The pain of losing a child is unbearable - GulfToday

The pain of losing a child is unbearable


Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

Nikki Bowdidge, The Independent

If anyone had ever said to me that one day I would be celebrating my son’s heavenly birthday, I wouldn’t have believed them. And yet, here we are approaching Tom’s ninth “heavenly birthday”. That is nine years of not being able to buy him a present, nine years of not having a cake, nine years of not gathering the family together to celebrate — nine long, lost years.

I have been reading an article about wishing our loved ones a “heavenly birthday” and whether it is right to celebrate them. The writer says: “A birthday is recorded on the date that you are born on the earth. Every 365 days on that date, if you are still living you are one year older. Birthdays stop, however, on the day that you die.”

I suppose to a certain extent this is true. Tom is frozen in time at the age of 19. We aren’t celebrating anything, but we are remembering the day our loved one came into our lives. If calling it a “heavenly birthday’’ is how a family wants it to be remembered, then who has the right to say this is wrong?

On 28 February 1994, Tom reluctantly arrived into the world. And what a bruiser he was. Weighing in at 9lbs and 13 1/2oz, he already had to wear 0-3 months clothes. He completed our perfect family. He was a calm baby and slept beautifully. You could just lie him in his cot and he dropped off to sleep. He fed very well and didn’t lose an ounce in those first few days. In fact, I think he put on quite a bit of weight.

Fast forward to 28 February 2022 — who knew he would no longer be here in person? He would now be 28 years old — a real adult. And I think what upsets me most, as we mark another birthday, is that we really don’t know what he would be doing.

Would he be married? Would he have children? What career did he choose? Where would he live? All these questions are left unanswered. I watch his friends progressing well with their lives, some with children, married and with successful careers, and I can’t help feeling so cheated.

But cheated or not, 28 February will come and go. Every year since we lost Tom to cancer in 2013, we have celebrated his birthday with The Feather Ball. This was borne out of the fact that the second birthday we had to go through without him would have been his 21st, and I felt he would have wanted us to celebrate it. The Feather Ball was perfect and it became a regular event on our calendar.

The Feather Ball is a black tie event that brings Tom’s family, friends and charity supporters together to raise money through dinner, dancing, and special performances, from bands and caricaturists to circus acts. Thankfully, this year the ball is returning after a hiatus due to the pandemic — I cannot wait.

I have been researching what other parents do to celebrate or commemorate their child’s special day. Many still have cakes, candles or visit the resting place. But whatever each family chooses to do, it is the right thing for each of them.

I think the overarching thing they value most is someone remembering their child’s birthday. We are so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people who always remember Tom’s birthday and that means so much to us. So, if you know someone whose child has passed away, don’t be frightened to let them know you are aware of what day it is.

Don’t be frightened to mention their name. I think if there is one thing that grieving parents fear the most, it is the thought their child might be forgotten.

We had 19 fantastic birthdays with Tom, and I will treasure every single one. As we sit down to our dinner on Tom’s birthday, please raise a glass not only to celebrate Tom’s birthday but also for the loved ones you have around you.

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