This evening I was driving back from work, and there was a programme about New York on the radio. I spent a student summer in New York working close to Battery Park, a part of the city that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. A man interviewed was talking about how people died in the huge tidal surge, which in turn started me thinking about the tsunamis that have claimed lives and how it would feel to lose your child in that way. Would they be frightened?
Was Juliette frightened when she died? I don’t know. Medics were trying to save her and I was standing at the other side of the room with Steph, helpless. She had been conscious a few minutes before or at least, she had opened her eyes. I spoke to her. I could have told her not to be frightened, that I was there and that I loved her. Instead, everything I said was nonsense. I didn’t know they were the last words of mine she would hear. Thinking about this on a five-minute car journey, I cried.
I have had more than ten years to meet other people who have lost children, most of them more recently than me. Remembering how I used to feel when Juliette first died, I try to present a hopeful picture of what long-term bereavement looks like. In the aftermath of Juliette’s death, the last thing I could bear to know was that it was still going to hurt after ten years.
Of course, the future IS hopeful. I look at my family and I’m grateful for the happiness we have, and while the pain is still there, it is a familiar pain. Any firewalker or bed of nails sleeper will tell you how that works. The point is after ten years, am I still allowed to cry?