To James on Father’s Day 2021, (an edited version from 2019)
You are appreciated for being the most amazing Daddy to our children.
You have supported me in every way since our lives were torn with the grief of learning that our son Joshua had experienced extensive brain damage (aged 6 months old) but especially since our lives were ravaged by his terminal diagnosis just one week after his first birthday. More so, you have been my protector and the person that I’ve come to depend upon as we journeyed through the grief of Joshua’s death (2017, aged 15 months).
I couldn’t bear to face the facts when we were told of Joshua’s fate. I couldn’t even look at the consultants, though I was in shock I remember you holding me and you’ve held me ever since. I still can’t use the ‘official’ linked vocabulary to Joshua’s passing, yet you had to inform our parents, our brothers and sisters, our family and friends that our beloved son was not going to survive. No father should have to learn that, let alone have to break the news to their loved ones.
You were and are by my side whenever I need you. When I couldn’t leave the ‘bubble’ of our room at the children’s hospital and the children’s hospice you would to bring me drinks and food. During the raw grief when I didn’t want to eat you encouraged me to, you made me. When I awoke screaming, making sounds/screams which I didn’t recognise as my own, you were there to just hold me, you still are when you find me lost in grief. You stood alongside me in the early social situations, knowing that I needed you to lean on; still you do this now knowing that I can sometimes struggle with my anxieties, the old me never knew of these feelings.
You returned to work after we learned of Joshua’s terminal diagnosis, not because you wanted space from the situation or to ‘bury your head in the sand’ but to allow me to spend every moment nursing Joshua rather than returning to work, instead you did. We didn’t ‘qualify’ for any ‘financial benefits,’ and due to my temporary teaching contract ending we were left without my salary two months after Joshua’s diagnosis. You returned to work to allow us to keep our family home (where Joshua was born) and to pay our bills, I thank you so very much for giving me those 3 precious months with Joshua after his terminal diagnosis, not just as Joshua’s Mummy but as his full-time carer, and thereafter in supporting me to have a year of bereavement leave from employment.
Together we attended weekly counselling sessions as bereaved parents, sharing openly our rawest grief, our inner most thoughts and feelings, our darkest days, we both shared the ‘bad and the ugly,’ why us? Those natural thoughts of jealousy that we’re taught to block and hide, how can everyone else’s lives around us continue, whilst ours is falling apart? Why us?
Together, we dread the question often asked, ‘How many children do you have?’ In the earlier stages of grief, I watched as you struggled to answer, we both still do! In answering honestly, you struggled, not because you didn’t want to include Joshua but because you didn’t like to make those asking feel awkward, aware that your answer would. On the whole, society does not talk of child loss for then the concept becomes too real, but for us it is reality. Joshua will always be our child, we will not see him grow to be a man, he may not be here in this world now but he is still accounted for when we answer ‘How many children do you have?’
I am aware that many will have asked ‘How is your wife?’ forgetting to actually ask about you. We have a culture that is willing to accept female grief but it less understanding with regards to male mental health. Society hopes that bereaved parents will ‘get over’ child loss so that we don’t make them feel awkward, after all we are actually living their worst nightmare, it would be easier not to talk about Joshua, for them but not for us! You and I share the need to keep his memory alive, to remind people that he did bless this world, to talk about the son who brought so much joy and love to our lives, even if it was to be cruelly taken away. We cherish the opportunities to talk about Josh but we also have a duty to highlight our journey to help society to support us and others in similar situations.
You planted an oak tree in Joshua’s memory, you climb mountains, complete rowing races, walk distances, etc. to raise awareness of Joshua and his legacy @JollyJosh, the charity we establish in his name. You supported my campaign to make positive change for other families with disabled children, you became the volunteer architect for our centre, overseeing the construction of the build. You encouraged me every step of the way with regards to my work but you also remind me that I should be taking time for me, us and our family.
We made incredibly difficult decisions together that no parent should have to make such as the ‘No Not Resuscitate’ decision for Joshua, we nursed our son on the palliative pathway together, and we grieve together.
We have since made other difficult decisions together, that of expanding our family. We experienced a miscarriage after Joshua’s passing, and together we grieved further. We faced our 4th pregnancy with positivity and hope, and we were blessed with a second son, one we hoped (more than anything) would physically stay in our world so that we could nurture him and watch him grow, telling him tales of his older brother Joshua with the help of Sophie who grieves too.
Oliver is soon to be two years old (July); he is characterful and entertaining and absolutely adored by us all. Your bond with him is special, as it is with Sophie. Watching Sophie and Oliver’s relationship develop as siblings has been beautiful and such a blessing, but it has also been very difficult too, we know that Joshua is physically missing from the family memories and photographs that we are now creating. Oliver already says Josh’s name, he recognises photographs of his brother, this is credited to how often Joshua is spoken of, for we aim to keep his memory alive.
No-one can know what the future holds, we cannot know that we will always journey ‘together’ though we can hope. However, one thing is certain James; you are an exceptional Daddy to our children.
Happy Father’s Day 2021
Lots of Love
Mrs K x