No parent should have to go through losing a child, but as we know, this is tragically an ever-occurring reality. My twin baby daughters died in October and November 2003 – three and a half weeks apart. My loss may have been over 17 years ago, but for me, real grieving didn’t begin until 2017, when another tragedy – my wife being diagnosed with breast cancer – tipped the balance and my grief poured out.
It was only then that I decided to write down my experience of the times and events around my twin daughters’ deaths. I didn’t know where it would lead and, at that point, only imagined sharing it with my wife. I wanted to express how I’d been feeling back then, and how traumatised I had been, having not shared my feelings with her at the time. Whilst writing, it occurred to me there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, of dads out there, who might have also spent years internalising their grief like I had.
With this at the forefront of my mind, I knew I wanted to turn my memories and experiences into a book for others to read: for dads like me; partners like my wife; families, friends and medical/mental health professionals even… anyone, really, who would benefit from gaining an insight into such a tragic situation. So, my first book, ‘Daddy and the Two Bears’, was born, and it was finally published in March 2021 – over three years later.
The book will carry you through the joys of finding out my wife was pregnant, after being presented with a gold box containing a ‘positive’ pregnancy test; then finding out at 11 weeks that we were having not just one baby but two; through to the journey of them becoming Twin 1 and Twin 2 and, later, twin girls called Alana and Dana. But first, they were ‘The Bears’, a name I had affectionately given them early on in the pregnancy. It’s often said that nine months gives you time to get your head around having children. You prepare. You tell your friends. I couldn’t wait for the twins to arrive so that I could fill them with the love and support I felt I’d never received as a child. I was also struggling with my own mental health issues at this point in my life – issues that had been plaguing me since childhood.
All seemed to be going well until one day a scan showed that all was not going well at all. From that point, the raw emotions I felt were so real. I tried to keep them in, but sometimes they oozed out, mostly presenting as anger, my go-to response. I tried to pray and ask for God’s help, not for me, but for my little Bears. In the trauma and tragedy that followed, however, I battled between needing God and rebuking Him in equal measure. I hadn’t a clue how I was meant to feel, how I was meant to act, with every day and every new scan telling us more news about our little girls.
Six months later and three hospitals later, they were born, and for them to be alive was an incredible feeling. They’d made it, and I was their dad. However, what followed still remains the most devastating time of my life – as I’m sure it is for anyone who has experienced the death of a child (or children). ‘Daddy and the Two Bears’ is a raw and open account of my journey.
For many, it feels like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel – or ever will be – but my story shows that eventually things did begin to change for me in a more positive way, and my light did begin to flicker again.
As a counsellor myself now, my hope is that my book opens conversations, especially conversations that have been hidden under a veil of grief or tragedy. My wish is for it to support others to learn, become aware, and share.
‘Daddy and the Two Bears’ is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Visit https://www.amazon.co.uk/sk=daddy+and+the+two+bears&ref=nb_sb_noss_1
Written by: Gary Anderson