What I know about grief…

Until you’ve suffered grief in its rawest form, you simply cannot understand how it feels for the person who is suffering. You may be one of the people who say such things as ‘time heals’, or ‘you’ll get better in the summer when the sun’s shining’ (yes, I have been told this). Or you may be one of the people who don’t talk about what has happened because you think this helps.

I had never encountered real grief until I lost my son last March. Since then, I have been living in the dark belly of grief and this is what I now know:

  1. Grief is not an illness. You can’t ‘get better’. It stays with you for the rest of your life.
  2. Time does not heal. Time may heal a wound on the skin, but it can’t possibly heal grief because it’s impossible to turn back time.
  3. Grief is so very lonely and isolating. People expect things of you that are just no longer possible.
  4. Grief is unique to every person – my husband and I are grieving in completely different ways.
  5. Bereavement counselling helps because I can offload and say whatever I’m feeling without being judged. And I’ve learnt that crying is a good thing. You have to let some of the emotions out.
  6. People are afraid of grief. It doesn’t get spoken about openly. It still carries taboo.
  7. Grief is not linear. You don’t pass through certain stages and reach peace at the end. Some days you can be in the depths of one stage, to find yourself in another the following day, only to be right back at the beginning the next.
  8. Grief affects your body emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s exhausting.
  9. Grief is the worst pain anyone can ever have to endure.
  10. Grief is utterly terrifying.

I believe the loss of your child is the worst kind of grief possible. No parent should have to see their child dead, encased in a coffin. No parent should have to watch as their child is lowered to the ground or cremated. No parent should have to live with the eternal torture of this loss.

It takes a very special person to be able to help a grieving person stay afloat. I have less than a handful of true friends who have been with me since the beginning of the nightmare and I know that they will always be there with me. These are the people that are able to not make the pain their pain; they are able to put their pain aside and do whatever they can to help me. These are the people who I will be eternally grateful to.


Grief … 12 months gone

I wanted to write this post mainly because I have become tired of hearing people tell me that once the first year has passed, following the loss of a loved one, you get better, life becomes easier. Grief is such an individual journey. No one can understand it until they too live in the nightmare.

It’s coming up to the one year anniversary of the death of my son, Ned. I am not ‘better’ because grief is not an illness. There is no ‘getting better’. You live with it for the rest of your life. Some days are slightly easier than others. Some days are utter hell. That’s as good as it gets.

Physically, there are several changes in me. When the accident happened and I first starting living in this nightmare, I lost a lot of weight. I have had to rely on medication to survive. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t take the medication. My dosage has been increased several times throughout the past year. A side effect of this is that I’ve re-gained the weight lost and have put more on. I look overweight and bloated.

I am drained of colour. I have been since I was given the news that my 5 year old precious little boy had died. My skin has a dull, grey pallor. My eyes are glassy and I have a faraway look about me, so I’ve been told. I feel disconnected as I look at others living day to day.

I have started to lose my hair. At the moment it’s around the hairline and I have spiky little tufts, similar to how it was after giving birth. I hope that the condition won’t worsen but it’s out of my control.

I am bone tired. No matter how much sleep I get I still need more. I ache with tiredness. I look like I haven’t slept in months.

I still have an unstable relationship with food. I can’t sit and have a family meal. I have only managed this a handful of times over the last twelve months. This means that I tend to binge at times when I suddenly realise that I’m hungry. I know I should be eating healthily, looking after myself better. But when you hate yourself and live in this perpetual darkness, you don’t think about yourself. I make sure that I do everything  possible to ensure that my other two sons have a normal, happy childhood. It is so hard when all I want to do is curl up and die.

I feel nauseas most of the time. I am always on the verge of tears and am constantly battling them back. I continue to have panic attacks, at home and in public. Some are severe, some I can control.

So that’s what’s happening physically twelve months on. Not a pretty description really. These are the manifestations of my grief that others can see.

Mentally, I am suffering more than I have ever suffered in my life.

There’s an emptiness inside me, a gaping hole. I feel the nothingness in my arms where once he would wrap himself tightly around me. I’m starting to forget what it felt like to hold him and that terrifies me.

I cry endless tears day after day. I lie in his bed which I haven’t changed since the day he died, but his smell has faded. This also terrifies me.

So not only do I live with the devastating sadness of losing him, I now live with the terror of really losing him – his smell, the feel of his hands around my neck at bedtime, his straight from school hug. They’re fading and I can’t stop them no matter how hard I try to grasp onto them. We have video recordings of him which I can’t bring myself to watch right now, but his physicality, his being is fading.

I blame myself for what happened. It was one word. If I’d said ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’, he would still be here, filling the house with his energy and love. I made the wrong choice. I have to carry that with me for the rest of my life. I will never forgive myself for saying ‘yes’.

I’m lonely. I have never felt more alone in my life. No one can know how I feel, not even those closest to me. I lie in a crumpled heap on his bed because there’s nothing I can do to stop the pain. There’s nothing that anyone can do.

I’m not a religious person. I have no definite beliefs. I don’t know what I think happens when we die. I’m no longer afraid of dying, but I still don’t know what death means to me. I don’t think I ever will. It’s too big. I get struck several times a day with the knowing that he’s dead and it leaves me winded, gasping for air. But to think that there’s a never – never see him again, never hold him again. No. I can’t accept that. I have to cling to some form of belief that I will see him again. I will hold him. He will ‘be’.

Twelve months on, I’m not ‘better’. I never will be. The mental torture of my everyday life is showing on me physically. I ask if anyone who knows me well and reads this not to make the general assumption that after the first year things will get easier for me; that I will learn to cope better; that I will learn to live with what has happened.

Twelve months on, I still carry the devastating sadness and the guilt, but added to these now is fear. Fear of everyone moving on and leaving him behind. Fear that I’ll forget the tiniest things. Fear that the day will come when I succumb to the voice that screams at me at times to take an overdose and that it will be the one that has one tablet too many. Fear that I’ll let my other two sons down the way I let Ned down.

If I had to give words to how I feel right now, there are five adjectives that I can come up with.

Devastated. Heartbroken. Guilty. Lonely. Terrified.

I am a mam who has lost her son – the little boy who grew safely inside me for 9 months; the little boy who was always by my side for five short years. Ned.

Panic Attacks – what happens to me?

Today was going to be a bad day. I knew it was. It was the school Eisteddfod and Ned had been so excited last year, I couldn’t help but imagine how he would have been today. I tortured myself by watching videos of last year’s Eisteddfod and there he was, my little boy, alive on the screen singing and reciting. It took my breath away, but I watched it again and again and again because he was alive in front of my eyes.

When I got to the school this afternoon to pick Tomi up, as soon as I parked and heard the children’s voices drifting from the school hall; songs that Ned sang all the way home last year, it became too much.

When this happens, I have a panic attack. I struggle to breathe. I lose my bearings. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I can’t focus. I can’t respond. I know that this can be frightening for anyone who witnesses it. Today, several parents came to help and I am thankful to each one for showing their kindness and support.

I can start feeling claustrophobic quickly and I apologise if I pulled myself away from your embrace. I cannot deal with my senses being overloaded. I struggle. Sometimes I vomit. I hyperventilate. I sweat and my heart rate quickens.

What I need to do is plant my feet firmly on the ground and try to recover my breathing. I always have a paper bag in my car to stop the hyperventilating.

I suppose I wanted to write this short blog, knowing that some of you who were there today will read it and I wanted to say thank you, and I wanted to help you understand a little of what is happening to me physically when an attack happens.

It’s simply the pain of losing Ned becoming unbearable. It’s the fight leaving me. It’s me not wanting to be anymore. It’s me tired of the daily battle. I don’t want that to frighten anyone, I hope it will help you to understand. Some days are just really bad.

It’s been nearly a year and I’m not ‘better’. Grief isn’t an illness. I will carry it with me forever – it’s in my heart, my bones, my soul. It’s like the ocean – some days can be relatively calm, other days I’m riding rough, stormy waves that threaten to drown me. It’s never still. It ebbs and flows.

So as I saw a #randomactsofkindnessday on Twitter, I thought it apt just to simply say thank you to those who came to help me today. It won’t be the last panic attack I have. But I do come out of them. The worst that can happen from a panic attack is that you pass out, which I have on a handful of occasions.

I’ll end therefore with just a big diolch/thank you to everyone who helped me and to those I allow close enough who have been with me every step of the way. Diolch o waelod calon.

Time heals, doesn’t it?

It’s been almost a year since I lost my little boy. So I must be getting better, right? I mean, I get told all the time, once the first year has passed you’ll feel much better. I stare blankly. Better from what? I’m not ill. Well ok, I had appendicitis at the start of the year and I have a lingering chest infection, but surely they’re not talking about that?

Grief isn’t an illness. You can’t ‘get better’. I can’t take a pill to make it better, or have surgery to have it removed. It is a part of me that will never go away. It’s in my heart, in my bones, in my soul. Time doesn’t heal. Whoever said that originally had clearly not experienced grief in any form.

Some who know me may read this and think, ‘Well, she was shopping in town this morning.’ ‘She looks a little pale, a bit bloated, but she’s out and about.’ I’m pale because I can’t sleep. I’m bloated because I take so much medication, even my GP wonders how I’m standing. I’m wandering around town because I can’t face going home and seeing Ned’s empty bedroom.

Then I get asked, ‘Isn’t the medication numbing you? It’s making you put on a lot of weight. Shouldn’t you just be without them so that you can grieve properly and let the healing begin. Start living again.’

I feel like I’m being judged. Yes, the medication is numbing me. It’s numbing me to the point that I’m almost a walking zombie. Am I grieving properly? Not a day passes without I cry and cry. Not a second passes without I think of Ned. Not a day passes without thinking that I don’t want to be anymore because I let my little boy go and he died.

But I have two other little boys. I would never want them to suffer the pain I feel day after day after day. They’ve lost a brother. They certainly couldn’t cope with losing their mam too. So for those pondering as to whether the pills are stopping me from grieving, no they’re not. They don’t touch the grief. They are repressing my pre-existing depression and anxiety a little. But most importantly, they’re making me get out of bed and battle through each day for my boys.

As to the starting to live again. I exist. I’m breathing. That’s all I ask for. I am being mam to my two boys, because the medication allows me to be. I know there’ll be someone reading this who will be against taking medication … believe me I’ve had offers of massage, Reiki, mindfulness … they’ve all been thrown at me, but not one of the people offering such ‘healing processes’ have lost a child. I don’t mock these processes or doubt that they are a godsend for some. They’re just not the right offerings for me. I cannot be healed. I will forever have a broken heart that cannot be mended.

I don’t seek pity. Believe me, seeing pity on someone’s face when they look at me hurts. My aim with my blog is to have people understand. Have people understand that everyone’s grief is an individual journey and I am sharing mine, because you can’t see the emptiness inside me and the gnawing guilt that I wasn’t with my little boy when he was so badly hurt; when he battled for over an hour to survive … I wasn’t there. And I should have been. I should have been holding his hand, telling him that mam was there and that I loved him to the moon and back a million times. I should have died, not my innocent five year old healthy little boy, who was so powerless to his fate as he sat in the back of that car. I shouldn’t have let him go.

That is what isn’t visible behind the glazed eyes and the sometimes slurred speech. This is what lies beneath the emotionless exterior. This is what hides behind the smiling face my two boys see. I have suffered the greatest loss. So please, don’t judge me for taking medication because today I have battled another day. I am surviving. And as to getting better? I will never be ‘better’. I will live with my grief for as long as I’m alive.

Flying Free

I sit and wait as night cloaks day

For then I know I’ll drift away.

Away from life, from pain-filled fear

Where sorrow falls in every tear.


With angel wings we freely soar,

The guilt and loss inside no more.

Our souls entwined we freely fly,

With you right here I’m free from ‘why’.


But morning brings its dawn too soon,

An empty bed, an empty room,

An open door, toys on the floor,

The burning candle burns no more.


A shattered heart that cannot mend.

A tortured soul has reached its end.

With your small hand you guide the way,

And with you now I’ll always stay.

A New Year

Thoughts from a grieving mam…

Christmas came, and thankfully it went. It was heartbreakingly difficult, but we had to make sure that Tomi and Cai had a lovely time. Thanks to close family and friends, I think we succeeded.

I’ve been told that as a bereaved parent, the first of everything without the dead child is the most difficult. I don’t think it will ever be less difficult. Ned’s absence in our house is so prominent – from the angry outbursts and slamming of doors by our eldest son, to the curled up ball on my lap of my youngest; the silence of my husband and the endless tears from me.

I dreaded New Year, the change of the date. In 2016, Ned passed his Stage 2 swimming test and his 10m badge. In 2016, Ned had his fifth birthday party at home where we made party hats. In 2016, we were told by the school that Ned was a gifted and talented pupil.

In 2017 … nothing. There will be no new memories to be made with Ned. This simple fact has really punched me in the gut and screamed in my ear: He’s gone. Two simple words yet their weight sit on my shoulders and wear me to the ground day after day after day. He never even lost a tooth and had a chance to receive that magical coin from the tooth fairy. He never got to ride his bike without his stabilisers. He never got to build a snowman or go sledging. He never got to be six years old.

So what do I do in this new year? How do I live? I have to because my two other boys deserve to have the best life that I can possibly give them. This new year didn’t give me the best of starts – it threw appendicitis at me. This meant four days in hospital. Four days to do an awful lot of thinking about what lies ahead (even though I know with certainty that tomorrow can be snatched away from you in the blink of an eye).

I tried to write a list but I stared at the empty sheet of paper. Everything feels so meaningless, so unimportant. There are only three things that I ended up with:

  1. Breathe
  2. Be the best mam that I possibly can
  3. Write

Right now, I’m just about succeeding. I wake up and tell myself to breathe. I do what I can for my boys. This afternoon I will go and cheer on Tomi in the school swimming gala because I can picture his beaming smile when he spots me in the crowd. It will be utter torture. I panic in crowds. The last time I was at the pool was two days before Ned died when he gave me a thumbs up and the biggest, dimpliest smile in the world when he swam 10m on his back. But Tomi needs my support so I have to live through that pain and not break down for his sake.

I am writing. I am writing the second ‘Grace-Ella’ book. Some days, my mind won’t settle on the story I want to tell so I write something else – a poem, a blog piece, anything as it helps me to settle and to breathe easier which in return helps me to be Mam. This is all that matters to me.

Not a minute of the day passes without I think about Ned. I miss him so much it makes my heart hurt. This pain I know I must carry for as long as I’m alive.

Each of us have our own tales to tell. Life takes us all on different paths. We make decisions, we plan ahead, but essentially, we have no control over the story of our lives. We don’t get to choose the ending, the decision is made for us.

For me, there will be no happy ending to my story, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t tell it, because writing my story may well help someone else out there, someone else living the same lonely, tortuous nightmare.

I’ll tell my story for one reason and one reason alone – to keep the memory of my son burning like a beacon in the darkest of hours. He was here. He was alive – my little boy lost, Ned.

My Christmas Wish

I wish with all my heart and more

That you would walk right through the door.

Your beaming smile would say, ‘I’m here.

There’s no more need to shed a tear.’


We’d hang your stocking on your bed,

I’d place a kiss upon your head.

I’d say, ‘Sleep tight my angel boy.’

My heart would over-spill with joy.


I’d hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh,

Piled high with gifts for this special day.

Then morning’s dawn would bring its cheer

And take away the pain-filled fear.


We’d have you home where you belong

Your absence here has been too long.

We’ve missed you more than words can say

I’d pray that here you’ll forever stay.


My Christmas wish it won’t come true,

An empty room – there’ll be no you.

But in my heart you’ll forever be

My little boy lost – Ned bach fi.


Christmas Tears

This will be my final blog post of the year. And what can I say that I haven’t already said? It has been the most horrific year of my life. Since March the 25th, the day my beautiful, innocent little boy died, I have been living in a dark, dark nightmare from which I have been unable to see any light. I have been to depths that I would never have imagined experiencing.

2016 was going to be a new start for me. I finally made the decision to give up my long-term teaching position because I wanted to get better – I have been suffering with depression and anxiety for the past four years. Posting that resignation letter was the start of the weight lifting. I could breathe a little easier. I had no money but so what. For me, I have always said that before anything else, I am Mam. I chose to have children because I wanted them. So why was I staying in a job that was taking up all my spare time, making me snappy and miserable and absolutely no fun to be around? It was doing nothing but make me ill. It saddens me that it took a complete breakdown for me to realise this.

My debut book was publishing in September. I wanted to write more books and I finally had the time to do that. For the first time in a very long time, with my three boys around me and my book to look forward to, I was happy.

Little did I know that on Good Friday, my whole world would shatter into a million pieces. Little did I know that when my little boy waved at me through the window of his grandmother’s car at 10am, that that would be the last time I would see him alive.

I’ve blogged about my journey through grief so I won’t repeat it here. The only part I will repeat is that the best advice I’ve been given from that tragic day is to simply breathe. I still get frequent panic attacks, but I am slowly learning how to breathe through them. When the pain is unbearable, I try to focus solely on my breathing. Some days, that’s all I can manage. Other days, the technique of ‘distraction’ can work for me.

Having my debut book publish this September has been such a strong focus of distraction for me. I have been able to do a few school visits. I have been able to do a few book signings at shops. And from the very beginning of this terrible journey I have been on, I have been able to write.

I have never found it easy to express myself vocally, but I have always found it easy to write my thoughts on paper. Writing really has been my lifeline over these past nine months. Blogging about my experience has helped to release some of the inner pain and turmoil. I’ve written poems which I have never done before. And for the last few weeks, I have finally been able to get back into writing children’s fiction. This is my release. Yes, I have two counselling sessions a week which I could not manage without and yes, I continue to be on a huge amount of medication, but I am still able to write. This has proved to me that I’m a writer. I still find it hard to believe that I’m a children’s author, but I know from the very depths of my soul, that I am a writer.

So where do I go from here? How do I move on? I have no idea. I can’t plan ahead. I live hour by hour, day by day. But I do know that I have to be here. I have to be Mam to my two precious boys. I have to do everything I can to make sure that they grow up as stable adults who have been able to survive the loss of their brother, and who are able to talk openly about Ned. I have to keep Ned’s memory alive. He was only given to us for five short years, but I will make sure that we talk about him every day for the rest of my life.

I no longer have life goals. I have no resolutions to make. My life is made up of moments. Some are good, some are bad. That is how it is and how it will always be. There is no cure for grief. But with time, living with it becomes a little more bearable.

I’ll never accept my son’s death. I’ll never say a final farewell. I’ll simply wait until the time comes for me to be with my little boy again. And whilst I wait, I’ll cherish each moment I have with my other two sons. So I’ll end this blog on that note:

As Christmas brings its festive cheer,

I’ll cherish those whom I hold dear.

I’ll shed pained tears for my precious Ned,

Asleep deep in his earthen bed.

Finding release …

The sudden death of my son has been my first real experience of grief. Yes, I’ve lost both sets of grandparents when they were at an old age, but this is the first world-shattering experience of grief I have had; and it’s the worst kind there is. With three words, I shattered into a million fragments that will never fully piece together again. I’ve been thrown into a vast ocean, its waves constantly wash over me as I struggle to breathe and keep afloat. Three simple words: He’s passed away.

The world changed for me that day. It became a world of horror and inexplicable cruelty. This wasn’t my life. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. I had just given up teaching whilst on sick leave, recovering from a hysterectomy. My book was being published this year; I was starting to feel like me again. Having suffered with depression and anxiety for the past four years, I was finally beginning to feel the tiniest fluttering of happiness. It was like a bud beginning to flower. This was my new beginning.

Then crash. My whole world catastrophically crumbled down around me.

I have blogged about my journey through grief as it is such a painful, incomprehensible and lonely place to be. It’s not just an emotional turmoil, it also physically hurts. Quite simply, you live in a nightmare from which there is no escape.

A friend of mine has recently found herself in this nightmare, having lost her husband. This is partly why I’m writing this blog today. It’s also partly because someone asked me the other day if time heals. There’s only one answer to that: No.

So what is it that I want to share with others who are living in this nightmare? What can I offer when I know that words fall like autumn leaves around you when you’re in the darkness of grief. I think that what I want to say is that coming up to 8 months, I’m still here. I have battled day after day and have made it this far. Am I better? No. Grief is not an illness. There is no cure. It’s something I have to learn to live with.

How? How do you escape from the dark nightmare? 8 months in, I am still in the dark nightmare, there is no escape from it. It is my life now. But there are days where I can see a glimmer. It may only last a few minutes, it may last most of the day, but it is there. Not every day. Days without the glimmer are dark and dangerous. Those are the days when I hurt so much that I hold myself in a tight ball, begging for some release from the pain. Those are the days where I pace the house in a panicked frenzy of not understanding. Those are the days that I don’t want to be.

Right now, those days still outweigh my glimmer days, but thankfully, I am slowly starting to find ways of releasing the pain. Through counselling and the support of my mental health nurse, I’m slowly learning.

Over the past 8 months, I have tried many ways to find that release:

  1. Taken overdoses of tablets.
  2. Cut myself over and over again.
  3. Stuffed myself with junk food then made myself sick.
  4. Kicked out and screamed at the empty bedroom I face every day to the point of exhaustion.
  5. Thought of ways to end my life.

For each of these, I was told by friends, family and health professionals to stop; they were doing no good only harm. But what did they know? They had no idea of the pain I was in. They could tell me a thousand times over that I needed to distract myself when the overwhelming darkness began to suffocate me. Why I would say. I didn’t want to distract myself. I wanted to take the tablets because I knew I would sleep. I wanted to cut my skin because it hurt and I deserved to hurt. I wanted to overeat because I hated myself so much. I wanted to lash out and scream and bang my head against the wall because I let my little boy go on that day. I wanted to die because my little boy was somewhere and he needed his mam.

I had to realise for myself that these methods were not working. They weren’t giving me any release. Taking tablets was giving me a few hours in A&E and the guilt and shame that followed would eat away at me for days. Cutting myself wasn’t doing anything other than making a mess on my skin which I tried in vain to hide. Overeating has made my weight creep up which leaves me feeling angry and full of self-loathing. Ending my life isn’t an option. I have a husband and two sons. Two little boys who need their mam.

Slowly, I have stopped using those methods and I hope I’ll never fall back into that self-destructive pattern of behaviour; but I can’t say it’s a certainty. That realisation had to come to me by myself. I had to see for myself that what I was doing was not going to help. I have had to accept that I have to find non-harming forms of release. I have learnt to recognise the danger signs and know that I have to get myself away from them. I can’t let them overwhelm me. I can’t let them win.

What’s different for me now? My grief hasn’t lessened at all. It never will. I know that. I can’t escape it. It’s real, it’s happened to me and I have to learn to live with it.

So what happens now when the dark thoughts begin to overwhelm me?

  1. I breathe. I sit, with my feet firmly on the ground and I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. I keep doing this until the trembling stops and my breathing slows down again.
  2. I talk. I phone my husband or my close friends and tell them I am not feeling good and that I need help.
  3. I take medication. Some may think this is wrong. For me, it is completely right. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and right now, I need the medication to help me live with it. I am prescribed a small amount at a time – a safety net against overdosing.
  4. I visit Ned’s grave every evening where I let myself fall apart and cry till the tears dry. I have been told by my counsellor that crying is healthy, that my body needs to do this. I take the longer route home so that I have time to clear my head.
  5. I sit down and write – anything. I use words to get some of the horror out so I have that little bit more space to breathe. It’s clear to see that these are the ‘correct’ methods of release. But it takes time to get here. Being able to do them doesn’t mean I’m no longer in pain, they are simply ways of trying to manage my pain. They are the driftwood that keep me afloat. I’m still in the vast ocean, only the above helps me to keep my head above the water; they keep me alive.

For someone reading this who may be in the darkness of grief, I hope my words show that tiny glimmer at the end of the tunnel. Breathing, that comes first. Admitting you need help and asking for it, that comes next. Make sure you have a tight support network around you. Taking medication is an individual choice. I wouldn’t be here writing this without it. Knowing and accepting that you’ll cry and feel that there are no more tears left then cry some more, every day. But cry it out, don’t try to hold it in. And it’s ok for your children to see you cry. It isn’t a weakness. It’s a form of coping. The last one, finding something that gives you that release – writing, painting, yoga, running, cooking, cycling, gardening – anything that you can feel some pleasure in, because when you get that momentary pleasure, you will release a little of the built-up grief.

By doing these 5 things, I am here. That’s my aim right now: to keep myself here. I feel no excitement towards anything, I don’t feel happy. But I am here. I am being Mam to my two boys. I am keeping Ned’s memory alive through writing and talking. And although my body is full of the darkest pain imaginable, my heart beats the strongest love possible for my three sons.

Just breathe …

(Dedicated to those who helped my little Ned on the 25th of March)

Last Friday I went to meet the brave heroes from the Wales Air Ambulance who attended the scene of the crash on Friday, the 25th of March – the day I last saw my little boy Ned. I cried on the way down, I cried as we were given coffee and waited for the two men to come in. When they came in, I felt a strange calmness engulf me. Here were the two men who had all the answers to my questions.

They told me what happened from the second they landed the helicopter on the road, 35 minutes after the call, to when they had to finally admit the battle was over. They told me how peaceful the scene was. They told me how brave my little Ned was; how he clung onto his life for over an hour, but his battle was in vain. His injury was fatal from the outset.

The two men, one an anaesthetist and the other a critical care paramedic, are dads themselves. They shed tears as I cried. They told me that they had worked on road accidents for 15 years, but that Ned was the one case that would stay with them forever. Ned touched them and they have my little boy tucked away in the corner of their hearts.

A fireman had knelt next to Ned the whole time and hadn’t stopped talking to him, and had tearfully pleaded with them not to give up when they had said that there was nothing else they could do. My police liaison officer and her sergeant stood next to him willing the ending to be a different one. My police liaison officer now carries a photo of Ned in her purse.

They asked me to tell them about Ned; about this special little boy who has touched so many hearts.

So I told them about my little boy. I told them how he was always smiling and laughing. I told them how he loved to perform and would always put on shows for us to watch. I told them he was always the last to get up in the mornings. I told them how his hair stuck up at funny angles no matter how much I brushed it.

I told them he loved jam sandwiches with the crusts cut off and only if it was jam no bits. I told them how, when he walked into a room, he instantly attracted everyone’s attention without even trying. I told them how lovable he was, how he would cling to me at bedtime and tell me he loved me more than the whole wide world, and would ask for the biggest kiss in the world on his cheek so that he could feel it there till morning. I told them how I had to sing ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ to him every night.

I told them how he was determined to learn to ride his bike without stabilisers over the Easter holidays and how proud he was to be moving up to Stage 3 swimming lessons after the holidays.

I told them how children swarmed around him in school, everyone wanting a little piece of my Ned. And he gave. He befriended everyone – from the shy little girl who loved to watch him perform to the boisterous boys he would join in a rugby tackle.

He sounds just like he looked, one said. A lovable mischievous little scamp. And that’s exactly how he was – bursting with life and energy; full of wonderment and excitement about the world around him; already labelled as a ‘gifted and talented’ pupil at school. Perfect.

So why take him from this Earth? Why hurt him so badly that his little body could not survive? Why leave two little boys without their brother? Why leave a Mam and Dad falling apart without their precious son? Those are the questions I’ll never have answered. Those are the questions that form grief.

Since that day, my grief has turned into a deep, deep sadness that sits in the pit of my stomach. I feel a cold emptiness; I guess it’s the realisation that my little boy really has gone. The nightly nightmares of images of how I could see that fateful day have stopped; replaced by a sad reality; a reality that hadn’t hit me despite his bed having been empty for 7 months. Acceptance – that will never come. I will never accept that I’ll never hold my little boy again. Never.

The crew we met were lovely, gentle and loving people. So as the world sometimes seems crazy and incomprehensible, and makes us question its cruelty, I think of these men who showed my Ned nothing but love. And I thank them from the bottom of my shattered heart for what they did. They fought for my little boy with every ounce of their being. They are true heroes – the ambulance paramedics, the police, the fire crew and the Air Ambulance Crew.

I will always think of my little boy as my angel, even before he was taken. There was something so very special about him. I live day by day, sometimes hour by hour. I feel such a strong pull to my little Ned, but I feel an equal pull to my two precious sons at home – living, breathing, wanting and needing their Mam.

So when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I say to myself is that all I need to do is breathe. Just breathe. Anything else I achieve during the day is just an extra. As long as I’m still breathing, I’ll be here. I may be a crumpled heap on the floor; I may be curled up in a tight ball in the corner of Ned’s bedroom; I may be knelt next to his grave crying endless tears; but I’m still breathing.

Tragedy has struck friends of ours this past fortnight. Another cruel, cruel accident which has left a young woman a widow at 41, and three young children to grow up without a dad. My advice to her has been to simply keep breathing. The horror isn’t going to go away; it doesn’t get easier with time, it changes, you learn to live with it. But as long as she keeps breathing, she’ll be here.

Grief is a living thing; it moves around the body; it changes form; but it will be there, inside me, inside my friend, for the rest of our lives. That gives us a choice. We live with it, or we don’t. Sometimes it becomes so powerful, so all-encompassing that you have to find release. I’ve blogged about the dangerous ways I’ve chosen in the past and I will try my very best to help my friend live with and release her grief in ways that won’t threaten her life.

For me, right now, it’s writing. It’s breathing slowly as I write the turmoil onto the page. I step out of myself. This is a good form of release and I hope that this is where I’ll stay. Because as long as I keep breathing I will have words. Words to put on paper, words to shout out loud in anger, words to cry into my pillow. But they are all words and for a few brief moments, they give me release and they keep me here.

To the Crew

You battled strong, you battled long,

You tried to right that which was wrong.

There was no more that you could do,

My broken heart sends thanks to you.

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