Thank you to my Mum Melissa, my Dad Marc, my Aunty Juliana, and my Grandma Lyne, for your continuous love, support, patience, and strength. For contributing to who I have always been, and accepting me for everything that I have become.
Thank you to my best friends. Rachel, Melissa, Karly, Tameka and Lisa. For your unwavering support, which you took right out from yourself, and poured right into me. Which then led me to have the courage to keep going, no matter what. For showing me that I needed to live, when all I wanted was not to. You five people quite literally, saved my life, and it is difficult to put into words how grateful I am for you, every single day.
I would also like to thank Bette Harvey. Whom has read some of what I have wrote, and given me the right amount of push, at exactly the right time. Which led me to continue to write this. Thank you Bette.
Lastly, thank you, to my darling son Oliver. Oliver, you chose to look to me in the depths of my very own despair, as well as yours, and treat me as if I was still the 10 foot tall ‘wonder woman’ of them all. You, my sweet sweet boy, were my true saving grace. I love you more than my heart can find the words to say. Always, all ways.
I would like to start this book and delve straight into my story, however I would like to make clear my intentions within the pages of this book. The point of these pages was never and is never to get my story ‘out there’.
I am Jess, I am 25. I have two kids. Oliver is eight. Lucas is forever four and a half months old. I was 22 when Lucas left us earth side, in 2018. Oliver was 5 when he lost his little brother. I was 17 when I gave birth to Oliver, and I was 22 when I gave birth to Lucas. My childhood was normal, it was not traumatic, I did not go without things, my Mum and Dad are still married. I have a brother who is 20. I had lost family members prior to losing Lucas, however I had never felt a loss with the same amount of depth and sorrow as when I lost my son. I have vowed to be completely raw, honest and vulnerable in every word that I write within these pages.
My main focus within these pages is to give hope, to give understanding, to give promise, and is to give strength. If it’s just a little hope, just a little understanding, just a little promise and just a teeny tiny small step towards strength. The time and effort I have put into my words is truly worth it.
For Hope- that you will make it through something that feels like it may never end.
For Understanding- that believe it or not, everyone out there is suffering with you, or without you. They may know you, but they most probably don’t. You are never ever alone.
Promise- that you are going to be able to live the life you deserve living again, before you lost someone or something you love.
Strength- that you will find it again. This one could be remembered as the most important. Because it comes in different ways, in different waves, at different times, and in different doses. It never comes all at once. There is a rule to strength. You have to celebrate it in order to get more of it. Not necessarily ‘strength’ itself, but you, the human that you are, having the courage to see an opportunity that calls on you to have strength, acting upon that opportunity, and then lastly feeling it, and being proud of yourself for that whole process. Strength is different for everyone. But that process I believe, always stays the same.
Within this book I have compiled a lot, I have been writing on and off for the past three years, all at different stages of my grief. I wrote whenever I felt the urge to do so, it was never planned, and never felt like a chore to me. Some I shared, most I did not. There were plenty of 2am, 3am, 4am wake ups where I felt like I needed to get it out, and to be honest, it was in some of my darkest moments that my words poured out straight from my heart. Not a happy heart, a broken one, straight from deep within the gaping hole in the middle.
Lastly, I am not dedicating this book to just parents who have lost a child, instead anyone who has lost anyone, or anything. A mum, a dad, a dog, a cat, a relationship, anything, that’s making you feel a little, or a lot. Lost.
One. The worst day of my life
It was Monday Morning,
I woke up looked at the time, it was 6:50am. I checked my phone, quickly replied to some messages and got into the shower. Ollie was already awake watching TV in the lounge by himself just like any other morning, Lucas was still asleep in his bed. He doesn’t wake up until between 7 and 7:30am every morning and it had been that way since he was 8 weeks old. He never cried, he would just chat to himself and blow raspberries.
So off I went into the shower, I was going over what I had to do that day. I was a little sad for Lucas because he was booked in at 12:30 that day to get his next immunisations, I was thinking how I didn’t want to hear him cry or be sad. I got out of the shower walked past the lounge and said morning Ollie did you have a good sleep. He replied with morning mummy yeah did you? I said yes thank you.
I walked into Lucas’s room, 9 times out of 10 as soon as I open the door and he hears it squeak he wakes up, so I open it quietly because I wanted to let him sleep in a little and make Ollie breakfast before waking him up if he was still asleep. It was about 7:20 by this point.
I walk in. Lucas is face down and not moving. Straight away my heart drops and I get a pit in my stomach. I walk over to him, it takes me 3 seconds walking from the door to his cot. But In that 3 seconds I’m thinking. Oh my god. Fuck. Please be ok. No he’s fine he’s just still sleeping. He’s ok. No he’s not. Please please be ok. Please don’t be what I think this is. There’s no way this can happen to me, as soon as I roll him over his eyes will open and he’ll wake up.
I roll him over.
His lips are blue and his veins in his face I can see. I automatically scream and start shaking. My heart is going a million miles an hour, I instantly feel like vomiting and I can feel my heart beat in my throat. I run to my phone call 000. Screaming at Ollie to come here. Ollie says what’s wrong mum. I say it’s Lucas he’s hurt. Ollie starts getting distressed, more reacting to the way I am reacting. I scream on the phone. Please help me my baby is not breathing please help me over and over again. He tells me someone is on their way after I give him the address. He tells me not to get off the phone and I need to go back in to Lucas. I said no I can’t do that I can’t look at him I can’t do it. He tells me to get a neighbour.
I run outside with Ollie to a kindy next door to my house and get someone. When I say to get someone, I mean I run in there and go to the first person I see and scream just help me please. She follows me, I’m running. We get inside my house. I give her the phone while we’re still in the kindy, the 000 attendant is still on the phone. She goes into Lucas’s room. Straight away I hear her catch her breath.
Up until that point I still had a glimmer of hope he’d be ok. But as soon as I heard her reaction to seeing him I knew.
I knew it was bad. I sat in the garage with Ollie. Crying and hugging him saying it’s ok it’s ok. But I knew it wasn’t okay. I feel sick I can hardly breathe and I have a million things going through my head. I was in shock.
What felt like 10 hours later the paramedics arrived and walked past me in the garage, I said please help he’s in the room and pointed to Lucas’s room. They went inside the room and started trying to resuscitate him. I was in the kitchen by this point.
A paramedic came out to me and said, Hi Jess, I think you already know this. He is gone. I have told the girls in there to stop trying to resuscitate because he has been gone a while now. I had no reaction.
5 seconds later I burst into even more tears and can’t really string words together. Except. What could I have done. What if I checked him. is this my fault. I should have checked him. I shouldn’t have got into the shower first. He tells me there’s nothing I could have done differently because he has been gone for a while. I said to myself if only I had have checked him, but why would I have checked him when since 8 weeks old my baby has slept right through the night from 6:30pm until 7:30 am, and I knew him better than anyone, my days were spent taking care of him. I knew every cry and every movement and what that meant he wanted or needed. And when I put him to bed on Sunday night he was perfectly happy and healthy. He is a perfect baby I said to myself and still do say to myself. I stop crying and my body goes into more shock. I feel like my legs are about to collapse from under me. I go out into the garage again.
By the time this had happened there was about 3 ambulances out the front and 2 police cars I think. I can’t really remember. I’m still with Ollie in the garage. I go into Lucas, his dad is holding him. He just looks like he is sleeping, he’s wrapped in his blanket. The only thing that looked different about him was that he was cold and his lips blue. He also had no colour in his face, he was just pale and all his veins were visible through his skin.
We just sat with him for about three hours. I felt like I was dreaming. I think when something this traumatic happens your brain tries to protect you from your own shock and you become dilusional. I sat there and imagined he would just open his eyes and he was just scaring us, and the paramedics coming in and saying wow, this is a miracle. And then I imagined that it was a dream. And I’d wake up and tell people about it and tell them how real it felt. This went on for about 3-4 days after on and off. Obviously this wasn’t going to happen and never did. But my brain was seriously trying to make me believe these things. And it worked for a while on and off on that day.
By the time Lucas’s dad and I were in his room holding him there was about 5 paramedics, 6-7 police officers and 2 detectives, a child protective services officer and a photographer (police photographer). At first I was scared because I started to think do these people actually think I did something to make this happen? Then they explained to me they know exactly what had happened but this is a government protocol. To be honest I didn’t notice anyone that much because I was still in a state of shock of what had just happened.
Ollie was in the lounge with about 4 police officers the whole time, they were looking after him playing Xbox with him getting him food and just having a chat. Anyone who knows Ollie knows he loves a good chat and you can’t get a word in. Ollie was okay and at that point didn’t actually know what had happened to it’s full extent. He still thought Lucas would be coming back to us eventually.
Both Lucas’s dad and I had to get questioned separately by detectives on record. Again, this is a standard procedure across the board with any death. We just kept being told how common it was. My reply was but why him. I felt scared and victimised but at the same time how I was feeling about what just happened made me not care about being questioned. I was asked to tell them everything that had happened in the past 24 hours, so I did.
3 hours later government undertakers came and took Lucas away and to the hospital. We were asked if we wanted an autopsy done, we agreed just in case there was something else or he had an illness we had no idea about, as I said he was perfectly healthy and happy, the night before was like any other night. He went to bed smiling. But still we wanted one done just in case and we did not want to be left wandering what if later on down the track. The autopsy came back clear, there was nothing wrong, he was a healthy boy they said.
Everyone left and we both said to each other. What do we do now. Where should we go, what do we do. Nothing else matters right now we said. All that stuff we were stressing about, I can’t even remember what that ‘stuff’ was that’s how irrelevant it was and is. But I guess that’s just how perfect my life was. I had everything. Two kids who were everything to me and still are, a nice house, a nice car, a job, a family, good friends, enough money, food, water, my kids had everything under the sun. Yet I was still complaining about dumb stuff. And it was only at that point I realised it.
I NEED TO BUY MY OWN HOUSE, I NEED TO PAY OFF MY CAR, I WANT TO GO ON A HOLIDAY WITH THE KIDS, I WANT TO BUY OLLIE THIS, I WANT TO BUY LUCAS THAT, I NEED A BIGGER BETTER FRIDGE, SO AND SO ARE SUCH ASSHOLES AT WORK, OMG THAT GIRL PISSES ME OFF, THESE TRAFFIC LIGHTS TAKE TO FUCKING LONG, IM TIRED, IM SO OVER CLEANING THE HOUSE, THE INTERNET IS TO SLOW, I WENT OVER MY PHONE BILL AGAIN THIS MONTH, I WANT A BETTER CAR. All that shit went out the door, and so it should.
I know loss is loss. I know this, I am by no means disregarding ANYONES loss. Whether that be loosing a mum, dad, brother, sister, cousin, Aunty, uncle, grandparent, friend, acquaintance even a pet.
However, losing a child i would describe as more than just a loss. It is another level of loss. It is a loss of hopes and dreams, it is a loss of having a purpose as a mother, a father. It’s a loss of giving your love, nurturing something, it’s losing something of your own, it’s a loss at every stage, the stage of them walking, sitting, crawling, trying a new food, sitting in a highchair, saying Mumma, saying Dadda, a loss of seeing your other child have a bond with their sibling, a loss of every single birthday, Christmas, Easter, new year. It is not the circle of life. You are not meant to bury your child, your child is meant to bury you. I’m sorry if this triggers anyone. But is it true.
My son did not get to grow up, yes he knew unconditional love, but he did not get to learn to talk, or walk, or crawl, or get his first day at school, make a friend, tell someone that he loved them, he didn’t get a first kiss, or a first birthday, or get to believe in Santa or the Easter bunny. And that’s what gets a parent who has lost a child the most. The ‘nevers’ and the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘today would have been’s’.
Two. Where to now?
So one was where my journey began, I don’t like using the word phase when referring to grief, because it’s as if to say that grief is temporary and it will go away. It does not. So I would like to say, during this time within my journey, I had no hope, I felt no promise, I felt no bravery, I felt no happiness, I felt no strength. I felt the reverse of all of the above. Distraught, heartbroken, worthless, confused, ashamed, a failure, victimised, guilty. At this point though, I was still in and out of shock, so there was A LOT of disbelief going on, a lot of distortion of my actual reality. A lot of what I mentioned above, me being in a complete state of limbo, I’m driving, but where to? I’m eating, but what for? I’m sleeping, but what do I have to wake up for tomorrow? So, no hope, no promise, no understanding, and strength felt like it was absolutely miles away. I think I was doing okay, for two months, I was very much in autopilot though.
However, three months into my journey I broke. When I say broke I mean I absolutely broke. The people I mentioned in my acknowledgement section saw me at this point of my journey. Of course me being the one IN the situation, I could never, then, grasp how badly I was actually doing, and looking. As a slight insight, I had lost about 14 kilos in two and a half weeks, I looked sick, anything I would eat would come back up, I went on antidepressants, I was taking strong sleeping pills, I was taking Valium religiously, I was smoking about 20 cigarettes daily. My daily routine went like this: 7:30am– wake up get Oliver ready for school. 8:30am– school drop off. 8:45am– set my alarm for 2:30 in time for school pick up. 9am– Take another sleeping tablet. 2:30pm– Wake up to my alarm, pick up Oliver from school. 3-7pm– cook Oliver dinner, watch a movie with him. 7pm– Put Oliver to bed 7:15pm– Take Valium and a sleeping tablet. And repeat.
My will to go on had reached its peak, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I wanted to die. I have vowed to be completely raw and open within the words of these pages, so I am going to do that. This daily routine went on for about four weeks, I was deteriorating fast. Each day felt worse and worse, i went to bed each night thinking this was the pit of it, surely I was at rock bottom now, I can’t feel any worse than I do right now. But every morning I woke up, I felt even worse than I did the day before. Each and every single day, for four weeks. This drove me to want to leave this earth, because I didn’t want to feel like this anymore, I wanted to feel peace, I wanted to sleep and not wake back up. I wanted my family to remember me as the Jess that I was, not the Jess that I was now. My mental state was so low that I had also convinced myself that Oliver would be more than fine without me, and better off without a mum like me, that my friends would move on without me and remember me, that my mum and dad would be okay, and that I would never smile, laugh or feel even an inch of happiness ever again.
So I wrote my mum and dad a letter and I wrote Oliver a letter, which I have always kept, to remind me that I overcame this. And I planned to end my life.
I remember I planned it in advance, I made sure Oliver was going to be with my family, I made sure everyone knew I was okay and that I was having an early night, and I made sure all of my blinds were shut, I made sure I left my notes that I had written my parents and Oliver were left where they would be easily found. I am not going to go into detail on how I attempted to do this, but I did, and it did not work. I woke up from being passed out in my bathtub and that’s when I finally called my friends and family and told them that I’m scared and I probably should not be alone for a little while.
I had never ever understood suicide, or feeling like you just cannot take anymore. But after that point, I got it. It’s not that I didn’t want to be alive, I just didn’t want to feel so badly anymore. Everyone has a limit. This leads me to say, please please, please, choose what you say to others wisely, choose how you treat strangers wisely, choose to smile at someone down the street, choose to tell a friend you love them, choose to tell a random mum that they are doing a great job, choose to tell a stranger that they look nice today, choose to check in with your kids, choose to widen your image of your own perception of reality, what is going on, might not be what’s going on at all. I send an infinite amount of love, hope, understanding, promise and strength to anyone that may be having thoughts such as what I was having.
Three. Little by little, inch by inch.
There is a saying, whoever said the small things don’t matter, have never seen a match start a wild fire. I love this saying, it is everything. My ‘two’ chapter was my true rock bottom. I was in the pit of it. In being honest with my closest friends and support system, I very slowly but surely, started to come out of this. All of the time, I get people I have never even met, never even seen, my friends, my family, acquaintances, telling me how strong I am, that my strength is admirable. I have never shared with more than six or seven people my full story from start to finish. This is why I pointed out in chapter one, that strength should be remembered as the most important thing within these pages, because it starts off with something so little, I told my friends what I attempted to do, this was strength, it didn’t feel like strength, but it was. I let my friends stay with me, this didn’t feel like strength, but it was, I promised myself I’d eat at least something everyday, this didn’t feel like strength, but it was. I stopped my daily sleeping tablet routine, this didn’t feel like strength, but it was.
One small step towards YOUR strength, leads to another, and another, and then another. And then one day, you’re driving on the highway, and you’re singing a song again, for the first time in 5 months, one day, you decide to go to dinner with your friends, and you smile, and you laugh, and you feel happy, and you feel like you deserve to be happy. My main point is this though: you don’t just wake up with strength, and as a strong person. You earn that, it hurts, it’s hard, strength is the hardest one of them all. Which is why it’s the most important to celebrate when you do something that requires it. You did that. You survived that, you came out of your pit, you dug yourself out of your rock bottom.
Strength can not be given, it cannot be handed to you on a platter, you can not pay for it, you have to want it, you have to earn it. But the best thing about it, is you have to want it just a little, and then once you’ve tasted it, you’ll want more, and then some more. And then…comes hope, comes promise, comes understanding. Strength, it is hard to find, once you have it, you and no one you know will ever ever get rid of it or be able to take it away from you. It is yours to carry. It is yours to gift. It’s yours to celebrate and say, I did that, I got help, but I did the hard work. That is absolutely everything.
Once I found my strength, it wasn’t all over, there were still things to overcome, there always will be. But that is okay, it’s clique to say but, to struggle sometimes, is to know you are still alive. But once I had my strength, I had my hope, I had my understanding, I had my promise. I had my hope that I would remember Lucas and let my experience shape me into a better me. I had my understanding, that I was never and never will be alone. I had my promise, that I was going to let myself and Oliver live a life that we both deserved, that I would love again, that I would laugh again, smile again, sing again, dance again. And I have done all of that (big smile here) :).
I also understood deeply that there were still going to be days that were really really hard, I wrote the below about two years ago.
They say grief after the initial shock of loss comes in waves. When your driving to work, doing the dishes, or today-When I was buying Ollie a new shirt and felt guilty for not buying you one as well, or yesterday when I was packing away toys and none of them were yours, like last week when I was vacuuming the house, and didn’t need to vacuum your room, or perhaps it’s every morning when I look in my rear view mirror and only see one car seat in the back of my car. Maybe it’s also two nights ago, when Ollie had a nightmare and woke me up and I wished I could wake up again. To you. Maybe it’s every single day when I do the washing and none of it is yours. ‘Grief after the initial shock of loss comes in waves’ they say. I say it is like constantly swimming in the ocean and there is no shoreline to stop and take a breath. I am so tired of not having you here and so sick of wishing you still were. In all of my good times I find myself longing for you. I miss you so much Lucas!
Sometimes I still catch myself having these thoughts, but now, more often than not, I remember Lucas, and I smile, I cry, but I cry because I remember what he’d do when I’d show him himself in the mirror, he’d squeal and laugh! I cry and I smile. I’ve learnt that you can carry grief, happiness, love, loss, and sadness. All at the same time. And I think that it is absolutely amazing that as human beings, if we listen to ourselves, nurture ourselves, nurture others, choose wisely who we surround ourselves with that we can feel all these things at once. For me, it’s amazed me that I can feel these emotions all at once, and that I have let it shape me into the mother I am today, the daughter I am today, the friend I am today, the granddaughter I am today.
This has been an experience in my life that I will never stop grieving, but your grief grows through and around you, the gaping hole it left in my heart has not healed, things have grown in it’s place, like strength, promise, understanding, hope, courage, empathy, compassion.
Thank you Lucas, for teaching me, all of these things. For teaching me to dig deep, for teaching me to soak up every single god damn moment that I still get to plant my feet on the ground, every breath I take, you are my strength.
I love you immeasurably, my sweet angel. ❤️