Peter is my baby. He is the much-loved younger brother of Emily and Jacob. His passion is to make people laugh and strangle his Dad as much as possible! Peter’s sole focus was to be with his family and love life! He did both.
Peter was 6’5’’ of gorgeousness. This sounds like the words of a biased mother but they are true. Perhaps hearing it from his friends will cement my words more.
“You are a constant source of inspiration for me in my life. So many events and choices must pass the ‘Peter test’.
“Your courage, confidence, integrity and attitude have helped me shape who I want to be”
“If anyone knows how to have fun it’s you”
“A man who has never failed to light up a room with his wicked sense of humour and charm”
“Cheeky personality”, “strong and positive”
“ You are the kind of person who leaves an indelible, bright blue and beautiful mark on the world”
“You set long term goals and work diligently to achieve them. Nothing hinders you in your objective”
“I have always admired how much you love your older siblings”
“You are always brimming with confidence and a natural passion for life”
This is Peter.
Peter was diagnosed with cancer on his 17th birthday. It was a 15-month journey of high’s and lows. It was a journey that the whole family did together. A precious time for us all that we hold close to our hearts. Many tears from laughter, many moments of togetherness and many moments of hanging on to hope. We lived for hope. However, things didn’t go the way we wanted and Peter died in our arms, at home, on the 11th June at 18 years, 2 months and 7 days old. As a mother I got to bring him into the world and I also got to hold my hand on his heart as he left. I feel very grateful for this moment. I feel very grateful for the 18 years we had Peter’s hugs and laughter. I feel very grateful Peter is part of our lives.
What have been our biggest challenges? What difficulties have we faced? What are the tough bits?
There are many, and they are different for us all. All I can say is don’t beat yourself up about whatever you do feel. I felt shame. I felt embarrassed. I felt different. It was all odd and confusing. A pile of emotions that you need to navigate through. Please don’t bury them, please talk to someone. They don’t go away but talking helps. Others don’t have the answers, there are no answers. For me, talking helped me process my thoughts and make sense of them as I said them. Connecting with others in a similar situation is also powerful. It makes you feel less alone. Child loss is lonely.
That said, I really struggled with socialising, not something I have ever had an issue with before. I was not interested in small talk and I struggled with ‘intact’ families. That included most of my friends. Good and wonderful friends. All this added to my guilt and isolation. So, I went searching for those in the ‘same boat’ to eliminate the guilt and remove the isolation. Socialising with other parents who had experience child loss was ‘different’ and gave me strength. We could do small talk, talk about something different or even laugh together. When you then had an involuntary ‘pang’ of reality, mid-conversation, you knew you were looking into the eyes of someone else who got it. This is why Healing Hearts was started. Together through connection and compassion I gathered the strength and desire to socialise with ‘others’. I now feel far from alone.
Connecting is how I move forward. I get a lot of comfort in connecting with people who have already travelled the road ahead of me. I look at people, one year, six years or 20 + years ahead and see hope. One of the first things I said to my son-in-law was “will we ever laugh again?”. Peter would hate that we didn’t but I couldn’t fathom how I was ever going to find reason to laugh again. But we have and we do! This I put down to observing the courage, grace and poise of other parents who have overcome such adversity. It is quite ‘magical’ to watch. To me, these people are truly inspirational and frequently make me laugh!
Those new to child loss also have something to give to those more experienced. After about 18 months since Peter passed, I witnessed a woman tell her story of loss only four months prior. Her bravery to retell her story was a gift that I treasured. I could see how raw she was, I knew how that felt. I so wanted to help her. I was full of so much judgment of myself at that time that I didn’t view myself with the compassion I needed. This woman was generous enough to let me in and give her the compassion I felt she needed. I was very grateful to her for this. There is a lot written about the power of helping others to help yourself heal. I can’t say this was the ‘first-to-mind’ action I considered to help get me through. However, one day it did feel right, it did help me in my healing and I am truly grateful for that moment.
When you are ready, and only then, I do hope you will reach out. This has helped a lot of us and I hope it will help you. Keep going, you are doing a great job just for reading this. If all you can do for now is read and watch from the ‘side lines’ then good for you. Just know you are not alone.