My son, Tadhg, turned 3 just 2 weeks after Elva died. His birthday had always been an over the top celebration as we love birthdays. We didn’t want his 3rd birthday to be over shadowed by what we were going through and so we did our best to give him a day that felt normal.
We bought him a new bike as planned. We had close family over under the instructions it was to be a happy day. We had cake and balloons and photos. As far as Tadhg was concerned, it was a happy day. And at times, I felt happy. Happier than I had felt for 2 weeks. Seeing him open presents and ride his bike genuinely cheered me up.
Tadhg is not just our son. He is Elva’s big brother. He loved her so much. He told us all the time. He cuddled her, tried to impress her, asked to feed her and dress her. He was never spiteful or jealous towards her.
We explained her death as best we could to him. We avoided confusing euphemisms like sleeping and gently told him she had died and couldn’t come back. This is a massive thing for a nearly 3 year old to take in. He was there when we found her and recalled my screams. I didn’t want him to be traumatised and so we have approached everything as honestly but as gently as possible. We allow him to see us sad, so he knows that being sad is ok, but we make sure that is not all he sees. We answer questions and we encourage him to remember Elva without impressing it upon him. I think, all things considered, he is doing ok. As he gets older, there will be more questions and I hope I can keep on answering them honestly.
What Tadhg doesn’t know right now is how much he has helped me. The photo above was taken by Kieran in our local park about a month after Elva died. I hadn’t been going to the park with Tadhg and Kieran as I found it too hard but on this day I made myself, for Tadhg’s sake. This photo says so many things to me.
This photo feels so symbolic in every way and it captures a scene I was barely aware of until I saw it.
The fact that it is taken on a film camera makes it feel less sharp – a more blurred reality.
My face is not the beaming smile it usually is when I’m around Tadhg but I am smiling. I am trying.
He is telling me to spin – he wants me to just enjoy the moment. He spun me even though I told him to stop – he’s keeping me going. And when I was struggling to get out, he held me steady.
The autumn background is all about change.
This is a special photo because it captures, unintentionally, Tadhg being there for me. My reason for living, my reason for smiling. No matter what changes around me, my love for him won’t change.
He deserves the life he had before our lives changed. He deserves the parents he had. And he will have that. We will love him, celebrate him, look after him and make sure he continues to be as happy and supported as he makes us feel.