7th December 2021 – A Moment of Realisation

As has become tradition in the Shaw household, the first film of Christmas is always The Polar Express. It is particularly special to me as it is one that always reminds me of my brother. He loved Christmas! Despite being eighteen when he died, due to his disabilities he had the mental age of around six and loved, loved, loved Father Christmas. The year before he died, we were tucked up in bed in my sister’s room and he heard Father Christmas tiptoe in to fill our stockings. He was so excited when he told us in the morning.

That belief, the “hearing the bell”, is what gets me every time I watch The Polar Express. Every year I know what’s coming and I can’t hold back. This year I was curled up on the sofa with my eleven year old and it suddenly struck me that I was exactly his age when Andrew died.

To me, my little one is still ‘my baby’. He’s just started secondary school and is still finding his feet. He still asks such innocent questions about life, he still curls up on my knee for cuddles and I still tuck him into bed every night.

Every time I’ve ever reflected on Andrew’s death I always felt that I was so old and so grown up when it happened. Looking at my boy, I really wasn’t. I was still a ‘baby’ – still so young and innocent. It’s no wonder, looking back, that I had no idea how to deal with this momentous event that had happened.

I’ve started to wonder if my never really acknowledging just how young I was is because I carried my grief with me for such a long time without dealing with it. So, each time I thought about it, I was that age while trying to deal with it – does that make sense? I didn’t fully accept it and didn’t grieve for Andrew until I was in my late thirties. Maybe that’s what made me feel like I was so grown up when it happened…because by the time I dealt with it, I was!

What this little moment of realisation has given me is a more focussed and fierce determination to help children who have been through this themselves. The enormity of experiencing the death of a loved one is bound to shake anyone’s world. Let’s do what we can to help any little ones affected by grief – and help each other.

Today is the penultimate day of National Grief Awareness Week; why not reflect on how you’ve felt during times of grief. Spend some time on social media looking at what this means to others. Open up a conversation or offer someone some support. Send a friend a message. Spread some warmth. The smallest gesture can mean so much.