Hi, my name is John and this is my rollercoaster of emotions relating to the loss of my grandson, Auley.
On 16th December 2018 whilst out celebrating a friends birthday I received a phone call from my daughter Hayley advising that my eldest daughter DanaLouise was in hospital. Being a father, I started asking all the usual questions and was given the most unexpected answer…..Dad, DanaLouise is in labour and due to give birth at any moment. Immediately I laughed this off as a wind up because there was never any mention of pregnancy over the previous weeks or months. The bond I have with DanaLouise is a very close one and I’m sure she would have told me but she didn’t know she was pregnant which was even more of a shock. After hearing this my eyes filled up and my shock turned to joy and happiness at the thought of another grandchild.
Soon after the first call, I received another call at approximately 1035pm telling me that my grandson had been born, again, my eyes filled with tears of happiness but then came the blow. Hayley told me that something wasn’t right and Auley was in a bad way. I got a lift to the hospital. Can you imagine walking through a railway tunnel and seeing the light at the end and how you feel then only to realise that the light is from a train and it is heading straight for you…that is how I felt. From joy and happiness to worry and dread in the blink of an eye.
When I arrived at the hospital i made my way to the maternity ward and went to see my daughter. I was told about the wee mans condition and the severity of it and I was an emotional wreck. I was anxious, nervous and scared and my mental state of mind was all over the place. One of the doctors arrived and I asked if I could see Auley. DanaLouise said this was fine as Auley was in the neo-natal unit. The doctor walked towards the elevator but I asked if we could take the stairs, he knew why and he said to me to ask him anything I wanted but he might not be able to give me a definitive answer. I asked about Auleys condition and the best and worst outcome. I got answers that I didnt want to hear and i felt a sense of emptiness inside me as i hadn’t seen Auley yet. Before entering the unit the doctor tried to prepare me for what i would see and hear. I told him I had been advised of the same words 31 years previous but still, my stomach was full of butterflies. We entered and i was shown over to the incubator where Auley was and a nurse stood at my side. I was aware of her speaking to me but I couldn’t hear what she was saying as all my focus was on Auley. I just stood looking at my grandson and inwardly asking why….why him, why my daughter, why us. A full range of emotions were bubbling up inside me and I was confused. I was happy but sad, I was calm but angry, I was crying and I was a mess inside and out. I was fully aware of what could happen and I knew I had to be strong for not only my daughter but also her partner Gary, my grandkids, my other kids as well but mainly for Auley.
I called my son and youngest daughter to tell them the news and like me, initially there was surprise and shock but that quickly turned to tears and sadness.
From a father and grandfather’s point of view I had to be strong and protective of my family but in order to do that I had to be strong for me, I struggled. This was Christmas but a Christmas with a difference which started off as a high followed by, no, Christmas is cancelled. I soon realised that I have other grandkids and although my main focus was Auley, things had to be as normal as possible for the little ones.
Auley was transferred from Glasgow Royal Infirmary to the QEUH Neo-Natal unit were he was assessed and looked after by a very caring and professional team of doctors, nurses and specialists. After several assessments and tests came the devastating and heartbreaking news of his chances of recovery. The news that no parent should ever have to hear, the news that no parent should ever have to tell their parents, the news that tears your heart apart and make all the emotions of hurt, sadness, anger and disbelief multiply. You hear and understand what is being said but dont grasp it at the time, well you don’t want to grasp it. I was numb, I looked at my daughter and cried as I knew very well the decisions that her and Gary faced, a decision that no parent should ever have to face. News like this make you question everything and every question starts with the same word…..why? You question the cause of the illness or condition, you question the treatment and you question God if you are a believer.
Auley was christened in the hospital and given his full name. There were members from both sets of family there for what was a very emotional day. This was a day that I was there for my grandson, my daughter and her partner and I cried tears of sadness and tears of anger.
DanaLouise informed me of the decision they made and again, I crumbled, I knew what was happening but didnt want to believe it. Again, I was angry, not at my daughter or Gary for their decision, not at the wonderful doctor’s and nurses but at God. I questioned God….why do this to a new born baby. Why inflict the pain and suffering on everyone. I was really angry and annoyed but again, I had to try and stay calm because I knew at first hand there was tougher times ahead.
DanaLouise and Gary decided that Auley would spend his final hours at Robin House which is a hospice operated by CHAS and on the 31st December 2018 Auley was transferred to Robin House. I knew this would be one of the saddest days of my life and that I needed to be there for the three of them. I sat in my car in the car park of the hospice with all sorts of crazy and stupid thoughts rushing through my head.
I was invited in and accompanied to Auleys room where I saw him in the arms of his mum, my daughter….he was still with us. I could tell that his time was near but I couldn’t let anyone see this from me. I was calm on the outside but inside I was shaking uncontrollably. As Auleys breathing became more shallow my heart started racing. I felt really uneasy and had an overwhelming urge just to wrap my arms around my daughter. I looked at the two of them sitting there with their little bundle of joy knowing that any minute now Auley would be at peace. I remember seeing Gary’s hand on Auleys chest and I looked at my grandson, he was at peace. I looked at both DanaLouise and Gary and the tears were welling up in my eyes. DanaLouise looked up at Gary and said he is now away or something like that.
I saw the hurt and pain in their faces and wanted to take it all from them. We all cried and I tried to remain calm but who knows…..
Auley stayed in Robin House until the day prior to him being laid to rest. During this time he was well looked after by the amazing staff who also looked after DanaLouise, Gary and the 3 girls. I visited Auley each day and sat alone with him on several occasions. I spoke to him and I also directed questions elsewhere. I never got any answers and again, my head was all over the place.
The day before the wee mans funeral I visited and saw him for the last time, I said what i had to say to him, i cried, I stroked his cheek, i gently ran my fingers across his hair and cheek and i kissed him. Auley knew he was loved.
The next day Auley went to his final place of rest and that is a day when it really hit me. I was in my daughters house with other family members and knew the cars would arrive at any moment, I never wanted that moment to come. I was calm and I was trying to calm others until i saw this tiny white coffin then i really lost it. I had a sudden surge of panic and I cried openly. The next thing I remember was arriving at Auleys final place of rest and I had a mini panic attack. Auley was going to be beside my son and I was gripped by a sense of guilt because I could do nothing. Auley was laid to rest and i watched as everyone gave him a yellow rose flower. I waited and was the last to give him a flower. Looking down through teary eyes I just wanted to fall in beside them both. Again, I felt angry.
A certain song was played, one that I loved listening to until that day, the 8th of January 2019.
Since that day until this very day I have tried to be supportive to my family and I have neglected my own state of mind and mental health. I cannot listen to the song that was played and I have left places when I’ve heard it without saying a word. I have struggled to come to terms with the cause of this and I have had an entire range of emotions and crazy thoughts, some of which are not nice.
I had some counselling and it helped in the short term but as previously said, I will never get over this.
For any other grandfather who suffers loss, yes, you will experience emotional distress, you will question everything, you will be angry, you will cry. These are all natural and expected of you but the one thing I can say is this, look into the eyes of your son or daughter and see their sadness and hurt. Be there for them and support them as much as you can but you cant do that if you dont look after yourself.
From meeting Auley for the first time until this very day, I think about him, I think about the grandson I was excited to meet and sad to let go, I wonder about the reasons he is no longer here and I still ask the question…..why ? I still get very emotional and have crazy thoughts.
Everyone deals with a situation differently and there is no right or wrong way. In the event of you having to go through a loss so heartbreaking and upsetting I would advise you to take any support that is offered and encourage your son or daughter to do the same. Be there for them but be there for yourself too. Respect their wishes but remember, they have just lost their child and might make irrational decisions but just be ready for when they want you to be there.
Support is there for you in various different ways and the support I got personally from staff at Robin House was amazing. Charities such as Baby Loss Retreat are also very supportive, not just for the parents who have lost a child but also grandparents and other family members.
Thank you for reading this and I hope it has helped in some way.
John, a loving grandfather.
My Angel Baby:
Grandad is so sad,
I Don’t know what to say,
God has taken my angel baby away.
You left behind your mum and Dad,
and Grandad knows they are very sad,
But Grandad Knows,
you will be there each day,
to wipe the tears they shed, away
O.K. my angel baby,
now go, and play,
we will be together some day,
My dear little angel, don’t you fear,
when you need you grandad,
ill be right here xxx