Real Life Stories: Three Special Boys
I’m Sam, and I’m a mummy of three very special little boys, Oscar, Arlo and Oren, and I want to talk about child loss.
People don’t generally know what to say to me when they learn that my two-and-a-half-year-old son, Arlo, is the middle of three boys and that his brothers have died. I don’t make a habit of hiding the fact that I have three sons and am generally open and honest about all of my children but I am very much an exception to the rule. The majority of families like mine don’t feel confident about sharing their own experiences of child loss and will fumble and falter over the seemingly benign question of “Is he your only child?”. I completely understand why, it’s a tough subject. People aren’t comfortable with talking about death; it’s a scary thing to think about, and society just about manages when we talk about the death of our grandparents or our pets, but start talking about the death of a child and things get uncomfortable pretty quickly.
Most people like to live in that little bubble. The one where couples fall pregnant, give birth 40 weeks later to a healthy baby and then go home as one happy family. I used to live in that bubble too but then child loss happened to me and my bubble burst forever. I now walk a different path; one that is tough going and incredibly lonely.
Of all the times I’ve had that conversation about how many children I have, no one has ever asked me what my other two sons names are. It’s almost like because they aren’t here, can’t be seen, that they don’t matter. One of the biggest things I, and many women like me, want is for someone to ask us what our child’s name is because hearing someone other than ourselves say it helps them feel closer and more real.
After Oscar died, even close friends and family wouldn’t say his name. It was like they were afraid to remind me of him or that he had died. Nothing in the world could ever let me forget about my little boy and there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him and want him to still be here with me. Things got a lot worse when I lost Oren less than 3 years later.
Some people think it’s comforting for me to know that my children’s lives just weren’t meant to be or that they’re in a better place. Perhaps I can just try again and at least I still have one living child. The answer to each of these is quite simply, No.
My children’s lives matter and were absolutely meant to be, all of them, no matter how brief.
What better place should my children be in but in the arms of their loving parents.
Trying again for another child will absolutely not fill that huge gaping hole in my heart and help me forget that my children have died.
There is never an “at least” when it comes to the death of a child.
I know being confronted by a parent in the throes of grief for the loss of their child is scary, uncomfortable and makes you want to run in the other direction, but if you do find yourself in that position there are some things that you can do that might just make a small difference.
Don’t be scared by their grief. If they cry in front of you, it’s unlikely to be anything you have said or done. This family is sad and when people are sad they cry. Be there for them. Hold them up when they can no longer hold themselves. Continue to be present in their life.
If you don’t know, ask what their child’s name is or if you do know, use their name. This family wants to know that their child matters and will be remembered.
Listen when they want to talk and don’t shy away from talking about their child with them. You wont suddenly make them remember that their child has died, they remember every single day.
Send something; could be a card, small gift, anything, on special occasions and anniversaries. Let them know that you care enough to remember them and their child at these hard times.
Try and refrain from calling these parents strong or telling them that you don’t know how you would cope in their situation. They have no other option but to cope. There isn’t generally an alternative and dealing with the death of their child is their new reality. They are unlikely to be feeling very strong, even if that’s how it appears on the outside. Inside they will feel weak, vulnerable and broken. Life must carry on, especially if they have other children to care for.
If you are a family like mine, who is grieving the loss of your child or children, you need to remember that you’re not alone in walking this path. It’s really easy to forget this especially because being open about death and especially child death is very much taboo in our society. Have the confidence to talk about your experience and never be afraid to be open and honest about your children. The more we talk and the more we share, we will break down these walls that surround child loss and we won’t feel so alone.
Also know that there is support out there. I know it’s difficult when just breathing your next breath feels impossible, but seek the help of your GP. They will be able to offer support and sign post you in the direction of networks in your area that can help.
Mummies of children that are no longer here. Know that if you have had a tiny heart beating alongside yours, you are still a mummy, whether you hold that child in your arms for the world to see or in your heart for all eternity.
Sam, Mummy to Oscar – Forever 5 months, Arlo a growing 2 ½ year old and Oren – Forever 2 days.
Thank you so much to Sam for sharing her story xx