Help for parents
Grieving is so unique and personal to each individual. We know that how we have tried to cope and what we have found helped may not the same for someone else.
But we also know how lonely the grieving process can be and how confusing it is, trying to make sense of how you feel and whether the feelings are ‘normal’. So we just wanted to share a few things that helped us, in the first few days, weeks and months since we lost our precious little man.
The first few hours are largely a blur. We can hardly remember what was said or who said it. But what does stick out is the nurse in A&E advising us how to make that first dreadful phone to Elliot’s brother and sister, Oliver and Emily. We wanted to tell them face to face but couldn’t bear the thought of them coming to the hospital thinking that their brother was alive and then have that hope taken away from them.
The nurse very gently told us to just say the words straight away, no small talk, just be kind but direct. We followed this advice with all the other awful phone calls we had to make and it helped to keep it clear in our minds how to deliver such sad news.
When we finally got home after midnight we all stayed downstairs together all night, reassuring each other that we were all staying together was so important.
We even left the TV on all night just to drown out the quietness of the house.
During the first few days and weeks we just got through time minute by minute. Trying to face the waves of emotion and be there to support each other was our focus.
We talked openly and said to each other that we all had to be honest about how we were feeling and that it was OK to show our emotions. When one of us was upset someone was always there to hold them.
We made sure that Emily and Oliver knew that whatever they felt was OK, whatever they wanted to talk about was OK. That this was new for all of us and that we just had to work it out together but we needed to be honest with each other and communicate.
We made it clear that talking about Elliot was OK and that if we were both upset, it wasn’t a problem, and it was just us being honest with our emotions like we wanted them to be. But there is no guidebook here, no one to say what is right or wrong we just did what we thought was right for our family in that moment.
We couldn’t answer the “how can we help” when friends asked, because our only response was, “just bring our little boy back, that’s all we want”. So it was good when friends just acted, just called round to be there, often with food or shopping or to tidy the kitchen. Food really helped because at least we knew that the kids were being fed. The thought of making a meal was just too big a step in the first few weeks. Other big things that helped were friends taking Elliot’s car seat out of the car and taking some of his toys away that were just too hard to see. Although these may seem small, we feel doing it ourselves would just have destroyed us further.
Friends and colleagues coming round really helped. Most people said “so sorry just don’t know what to say”. But that was fine, at least they were saying something, not saying anything or putting the onus on us to start conversations was so much harder.
People treating us as ‘normal’, as Andrea and John, Emily and Oliver, was really important. Not suddenly seeing us just as parents who had lost their child and then walking on egg shells around us. They spoke to us as they would normally, it was so hard for all of us but they didn’t feel the need to fill in the silence or pretend everything would be OK.
It was also important for us not to get too hung up on what people actually said. Sometimes things were said that may have been clumsy or in an attempt to understand when really they couldn’t. But we accepted that, there is no rulebook for how friends deal with this either, just the fact people were staying in touch and talking was so important.
It was also important for us that people asked Emily and Oliver how they were and not just us. It was important that their grief and loss was recognised and not just ours.
As the weeks turned into months to some extent things became harder. We went back to work, life became very busy and somehow it felt that everyone else’s life was carrying on but although we were going through the daily motions we still felt our life had stopped.
The seasons changed from spring to summer to winter but for us our hearts were still left on the 3rd March.
For us losing Elliot was still so raw and felt like it had just happened, but it felt for others they had moved on. We understood that because life has to carry on but to some extent this was probably when the loneliness of the grief set in.
We kept some of the same routines, taking the kids to their football and cricket matches, we changed others like the route to work or being out of the house at the weekend, especially on a Sunday which is the day we lost Elliot. It was important for us to feel that we had some control over things when in reality it felt that everything was happening to us.
We tried to focus on making some new memories for Emily and Oliver; we didn’t want them to think that their life had stopped. It was hard doing anything because it takes so much energy and effort just to get through the day normally but then to see Emily and Oliver smile or laugh, it made us feel good.
At every stage, any small pleasure is important to keep hold off and build on when you feel ready. But it is also so important to do it in your own time, not when others think you should.
Not having expectations was important, our focus was just to get through the day, coping with the intensity of the emotions and accepting support from friends.
Evolving Elliot’s Footprint charity ideas and talking to others about our thoughts gave us renewed energy and a hope that we could find something we could take into a new future. It was also a way of us using our experiences and frustrations at what was happening to us in a positive way. But it was also our seed of hope that could help us to begin rebuilding our lives and have a place for Elliot to stay with us as we took his loving spirit into the vision of our new Charity.