How do you tell your 10-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter that their father has died? Is there a specific way? How can you make it sound right or even believable?
It had happened suddenly. It was 15th July 2010 a warm summer's evening. Normal things had happened that day, we had been to work, we ran an alternative health clinic together in London, I had collected the children from school, made dinner, children to bed, the usual routine.
It was around midnight Hratch was sitting, clutching his chest unable to breathe gasping for air. He topples, falling out of the chair his head hitting the floor with a thud. I was hysterically trying to perform CPR from directions given by the 999 operator, as my son stands helplessly frozen to the spot. Paramedics eventually arrived and took over. But I already knew it was too late, he was gone. I felt like a bus had hit me. As I travelled in the ambulance with my lifeless husband I just couldn't work out how this could have happened. He helped all those people at the clinic overcome adversity but he was taken. It just seemed so unfair. I remember just saying, "This is stupid".
The following morning I sat the children down on the sofa. How am going to say this? I don't want to cry. Do I talk about heaven? Heaven? What is heaven? Can a 3-year-old girl really grasp that concept? He has gone to sleep? What does that mean? Like Sleeping Beauty? Plus, she wakes up in the end.... My head was spinning I didn't have a clue. Eventually, I took a deep breath and I just said what came to mind.
"Daddy wasn't well in the middle of the night and something happened where he wasn't able to breathe anymore. The ambulance men came but unfortunately they couldn't help him. He has gone and he will not be coming back". Was that right? I had no clue. Mya said, "Where did he go?" I pointed and looked up. He has gone to live amongst the stars. He isn't with us physically but his spirit will live on. He will be with us always, looking out for us. We just won't be able to see him." It was hard to comprehend they couldn't understand. "Mya said, "Will I ever see daddy again?" I said, "No my baby, daddy will not be here any more". Kayne was just quiet. It was tough for a 10-year-old to witness his father dying. We all hugged for a long time, neither of them cried. I just sobbed uncontrollably.
The following days were a blur of trying to work out why. It was all so surreal. What happens next? After 11 years of marriage I don't know anything about being alone... I'm my husband's wife that's all I know! It was so overwhelming and unbelievable.
The clinic had to close. I had no job. The apartment that we lived in had to be sold. We moved to South London, back to where I grew up. I have no family there, or anyone that I knew from before but if was familiar. I bought a house that needed lots of work doing to it so whilst the children were at school I worked on the renovations. It helped me to make sense of everything; I had something to occupy my time.
Kayne suffered the most. He wasn't getting on well at the new school, being bullied. He hadn't properly grieved for his father. He was scared all the time and believed I would leave him too. It was painful to witness. The school offered counselling and that helped enormously.
It was during this time that I began writing Afterlife. I wrote it for Kayne and Mya based on what had happened to Kayne. The concept came from what I had learnt from my late husband and his work at the clinic.
When you suffer a traumatic sudden loss you feel like life is over and you'll never recover. It took a long time for us to heal from the fallout. Six years on I can safely say that we are all doing OK. We miss Hratch, he will never be forgotten, but we can't bring him back or live in the past.
Often life can throw you a curve ball and change the course of your journey, whether for good or for bad. This experience although traumatic has made us all stronger. We have grown and know who we are and what we want. We intend to pursue our dreams, create memories and have an adventure! Isn't that what life is really all about?