“It takes a village” is an African proverb meaning that in order to raise a child one cannot just do it alone, one needs an entire community to help and guide the parents and the child. I was thinking about how true this was the other day and thinking how it also takes a village to mourn a child too.
It may sound flippant or like a cute little soundbite but I really don’t know that we would have coped with Eilys being terminally ill and her death without the love, support and encouragement from our family and friends. I am not being flippant and it isn’t just something I say, it is the truth. It is the community that we surround ourselves with who can help us get through trauma.
My family and friends all took on different roles and helped with different things. Our family obviously went through the sadness and trauma in a more acute way with us and we all needed each other for support and love, in different ways and at different times. We check in on each other, we allow each other to have space and we try to talk with each other about how we feel etc.
Our friends helped by offering us space if we needed it and a place to talk if we wanted to. They sent flowers and cards in the immediate time after her death. They were there. Some of our friends called or texted daily to make sure we were doing ok or to ask if they could help with anything. Some friends invited us to do things with them like walks or trips to the pub, offering to shelter us for unwanted conversations with people who didn’t know what had happened etc. I had a very hard rule that if any of my friends wanted to say nice things to me that they had to follow it up IMMEDIATELY by saying what a dick I was or by reminding me of stupid thing I had said/done in the past otherwise I found it too hard. I don’t think me or Joe have ever felt particularly brave or special or any of the other nice things that people said to us or about us, we are just 2 people who had something very sad happen to them. We had friends who would tell us about their children wanting to paint pictures for or of Eilys which is always so amazing and really makes me smile (we still have some beautiful butterflies stuck on our kitchen door that Dylan’s best friend made for Eilys). We have loads of friends who always join in with the harebrained fundraising schemes that I come up with, which again makes me feel so happy and looked after.
The village is wider than family and friends who are physically in our lives. Eilys’ amazing care team at Alder Hey and in the community who helped us through all the shit that comes with a terminal diagnosis, the ones who tried to make every step of the way as easy as possible and who gave us priority to make things easier and who often went above and beyond for Eilys. Our GP who went above and beyond to help us fill in forms, with home visits, who made it easier for us to get appointments and who has offered us a lot of care and support since helped us with her knowledge and influence. Emma and Karl from ACT for SMA who were always at the end of the phone with love, support and advice, knowing that they were there and that they would support us throughout was so important to us. The hospice who helped us make some memories with Eilys and who have given Dylan so much support and helped him in ways that we couldn’t have done. My friends who I have made online who have been there for me with their kindness and care even though we have (in a lot of cases) not met in real life, people who have shared their life experiences with me, people who have picked me up when I was very down or in need and people who offer love and support from afar. The Funeral Directors who helped make her funeral exactly what we needed it to be and who were always so kind and caring and respectful. The staff at Dylan’s nursery, preschool and school who have supported him, who have given him a safe space to navigate his grief, who have helped him to understand his feelings and who have helped him to feel less alone. To Dylan’s friends who remember Eilys with him, who give him a place to talk about her and who have been there for him (in the ways that crazy toddlers to school kids can do). The people who I have connected with who have been through similar things to us, who have helped us feel like alone, who have given us a light in the darkness and who have made an incredibly supportive online community where families who have lost children and can feel safe and loved.
I am sure there are loads more but it really does take a village. Grief is lonely and going through it can be isolating. But by allowing your village to help you, to guide you and to light up the darkness for you can be invaluable. And if you don’t feel as if you have that village then make one, you can start with me if you need me.
Thanks for reading
*header image is It Takes A Village is a painting by Deborah Wenzel*