the difficult one
sometimes life is just crap and we have to somehow live through it
okay so on the whole idea of counselling and in particular being a bereavement counselor I will now finally find the strength to talk about what happened to us nearly three years ago now this will be very difficult for me and I know I will be crying as the tears are already stinging my eyes and my throat has a lump that blocks all the air from me but here goes
In Memory of little beth
it was a lovely summery start to easter holidays of that year, through the previous summer we had all had a lovely time and this summer we were all looking forward to another summer of warm afternoons playing in the garden, and sleep overs.
the swings were in constant use and our massive trampoline constantly had the squeals of children emanating from it and even the slide was dragged from the garage and made use of.
I remember having a strange kind of feeling through the preceding week it was hard to describe like the air was tense, even though we were all happy I felt out of sorts and stressed, it felt like somehow each day was like an elastic band being stretched taut and never being allowed to go slack, like the tension was building and I could not find a reason why, oh sure there was odd squabbles, kids stuff, an incident that left me feeling uncomfortable was for once letting my second daughter who was around 9 at the time go to the park with her best friend catlyn, and the local bullies were there as always they came home in tears and once again I put a blanket ban on going to the park.
I always had an open house policy where my kids friends were concerned, my son suffers severe autism though so I would keep a very close eye on any I let passed the door and of those who could not find it within themselves to respect my son and the parameters that went with that situation well they simply weren’t allowed back, unfortunately that meant quite a lot of the local kids, this is a small town and suffers small town mentality, it is completely white northern english which can be very suffocating for me I am used to a much more cosmopolitan outlook, but I had always said this town was a good place to bring up kids and had insisted on coming back to have my own and bring them up.
it just meant avoiding as much as possible the very narrow-minded and judgmental attitude that persists throughout this town and which unfortunately becomes the outlook of the children of those parents also, in all this nasty minded petty fights and alcohol fueled bickering though we were lucky in finding one or two friends that like us stood out as being different, my second daughter and my youngest daughter had two best friends who were also sisters, catlyn and little beth, we always called her little beth as we had a big beth so when shouting things like ‘ do you want an ice cream’ it helped if it had the big or little in there too.
just about any afternoon you would find either in the back garden on the swings my daughters and their best friends or through the night they would sleepover sharing a bed together, two older ones in one bed the two younger ones in another, or sometimes my older daughter would sleepover at theirs- I never let my youngest just yet because she suffered terribly from night terrors and still came to me through the night.
so as I was mentioning earlier even though the days were warm and filled with playing and games and ice cream something just felt odd, out of sorts, off kilter, I was so grouchy which is really not like me but this tension that I couldn’t find a reason for was really bugging the hell out of me and after having a few too many sleepovers of other friends who never invited my daughter back to theirs that when it got to the saturday and my daughter asked if beth and catlyn could stay I snapped ‘no’ I regretted it because it was never them that were mean, they were always well-mannered and lovely, treated my girls really well and out of everyone they were the ones I never had any trouble with, but like I say the stress of the odd feeling followed me everywhere I was losing sleep it was like living under mount versuvius wondering when it was going to erupt and to this day, every single day, I have sorely regretted my saying no that night, even now when I am writing to you dear reader I still feel a pain deep inside my chest as I punish myself all over again, hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it yet what would I have given to know what was to happen.
the next day was a usual sunday, warm, calm, and filled with the games and fun of all the other days, as soon as we woke we knew there would be that knock – little beth had the most loudest knock on the door, if you didn’t know her and you heard that knock my friend you would think it was the police come to raid your house! how could one little 7 year old girl have such a loud and intimidating knock? we loved it; we would fondly smile and say ‘yup that’s little beth knocking our door down again‘ and they were always together; little beth and catlyn, never were they just one always the two, and in they would troop and I would hand out sweets or ice lollies and off they would go playing, sometimes the two older ones would go lie on my daughters bed and have a right good old gossip, being 9 they were coming up to that pre-teen stage and I would smile to see them lying in the sun discussing fashion and hannah montana which was popular at the time, the two younger ones were always in the back garden on the swings, little beth loved the swings, we had a set with two ordinary single swings on it side by side and a double seater see saw type swing next to it.
Little beth was constantly on those swings and if it was very hot we would get out our huge paddling pool and line up the slide so they could slide down it and splash in the pool,
and yet I still couldn’t shift that annoying feeling
the next day was monday and we hadn’t heard the policemans knock which was odd it happened every single day, but after playing a while my second daughter went round to theirs to see what they were up to, turns out they had gone for a day out to a popular seaside town and I placated my two girls with sweets and comics and it wasn’t long before the afternoon brought with it more sunshine and a 7 year old girls policemans knock, I laughed as I went to answer it opening the door wide the two sisters ran in and soon all was as normal as they played out in the garden.
it was around tea time, early tea around 4 ish I think, when I heard the crying and in came little beth she had fallen off the swings and grazed her knee, I gave her a cuddle and they all had ice lollies and the playing went on again, it did seem odd she had never fallen off anything before she was a confident youngster, sure-footed, but I thought maybe the odd feeling was just niggling everyone, I made tea and they just played on right through it not really eating much but I don’t hassle kids to eat especially when it is hot and there is playing to be done, I had always been one of those who wanted the kids to have a full happy childhood, to me they grow up so quick I knew from having my oldest just how quickly the time passed by and so I always encouraged the idea of just being a child, just playing, having fun, these were the important things not chores and being made to sit at the table and eat meals, I know other parents frowned on this relaxed attitude but the rather brilliant thing about the sisters mum was she had a similar outlook and set up to mine; we both had four children, hers were all girls, mine were three girls and a boy, her older ones matched my older ones in age and so we had been through many similar stages in life,
it’s easy for a mum of one or two to make assumptions that a mother of more can see the experience behind learning to never make assumptions and those who were only on their first and only young in age had yet to go through teenage years and, well, we had a lot in common
so 5 o clock went by the sun still shone and day kind of limped by, my youngest had got a bit crotchety; she is auburn haired and burns easily so I made a point of not only smothering her in sun cream – total sun block, but also to bring her in from playing every so often to cool down and rest, she like me is not good with the sun, so around 6 o clock and I had my youngest with me just cuddling and relaxing before bed time, my second daughter and the two sisters had gone over to their house to play for a while and the day turned to evening and around seven was bedtime for my younger ones, and my second daughter rang to ask to stay over at their house but once again I said ‘no’ it was the last day of the holiday and I wanted her home for a shower and early night so we could all be fresh ready for school the next morning.
7 30ish in the evening in rolls my second daughter whining about not getting to sleep over and I fed her and trundled her off to bed agreeing how terrible I was for being such a strict mummy
as I suffer a lot with fybromyalgia though at that point I hadn’t known that was what it was but it meant I was always in bed early as by that time on an evening I was in too much pain and needed to lie down so the evening was stickily warm and sleep was not coming easy and I heard the sound of sirens in the distance
which was odd
because this area is known as a good area little to no crime as such, maybe a robbery once in a blue moon, but on the whole we never heard sirens; there was never any reason too
these sirens were fire engine sirens, I worried a little hoping that who ever was having trouble would be okay, and to be honest I thought it was the pub on the next street; it was a quiet pub, never any trouble, just a local watering hole but it served meals there,nice ones they were good cooks and I assumed that their kitchen had a fire.
the next morning was a rush around as always, no matter how organised I think I am getting 4 kids to school is always a military operation and I was doing well I thought, I had managed to get my oldest off and my son being disabled attends a special school and his bus had been for him, I just had to get my two daughters to their school- at that point they both attended the same primary school
as their school was the closest and the last to take in we rushed around getting our packed lunches together feeling pleased I had got two to school already and just got to get these two in and then the rest of the day was to be spent cleaning
9 o clock and we just made it into school as the bell went and my second daughter went into her part of the school and I gathered up my youngest and got her into her part of the school and deep breath, time to relax, once again I had managed to get them all into school, phew, there is always that sense of satisfaction of getting them all where they are supposed to be and on time, I did notice that little beth and catlyn hadn’t met us as they usually did on the way to school, so I walked back through the playground looking for them or their mum, she was shy but always would stop and have a chat with me so I looked out for her
I felt a hand on my arm
“erm have you heard?”
“Heard what? ”
“little beth is dead”
the world swam dizzying around me and the air swooshed passed me
“What?” I said again the information wasn’t going in
“last night when your daughter went home there was a fire little beth and her dad died catlyn is in hospital with her mum”
this time the ground came up to meet me as I crumbled
I couldn’t breathe
this child was as one of my own and the pain literally took my breath away
I couldn’t see
I couldn’t breathe
I couldn’t hear
I stumbled into the reception area of the school and asked for my second daughter
she ran up to me her face red and wet streaming constant tears
we clung to each other sobbing
the pain drowning all other existence – only pain left
we staggered home
the day went by in a blur
the next day I kept my daughters home from school
our whole family went into shock
we wouldn’t hear her policemans knock on the door
they wouldn’t rush in heading for the swings
we had too many ice lollies- I always bought enough for them as well you see
“they say the dad set it off” I heard but I didn’t comprehend
the police were involved, the house was covered in forensic tape and a police man was on constant duty outside
they took days and days
each day collecting evidence
I was wanting to help and contacted the mum; I bought them pyjamas, food, toys, magazines, comics, her and catlyn were stuck in intensive care I wanted to do anything I could to help
everyone was nosey
asking questions, hundreds of questions
I had no answers
the police took a statement from me and I was more than happy to help they came round often but more to make sure I was alright than to take any more statements
my second daughter was called to give evidence at court and I was so proud of how strong she was
her dad had to go with her because I was also a witness and so in order to preserve evidential statements I had to remain in a separate part, in the end they only called on my daughter to appear in court and used my witness statement
I could not forgive myself for saying no to the sleepover
it had been our last chance of ever having them to sleep over but I never knew
I wish I had known
we visited their mum and catlyn every week in hospital, it was quite far away from where we lived but we all needed to keep the contact, their mum had not made any other friends than me at that school- like I said the mums there were very cliquey, often looked down their nose at us, only interested now something awful had happened
after a while they released little beths body and we all attended the funeral, the rest of the family were not strong enough to go inside the church, my second daughter and I went in, all of us had written little notes we wanted to put in her coffin, and we had little teddy and other soft toys we knew she liked, but we sobbed through the words of the priest, we sobbed as we saw the tiny coffin, she was 7 years old, and dead, we sobbed until we couldn’t breathe and my daughter just crumbled, she ran out of the service and I went after her,
in the church at the outer doors were the coffin bearers we asked them to place our letters and gifts to little beth in her coffin, then my poor daughter ran back to the car and we drive home silent save for the sobbing, it felt like we would never get over this and I still don’t think we will, I think something like this changes you and the pain stays with you, and they say time heals but not this, this is impossible to heal, we grow a scar and that scar stays, we just learn to live with that scar, that’s all time does; it gives you the ability to live with that scar
catlyn didn’t really survive
her body did in a sense, but she was not really catlyn; she had been put into a medically induced coma to help her heal, when they finally brought her out of that many weeks later it became obvious she was badly brain damaged, although her body survived she did not,
she could not move, not even her head, she fed through tubes and lay prone, they moved her limbs for her, gave her physio but even through therapy, she remained unresponsive, we bought her sensory toys, we read to her, we chatted telling her of what was going on in the outside world, nothing helped, her eyes remained blank,
I used to worry, I would lay worrying long into the night; what if catlyn was in there but couldn’t let anyone know? what if she was trapped inside this body that was of no use to her, they ran lots of tests; there was some brain activity but it could not be determined as to how much it seemed so very little.
we had lost both girls
we continued to visit. they kept her in hospital just over a year, around 16 months and finally her and her mum bought a new house far away from this town and began a new life, her mum now had a severely brain damaged child who would never move again, never talk again, never smile again.
the court case finally came round to the end of the investigation, it was determined that their dad had been suffering from severe depression leading to psychotic tendencies, he had planned everything, he had written more than one plan as he couldn’t decide which way to do it, he had intended to take all their lives, the two girls -the older two were grow up and not related to him their mum only had the two younger girls to him and he had wanted to take them and her with him to die.
I remember how kind the police were, they were sensitive, thoughtful, and they cared about us, I remember I lived in a constant stream of tears and self punishment as I could not forgive myself over the sleepover and as I spent each day cruelly punishing myself one policeman showed incredible caring; he came and talked to me and tried his very best to help me through it, he told me that it didn’t matter whether I had said yes or no to the sleep over; they had found evidence, he had written everything down and he had planned to have come and got them if I had said yes and would still have gone through with the plan
it should have made me feel better
but it didn’t
and now there was the horror that how close had my own daughter had been
we were lucky we were given grief counselling for my daughter she went through so much, they didn’t have enough money for the rest of us though they offered me counselling I told them to use what was available to help my daughter, she received around 8 months of counselling and it really helped her, the lady was lovely and even took some of her own time to come and talk with me,
looking back now I realise just how important it was to have that counselling, for my daughter, for me, for us as a family, my son still receives counselling and the lady sees him at school but for him it all had to be handled differently
that lady was my inspiration for my choice now in life
I want to be there to help others, I know the raw pain that goes with sudden and tragic death, and though a year earlier we had lost grandad to cancer it was a different situation, still painful, still tragic, but in a sense we had some time – not much he went within three months of being diagnosed, but it was time to come to terms with what was to happen, with little beth we had none we went from sunny afternoon ice creams and swings to sheer pain.
For those that I am able to help I know I can’t take that pain away for them but if I can help them live through that pain and help them come to terms with the situation and the scar that is left then I will feel I have done some small thing to help.
so today I went to college, today I began the journey to becoming a bereavement counselor, today I became one tiny bit closer to being able to live with my scar.