After spending an enjoyable week in Keswick on holiday with friends, we had decided to break up our journey home to Oxfordshire by spending a weekend at my parents’ home in North Wales. While there, amid our family and friends, Daniel somehow managed to fall into the pond in their garden and drowned. We spent 10 days by his bedside at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, hoping and praying that he would pull through against all odds. However, the time came when it became clear that we had to let him go and turn his life support machine off.
There are no words that capture the sense of devastation and heartbreak we felt as we sought to find a way to continue our lives without our little boy. As well as our own pain as parents, witnessing our four-year-old daughter’s confusion and pain at being separated from the little brother she loved so much was so hard to bear. I distinctly remember bathing Ella one evening shortly after Daniel’s death and her bursting into tears that he wasn’t in the bath with her. She seemed so vulnerable and lost without him; it broke my heart.
Humanly speaking, there seemed to be no hope. Yet, as Christians, Jorge and I have continued to experience a deep and lasting peace over the past five years, knowing that Daniel is now truly home in heaven with Jesus. Although we have to face the pain of being apart from him now, we have confidence that one day we will be reunited in heaven as a family.
Despite this very real hope we feel, it has not diminished the need we have felt for support, and a longing to be with people who could understand and relate to our sense of brokenness. This led to our attending a Care for the Family Bereaved Parent Support Weekend, even though it was only two months after Daniel had died. To have some of the complex emotions we felt ‘normalised’ was very important to us. One of my greatest struggles after Daniel’s death was the feeling of being different and not fitting in; this often left me feeling vulnerable and exposed in everyday life. At the weekend away, we found the acceptance and understanding that we needed so much. Sharing our story with people we met there was painful yet cathartic. Talking about Daniel remains really important to us and, in a world that seems to move on so quickly and leave our loss and loved ones behind, Care for the Family’s events have given us a freedom and opportunity to do this.
Prior to attending the weekend, I had been hugely helped by being linked to a Bereaved Parent Support befriender who I could regularly speak to on the phone. This lady had experienced a similar loss and our chats gave me hope as I could see she understood yet had been able to move forward in her life without feeling as though she were leaving her child behind.
Over the last few years, I have continued to attend Care for the Family events partially as a source of help for myself, but also because a number of friends have sadly faced the loss of their child too. Having been helped so much myself by meeting other bereaved parents, I have been keen to bring these friends along. They too have found it helpful to have time out to reflect and share about their precious children. One of my motivations for inviting friends along is the deep desire I feel not to let my suffering be in vain. If I can help and encourage another bereaved parent, it is one small way in which I feel as though I can honour the significance of Daniel’s life.
Aside from bringing friends along, Jorge and I have also formed new friendships through attending the events. These friendships have proved really helpful as we have been able to support and encourage one another as we journey forward together.
During the five years since Daniel’s death we have had another daughter, Grace, and more recently our second son, Leo, was born. It was a poignant and emotional moment when we discovered we were expecting another little boy. It also raised questions like, “How do you remind those around you that he is not your first son?” There is a complexity to life that simply wasn’t there before. Both Grace and Leo’s arrival into our family has been incredibly joyful and a significant part of the healing process. Yet, at the same time, Jorge and I are so aware of the reality that we will never have a complete family on this earth.
It has been painful to accept that even our happiest moments in this life will always be tainted by the sadness we feel that Daniel is not sharing them with us. He remains a very real part of our family and is openly and regularly mentioned in our home. However, despite our loss, we look to the future with hope and we are thankful for the time we had here with our boy – Daniel.
Find out more about Bereaved Parent Support.