It’s the Shoulds that’ll do it.

I’ve come to realise that for me, the word that will cause the most upset is should. Should reminds me of what’s missing from life, what was taken away so quickly, and what will never return. Should takes away all perspective on the good times in the past and reaffirms their place there; they are in the past and that’s where they’ll stay.

Our first should came fairly swiftly after our daughter’s funeral. We were due to move house the day she fell ill and given the distance involved, this move was halted until she was laid to rest. We eventually moved in to our newly rented three bedroom house to be greeted by a shattering should. That should be E’s room. We should be putting up the sign that marks this as E’s room. We should be bringing out her drum to bang on (only when her baby sister naps of course). We should be worrying where we’re going to store everything. Instead E’s room is the store room, and her things are in storage there. Her favourite shoes, packed away instead of laid by the front door, summoned the most significant tears as they were gently set down in a box marked E and sealed away.

Christmas was the next, obvious should.  At almost three this should have been the first Christmas she really got. We’d been telling her about Father Christmas since September, such was our own excitement. Instead we found ourselves working hard to avoid Christmas as much as possible, whilst not completely writing off our youngest’s first Christmas. Thankfully at 6 months old she was too young to see the sadness behind her first Christmas.

E’s third birthday swiftly followed in January. Another day we should have celebrated. We tried, our friends and family joined us in an attempt to celebrate E and for some of the time it worked. However E should have been there. E should have been wowed by her amazing Frozen birthday cake. She should have been opening birthday presents and blowing out candles. Instead we were left to tearfully release balloons for her and miss her dearly. That day the shoulds were unavoidable and unshakeable.

It seems there’ll be little let up in the near future. Mother’s Day next, then family holidays, Father’s Day, more birthdays, day trips. Even silly little thoughts like “I should update the wallpaper on my phone” are now potential breakers as the prospect of a new wallpaper without a new picture of E is devestating. The big ones, such as starting school, are suitably far off for now, but the little ones remain.

That said, in clearer moments it is possible to look past the shoulds and focus on what we have, and have had. We wouldn’t change anything from our time with E, save those last seven days. She brought so much joy and happiness that it’s impossible to imagine a life where she never existed. We should remember this. We have our youngest to care for and give us the drive to go on. Whilst she should have a big sister to help her grow up, she’ll always have a big sister who loved her, who shared her toys with her, who kissed her head, loved a baby cuddle, and always said “night night” to her. We should tell our youngest this everyday. These are the things we should focus on, the things we can use to keep E with us and make sure her sister knows E was the best big sister ever.

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An opening post…

I’ll open with the context. In 2015 I became a daddy for a second time and our family grew to four members. Three months after the birth of our second daughter, our eldest became very ill, very quickly and sadly passed away after seven draining, dreadful days in intensive care.

My hope for this blog is that, first and foremost, it allows me to talk about how I am coping (or not) with our loss. I’ve found it difficult to open up when talking face to face with anyone, be it family, friends, or colleagues. I’m overcome with emotion before my words even come close to forming. Inevitably any response to “are you ok?” is dealt with by a firm nod of the head, avoiding all eye contact, and resolutely chewing on my bottom lip to try and hide the trembles. I know there are things I need to talk about, I’ve even been to see a counsellor in an attempt to overcome my reserve, however the result was much the same. All the things I had mentally prepared to say before the session were swiftly locked away behind chewed lip with the first “Tell me about what happened”.

Although this blog will be an outpouring from me, I don’t want it to serve as a blog to generate support for me from readers. I want it to reach those who are going through, or have gone through similar experiences, so we can share our thoughts and support one another. And as much as I would like to think otherwise, I’m not expecting that it will act as a comfort to others in a similar situation. Grief is a very personal thing, and no two people will respond to it in the same way. At best this may serve as a “what not to do” guide -it won’t take long to spot that my tendency towards taciturnity, and a head-in-the-sand approach to dealing with loss (which has served me poorly since 2007 with the death of my mum) is no good. However if it can generate conversations here, I hope they will help those of us who need anonymity to open up, to share what we’re going through and move forward.

I’ll close with a request for understanding of the anonymity of this blog. As may well be evident already from this brief opening, I am not one to deal with things publically. If friends or family knew of this blog, and who was writing it, my immediate thoughts would be towards an urge to delete all evidence of it, and do my very best to avoid all talk of it with those people. Furthermore, if I knew friends and family were reading I would undoubtedly dampen my writing, tailoring it to suit a familiar audience. It is with this in mind that I choose not to attach my name to what I write. My hope is that the lack of identity doesn’t detract from the writing. The underlying message remains the same, presented far more openly without my name attached.