365 Happy Days – A smile a day – Part 21

After a late ish night and a wonderfully busy weekend in Paris I woke up to some really horrible news.  5 young people, kids really, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire died after being involved in a car crash.  Two were 18, the other 3 only 16 years old,no age at all to die and 5 families whose lives will never be the same again.  I know only too well that sense of horror, disbelief, loss and pain they’ll be feeling today.  Right now they probably can’t begin to imagine how their lives can go on.  I’ve mentioned it before; but in time they’ll hopefully find a way to their ‘New Normal’

Such news on top of Remembrance Day and all the emotions that invokes has had me thinking about just how those of us who’ve lost children can even begin to live, begin to smile again, let alone laugh.  And having spent the weekend with my lovely daughter in Paris, one of the aspects we have to find as parents is a way to allow our other children to live as normal a life as they can; bearing in mind they’ve lost a sibling.

It’s so incredibly tempting to try to stifle them, to try to wrap them up in cotton wool.  But , they will have been affected enough by the loss of a brother in the case of my kids.  Alex was 17 when Luke died, Jake 14 – those ages are tough with no trauma in your life, let alone having to endure such a tragedy.

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I have to confess, I may well have ‘disappeared’ in the weeks after Luke died, not paid attention to how all 4 of the kids were faring. My stepson Peter, 2 years older than Luke had already had an experience and loss you could never begin to imagine.  Peter has always had a really tight knit group of friends and at 29 he still does.  One of those friends Joe, had been in his life since Primary School days.

Joe was the middle son with an older and younger brother; I’m sure his Mum Lorraine won’t mind me saying his little brother Josh was very like Luke in his character as he grew up.  So, a likeable rogue, a challenge shall we say!  Terry his older brother was always a nice lad.  Joe was a total pleasure, he had one of the biggest smiles I’ve seen and was always very quick to share it.

That smile and in fact his life was to be taken away from the world literally overnight; Joe and Peter were inseparable; Joe was living in a caravan and being lads of a certain age, 19 in Joe’s case they often stayed overnight there.  On a May night they chose to come and stay at our house, something they hadn’t done for a long time.

That decision was, I really believe a meant to be thing.  The date was May 15th a few days after Kerry’s birthday and before Alex’s; we were as a family going out for lunch to celebrate.  Literally just as we leaving a call came for Peter, he had a room downstairs and we weren’t really sure he was with us.  Jake, a little boy at that stage who then as now adored Peter went to call him.  Sleeping, probably hungover young men are hard to stir, so Kerry then tried.

Then, a moment none of will ever forget as a cry came; Joe had died in the night, his beautiful smile would be no more.  The world was denied more time with this lovely young man.  I can still only begin to imagine how Peter felt and in fact he stayed away from our house for a good while as he tried to find a way to get over the loss of such a good friend.  My last memory of Joe was him saying ‘hello Debbie, how’re you?’ with the biggest smile on his face.  That’s a smile I’ll never forget.

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I’ve strayed again, so back to my original thought, how to let your kids be themselves?  To live and grow?  Goodness it’s hard!  But it really is a must!  They have to be able to reach the standard milestones other reach without added pressure.  Alex moved away from home at 18, I have to admit this weekend’s visit to Paris is the 1st time I haven’t cried when I’ve left her!  I miss her so much, but she’s growing into a fairly amazing young woman.

I now have a bilingual daughter, she gabbles away in French then switches over to English.  She has great confidence in her work and moves around a foreign city with ease.  How hard was it to let her fly without putting any pressure on?  Goodness so incredibly hard.  Although, wow she’s a messy madam when she does come back to England!  I can’t call it home, because her home is now in Paris.

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And Jake?  Well he as well as the others felt the loss of Joe incredibly, he was always very close to his big brother Peter and spent a lot of time with him and his friends.  To then lose Luke at 14 must have been just awful, he had a few ‘dodgy’ years it has to be said.  Spent a few hours in the company of the local constabulary one evening, but only that, he has a whole lot more sense than his older brother did!

I’ve mentioned before, in 2012 he also lost 2 of his closest friends.  But this young man, now 19 is a young man to be proud of.  He’s making his way in the world of work; excelling in his apprenticeship and now fully employed.  He has a very kind heart and an enquiring mind; he’ll always be the 1st to help someone in distress.

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A case in point on the letting them go and live – Jake passed his driving test in August; I can’t tell you how hard that day was!  For my baby to be out and driving is so incredibly hard; but goodness it’s opened up his life!

Both Peter and Kerry are living independently and in the year their Dad passed away are coping well and getting on with their lives with a real zest, they’re also young people – well not so young in Pete’s case – to be proud of.

We have to let our other children ‘be’  – their futures can’t die with their sibling.  They have to be able to take risks, have experiences and live their ‘New Normal’.  They’ll always carry that sense of loss, but I really do believe that as parents we have to lead by example.  Show them it’s ok to have fun, ok to be truly happy.


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