Elliot loved his hugs – but he seemed to love giving them more. He would wrap his arms and legs around you, pull you close and give you a beautiful hug with all his body behind it. Then he would pull away, look at me and smile – it’s like he knew he’d made me feel good. Other times he would snuggle on the sofa or in bed between us, put his arm around each of us and try to pull us close – saying he ‘was hugging both’.
One time when we were watching his brother and sister playing cricket, a child from the other team got hit on the knee with a cork ball. It hit him hard and he started to cry. Elliot didn’t know him but he walked onto the pitch where the boy was getting treatment on the ground, went up to him and just gave him a hug and then walked away. There was a collective ‘ahh’ from the parents and I just looked at Emily and Oli and smiled – we were all so proud of him – but for Elliot – he just walked off the pitch and went back to playing. Hugs was just something he did.
Just like with his box of favourite toys, his little shirt or a his drawings on the wall – they are precious reminders I can see, touch and feel – but I so wish I could have bottled up his hugs – his smile – and then just take the top off the bottle, feel that hug once more, see his cheeky smile and for a few moments feel that life is ok once again.
I talked to the mum last week of the little girl, she doesn’t want to be in this world anymore, she wants to just go to sleep and wake up next to her little girl. I know how she feels, you just long to know that they are ok, that they are somehow safe and you just want to be with them like any mum would. It’s frightening to feel like that, but incredibly normal given the circumstances. She is beyond desperate at the moment and still doesn’t know why her little girl died. I want to help, I can listen, I can empathise, I know where she is and why – but I can’t give her the thing she wants, to see her little girl and in her words ‘just give her a mummy hug and make her feel better’.
I feel a fraud telling her how these moments will change – that the gaps between the really bad and dark times will get longer and emotions will change but right now it is such early days and she has every right to feel how she does – but she needs to hold on, keep putting one foot in front of the other and slowly take each moment as it comes. We will help all we can. I believe everything I am saying – but it’s that logical v emotional that is difficult. Logically I can say all this to her but I feel a fraud because emotionally I understand and even now nearly 6 years on – I still have those same thoughts that she has right now. In the past 6 months they have lessened and the risks are small now compared to where things have been – but sometimes you just feel so much hurt, pain and desperation that you just want it all to stop and you feel the one thing that will help is to see your little one again.
I had a charity meeting today and we talked about our new family bereavement role that we are funding. The person who has started is brilliant, great combination of pure compassion, empathy but also has the ability to stand back and keep a professional boundary whilst still working on an emotional level that parents can believe in. I felt so proud of Elliot, that because of him, his memory, his love of life and the way he touched people – that we can do this in his legacy – he might not be here with us but he is still having an impact on people’s lives – that helps drive me forward.
The person I was having the meeting with is equally as passionate and driven to ensure support for families is there – she never met Elliot but she says that his story inspires her. She gave me a hug that was so heartfelt that it just made me think of Elliot’s hug, hence today’s blog – but it also made me realise that I need to look at what I have got, not just what I haven’t. I can’t ever feel his hug and see his beautiful cheeky blue eyes looking back at me – but I have got his legacy, his lasting impact and amazing memories that will forever be in my heart. I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad – so it’s another day done and another reminder of why I’ve chosen to keep going.