Friday, 20 January 2017

Long-term Aftercare

Bereavement and grief truly are strange beasts. You do eventually get used to living with the weirdness of the situation – or so you want to think. You find a rhythm when it comes to important dates. And just when you think you have it all sussed, things change.

We have taken to making sure we both have our son’s anniversary off each year. We do stuff that feels right on the day – hill walking, taking it easy, releasing balloons; whatever it may be. I cannot envisage us ever working that day again. For the first number of years, this was definitely the way to go – and it still is but in an odd shift over the last couple of years I have begun finding the lead up to the day a lot worse than the day itself.

More annoyingly still, there is no predicting when it will hit. I suppose it starts with reduced levels of patience overall, trouble concentrating, feeling overwhelmed by every day have-to’s, flash backs and memories back to the few days before. What we did, where we went. That last shopping trip to Tesco and buying the Andrex loo roll because of the “puppies!”.

Eventually, for me, it will culminate in a few hours spent listening to music that I know will bring out the feelings that are lurking – the sadness, the frustration, the MISS. And often it is a weird and wonderful mix of soft stuff that will tug at the heartstrings with some Linkin Park or other shouty songs thrown in. The only way is through….

Sometimes I wonder if Eoghan notices this time of year is harder for us. I guess, he is wrapped up in his own bubble of ignorant childhood bliss most of the time and that is the way it should be. Despite that, we know Patrick does play a role in his little 5-year-old life. Of late, he features in Eoghan’s play-pretend adventures along with Plainty, the imaginary friend and "the other Patrick what didn't die". He is also included in family pictures Eoghan draws – little stick people representing me, daddy, Eoghan, Patrick and the cat that make my heart sing because I know Patrick is remembered and loved – albeit in a rather odd and abstract sort of way.

I guess, overall we manage to navigate our feelings well enough. We’ve gotten pretty good at this – and gotten bad at other things we were previously good at (Christmas cards being my more recent case in point). We will always have our wobbly days though – we just cannot predict when they will come.

And so, especially as time continues to rumble on, there are some ways to continue to help us through this:
  •        Try and take note of the important dates in our lives – their birthday and anniversary – and try to let us know you are thinking of us and them. Nothing fancy; a simple message will do to let us know they are not forgotten.
  •         If you happen to think of them randomly, share that with us. Nothing makes us happier than you sharing a memory. You might think of them often but every now and then it is nice to be told about it, too.
  •         If it is coming up to an anniversary or birthday, you might consider getting in touch to see if we fancy a coffee/drink/meet-up for sorts; to remember or to forget – whatever may be needed at the time.

It is kind of a “Long-term Aftercare For the Bereaved”, because, you see, as the years pass, it gets a lot quieter than in the first weeks, months or even couple of years. It will be the small occasional gestures that will help so much in alleviating our (often unspoken) fear that these people, our children, will slip from life’s canvas into oblivion. Yet the seemingly smallest gesture will bring our hearts an immeasurable amount of solace and peace as we face into another milestone without them.

P.S. Mammy is biggest in the picture because Mammy is the boss not because Christmas has gotten the better of her! 😂


  1. Apologies if this doubles up. I thought this had posted.

    I love the explanation of why you're bigger in the picture.

    I was talking to DW about Patrick the other day and how we might visit the grave soon.

  2. We embrace you, Stephanie, Pat and Eoghan.
    Patrick always lives in our hearts. Mum and Dad

  3. So well put. That Pre-anniversary Syndrome you spoke of is very real. I wouldn't have believed in it if I hadn't lived it myself because I'm not much of a "date" person. We try to let Amanda and Lucas know about their older brother, but time will tell if it sinks in.