The morning after the funeral I woke up and realised I had been focusing on it so intensely that I was pushing my emotions and how I felt to the back of my mind, it had all just been about making sure I had done everything I could have for him that one last time. It rushed over me all of a sudden and I couldn’t control the tears, they were burning the back of my throat I felt like I was loosing control. I could hardly breathe, I couldn’t stop crying. I got in the shower to hide while I tried to get it out and get a hold of myself again.
It was over, all the organising, all the focusing, all the decisions, it was time to get on with life. That to me just seemed impossible, how was it that everyone was going to work, doing their shopping, having nights out, taking their kids places, I felt like screaming…I wanted everything to just stop, just hold on a minute, I need to take a breath, but that’s not how life works, you have to get on with it. As I kept repeating to myself and people I spoke to, I have to ‘find my new normal’, I said it hundreds of times and not once did I mean it or believe it, a new normal?? I don’t want one, I want my old normal, I was more than happy with that, this wasn’t the plan, this just wasn’t right.
William was feeling as lost as me, but he wouldn’t talk about it, he wouldn’t explain why, he wouldn’t come home with me. I had either stayed with friends when I was having a bad night, or with my mum and dad if I had panic attack at home as they live just round the corner but mostly I was back at home. I started spending less time at my mum and dads with William hoping he would start to miss me and that would outweigh whatever was keeping him from coming home. He was happy there and well looked after, I didn’t want to force him to do anything he wasn’t ready to do…I know how I felt when I forced myself to go back home and it wasn’t great, it nearly ended in a 999 call as I literally felt like I was having a heart attack or dying, I couldn’t breathe the pain in my body, the sickness, tightness in my chest…I managed to get an Uber to mum and dads and managed to work through it with my mum, she used to be a nurse. Now I know what my panic attacks feel like and can, most of the time, get control of them myself…but its the scariest feeling, and anyone that’s had one can definitely agree I’m sure.
I needed help and advice with William…I had had some experience with children and loss but nothing like this. The last thing I wanted was to do something that made William feel worse. I reached out to children’s charity Winston’s Wish, when I lived near Wigan they had helped me, but it seem the HD postcode doesn’t get their help…they sent me a booklet, the booklet included all I had already done and an exercise with coloured sand…William didn’t get it, so that was no help at all. So I was back to trying to think myself.
The week after the funeral was just numbness, I didn’t know what I was doing. Helen rang and said she wanted to come over and bring me some memory items, some I knew about and some I didn’t. She came over in the afternoon on Friday after the funeral. She came in holding a small black box, she sat down with her loving gentle smile but I had already gone, I could feel it in my throat, my sons whole life was completely contained in a little box, I couldn’t cope. She opened the box and inside were locks of his hair I had asked for, one for me, my mum and dad, sister and one for William for when he was older. Cards from people that had attended the funeral, a note with the money raised by the donations from the funeral, and a sheet of his fingerprints for if I wanted jewellery made from them. She had also made photo copies of the card I had William write that went in the coffin with Jamie along with a few pictures of three of us together but I had already taken pictures of those. William had drawn in a picture of the Titanic, his absolute favourite thing…I think most of my friends and family have a picture of the Titanic on their fridges.
She also had some impressions in clay of Jamie’s hand, just like the ones I had done of both Jamie and William when they were babies. I had been given one by Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in a memory box they give out there. But my mum and dad and sister wanted one too. When I had been waiting for Jamie to arrive at Taylor’s from the coroner I had tried to find another two so they were ready for when he arrived, again, filling time. I went alone, which was probably my first mistake, to Mothercare on the retail park on Leeds Road. I walked through the beautiful little baby clothes remembering when he was that tiny and I could hold him in my arms. Over to the display, they were all so small, but then I saw one, it was a heart, it looked so much bigger than the others that only had room for a little tiny hand. The box was sealed with a small circle of tape…but I didn’t want to start pulling it out juggling all the pieces to find the heart tin inside, so I went to the counter. I asked the lady if I could open the box, no, because if its been opened no one will buy it. I said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to open the stuff inside, the clay or anything, I just need to see how big the heart is to see if my sons hand will fit in it as its as big as mine, well bigger I think, do you know how big the heart is?’ She said that people wouldn’t buy it if even just the box had been opened, I didn’t see how that was but I didn’t have it in me to argue. She said they have a service where a member of staff will take the print in a large piece of clay that will then be sent off I presume to a kiln somewhere, and pointed to the display. I asked if I could have the piece of clay to take the impression and bring it back, she said you would have to bring your child in…I had to say it, to a stranger, ‘My son’s dead, I just want to buy an impression kit that I know is big enough.’ The tears rolled down my cheeks, I couldn’t stop them, I was begging for them to stop, but I had lost it. The woman stuttered an apology and opened the box, it wasn’t big enough, I walked out in tears.
I had managed to get some just big enough off the internet, but the clay in them wasn’t very good and Helen apologised not that it was her fault in any way. I looked at them when she left and I began to cry again, because he had been laid for so long with his hands by his sides his fingers weren’t straight anymore, I could see it was his hand as it had fused with his little fingers bent under the others. I gave my mum hers and my sisters and asked her not to put it out on display, I wasn’t ready to see that every time I went to their house and mine went in the cupboard with the memory box.
I sat on the floor after Helen had left and read through the cards, most of them were just names, condolences, trying to find those words but not quite getting there. Except one, this one I keep on the top of the pile and read it on a regular occasion.
That weekend my great friend Lisa Naylor had her Modern Quilt Club Retreat in Gomersal, she has two a year and I have never been able to afford to go but as a quilter would obviously love to. On the Friday evening I gave my lovely friend Justine a lift to the hotel so her husband had their car for the weekend. When I got there all the ladies came with their hugs and kind words it was wonderful but over whelming, the last thing I wanted was to start crying in front of them all while they were setting up for a fun weekend. Lisa asked what I was doing this weekend, and it was nothing, so she said there was no bed spaces but I could come back on the Saturday and Sunday and sew with everyone, or if not sew then at least have company and chat with good people.
I came back, chatted, and even managed to get involved in one of the workshops and make a cushion cover front by Jeliquilts…I still haven’t made it into a cushion as I am finding it hard to motivate myself to sew…it used to be my craft therapy to try focus away from the pain of my illnesses so I am trying to get it back to use it to focus from my mental pain. I had managed to get through the weekend with only a handful of teary moments, but my friends were there to catch me when I fell. I managed to save alot of the tears till I got home into bed.
After the weekend away from reality I was back to the house, on my own. But then my mum rang, William had missed not seeing me all weekend and wanted to come and stay at home. I was over the moon, we were moving forwards together. I went to my mum and dads and sat with William and a pile of paper. I said we were going to play a game before we went home, a drawing game. I would draw my favourite meal, colour, car, place, shape, etc and he would draw his…then we changed it to things we didn’t like, till we got to the point of the game, what didn’t you like at home…hoping this would reveal something that he didn’t like at home that I could change, move or get rid of…I said I didn’t like doing the dishes…he said he didn’t like crumbs on the floor. I asked what he meant and he said because I had said dishes and he didn’t have anything he knew I didn’t like crumbs on the floor either so put that…so it didn’t help. But he was coming home anyway, so we would work it out. We got home and he asked if he could sleep in my bed with me, I couldn’t refuse, but I knew it wouldn’t be good for me, my joints and body always hurts in bed and having a wriggly William in bed wouldn’t be fun…but I would do anything to keep him happy…so in my bed he slept.