For many Pudsey Bear and Children In Need reminds them of charity, fun, laughter and entertainment, for me it is a constant reminder of the last time my son Travers-James (T.J) went to sleep.
I don’t watch it anymore.
It had been a normal day.The kids up and off to school military style and back home military style.
It was the usual chaos you find in any large family with cartoons, dinner, fighting and bickering
before bedtime. T.J is the youngest of our children. He had spent most of the day with his mother,
Helen and wanted cuddles with his dad when he got back home, Helen had given T.J a bath and
after his bath he played for a while with his 3 brothers and his sister. He began to get a bit grumpy and red faced…it was time for bed. Helen picked him up and he nuzzled his face into her shoulder, wiping off his snot; as 14 months old do 😉 I asked him if he wanted a kiss and hug goodnight, but he settled with a wave and a smile, and then went up the stairs to bed. Helen took him a top up bottle of milk about 11 pm. Helen told me he turned in his bed, looked, smiled, rolled over and went back to sleep.
At just after 5am Miya-May (2 at the time) decided it was time to get up and play, shouting at T.J to get up. Helen went up (we lived in a three storey house with our bedroom on the middle floor) and put Miya-May back to bed. She then went back in to check T.J was asleep. Callum then 4, was standing in the middle of the room FROZEN like a rabbit caught in headlights. T.J was still in the same position he had been in when she last went in, face down with his bum in the air like some kids do. She touched him and then rolled him over….and then she screamed…
“PAUL! PAUL! PAUL!”
I rushed to his room knowing that scream had signaled something was terribly wrong. As I ran into the room in what I can only describe as ‘auto pilot’.
I picked him up… he was cold to touch, his lips were blue and he didn’t look like my baby boy! I didn’t want to hurt him anymore than he already was so I gently lay him on the floor, more gentle than I had ever done before. Something, everything… was so wrong!!! I barked at Helen “phone, kids in living
room, biscuits, stand by the front door”
Helen brought me the phone and I dialed the emergency
services and began trying to resuscitate him. He was so cold. As I breathed into his mouth his tiny chest rose, was it going to
work?. The operator was giving me instructions. The thought ‘shut up! Just get the ambulance here now!’ kept resounding in my head. I could hear Helen shouting outside, “where’s the f*&*(& ambulance? My baby! My baby!”
I continued breathing in to his mouth, his little chest rising. Blood and snot was bubbling from his nose. I wondered whether that was a sign
that it was working or whether I was just hoping my worst fear, that one of my children had died, couldn’t be real. It seemed like I’d been trying to breathe life back in to him forever, then suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and a voice said “there is no more you can do” It had been twenty minutes. Twenty minutes that will haunt me forever! I knew it was too late before I even started, but could not have forgiven myself if I hadn’t tried to save him.
I broke the news to Helen. I said, “he’s gone, I couldn’t bring him back” she slid to the floor, inconsolable and sobbing, “my baby! My baby!”
For the next few hours the house was buzzing with ambulance crews, police and forensics. Everyone asked how Helen and the kids were but nobody asked me how I was!
Helen went to the hospital with T.J, she insisted. I stayed at home to take care of our other children. It was time to break the bad news to family. They asked how Helen and the kids were but again, nobody ever asked me how I was. I rang Helen at the hospital, and asked what felt like a stupid question “How are you?” She asked how the kids were but even Helen never asked me how I was!
As the days went on we had to make plans for the funeral. I was the main contact. The funeral director carried out the formalities and asked how mum and the children were taking it and like everyone else I’d spoken to since losing T.J, she never asked me how I was.
Over a week later, I had a call saying that we could see T.J in the chapel of rest. So I arranged a time we could go. When we got there I didn’t want to go in. ‘You should go in, you should be strong’ I thought to myself.
Once again, when we came out the funeral director asked how mum was and as I was becoming a pattern, I wasn’t asked the same question of myself.
At the day of the funeral, the hearse and cars turned up. I went out with the car seats and fitted them in. The undertaker asked how Helen and the kids were and I think you can guess by now, nobody asked after me.
At this stage I was very unwell. I was suffering organ failure due to a number of reasons. I was bloated and yellow. “Homer” as my friends nicknamed me. My eldest daughter came up to me outside the crematorium and said, “Hi dad, hell you’re yellow!”. ‘Thanks’ I thought.
I had every intention of carrying my son’s tiny cornflower blue coffin, but when it came to it, I was too weak. Even when I tried to lift it, struggling, no one asked how I was! I had to ask my dad, brother and my father in law to carry his coffin for me.
Over a year later, my wife and I were sitting watching TV when I asked her “when was the last time you asked me how I was feeling about loosing T.J?” She sat, eyes up in the air, clearly trying to think. I stepped in and replied for her, “never, you never have!”
No one had ever asked me how I was and there was nobody for me to turn to, to talk to about my own grief and pain.
We had been given a ‘pack’ from the hospital explaining what happens after a child dies. There was a little in it about support, but it wasn’t very helpful. I telephoned CRUSE bereavement and left a number of messages on their answer phone, no one ever got back to me. I looked online and there were plenty of groups for mums, but hardly anything for dads. I had recently joined Facebook and again, lots of groups for mums and little for dads. The few groups that were aimed at dads were run by women, so not really geared up for how men think or how a father deals with losing their child
Daddys With Angels
In December 2010 the first Daddys With Angels group was set up on Facebook, as a group for men who had lost their child, regardless of the age their children were when they died and regardless of the cause of their death. It didn’t have the usual criteria that other groups had of your child having
to have died at a certain age, or where you lived or any of that unnecessary nonsense, the hurdles
that stop someone being able to access support. Being somewhat naïve, I didn’t reckon on those who didn’t have the respect for dead babies or their parents, the fakes and those who want to mock.
Some people were so cruel, and still are. This quickly led to the group being shut down and closed with a more private group being set up in it’s place.
I wasn’t willing to allow our Angels to be mocked or members upset and so began to ask a few questions of those who requested to join before allowing them to join the group. Some didn’t like this, but understood and saw why it was necessary.
As time went on I began to receive messages form Angel mums asking how they could get their husbands or partners to open up and talk about their loss. Whilst answering these messages seemed to help a little, more was needed. There was a need for a forum for this type of discussion and support. So, after some consideration the original group was changed to a group for mums and dads. I still had firmly in my mind that there needs to be a safe platform where just the dads could talk, so part of this change was to create another Facebook group for Angels dads only.
In August 2012 I published the Daddys with Angels community page on Facebook. I knew that some people did not want to join a group, some people just wanted to ask a few questions and some wanted a space to share pictures, graphics, poems or other messages. It is also a place where the closed groups can be shared. In the process of making graphics, for anyone who wanted them, some people asked if Daddys with Angels had groups for those who had lost another family member or a friend. There wasn’t, but there was a need, so another group was set up and named ‘Missing a loved one’
Currently we have six closed groups. A group for Angel mums and dads, a group for Angel dads only, Missing a loved one, Children with Angels, grandparents with Angels and anticipatory griefgroup. (a group for anyone who has a family member or loved one who is diagnosed as terminally ill and doesn’t have long to live).
In each of our groups is a file called ‘Our Angels special days’ this is a list of birthdays and Angelversaries. When it is a birthday or Angelversary a graphic is made so that the person who has grown their wings can be remembered and extra support given to the parent or family member at times when we know that the emotions can be especially raw.
When someone joins a Daddys With Angels group they are considered family. They are not just offered advice and support about having an angel, but anything that is affecting their daily lives. This can range from diet, domestic abuse or advice on relationships. The administrators can be contacted in private to discuss anything members might need or want to talk about. Sometimes what can seem like a great burden for some can be resolved or eased with a group discussion or private messages.
At Daddys With Angels it doesn’t matter how old your angel was when they grew their wings or how they grew their wings, if you are a genuine angel parent or someone who has suffered a genuine loss you are welcome. We have members whose children were born too soon, died of cancer or other diseases, committed suicide died of natural causes or have been murdered. There are very few situations, relating to the way an angel has grown it’s wings, that we have not come across within Daddys With Angels.
Our YouTube channel acts as a musical memorial/tribute to our angels. We have a play list which includes songs that were played at funerals, describe how we feel or songs which bring happy memories about our angels. We also upload personal videos that were made for our angels such as montages and videos to raise awareness in which parents and families talk about the loss of a child within their
Our blog is a place where members of Daddys With Angels can share their stories to show others that it is okay to talk about loss. It is also another platform to share graphics and pictures and where in the future we might have a memorial wall to remember all our angels.
Daddys with Angels can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn
Why we avoid the ‘S’ Word (Sorry):
Generally the ‘S’ word is used to express sympathy for another due to the circumstances they are in, which is fine. The concern about using the ‘S’ word arises when an angel parent uses it to apologise for being an angel parent, or for expressing feeling of loss, pain or blame. Having these
feelings is ok and no one should apologies for that, that’s not ok. The ‘S’ word is often used when someone does something wrong. ‘S’ for bumping into you. The ‘S’ word can be a very powerful word and rather than reinforce any feelings of guilt or blame someone may be feeling we would rather just avoid using it and encourage members to let go of feelings of guilt and self blame.
Some of the reviews we’ve had from our members:
” Fantastic! This has been a tonic for lots Xxxx”
“I probably wouldn’t b here today if it wasn’t for the help of you guys and your support continues “
“If I didn’t find daddy with angels page I wouldn’t be half the person I am today, the help I’ve had has helped me understand my feelings and how my emotions are, I had people there to talk to, when I felt rock bottom there was nowhere to go, even doctors couldn’t help me. I know my life is changing for the better now, being able to release all that I kept bottled up for years, and with support of these people. I can’t thank them enough for the help they have given me. I am finding better ways to deal with my grief x”
“Daddy’s with angels is a place where anybody can go. I am on here to help others. I still grieve and miss my son but if I can help other then it helps me. They do a great job and ask for nothing in return. Stories and memories are shared. Through this it has helped me realise where I want my career to go as well and that is through writing more children’s books. Daddy’s with Angels didn’t know this but it’s true. Thank you to all that contribute and a huge thank you to the people that run the site. But most important god bless our angels and rainbows and cherish your children everyday. My little rainbow girl saved my life and so did her mummy and big brother in the clouds. God bless”
” I still cannot speak to my husband about the loss of our son, but I can at Daddys with Angels, for that I am forever grateful. I so love this group and the people behind it. Truly and sincerely I am so grateful to Daddys with Angels.”
“I became a proud member of DWA in 2011. The group was quite small back then but it’s just as intimate and personal now. We were received and welcomed so very warmly, it was so comforting to meet other Angel parents and we started making friendships that we still have today. It is hard to measure the help we received just to say it helped us unbelievably both individually and as a couple.”
“The group has saved my sanity and my life. My being able to express my grief in a completely comforting and non judgmental environment has made the grieving process less horrific and has enabled me to be a better mother to my living child. I honestly do not know if I would be in the place I am now without the wonderful group. I could not recommend it more highly to anyone.”
“Daddys with Angels is a group of wonderful and supportive dads who have turned their own experiences into something that, does not just keep their memories of their own Angels alive but the memory of every Angel gone too soon. It is a group where members can talk and remember their own Angels to their hearts content. It is an ear for the difficult moments, Angelversaries and a place where you never feel alone.”
Our constitution and other policy documents (equal opportunities policies, child protection policy and procedures etc.) can be found in the notes in our Facebook community page as well as on our website.
Despite being nominated for the ‘UK support’ category Daddys with Angels has members and followers from all over the world, and not just those who have lost a child. Daddys with Angels has developed to meet the needs of everyone including those who don’t normally fit into pre existing groups when they have lost someone.
Please vote for Daddys with Angels in the 2014 Butterfly Awards.