Compassion Summer 2021

Summer 2021 - Compassion | 10 “Well, he has a broken leg but that’s the least of his problems. He has suffered some trauma to his head. In this country we … how can I put it? … we would say he is brain dead.” On the 13th of January 2011 my twenty- seven-year-old son Thomas, was rushed to intensive care in Porto, having fallen through a skylight whilst searching for somewhere to paint graffiti. I received a phone call from a doctor in the hospital, and when I asked her how bad it was she explained his injuries to me. Her English was good, but I couldn’t quite take it in. We had to get from Italy (where we lived at the time) to Portugal as quickly as we could. The hospital was waiting impatiently for me, his next of kin, to arrive so that I could give permission for his organs to be donated. When I look back now, I remember those first few days as a sort of numbness. I floated around in a mist of confusion and disbelief, with grief knocking me sideways when it arrived without warning in erratic bursts. The paperwork and tasks that have to be attended to after a death do, to a certain extent, distract the newly bereaved for some of the time. Funeral arrangements, cremation, bringing the ashes home; there was a great deal to organise. Everyone — family and friends — was supportive, and offers of comfort, both physical and emotional, flew in, literally from around the world. But as the weeks went on, I needed something more. I was desperate to meet or speak to others who had suffered the same experience. I lost count of the number of times conversations began, “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My mother died last year and I’m still feeling the pain”, or “my father died six months ago, it’s left a terrible hole in our lives but we are beginning to get over it”, “Time is a great healer”. People meant well, but they just didn’t get it. The loss of a child is impossible to come to terms with, and only others who have experienced it, are truly able to comprehend the emotions involved and understand the sheer enormity of that loss. There is a void in your life that cannot be filled. I liken it to the side being knocked off a building, which cannot be replaced, or a branch ripped irreparably from a tree. Something has gone and the pain lingers forever. They say when you lose a limb you can still feel it for years afterwards. I think losing Tosh — that was his nickname — is like that, I can feel him somewhere and it aches. Finding The Compassionate Friends was a massive relief. To be able to share my experience and to chat on the forum with other bereaved parents was indeed a lifeline for me. At last, everyone I spoke to completely understood how I felt. There was an immediate connection between parents, a shared knowledge of the depth of our despair, loss and grief. Through The Friends, I met many, and made close bonds with a few. The other lifeline was being able to write. I began to write a letter to Tosh, just to tell him what was going on. I wrote eight thousand words that were between us. I never intended to share those words but Write about your loss