A whole industry exists to talk about bereavement. Libraries have been written on the subject. I am not an expert but I do have a very raw and personal experience. Almost everyone has lost someone they love, indeed there are millions who, like me, have lost a child. As I write my thoughts on bereavement and what it means, I can only write about my own journey. It may resonate for some people but I am only too aware that each person, in their own particular set of circumstances and with their own make up has to take their own road.
The immediate sense of loss and pain I felt was stunning. In the days that followed Rohan’s death, I have never felt anything like it but that is not what I want to write about here. Instead, I wanted to explore what happened to my pain, my sense of grief and loss over the subsequent days, weeks months and years.
The first thing to say is that I am never completely free of the pain that came with Rohan’s passing. Nearly three years on, there is not a single day that passes when I do not remember him and miss him. There is not a single day that passes when I do not feel a pang of remorse that he is not with me and my family. But this is a good pain. I exalt in this memory of him. It proves to me that I loved him and that I still do love him. I will never stop missing him and I would not have it any other way. It is a part of me and defines a part of my character and credo now.
The defining thing about my experience was that Rohan was not alone. He had a brother, Arun and very quickly, my grief at the loss of Rohan was tempered by the fact that his twin survived him and needed me to be there for him. I could not afford to wallow in my loss and withdraw from Arun in any way. He was still here and Clare and I had little choice but to carry on. If we allowed our grief to overtake us we would effectively be orphaning Arun. Neither of us were prepared to do this. This meant that both of us needed to put aside the more extreme moments of pain and anger. Because, we had another son in intensive care, often we simply did not have the time to explore and indulge our grief. Arun and his situation demanded we adopt a stiff upper lip and get on with it and for several months that is what we did.
This was a very male reaction. Blokes don’t do grief and I was definitely under some pressure from some of the other men around me to put a brave face on it and soldier on. Typically, this tended to be the older generation but as a rule, few of my male friends ever approached me to talk to me about grief and how I was feeling. Some men, who I have the greatest respect for, did quite the opposite. They took me aside and told me that my job, my role as the patriarch of my small family was to be the pillar of strength. I was never to show grief or pain in front of the women around me. I was required to be the one that carried the family through. My own feelings were irrelevant and, if I was to fulfil my role as a father and as a man I would do whatever it took to pull the people around me through.
This may sound quite damning of male society but to be honest, I was comfortable with this role. I am by nature a positive, optimistic person and I made a conscious decision to focus my energies on looking forward. I decided that I was going to love, mourn and remember Rohan but this could not be the defining moment of my life. I had always looked forward and I wasn’t going to change now. It wasn’t that I valued Rohan’s life any less – it was just that I did not want to spend endless hours agonising and eulogising it. This was how I dealt with it and, in part, some of that was because that was how men dealt with things and underneath all the modern man finery, I was and am a bloke.
However, that is not to say that I don’t have regrets. I regret that I will never know my son as a toddler, as a child, a teenager and as an adult. I would give everything I own to bring him back. More than this – I would give everything I have and walk a thousand miles carrying Arun on my back if my two sons could have one more hour together. Just one, solitary hour.
And that is my biggest regret: That the two brothers will never really get to know each other. I remember the moment when doctor conducting the ultrasound scan first told us that we were having twins. My first thought was that they would be able to look after each other; that they would be there for each other throughout their lives. At that time, the thought brought tears of happiness to my eyes.
Now it brings tears of sadness. I have lost a son but Arun has lost a lifelong companion.