When you give birth to your child, you never imagine losing them. You raise them right, you nurse their wounds, you laugh with them and sometimes you cry with them. You watch them grow up and hope all the best for their future.
But that can all come crashing down with just the ring of a telephone.
When I got the call to say my son had died suddenly, my world came crashing down around me.
They say a mother should never have to bury her child – and yet here I was, in my late 50’s, looking at having to do just that.
It was unimaginable, unthinkable and unbearable – there’s no reference for how you prepare for it.
And even after burying one of your parents and overcoming that grief, it is nothing compared to losing your child.
Once you overcome the numbness and disbelief, you become overcome with emotions and thoughts – did I fail as a parent? I wish it had been me instead. All the what ifs, the unanswered questions – was I his last thought? Could I have done something to save him?
At the same time as battling the emotions, I also had to deal with all the other stuff that follows a death – the paperwork, the funeral preparations… it’s far from easy.
I was left with no time to grieve, no time to just curl up and hide away like I wanted.
A week later I watched as my son’s casket was lowered into his final resting place. It was like having him ripped away from me all over again.
The whole thing was a blur.
After the funeral, the cycle of emotions and thoughts started all over again. From the initial numbness the day after the funeral to those what ifs and questions for weeks after.
After a while I started to come to realise that I needed help, that I needed to start trying to get my life back in order and move on – as hard as that may be.
I knew my life would never be the same as it was before, but I still had a life – I was still alive, and I needed to remember that. Life is something that my son no longer had, I had to remember him by continuing on and living.
You might be wondering how I got through?
Well, first I had to allow myself to grieve and to acknowledge and accept what happened.
This was actually the hardest part of the whole process… accepting that my son was gone.
Even months later it was still hard to deal with, to face the fact.
But in the end, to move on I had to.
I had to grieve. I had to cry, to scream, to be angry, to take to my bed, to hide from the world, to have bad dreams. I had to block out all of the people telling me or advising me how I should grieve. I needed to do it at my own pace, in my own way.
While I grieved, I started to put together a memory book about my son.
Just like a baby book, I filled it with photos, with memories of our best days (and some of our worst) and I also got some of my son’s family and friends to contribute their memories.
For me it was a powerful way of remembering how great my son’s short, but bright life was. It made me remember that I did my best as a parent, that I gave him a good life – a happy life.
I started to spend my days reflecting on the happiest, most powerful memories of my son and laughing along and smiling in quiet periods of reflection during the day. Whether it was pottering around my garden, or reading a book in the sun – those memories started to allow me to continue on with my life.
The next step for me was to take care of myself.
To remind myself everyday that it wasn’t my fault. That I did the best I could. That even though my son was dead, I had been a great mum – that I deserved to be happy, even though my heart would never be the same.
And finally, I created a support network. I stayed in close contact with son’s friends and his partner. They were wonderful sources of comfort for me and we all helped each other through the tough times.
Years down the track, I still miss my son terribly. Learning to live without him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I know in my heart he would have wanted me to be happy.