There’s no hierarchy in pain when it comes to death, but there’s no denying, losing a child as a baby is a new parent’s nightmare.
This week, Matt Cunninham shares his experience of losing his daughter Molly.
“When I was told that my first and only child, Molly, was going to die (before her first birthday in all likelihood), I felt traumatised, bereft, horribly exposed, all the things it’s easy enough to imagine. And without doubt the months that followed, up until her passing, were the most challenging of my life. Along with intense pressure on my marriage and family, we were surrounded suddenly by a legion of medical specialists, community nurses, respite carers, emissaries of the church, and later children’s hospice staff, funeral directors, the whole shebang. It was like living at the centre of a time-lapse film.
“It wasn’t until afterwards that I began to make sense of it, slowly over the years that followed, by writing ‘A Girl Named Dennis’ – subtitled ‘Finding a way through losing a child – a father’s story’.
“Whenever anyone heard what I was doing, they’d invariably say “It must be cathartic for you” (I heard that line so often, it made me laugh inside). But cathartic I’m sure it was. The intensity of my grief seemed to match the time it took to write the book almost exactly, as if for me the resolution could only come when the words said precisely what I needed them to say.
“There were times when I feared the book might be too dark. But I don’t feel that way now. Gradually I came to appreciate that the darkness provided the light, the sadness made the happiness shine, the inevitability of my daughter’s death was tied up inseparably with what made life so intensely, so beautifully here-and-now for so much of that precious year. It isn’t rose-tinted glasses: I’m not the type. But in spite of everything that happened to us, the enduring legacy my daughter left me is a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving (at this time of year) for the simple fact she was here with us at all.”
A Girl Named Dennis (Finding a way through losing a child) by Matt Cunningham is available now from Amazon as a Kindle download with the paperwork version to follow in the coming weeks.