Four years. On Sunday it will be four years since I held Freddie in my arms while he breathed slower and slower until I could gently feel his wrist, that tiny, purple-cold hand already turning white and know that I could feel no pulse, that he was gone. That eleven days of fraught love, fierce hope, fluttering joy and brutal instinct had subsided into a quiet room, still bed, arms that held.

I've tried to remember how to summon the tearing pain I felt back then, honour him in some way with eleven days of memories, quiet time, thoughtful words. Tried to find some way to make meaningful the loss of him, the hole of him, the whole sorry mess of death and destruction and all the ribbons of grief that have tied themselves around the feet and limbs of our family.

I could find gratitude. Friends have surrounded me in community this year, making daffodils for him, posting pictures of them from all around the world as they dance and shine and call a little baby boy to memory. Gratitude I can do. I can be grateful for finding gratitude.

I could find rage. Rage that when one of my children changes school next month I will have to find the words to explain that yes, it was four years ago, but she is still affected by her brother's death and that everything they learn about her must be tempered with the understanding that she has this loss in her soul. Rage that when people can't find their way into the mind of my youngest daughter, they have to remember that she locked up sadness and hid it inside herself and learned to be impassive when she was just five years old. Rage to see my false jollity hurting my biggest girls, old enough to know I'm faking, not worldly wise enough to understand why. And wondering if it means I'm okay in there, behind the jolly. I don't want that for them. Rage that all I can do on his birthday is try to smile for as long as the girls are looking at me, that we go the day without saying his name, that we laugh and make the best of it - so British are we - and then I look back at the photos in the evening and there is sorrow written across the face of the man I love. And he probably didn't even know it was there. Would probably say it wasn't there. But I know his face and I know it was.

I could find regret. Regret and resentment for a boy who had dark eyebrows and who never got to hold my face and utter the words his brother does - 'More! No! Here! Go! Again!' - that Freddie looked for me in need just once, when he crashed and they jerked him back and I saw him eyes wide and alarmed at the fuss and I was behind the mess of nurses and thoughtless registrar and couldn't ease him. Wasn't the person for the moment. I can find regret that four years have passed and family life is busy and sometimes the candles for each of his eleven days are not lit till late at night, resentment that his brother broke my thoughts of him by getting ill during those days and I had to wrestle my focus, look at now - not then - and I was angry at that. Angry at them both. At both my boys. Together.

I should be angry at them both for colluding to eat all the biscuits or for drawing on the wall, not because one is dead and stopping me from dealing with the others asthma and the other has asthma and is stopping me concentrating on the other being dead.

That's not how it should be.

But I couldn't quite find the babylost mother in all of that. She was missing.

Then the news arrived. A beautiful young woman lost. A daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife. Someone with it all before her, a family who had already suffered enough, a family broken to pieces from out of the blue.

And it all came back. I left the house one day and when I came back our world had shattered. A parent should not have to tell the world a child has died. Sisters should not sit, shell-shocked, asking again if this is true - how can it be true? How can life become death? No one who loved should have to pick up the pieces, carry on, make the best of it, fill the gaps, learn to smile again. Keep going because there is no choice and you cannot simply die along with them.

I can see them, in my mind's eye, just like I see every family who pitches into grief. The sofa still feels the same when sat on. Meals must still be cooked for hungry children. Deeds must be done, from the extra-ordinary horror of arranging a funeral, to the mundane of putting out the bin. Life stops and carries on and your head feels a million miles wide, light as air, deranged by the ordinariness of the bizarre.

One minute you are just a family and the next minute nothing will ever be the same again. Beyond pain, that other father said. And yes, I see the sense and madness in that. Losing a child is a place beyond pain and you learn to live there.
Four years. My boy should be four years old on Sunday. I've had long enough to know this happened to us, long enough to be back to happy days and a healed(ish) heart.

But he's gone - and I still do not really believe in it. Do not believe these four years have happened, that we've lived them and survived them.

Just... gone... just like that. Gone.


People talk about the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Is it a lineal experience for you or a cycle that repeats? How do you cope with your changing emotions? How do you cope with hearing about loss in the wider world since losing your child? Does it affect your emotions in anyway?