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  • Writer's pictureElliot's Footprint

'Today is/would have been Elliot's 14th Birthday...families still need help' - Andrea, Elliot's mum

Today is/would have been, Elliot’s 14th birthday.  I still find it incredibly hard to use the terms ‘was or would’ rather than ‘is’ on anything to do with Elliot.  I should be saying he ‘is’ 14 today – a simple sentence that isn’t true and yet somehow it is.  14 years ago, at 1.16am on the day he was due, our gorgeous little boy arrived in the world.  I can still remember the smiles and awe of his big brother and sister when they first came to see him after school that day.

There was a big age gap between Elliot and his big brother and sister – it was never a problem, if anything it was two sets of additional helping hands for me.  Both helped, entertained, distracted, and got excited about anything Elliot was doing – even if that including going to a ball pool for toddlers – they wanted to come and be part of it.  In turn Elliot, loved his big brother and sister “to the moon and back” – so anything they were doing – he also wanted to be right in the thick of it. 

It is easier to use the past tenses when I am talking about things that have happened – they are memories that happened, that I can smile about, remember even tiny detail and for a moment, go back into a world that was mine and that I loved – never suspecting for a moment it was only ever temporary.

We were lucky to have shared two special birthdays with Elliot, he died just three months before his third birthday.  The sheer devastation of facing that first birthday without him is a pain I could never describe but one I felt in the depth of my soul.  Each missing birthday since then, when we wanted to use the words ‘is’ instead of ‘would have been’ – have all had the underlying pain and an additional layer of sadness, confusion, fear, and loss.  With each passing birthday year, it changes, the emotions differ.  Those early years of what would have been 3, 4, 5, 6 were different to 7, 8, 9 and then different again into double figures.  Because we only got the time with Elliot as a baby and toddler – the older he ‘would’ have been, was hard as you had no memories to build to know what he would have been like.  What would school have been like, who would have been his friends, what sport would he have been into, what would have been his likes, dislikes, happiness points??? 

It hurts as it feels like the little boy you knew inside out has drifted away and you can’t connect in the same way as in those early loss years.  You worry you will forget the sound of his voice, that memories will fade or somehow, wherever his soul is – that he will think you have forgotten him.  It can be easy to respond and say of course that will never happen – however, when it comes to grief for your child, the logical brain does not fit with the emotional devastation and turmoil.

It is part of whatever journey you get taken on.  Doesn’t mean it is wrong or that you are not coping – it does mean that once again passing years don’t make losing Elliot any easier.  Tears flow as I write this as I so desperately want another hug, to hear his voice, to plan a birthday for a teenager.  I can’t.

Frustration has also begun to increase with the ongoing impact on families after their child suddenly dies.  Short sighted budget cuts, continued lack of understanding of the impact of grief for parents and siblings alongside the challenge of accepting the rollercoaster of losing their child is not an easy one to package into an understandable box. All these factors and more, still mean that losing your child can be an incredible isolating experience where many must hide their emotions and somehow map out a survival journey alone.  All this can lead to ill health, relationship breakdowns, loss of income, children not achieving their potential, experience of the criminal justice system as much worse. 

At Elliot’s Footprint, for all these reasons, we want to make sure that no family struggles alone after the sudden death of their child.  I am proud of Elliot’s legacy, and I feel we have achieved so much in the past 10 years – we have so much more to do to create a fundamental and lasting change though.

Our bereavement support work in partnership with Child Bereavement UK is now seen as a Key Worker within Leeds – great – however it is a statutory requirement for the NHS to provide a Key Worker for bereaved families, yet no funding is provided.  Our post exists purely because of the kindness of people like you.

Please help us to continue helping families, so that they don’t have to face the journey of losing their child alone.  Elliot’s Footprint relies on 99% from kind donations, fundraising and gifts.  Help us to keep our specialist bereavement post going and to keep campaigning for better awareness.

If you would like to donate to Elliot's Footprint to help other bereaved families please visit our Just Giving link, thank you.

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