On 17 April 2011, I became a father for the first time. I was a dad to a baby boy, Otis.
To hold your child for the first time is a magical moment, but for me it felt extra special. All of my emotions and heartache had washed away at that moment, and all I felt was love for this baby.
I had never really thought about the emotional legacy of my father’s murder until I became a father myself. Since becoming a dad, I have always known that the time will come when I will have to sit down with my children to tell them what happened to Grandpa. Otis has recently been asking questions about where Grandpa is and why he isn’t alive any more. I guess it is about dealing with it in stages throughout his life. But the time will come eventually.
At the beginning of 2018, I made the important decision to publish my fifth children’s book, The Magical Wood, written to help bereaved children. The impact of trauma at an early age has instilled a passion in me to help children struggling with their own grief and mental health. The devastation of grief at an early age can stay with a child for the rest of their lives, but it doesn’t have to affect their mental health. The Magical Wood was written to help open up the difficult conversation around grief and death. I wanted to write a book that would’ve helped me after my dad was killed.
The earlier we start to introduce the conversation around death and grief in our schools, the earlier we can break the taboo in the UK. In my opinion, children should be explained to honestly what has happened, in words that they can understand. Let them see how you feel. Children learn about feelings by watching the adults around them and I always appreciated adults speaking to me about how I was feeling, giving me a space to express myself.
I want all children struggling with grief to know that, although you will always miss that special person, you can go on to live a positive life after the death of a loved one.