Sharon Marie, a mother from Aberystwyth, shares her ongoing struggle with the pain of losing her five-year-old son Ned in a car crash eight years ago. As she prepares for her eighth Christmas without him, Sharon expresses the profound difficulty of the holiday season. Despite others expecting her to come to terms with the loss, Sharon ensures that Ned is remembered in their family’s Christmas traditions, alongside making an effort to create a joyful celebration for her other two children.
To include Ned in their Christmas festivities, Sharon places his stocking alongside those of his siblings, and a special bauble with his name is the first ornament on their Christmas tree. Picturing what Ned would have wanted for Christmas is a bittersweet reminder of his absence, as Sharon envisions him as a nearly thirteen-year-old boy during the holiday season.
In an effort to make the festive period more manageable for herself, Sharon advises other parents who have lost children not to put excessive pressure on themselves. She finds ways to minimize stress by shopping online and avoiding crowded places. On Christmas morning, she visits Ned’s grave alone for some private reflection time. Later in the day, the entire family goes for a walk and visits the grave together. Sharon acknowledges the challenges of sharing memories with her youngest son, Cai, who was only 18 months old when Ned passed away. While Cai doesn’t remember his older brother, he asks many questions, and Sharon carefully navigates the delicate balance of sharing stories without overwhelming him.
Sharon recognizes that the New Year can also be difficult, so the family chooses to spend that period elsewhere. She mentions that Ned’s birthday, Good Friday, and the anniversary of his death are particularly challenging times. Writing and artwork have been helpful in coping with her grief, but there are moments when she feels overwhelmed and unable to cope at all.
In her search for mental health support, Sharon encountered difficulties and had to fight for the right help. She faced an 18-month waiting list for assistance, but fortunately, she was able to seek private help. Sharon acknowledges that not everyone has that option and emphasizes the need for improved support services for bereaved families.
In response to Sharon’s experience, a spokesperson for the Welsh government acknowledges the devastating impact of losing a child and emphasizes their commitment to providing adequate care and support for bereaved families. The government mentions ongoing efforts to improve mental health support, reduce waiting times, and enhance accessibility to services. They highlight the availability of 24/7 support helplines and the bereavement framework that outlines the support individuals can expect to receive during and after a bereavement.