Before I begin you need to know that my youngest daughter Polly gave me full permission to share this story with you. She is also more than happy for people to now know the story in my first gift book published in 2012 under the name of Cherry is her story too.
Here we go…
At 9.30 am on Feb 25th 2009 I was standing in the middle of the road next to my car with tears pouring down my face. I knew our lives from that moment would never be the same. That my children would only have memories of their Dad rather than an ability to make memories with him.
You see he had died.
Suddenly, out of the blue, no warning.
He was quite simply the best Dad.
My mind was racing after receiving the news on my mobile phone from a nursing sister who was the other side of the country. It was news that I had to deliver a few times in my professional career as a nurse and midwife, but nothing can prepare you for receiving the news personally. Especially when it is going to affect the two people you love most with all your heart and soul.
He had only been with the girls two days before on Sunday. Polly’s 13th Birthday. They had enjoyed a lovely meal together. They adored their Dad and he was as Amy explains when we divorced a few years before that she loved us equally. Her Dad was the other half of the yummy chocolate cake that made her parents.
What should I do?
Amy was at school and they would know something was wrong if I went back into the house with tears running down my cheeks. I needed to tell them the news together and so I ended up on the doorstep of our new neighbour. She took one look at me and took me in her arms as I sobbed.
Eventually the tears eased a little and we drank tea. Lots of tea. A good friend brought flowers and lunch as I planned what to do. Rob was informed and my mum and sister were to collect Amy at the end of school and bring her home.
They were with me when I told them. I knelt before them and uttered the words that I knew would change their young worlds forever and ever.
Amy reacted with a primal scream I can still hear as I write this, but Polly just sat there, like a little stone statue. A solitary tear ran down her cheek (I always say – watch the quiet ones).
A day later we were in Exeter where Richard had died. His parents and his wonderful partner were waiting for us and it was arranged with the coroner that we would go and see him the next day.
I knew I wanted to see him for the last time and Amy was the same. Polly was completely clear. She didn’t want to see his body. I explained to her that this was totally ok. She must do what she felt was the right thing.
However, when Nanny Moo (so called because they had a dairy farm), Amy and I came out of the room where he lay Polly saw that we all looked happier and decided that she would after all go in and see him. I asked her if she was sure and she said yes.
I went in first, but as I did so Polly was behind me and started screaming the moment she saw his head. The rest of his body was covered.
She screamed and screamed until there was no more voice to come out and that began the nightmare of the next 5 years.
By the Christmas Polly was bulimic, self-harming, smoking and in trouble with the police. My little girl who had a few friends over for a pyjama party and hot chocolate for her 13th Birthday was gone and, in her place, an angry teenager in pain and unreachable,
Her Dad was a police inspector and to have one of his colleagues turn up on the doorstep was the last straw for me. Something had to change. I took everything away from her including phone, computer and gradually watched as my creative, happy girl began to return.
I found her expert help in the form of Ian a psychotherapist in Harley street specialising in adolescent trauma particularly bereavement and there began our journey to her healing.
We started that journey in opposite parts of the train on the way to London. I couldn’t stand the sight of her if I am completely honest and she would say to you now that I did say to her a number of times I will always love you but I really don’t like you right now. As the weeks past we began to go to John Lewis on the way back to the station and have a hot chocolate together. She even had her makeup one day by one of the team in the bobby brown counter. This sparked Polly’s love of makeup and her first career as a makeup artist. She still does weddings and special occasion makeup and in recent times gave her time to special make over events run by renowned makeup artist Lee Pyecroft and The Good Grief trust for the victims of Grenfell towers and another domestic violence and abuse.
We moved recently and Polly helped me move a heavy pine table. I asked her if she remembered throwing it at me and she replied, I remember doing it with one hand.
I was asked to speak at the national charity ‘Brake’ seminar for healthcare, teaching professionals and therapists in Manchester on Child bereavement. I took with me the prop of the last TV remote control I bought. Polly would regular throw these at the wall, me, or her sister.
Then, one day she went to pick up the remote and then put it down again. We were ready to duck but the anger seemed to be leaving her. Diane her counsellor who she saw at her school for years after Ian had finished began to say she seemed calmer.
Her 18th birthday was approaching, and I wanted to make it special for her.
Her sister’s godmother was getting a beautiful little puppy and then the idea came to me. Polly had always wanted a puppy. A little dog. Always and forever.
So, I called the breeder, she had one left. Polly had absolutely no idea until her birthday. My idea was forming that surely it might be possible to change the memory of her birthday that she associated so strongly with the memory of that fateful day she so strongly attached to her Dad’s death.
Everyone gathered round the table (yes, the same one she had thrown at me a few years before) and waited till the end of the meal. He was still very tiny and not quite ready to leave his mummy so I wrapped up all the things she would need for a tiny puppy and she was sat at the computer wondering what on earth she was about to see.
Her face was a picture as we showed her all the ‘pup dates’ we had been getting as he began to grow over the weeks since his birth
Excitement was not even the word for how she felt.
We went to see him in Preston where he was born, and she fell in love right there and then.
6 years on and the love affair continues, she still adores that little dog and yes you have guessed it he is called Nigel!
Polly loves birthdays now. Her own and anyone else’s. She can express her emotions and is growing into the most beautiful and wonderful young woman.
From the day I stood in the road having heard the dreadful news it was my mission to get both our children into their adult lives Healthy, healed, and happy. I think we have achieved that.
Memories can be made easier to bear and with the right support on our individual grief garden path healing can eventually take place and be replaced by a feeling of peace and joy.
As I write this Nigel is asleep in his bed (he lives with us as Polly works full time and has her own place). Aged 6 he likes his sleep! Don’t we all? I am also writing this at 5am and so am going to go back to sleep myself.
Hope you enjoy seeing the pictures of this special little dog and Polly whose life he changed forever! ?