“Granddad, if it was not for you and Grandma there would not have been a me.”

This was Emma to Brian when he and his wife Pauline visited her in Australia two years ago.

Brian and Pauline’s daughter Ruth died on Mother’s Day in 2003. She was only 26 and left a nine-month-old baby for her husband to care for. When a child dies, life changes in every way. As time goes on, the pain becomes easier to bear, but never goes away. Even now they still hit difficult patches from time to time and can never know quite when they will happen.

Brian and Pauline knew that they would face some emotional days on their trip to Australia. They so wanted to see Emma, who was then nine years old, and see the new life she had since moving there with her dad and new stepmum.

Brian explained that the statement from Emma came after they had been with her for about ten days:

We were talking about Ruth when all of a sudden she came and threw her arms around me, looked me in the eye and said: “Granddad, if it was not for you and Grandma there would not have been a me.” This shook me and took me a few days to come to terms with.

Ruth is talked of and Emma actually has a photo of her mum holding her as a baby at the side of her bed. This is comforting for us to know. Her dad has now re-married, but we were so pleased to meet his new wife and were delighted to see them as a happy family. Emma said that she called her stepmum by her name and sometimes called her Mum. This was like a spear going through me, yet I was also so pleased because I knew they had the right kind of loving relationship.

It was also Pauline’s most difficult moment, apart from actually saying goodbye:

Being a grandma to Emma has not been easy. When she was growing up, before the move to Australia, she came to stay for weekends and in school holidays, but she lived a few hours away, so this did not make it easy to see her. She was mainly with her dad and her other grandparents. They have done a wonderful job as she is a delightful girl. Also, the relationship we had with our son-in-law was quite difficult and I was conscious that he was hurting so much that I didn’t want to make things worse. She didn’t come to us for quite a few months and that was hard. We loved having her – we would talk about her mum and look at photographs as she was growing up. She was only nine months old when Ruth died, so obviously did not understand at the time. I remember the time when she would be crying in her sleep for her mum – I would just cuddle her and cry with her.

When she came to stay she always enjoyed playing with her cousins. That was always very positive and we have tried to encourage this relationship, even though she now lives in Australia. She visited us recently. It was just wonderful to see all the family enjoying being together and to see Emma so happy with her dad and stepmum. We were so pleased about that, but it was still painful as it highlighted the fact that Ruth was not with us. When her dad married again, he told us that we would always be Emma’s grandparents. We were delighted that he said that.

At the moment our relationship is via email and Skype (which we are thankful for), but I always feel that we are a step away in our relationship, not just due to the fact that she is at the other side of the world.

Brian remembers someone telling him shortly after Ruth died that he would not always feel the grief and devastation that he felt then – but if he was feeling the same in two years’ time, then they would be concerned. He now says:

I don’t find that to be totally true. It is 11 years since Ruth died, but things can still happen that cause us to come crashing down. I am sure these times will continue for the rest of our lives.

Most of you who read this will, I am certain, have had many moments like this since your son or daughter died. Both Pauline and I are so thankful that Care for the Family’s Bereaved Parent Support came into our lives. There we can share all our experiences – good and bad – knowing that there are others who are going through similar things and are on the same journey.


Brian and Pauline are Befrienders with Bereaved Parent Support. If you would like to be linked with a telephone befriender, please call Care for the Family on 029 2081 0800.

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