How writing three simple words saved me

I found love after loss and from my loss came my first book, Before You Sleep

An illustration from the Adam’s Cloud series

An illustration from the Adam’s Cloud series

 

Every Christmas, sadly, families all over the country have an empty chair in their home. Empty chairs that were once filled with life, sharing festive cheer and celebrating good fortune under a spell of Christmas magic. We have one such chair in our house. It is a small chair where once sat a giggling, happy, cuddly boy beaming smiles from a chocolate-covered smiley face. Adam’s chair has not been warmed by his little body since he was taken 12 years ago from us when he was just four years of age.

Our first Christmas without Adam was unbearable. Our Christmas was now suffocated under raw, unbearable pain and the realisation that we would never see Adam again. We would not see the beauty, excitement, joy and magic he would have had when his Christmas wish was delivered from Santa Claus.

The butterflies of excitement that once tickled our tummies in anticipation of another happy Christmas were replaced by the clenched fist of grief twisting our gut in a relentless, unmerciful grip. Adam was gone.

With the dread of an uncertain future, we knew we had an enormous fight on our hands to save our family from the devastation of losing Adam. A relentless tsunami of sadness, tears and pain would test us every day and wear us down mentally, physically and emotionally where sometimes it was difficult to breathe. Experiencing unbearable pain, we longed for each day to end only to dread the night ahead where the unbearable pain continued.

Grief was sucking up all the air around us. This would leave us gasping for breath but the worst of all was the raw physical pain we felt in our stomachs, this would never let up. It would never stop. We were awake in our own inescapable nightmare, there was no way out, no escape, no hope.

But then, one day, sitting in front of the empty screen on my computer I wrote three little words – I Love You – in an enormous font that took up the whole page. I kept writing these words over and over again until my eyes were red with tears. But it was not enough, I needed to say more, I needed the world to know just how much I loved Adam and I needed the children of the world to know just how much they were loved too so I added the words Much More Than and just kept writing. I loved Adam much more than anything I had ever experienced in my life.

As I wrote, my tears found their way to the corner of a slight smile. The more I wrote these words, the more I thought of Adam and remembered the fun times we had. The more I wrote, the more I thought of how a child would feel if they were to hear these words directly, ensuring benefits of reassurance and confidence. The more I wrote, the more I realised that I had stumbled on a powerful weapon to help us fight back our grief. I found love after loss and from my loss came my first book Before You Sleep.

The love we had for our children would push us to fill their lives with happy childhood memories and would allow us all to smile again with Adam still in our hearts. The love we had for each other as husband and wife would drive us to get up and fight every day, even on truly terrible days, united to keep moving forward.

Love is hidden away sometimes in the darkness of grief and it’s hard to find. Love was the secret weapon that helped us fight. Only together could we find our way and only together could we think of building a future. When we discovered this love that Adam had left behind for us, it uncovered other tools that would help us strive to get through every day, like hope, happiness, spirituality, inspiration, determination, drive and energy.

Over Christmases past we have filled Adam’s empty chair with beautiful memories and stories about him. For Christmas present his spirit and love warms our hearts and lights up the room with the twinkly magic of a thousand Christmases. After a long, long journey fighting through every moment to make Adam proud of us, we have found our happiness and the magic of Adam and Christmas fills our home. There can be happiness after loss because love conquers all. Although it does require a fight and we still fight every day.

It is my Christmas wish that every child is told they are loved and that every family which has an empty chair at their table this Christmas can pick themselves up and fight the fight and find their version of love to help them have hope and light ahead to save their Christmas in the future.

Benji Bennett is author of the Adam’s Cloud series

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