I’m not thinking of a warm Barbados beach, New York or a mountain retreat. Right now I’m thinking – here at home as I am, sorting the out of date food in the depth of the freezer or would I rather be stood on a cold, rainy football touchline watching a game. It hurts. I know if my life had been as I expected, as hoped – that right now I wouldn’t have a Saturday morning free to do the boring jobs I never get the chance (or inclination to do) – like sorting the freezer – those jobs that in the midst of life with a young family you just want some spare time to yourself, just to catch up, take a breather, bit of piece and quiet. I guess I have had that for nearly 6 years – it’s not want I want.
My kids have always been into sport, Winter it was watching them both play football from the touchline – not being able to feel your feet or hands by the end because it was so cold. But win, draw or lose – still having that mum chat about the game, their contribution, play to enjoy not to win – unless they won of course. Again, just getting lost in the moment and enjoying being with them, part of their lives and their passion at that moment. Cricket in the Summer – and many games of sat watching and again not feeling hands or feet by the end – even some games sat with a blanket!!
We always used to say that I bet Elliot would be playing cricket and football, he loved to do whatever his big sister and brother did. Emily would talk about how we would go and watch him play and she was excited about the thought of standing on the touchline shouting encouragement, talking tactics and helping him to choose his football boots. The simple things that we used to love that we just presumed would stay with us.
Yes the anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas are horrendously hard to get through – people accept that to a point. Although when it was our third Christmas without Elliot, someone commented – ‘it will be easier for you now I presume, this being your third Christmas you’ll be used to it and I suppose its not as difficult or sad anymore!’
But what is hard sometimes is just the day to day things that come up – just knowing that right now my morning should have been about getting Elliot up, his kit ready, breakfast and then off to find the ground. Busy, hectic but happy. I miss the normality of what I feel my life should be about. All those experiences and memories that I just will never have with Elliot.
I know I still have so much, I do feel incredibly lucky that I have an amazing family, incredible friends, a job I love – a charity creating a legacy for Elliot – but there will forever be an incredible Elliot sized hole in my life that I long to fill, that I long for those nights when I go through the day it happened and I come up with a different ending to that day – I want to wake up and that ending to have come true and there is he fast asleep in his bed. This doesn’t mean I can’t accept or I can’t live my life as it is now, it doesn’t mean I am stuck in the past – it just means I’m hurting, I miss my precious little boy so much and I just long for the life that I thought I would have. But that’s why I write this blog as an ‘anonymous mum’. Apart from one close and special friend, no one else around me knows I am doing this. I do have great supportive friends, but there are also people who are quick to judge you, to comment if you let slip how you really feel. To say that you should ‘move on’, ‘get back to how you used to be’, that you ‘shouldn’t show you can’t cope’. Who says I am not coping? To say how you feel it doesn’t mean you are about to collapse into a heap of emotional distress – and even if i did so what? I’d just have to get back up again. I’ve managed to keep the family going, help Emily get to Uni, Oli to College, I’ve kept down a very demanding job, done a few marathons and set up Elliot’s legacy. So on the outside – it seems like I cope – but that’s partly because through Bob and Elaine and a couple of very close friends – I’ve been allowed to be myself, say how I feel and that’s helped me carry on.
In a tiny way I shared that with the mum I talked to yesterday. It’s 6 weeks since her little girl died and she was feeling incredibly low – but she felt guilty about it. She was feeling low but still functioning and didn’t know if that was ok. But she was doing it for her young son, so he knew she was still ok for him.
I said that there is no ‘guide’ or ‘handbook’ for us to follow here. When our child dies we are thrown into a world we are not ready for, have had no preparation for and there is no path for us to follow – we have to make our own. So we talked about her just being how she is, if she wants to go to bed and just sleep one afternoon – just do that. If she wants to go to work and try and get lost in some normality – then that is ok as well. If she wants to cry in a way that feels the tears will never stop – go for it. If she wants to see friends and share memories and laugh – she feels guilty about laughing – then that is totally ok. It is about doing what you can to get through each moment, taking care of yourself and not listening to any of the judging voices around you. How you feel is totally normal – a new normal that bereaved parents learn to cope and adapt to in their own way. And it will keep changing.
I know these are all words that I say, I don’t know if they will help her or not – I just know that I wish someone had told me early on that how I felt was ‘normal’ – someone did say this to be some 15 months after Elliot died and it was so reassuring to know that I wasn’t going mad after all.
So I guess today is what it is, I have to work with what I have. I won’t have cold feet and hands and a pair of dirty football boots to clean but I will have an organised freezer!