Saturday, 30 March 2013

James: Grief, The Bully

James writes on his own blog following the stillbirth of his son Ethan on New Year's Day 2012. Father's Grief is a beautiful, poignant blog that documents the journey of a bereaved parent following the death of a much-wanted child.

Not being content with taking your child, Death leaves behind grief to bully the bereaved. He continually marvels at the crown of sorrow and despair that he fashioned and exchanged for your child; this crown is grief.

Like all bullies, grief has a weakness. Death arrogantly assumes that bereaved parents will continue to wear his crown and suffer grief for the rest of their days. Bullies hate it when their victim doesn't react to provocation and they eventually give up.

Personally, I lost patience with grief some months ago whilst struggling through its stages. I gradually recognised which triggers I found particularly upsetting; many events that once triggered sorrowful regret no longer upset me.

New born baby boys will always remind me that Ethan died. We continue to hoard the baby clothes that our two eldest sons wore. The sight of these clothes that should have been Ethan's remind me that the only clothes he wore became his shroud.  I continue to recognise and acknowledge such triggers, though they now spark acceptance rather than despair.

I remain continually surprised at grief’s inventiveness as it attempts to embrace in the most unlikely of places, in a bid to reopen the wounds which he inflicted. One of grief’s sporadic appearances came on a Glasgow bus that I take daily, without incident; perhaps that is why grief decided to use this vehicle to creep up. A woman entered the bus. She was holding an empty baby car seat.

There was a time that I couldn't have coped with the sight of a vacant baby car seat, let alone have one placed beside me. I would have regarded this as a personal assault on my fragile emotions. I would have thought the woman was using the car seat to a remind me that Ethan did not leave the hospital in the family car; he only ever rode around the streets of Glasgow in a hearse.

However, on this day, I recognised the situation for what it was. A woman simply got on the bus with a car seat; it was not my business to know why.

Despite this personal victory, the war against grief is never truly won. Several victories can be recorded, but the inventiveness of grief is immeasurable. Like most bullies who have been vanquished, the fear of its return to reopen healed wounds can continue to haunt the bereaved.

Moving through the various stages of grief, triggers that instil sorrow can be recognised and conquered.  Eventually the bereaved begin to recognise grief’s continual mocking and choose their own path. When this happens, grief eventually fades to a scar that is bearable and can be worn with a quiet determination - a determination that a life can be rebuilt after the loss of a child. You never forget your child, you never stop loving them, but you learn to accept that they are no longer with you until you meet again.


  1. James, thank you so much for sharing such a poignant and beautifully written post with us. I am sure it is one that everyone will relate to. I have days when I recognise the triggers and can deal with them, other days they they are too much for me. But I agree, the war against grief can never be truly won. We can move forward but we will always be battling...

  2. Such beautiful words and so true. Grief still tries to catch me out. Days when i am not prepared seem to be the worst. I must be somewhere further now in my journey as i could read passed the name Ethan with only that tight feeling in my chest and throat. Beautiful name, the same as my own little man. Wishing you peace.

  3. Thanks for the comments girls.
    I read in a baby name book that Ethan means
    'strong'. I think, Nicola, that our baby angel Ethans are passing their strength onto us. All parents who have lost a child possess an amazing inner strength, which helps them to deal with the days that the triggers of grief sneak up and catch them unawares.