Tag Archives: grieving parent

On grief and time

My darling baby Sofia should have been 7 today. A whole seven years have passed.

Source: Sonja Langford vis Unsplash

Source: Sonja Langford via Unsplash

I’m sure if my biggest nightmare hadn’t come true, the last seven years of her life would have flown by just the same. No doubt, in the blink of an eye, she would have turned into a grown-up girl while I still considered her my baby.

This past year, more than others, I’ve regularly wondered what she would have been like. What she would have been passionate about, what things would have given her joy.

Would she have loved girly frilly things, would we have watched Frozen endless times together, would she have loved dance lessons or music lessons, would she have wanted a One Direction duvet cover for Christmas?

At Christmas I had bittersweet moments watching Nicholas play with his cousin who was born only 7 months before Sofia. For the first time I watched them playing together imagining him playing instead with his big sister.

Grief, just like parenthood (and how grateful I am to be able to compare them), doesn’t get easier over time; it just gets different.

No matter how your grief path is shaped (and yours will be like nobody else’s), life goes on. Whether you want it to or not, life goes on. Whether you accept what happened or not, life goes on. Whether you’re only able to take the smallest of baby steps or your path scales the steepest of mountains making you cling on terrified you’ll fall or it flattens out and lets you take a breath, your path continues forever. It’s like a rollercoaster you’re destined to ride until you die.

Grief has this amazing ability to lie low for a while, then, seemingly out of the blue, make its presence felt.

Time does, however, make it easier to pick yourself up when you plummet. Time also makes the lows less scary. When grief is raw you can be terrified of never being able to claw your way back up to some sense of normality. Because of this you may lash out and fight as the grief pulls you down. Time makes it easier to accept the inevitable lows, and, by not being so afraid of them and knowing they’ll pass, the lows aren’t as deep or as scary or as long.

Last night, kissing Nicholas’ sleeping head before I went to bed, I felt so thankful to have him, so grateful he’s let me be a hands-on mum. But I was also overwhelmed by the passing of time and how much our lives have moved on since Sofia.

When Sofia was born, we were desperately trying to finish doing up our first home. It was going to be filled with so much love and laughter and life. After she died, I grew to hate the house. It was full of so many wonderful memories of hope and so many dreams of what we had assumed our future would be.

As the months and years passed, the house stayed still just like our lives. Sofia’s nursery remained untouched with the hope it would be filled with a baby brother or sister for her. I made a permanent dent in the sofa from endless hours of sitting on it while watching the seemingly continuous parade of happy mothers out of the window. It was like time had stopped.

Nicholas arrived and we moved out of London, saying goodbye to our sad house. And now after an unsettled period where we weren’t sure where we’d let life take us, we’ve bought our second family home, a house I fell in love with because it filled me with warmth and love as soon as I stepped inside.

We’re starting another phase of our lives, a happier one. But at the same time I feel as if this new phase is putting a bit more distance between me and Sofia. While her memories remain as strong as ever and my arms still ache just as strongly as they did the first day I could no longer hold her, perhaps for the first time since her death I feel time is passing normally.


Grieving in our own way

Awful drive. Lorries kept holding us up on narrow roads. Got to hospital. Ambulance went to wrong entrance. Backed out. Arrived. Young doctor in charge. Mervyn and he gave her 3mg sodium amatol. I sat in hall. Smoked. Felt frozen. A small single bar electric fire on wall. An old man in next room. Woman doctor went to phone. She was trying urgently to locate another doctor. He arrived. I went in. Olivia lying quietly. Still unconscious. She has an even chance, doctor said. They had tapped her spine. Not meningitis. It’s encephalitis. Mervyn left in my car. I stayed. Pat arrived and went in to see Olivia. Kissed her. Spoke to her. Still unconscious. I went in. I said, “Olivia… Olivia.” She raised her head slightly off pillow. Sister said don’t. I went out. We drank whiskey. I told doctor to consult experts. Call anyone. He called a man in Oxford. I listened. Instructions were given. Not much could be done. I first said I would stay on. Then I said I’d go back with Pat. Went. Arrived home. Called Philip Evans. He called hospital. Called me back. “Shall I come?” “Yes please.” I said I’d tell hospital he was coming. I called. Doc thought I was Evans. He said I’m afraid she’s worse. I got in the car. Got to hospital. Walked in. Two doctors advanced on me from waiting room. How is she? I’m afraid it’s too late. I went into her room. Sheet was over her. Doctor said to nurse go out. Leave him alone. I kissed her. She was warm. I went out. “She is warm.” I said to doctors in hall, “Why is she so warm?” “Of course,” he said. I left.

~ Roald Dahl describing his eldest daughter Olivia’s death at age seven (taken from a new biography by Donald Sturrock)

Dahl’s detailed description of Olivia’s last day was found 28 years later, after he died. He’d written it in note form in a green exercise book with only his daughter’s name on the cover and hidden it away. His biographer wonders why he did it.

Perhaps someone who hasn’t lost a child would wonder why – why relive the tragedy, why write it down in such meticulous detail, why not allow your memory to blur and soften what happened?

Sometimes memories are all we have to hang on to. We may have photographs and other momentos, but memories have more life. In my memories I can still feel and smell Sofia.

While the accounts we have of Sofia’s death are quite cold and emotionless (the hospital’s investigation and the coroner’s report), their detail is strangely comforting. Even only a few months after Sofia died, I asked Roberto ‘But did that really happen?’ about a few details I read because I had no recollection of them.

Some of you may say it’s better to have good memories, to remember the happier moments rather than the saddest. I want to remember the whole of my child’s life; her death was a part of her life. I want to remember all the details of her death, as well as of her brief life, for as long as possible.

Missing you

No words I write can ever say
How much I miss you every day.
As time goes by, the loneliness grows;
How I miss you, nobody knows!
I think of you in silence,
I often speak your name,
But all I have are memories
And photos in a frame.
No one knows my sorrow,
No one sees me weep,
But the love I have for you
Is in my heart to keep.
I’ve never stopped loving you–
I’m sure I never will;
Deep inside my heart,
You are with me still.
Heartaches in this world are many
But mine is worse than any.
My heart still aches as I whisper low,
“I need you and I miss you so.”
The things we feel so deeply
Are often the hardest to say,
But I just can’t keep quiet any more,
So I’ll tell you anyway.
There is a place in my heart
That no one else can fill;
I love you so, my precious son,
And I always will.

~ Author Unknown

Another day without

The stillness of the morning wakes me,
But I cannot see
Why there begins another day
When my son’s not here with me.
The house feels strangely silent
And his room, a lonely place.
I long to touch his soft brown hair
And kiss his dear, sweet face.
I’ll never get to hear him call,
“Come see what I just made!”
I’m left with only memories
Please God–don’t let them fade.
Deep in my heart, his spirit lives,
His laughter I still hear.
He’ll forever be my little boy,
Though I can’t hold him near.

~ Author Unknown

Say my child’s name

The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.

If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of her name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.

~ Author Unknown

Things I never thought I’d do

How much is a baby’s gravestone? That’s what I’ve spent my morning searching for on the Internet.

As part of our legal action against the hospital, we have to justify all the money we’re asking for. It’s a crude and detached thing to do, and all the while our legal team are comparing our case to others; other traumatic cases but, of course, no two are the same.

We’ve spent months adding things, reducing some and not adding others because they’re not reasonable in the eyes of the law. Now the final thing is to add an approximate cost for a gravestone.

So how much does a gravestone for a baby cost? Well the answer is the same as ‘how long is a piece of string?’ It can be just a headstone or it can have kerbs (in other words be the full length of the grave site). It can include etchings, photos and statues. All of these can be standard or bespoke, in granite or marble, and how many letters do you want and in which colour? It needs a base and the cemetery has a burial ground fee, which of course differs from cemetery to cemetery.

In the end, it seems you can spend as little or as much as want. Now we just wait to see what amount our solicitor thinks is a reasonable amount.

In the natural, logical order of things, parents are not expected to outlive their children. I should not be burying my son, I should not be burying him.” ~ Father (www.uk-sands.org)


Go ahead and mention my child,

The one that died, you know.

Don’t worry about hurting me further.

The depth of my pain doesn’t show.

Don’t worry about making me cry.

I’m already crying inside.

Help me to heal by releasing

The tears that I try to hide.

I’m hurt when you just keep silent,

Pretending she didn’t exist.

I’d rather you mention my child,

Knowing that she has been missed.

You asked me how I was doing.

I say “pretty good” or “fine”

But healing is something ongoing,

I feel it will take a lifetime.

~ Elizabeth Dent