My eldest son, George, sadly took his life at the New Year.
It is difficult, and at times uncontrollably emotional. I have sought professional help to cope with that side of things, and I can now much better control the awful combination of sadness of the circumstances of his death; the guilt of feeling happy when that seems so wrong; and, the terrible sensation of having massively failed him as a father. Together, these emotions are overwhelming and bring tears in a torrent – I find the shower is the best place to sob as you can make a feeble excuse, to cover self-perceived weakness, by saying one got shampoo in one’s reddened eyes.
George’s younger brother, Charlie, and I want to help others who have experienced such a loss, and importantly try to prevent young suicide in the first instance. We intend to raise money and then make a large cash sum donation, prior to the first anniversary of George’s death, to PAPYRUS – a suicide prevention charity which provides confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person through their helpline, HOPELINEUK.
In addition, we want to focus on the parents, who like me are badly affected by a child’s suicide, by providing an opportunity to enjoy some time together, while leaning into the pain. As such, part of the money raised will be ring-fenced, to enable us to provide “escape” days on the Solent, for the parents and their other siblings touched by this terrible illness, on board a sailing yacht.
As an MCA qualified yacht captain myself, this is something that I’ve been doing for those affected by child cancer for a number of years; and I’ve seen first-hand the very positive outcome of just a single day on the water.
Those who have been on the water before will know that attached to the head sail are pieces of yarn or fabric called tell-tales, and it is through the tell-tales that we set the sail.
I visualise that I have a red tell-tale for: Sadness; a yellow one for: Guilt; and, a blue one for: Failure. But, when they are properly aligned and the boat is performing well – I am OK, and the dark clouds are brighter.
No parent should bury a child, and the team at PAPYRUS are doing a wonderful job working with young people who are struggling with life. Sadly, however, the number of children taking their young lives each year is on the rise. I fear that this winter may see a sharp increase in young people experiencing thoughts of suicide as they struggle to readjust their lives as a consequence of the pandemic.
I am focusing my energy on raising money so that we can provide a structured approach to preventing young suicide, while offering some relief and fresh air to bereaved parents and their children, like Charlie and me.
I very much look forward to being more than just OK, which I can tell you is: “exhausting.”