little project for bereaved parents, I have started writing about our experience. But the true fact of the matter is I am not okay and will never be okay again for the rest of my life.
Gradually life returns to normal for people on the outside, the upset and shock starts to decline, they get on with their lives and it begins to fade away. But for those of us left behind life never returns to normal, we are constantly adjusting to the new normal.
Just because I have chosen to speak out and tell our story, does not mean that I do not suffer every single hour of the day, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I still cry every day, that I have disturbed sleep every single night, that I’m still in trauma counselling twice per week, that the sight of blood still sends me into a complete panic. Grief it not linear, especially when grieving for the loss of a child.
I understand in that in general, people find it very difficult to see another person’s pain, it makes us uncomfortable and often people don’t know what to do or say, which is absolutely understandable. We want to ‘fix’ things but often don’t know how to do that, but for any type of loss there is no ‘fixing’. The worst possible thing has happened to us, and it can never be fixed.
Families who have lost children learn that it is incredible what we are capable of surviving, I astound myself every day that I am still standing and living and breathing without Ollie…but what choice do we have? I have 2 options, do or don’t and I have chosen do. But whilst I ‘do’ I feel his absence every day, physically and emotionally. Instead of being at baby sensory I’m sat in my living room handmaking octopuses, instead of attending the doctor’s surgery for MMR jabs I’m taking legal action against an NHS trust, instead of reading ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ I’m reading ‘Tell me His Name’. Things are never okay.
Grief is a process, an emotionally scientific process that can take many forms, in fact the definition of grief according to Dr Google is ‘Grief is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or some living thing that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions.’ Grief can also cause temporary insanity which requires 24 hour intensive mental health support, it is not to be underestimated or played down.
I suppose what I am trying to say is, grief can be a very lonely place. Please take care of us and support us, because since losing Ollie despite being very lucky to have family and friends around me, it’s the loneliest place I have ever been in my life. I am still lonely writing this today, because I miss Ollie. The support of the women online who have been kind enough to send messages, order octopuses and share their story with me has been invaluable to me. We are all part of a club that only a select few understand and that nobody want’s to be a part of. I’ve seen such kindness and sensitivity displayed to us at such a traumatic time, which has honestly restored my faith in humanity. But don’t leave us behind or forget our children, mostly we are just trying to get through another day without them, and adjust to a new life that we never thought we would have.