A decade that only feels like 10 minutes....
Updated: Mar 3
A decade. Sounds a long time doesn’t it. Ten years. Guess if you ask most people to reflect on the past decade, some will feel it has passed in the blink of an eye and some will feel it is an age away.
For me the past 10 years could have been just 10mins. A huge part of me is still in 2013 – 3rd March, when my precious little boy Elliot went to sleep and never woke up. I’ve said or written these next few sentences so many times – and yet I still can’t truly believe they are real. Elliot was 33 months old, a gorgeous blond hair, blue eyed, cheeky little boy. The start of 3rd March was ‘normal’ – the end of the day meant my life would never have a sense of ‘normality’ again. Elliot wasn’t ill, had the usual toddler runny nose and that was it. He’s had a morning of fun, including dancing for his sisters’ friends who had a birthday sleep over and then watching his brother play football. There was no inclination of what was to come. He went to sleep that afternoon and just never woke up.
So, as I write this on the eve of what will be a decade since Elliot died, I am thinking – if I could go back in time, what words would I tell the me back then, sitting in that hospital plastic chair with Elliot in my arms – what would I say about the decade to come?
Andrea, you will experience and must learn to live with the most devasting emotional (and at times physical) pain you could ever imagine.
A hard tell for a mum at the first devastating moments of losing her son. Sometimes you will see the pain etched into a parents face whose child has died. There are times it can’t or won’t be hidden. However, most of the time, you live with that pain inside. At times it is like a huge lump of concrete that just sits there, you feel its impact every time you breath, pressing down on you inside. Sometimes it’s the urge to want to curl up in a corner tell the world to go away and cry until there is nothing left. Other times it’s a constant ache for the loss and the future you will never have with Elliot. Tears will suddenly start to fall as you drive home, you feel a heaviness inside when you pass another blond-haired toddler, or you just go numb inside – sometimes you can’t work out why – it just is there. Maybe it is your body trying to protect itself from the enormity of what has happened?
However, I would tell the me back then – that this is ok. This pain will live with you, and you will learn to live with it. It is there because the love for all your kids including Elliot – is at the core of your soul, that it hurts beyond words is normal and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is a huge learning curve I would share with the me back then though – is how much you feel you have to hide the pain, not from everyone – but there is a fear about child death. It is not something that is talked about much and some conversations go a way that you know it is more about the other person needing to feel that everything is ok – they way they do that is to expect or hope that you will deal with it privately. That’s for a separate blog though. This brings me on to my next thing I would say to the me back then.
Andrea, you have the most incredible family, friends and colleagues who will help you learn to live with losing Elliot
As I reflect, I see it as Elliot leaving me a ‘support package’ – of his own making. At the time you don’t necessarily feel or recognise the support or its importance. As time has gone by, I see Elliot's support package as being a life saver. It is true that when you experience the death of your child, your perspective on life changes, your tolerances are a lot lower, and you do find out which people are good for you and who have a toxicity. The latter either because they don’t know what to do so pressure you to conform, or just because they think they have the answers – yet are so far of the mark. Everyone you meet in life helps you learn and grow though – even the negative ones!
Colleagues who provided food, left it on the doorsteps. Colleagues who had the bravery to come and knock on the door and just be there and sit with you. Colleagues who redecorated Elliot’s room so his brother could once again sleep in the room they shared. Priceless.
Friends that talk about Elliot, that have been able to sit with you in the most devastating of times – including those moments that come out of the blue and you crumble. They ask nothing of you, only that you know they are there, they care and without having experienced your loss – they get its devastation. I have been so lucky to have these friends who will never truly know the impact they have had or the difference they have made - a huge thank you.
Family – losing your child, your brother – it doesn’t give you a pass on the rest of the crap that life throws at you (although some people seem to think it does). You don’t get everything going smoothly, kindness, understanding and a break from the emotional rollercoaster of the world. You must take all that and still learn to live, adapt and cope with the devasting loss. I am so proud of my family, how we have supported each other, continued to live a full life, laugh, love, shout, and cry, create new memories and still cherish our past. All this whilst coping with what life has thrown and taken Elliot with us.
Andrea, some new people will come into your life, some truly inspirational, some for support that will help change your path and some who will help you realise life still has a purpose.
I see this as part of my Elliot support package. Sitting in that hospital chair on the 3rd March 2013, I couldn’t see beyond the next moment – my biggest fear was how could I support Elliot’s brother and sister through this, how can I support John and how can I keep my family together. I saw the responsibility as mine, both as a mum and because I was convinced that Elliot’s death was my fault. I didn’t know how – just that he was my son and I was there to protect him and yet he died. So, in that moment, the most important thing for me was to make sure Elliot’s brother and sister got through this and not just ‘got through it’ but still felt they had a life ahead of them that they would also live with Elliot by their side and still be happy. I wanted nothing more. I just had no idea how to deliver it for them.
I have always been independent and dealt with things myself, taken responsibility as I saw that was what I should do. After Elliot died the professional support was non-existent. It was only on the build up to the first Christmas without him, when things hit crisis point that support came into play. I rejected it for a long time as I saw it was my fault so my responsibility to resolve it. On reflection, I was wrong. Although it got off to a difficult start, I will be forever grateful to the people that came into my life and gave support that helped me learn to reach out, find a new path in life with Elliot by my side and create a new narrative for myself. I will be forever in their debt.
As I will with the amazing people John and I have met in the setting up of Elliot’s Footprint. They gave us an honesty, a hope, guidance and an incredibly understanding of our experience and the journey we were on as well as what may lie ahead. These are people I wish I have never met as it would mean that Elliot would still be with us – but we have met them, and they have given us a solid foundation to build our legacy for Elliot and hopefully help other families who sadly experience the same devastation we have.
So there are the three things I would say to myself back on the 3rd March 2013.
And to you Elliot – my precious boy, 10 years without you, although my heart is still shattered, my love is strong, your ‘support package’ continues to see me through and I know you would be proud of your amazing big sister, big brother and daddy. I will always love you more than words can ever say.