It's been just over a year since I began talking to people for this podcast, when it began, I was really nervous. I felt really vulnerable opening up to people talking about such a sensitive topic and something that brought up so many difficult feelings for me. Listeners of the show will know that I felt angry, I felt sad. I've laughed and I've cried a lot. And though we've talked at length about grief being a messy personal journey with no linear path, I think the last year and two seasons of open and honest conversations have helped me arrive at a different place.
I still miss my mom every single day, but I recognize my grief more. I know how to handle it a little bit better. This season on debt becomes him. I talk to people who have experienced unimaginable loss. Each of their stories is unique, but as always, there was one commonality. Talking about it is therapy. This week on debt becomes an issue to Amanda Cambridge, Amanda opens up about the loss of our son Avery in 2019 when the family were on holidays in Spain.
While Amanda Story is heartbreaking, she is bravely made the decision to share what our family had endured in the hopes of helping other families.
Amanda, how are you and a huge welcome to your episode of Death Becomes in these conversations are so important and I'm asking guests like yourself to almost revisit the worst times in your life.
Yeah, well, it is it is very important to talk about our feelings and talk about grief and to talk about our experiences and how we're dealing with it and how we want to move forward. So when you slipped in there to the DMI.
Oh, I did. What was your first reaction?
What was your first reaction?
I was like, oh, my God, what is this like? I have to go check to see if it was read because I like I knew to Instagram, I now Instagram savvy, so I didn't know. So it was kind of when I replied and I got your message back then, I was like, oh, this is actually authentic. Let's go ahead.
Your name was mentioned a few times on a post that I had put up and I found your Instagram page. And what really struck me, the conversation you were having, I think it was an Instagram life I think you had done or maybe it was on your TV. And I just thought you were so strong talking about your loss, because I think your story affects so many people. I think it's every parent's worst fear when it comes to water safety.
If I did an Instagram live and if I did record it and, you know, do the TV, that it would hit more parents, it would hit more people. Mean, it was just my story. You know, it's not even a story. It's my reality. It's my family's reality. This is what we are dealing with now. I spent the last six months talking to myself, so I felt like I was just talking to myself and getting everything that I wanted to see being real and not not covering up anything, not masking anything.
I'm just telling people what can happen. I didn't think it would happen to me. Not in a million years. You know, this happens to other people. This happens to other families. This happens abroad. This doesn't happen here. So it was it was an eye opener when, you know, the 12th of August did happen.
It's a common thread that a lot of people have said on this podcast. And it was something I had said myself, and you've just said it, this doesn't happen to people like us. This happens to other people or you see it on the news and you go, oh, it's not dreadful. You read about it in the newspaper. We all say the same thing. This doesn't happen to people. Of course it happens to someone else. Why did you think we think like that?
I suppose I for me, I would never when I had my children, I had them in college. I had them married. I had them, you know, their girlfriends, their boyfriends. What would I say when they get the first boyfriend or the first girlfriend? Never in a million years would I have told you that I would be the mother of. A three year old that would have drowned and a mother that's. Would have been like, I never I never suffered from grief until I was in my late 30s, tangoed quite a happy childhood, you know, got married, had the children, it wasn't until I kind of my late 30s that death really affected me.
I always read the paper and thought, oh, Jesus, that poor family never thought that I would be on or my son would be on the front of the paper or my son would be on the news or my son would be on the radio and people would be saying that about me and my family. I think it is normal for us never to think that something like that would happen to us.
I think it's a way of us protecting ourselves. I also talk about shock a lot, and I feel that shock, I think was on the episode I've done with Lottie Ryan back in season one a lot. He actually said and she was right, shock is a very good thing because what shock does is it almost numbs you from the reality that you're living in.
Oh yeah, completely. I am. After every passed, I shut myself down, I. Locked myself in the house, I know the guards were back to school. So we spent every hydrant in Spain, so we have to spend 10 days in Spain trying to get them home.
That's a long time, isn't it? 10 days. It must feel like months. You know, when you're over there in going through this hellish time, you know, here to be repatriated.
He stayed in a beautiful place over there that we could go visit him any time we wanted. What it did, there was course, there was paperwork, there was statements all this had to be done to get him back. And then obviously we had to get him on a plane. So when I went to Spain with my children, you know, I never in my life expected that I would be coming back to with me and one under me.
Even when you when you say that it's just now having that visual of two with you and one on you, it's like I'm horrible for anyone, any parent, you know, to bear that. I think about that. Let's talk about Avery. You're smiling already. What was he like as a baby? Was he a good baby?
Did you spoiler when when Avery was born? I always said that I was complete.
I was complete two girls and now a little boy, like I have no sisters. So when I had my daughter, I said, I want a sister for her so they can play together. And then obviously you want the boy to carry on the name and, you know, to to be the man in the house. So when he was born, I was complete. My family was complete. He was a darling child. He no, unfortunately, he was.
He was born on the 4th of December and he ended up back in hospital for his first Christmas because he had bronchiolitis. I'm so. Christmas is canceled, Christmas is canceled. There was no Santa coming until Avery had come home, but for the girls, Santa came twice because Santa came to their grandparents house where they were staying.
Oh, I always love the Santas. So amazing. Santa knows where everyone is. Yes, he's very clever.
And then Avery came back out to hospital on New Year's Eve and Santa came again to our house here in Miloje. He had this gorgeous blond long hair.
He's very affectionate and he loved his cars. He loved his bike. He was an exhibitionist. He hated wearing clothes.
Oh, OK. Go, Avery. Absolutely. He wearing clothes. Casey wearing shoes, socks. I'm you know, he had three favorite blankets that you would never see him without his blue bottle if you missed them. The first thing he would ask, you know, is what's your name? What's your name? And then you automatically you are his friend. And he he will remember your name every time he sees you, bring you and show you all his toys.
As my friend said, he was a lovable sausage. What were the girls like with the little brother? They were very protective. I you know, they would cover him in kisses and hugs. But then when he started moving around and started touching their things, it wasn't it was hard.
This when the baby starts to get a personality and start playing with the dolls or grabbing them like Noble, take them away and they would dress him off like a girl they would because his hair was so long they would propose in his hair, give him pigtails.
I have one picture. He has a big Paddys bowl on his head. Right. I'm covered with makeup cover my face paint. And he loved us. He loved he loved the company and he loved that they were older and they loved him.
You're really, you know, painting a picture there when you're talking of just the perfect family, three beautiful children. You know, you're so happy, you're so content. The kids are doing everything you want your children to do. Talk to me about that trip to Spain.
Yeah, we we've been going to Spain for the past 15 years before before we had children. And it was you know, it was reliable. It was easy. Everything that we needed was there. It was a gated community. So we know we were safe. So we met the same people every year. So the girls kind of grew up with the same children every year. We would go for two weeks, we'd go for three weeks. We go for four weeks depending on time.
And yeah, we we really enjoyed going there. It was it was a lovely place to go. So on that year, myself, the kids and my dad and my dad had started coming over with me after my mom died. I said, you know, for the two weeks come over and see Spain and relax. And and I think there was some army bodies of is over there. So you can catch up with them. So you do what you do when you're going on holidays, you pack.
You know what we're going to do? We're going to go to the beach, the pool. So much fun. I we're going to go to a local local restaurant and they do Disney theme.
I was nodding. I have no idea what Poco Loco away. I'm glad I was like, yeah, poco loco. What's Poco Loco, though?
It's a restaurant over there and they do things like on a Friday night. They might do a lot more than we do Mickey Mouse.
All the kids would be in their element with stuff like that.
Yes. You know, so and that's what they love to do. So pack your bags, get on the plane arrived in Spain. You know, ten dazing having a great time. I'm my husband was due to fly out on the twelfth. So the night before we went for a meal myself, the kids, my dad and I, some family, friends that we had met over there, had a great night. Kids were happy. I went home, kiss the kids good night, put them to bed and woke up on the 12th, pushed the chairs down to the pool.
Came back. Avery had woken up. Put him on the couch with his blanket and his body turned on pop all on Netflix, and I was going to tidy up because Daddy was on his way over. He was actually on a plane then at the time and cleaning the bathroom and came out and he was gone. He was gone from the couch.
And at this point, were you you want worried? You probably just thought he was with his sister.
No one died. No, I wasn't. I wasn't. His blankets on his bottle were there. I checked the girls room. There was no sign of him. I knew he wouldn't have gone into my daughter's room because that door was actually quite hard to open and it was still locked.
I checked my own room, called him every day for you where you got home and went outside.
Because there was a pastor outside, went out and looked out there and called his name and there just happened the apartment next door, there was a man coming upstairs and he said, Did I hear your voice? And I said, Hear what was what did you hear? And he said, There's a baby in the pool. And my heart just dropped. And I knew cause 100 percent I knew. So I just ran and ran down the steps of the gate and I just literally turned the corner and I could see him lying on the ground by the pool and there was all these people standing standing around.
So, yeah, I just ran down and. It was it was like it was the longest run of my life, or you just couldn't get there fast enough even though the distance was really short, I just couldn't I could hear me feet. I could hear my heart. I could hear myself screaming his name. I'm. I'm gonna got down to the pool and there was a lady there performing CPR. She was from Germany, she was a paramedic in Germany.
So thank God that she was there at the time. It was the neighbors on the other side had been out for a walk. And they had seen they had seen Avery and they had pulled him out of out of the pool.
OK. And I'm still I'm actually still in contact with them, you know, they I suppose they they suffered a trauma just as much as we did. You know, I never saw Avery inside the water. I never had to pull them out. They did. I mean, Avery walked out in open door. He walked out of oil, gas, and that's kind of what I'm trying to bring forward, is that.
Be resilient, lock your doors if they're there, put a padlock on them, because children cannot be trusted, they're curious, they're curious, they are they get it into their little heads that, oh, I want to do.
This was a very comfortable in water. I think I read something where he was was he due to get swimming lessons?
When we when we got back, he was due to start swimming lessons. So we kind of took the opportunity before we went to bring him to the pool here in Marlow and kind of get him, you know, comfortable water and getting into water and getting a little water. But he had his arm bands. And I think that they gave him a false sense of security, that when he was in the water, he always had his arm bands on.
So he floated. He didn't realize that when he went into the water without his arm bands that he would sink and he'd have no way of getting back out. He was due to start school that September. Yeah, we had his bike ride. They had his stuff ready, open school. You know, they had his little box ready with his name because I remember his his funeral. The teacher came in and said she had on all his stuff ready for September for his first day of school.
I know what it's like as well as the physical loss of you losing a little boy like that. You're also then him starting school, his first Holy Communion. You're almost grieving for the rest of your life for those important days that everyone else gets and then maybe seeing children that would be in the same class as him. And then they're reaching all these milestones and he's not.
Where do you think you put all that stuff? And you said at the start the conversation about masking your grief. How have you found your grief? And I found this so difficult and, you know, they say there are seven stages of grief and on my page, that's what I do. I go through my seven stages of grief. I you know, there are seven stages. But when you get to the last stage. It doesn't stop there.
You can bounce back to anger, you can bounce back to denial, you know, it's this never ending circle. I mean, so I would. I wouldn't talk to anybody about it because I felt that when I talked to people, it made it real and I didn't want to believe that it was real. I didn't want to believe that he was gone. And I blamed myself and I believed that I had killed my child.
Did you really believe that, Amanda? Did you why? You know, he was with me. It was our holiday. I did leave the door open. I did leave them on the couch while I went into the bathroom and he did walk out and. Yeah, I 100 percent believed that it was my fault that he was my responsibility with my child and that. I was responsible, he wasn't responsible, I was the adult, I was the mother and I that it was my fault.
So do you still believe that now?
Am I? It you know, some days I, I don't sometimes I think it was just, you know, it's it's a tragic that's what everybody says, you know, it's an accident and it just happened to fall at your doorstep. But I do I would beat myself up kind of saying and I don't why did you not lock that door and why didn't you just sit down on the chair with, you know, the bottom didn't have to be cleaned.
It could have been cleaned up later on. Why? Why, why? And I think we're always looking for more. Are we're looking for that? What if I did this? What if I did that? It might not have changed anything.
You've got to stop asking yourselves the why, Amanda. Because you'll be asking why, why? Why till the day that you die. Because one way leads to a hundred thousand whys. And also what I found about grief personally, myself, is that it can be quite self-indulgent and quite narcissistic. And Touchwood will never, you know, hope to understand the grief that you're going through, because I think the loss of a child, which we've discussed before on the podcast, has to be the cruelest grief of all.
This is your journey and these are the emotions that you are feeling. And I thank you for being so honest. And I'm glad that you've said now there that, well, actually, you know, I don't feel like that all the time. So there has been growth.
And I found I would write letters to myself. I'd write like a journal. I write down how I feel like I don't MUSKETT whatever comes into my head, whatever I'm feeling, I write it out. You know, I don't sit there kind of going, well, I'm not going to write that, you know, I just put it all on paper. And I shared some of those then with. People that follow me on Instagram, I would just take time to myself to to work through my emotions.
If I want to cry or cry, if I want to scream, I will scream. I because I spent, I suppose, the first six months, seven months. I'm not feeling anything.
You were numb. If I see a pole patrol ad or if I hear a song, I'm right back to where to where I was.
I have to start I, I remember at a party my family, you know, there was all these little boys running around. They were the same age as Avery and their moms were running around after them. And I just felt empty because I had no little boy to run around after I was just sitting there, I. Just yearning to have Avery here that I would be able to run around after him, wipe his Martino's, bring you potty, train him, and for a while there I couldn't be around I couldn't be around a little boys or girls or because I had that last start when he died.
Something something inside me died as well.
Are you OK with saying that that a part of you died and went with Avery 100 percent?
Because I, I suppose I'm not as happy or joyful as I was before happened. I don't find joy in the same things that I did beforehand. There are places that I can't go because they were Avery's favorite places. There were things I can't watch. So I'm not the same person I was where I was then. And I have to watch my grades. I have to watch my friends grieve there. There's their sibling. And I felt that I took their sibling away from them as well, and that they were feeling like this because I had done something.
It's never ending.
Talk to me about that morning of August the 12th. He's on the sofa, Avery, you know, watching Paul patrol. He's got his blankies. He's got his his his puppy, his bottles. Do you remember those moments? Quite clear.
It was a normal thing that we did every morning. Every morning. We would put the chairs down. Every morning he would get off. He would hop on the couch with his bottle and his blankets, or it was the what's the word I'm looking for. It was the unexpected thing that happened on the 12th. I did not expect him to get up off the couch and walk out that door and go down to the pool and go into the water.
It was just totally unexpected to find him lying by the pool, having someone do CPR on this little three year old and having to watch just water just pour out of his mouth. And he was lifeless and there was just people standing around, you know, watching.
I remember there was a man there with a cup of coffee, just watching, just having his morning cup of coffee looking on. And I just got so, so angry. That I literally ran to him was like, this is not a spectator sport. This is my child. My child is dying and you are standing there having a cup of coffee, just looking, and you just sat there that, you know, my child is is dying.
When you arrived to this madness, were you thinking he's going to be OK?
Did you. Kind of realize how serious and life threatening this was. I did. I knew, right? I knew I'm. The it was over and over. That they had been working on him and it was just this one girl, Rosie, her name was, and then, you know, people from around the complex opened all the emergency gates. And then there was just this swarm of people came in, an ambulance crew. There was nurses and doctors from the medical center off the road.
They just all came in at once and tried, tried to revive to try to bring them back. They did get a pulse, OK? They did get a pulse. And the we had to wait for a helicopter. The helicopter couldn't land in the complex or had to land on the beach. So they had to transfer a free onto a gurney and brought him down to the beach. So I while he was being rolled off, you know, my friend kind of said, no, wait, wait, let her say goodbye or say goodbye before he gets on.
So he had his eyes taped shot. And I just remember kissing each other and just screaming at them to go, just go, go get him, you know?
And he went off in the helicopter and we drove we drove to Alicante Hospital then. And I obviously had to ring his dad and tell his dad what had happened.
Eric was on a flight on the way over, so obviously he wouldn't have had his phone on the airplane. Margin for him to get off the plane, you know, to turn his phone on. Do you remember how you had that conversation with him? He was closer to the hospital and being at the airport than where you were.
He was he was there about forty five minutes away. Maybe he was 20 and I rang him and you just said, look, you have to go to the hospital. You get like if we went into the pool. Avery went into the pool and he just said, you need you need to tell me what's going on. And I just kept on saying everyone into the pool. We went into the pool. He's he's on his way to the hospital.
So a friend of ours collected him from the airport and brought him to the hospital. And if Eric got there when Avery was just brought in from the helicopter, I arrived and we just had to wait. We just and nobody spoke English.
Oh, God, the not of what the local, you know, little, um. So we had to just wait and wait, wait. They were working on him inside and, you know, we would bang on the doors, you know, tell us what's happening. And they were speaking in Spanish.
So we had no idea that probably odds, you know, no blame to them or to anyone. It's just a language barrier because you're in a different country, you know, but that must have that must have added another layer of frustration as well as fear complete completely because we didn't know what was happening behind those closed closed doors to our little baby.
You know, we had no idea what we were just outside, you know, praying and just walking. And, you know, I was seeing God like, just give him back to me. Just take just take me just strike me down dead and just give him back to me. I was praying to my mom. I was like, mom, if you have them, just give them back to me. I need him here. I see maybe two and a half hours passed and we were brought into a room like an office.
And there was a lady doctor there and she said, you know, your little boy is very, very, very, very sick. And we said, oh, OK. And she said, no, he is really, really sick and, you know, we don't know if. We don't know if he's going to make it. And at that point, I just remember the only words I could get out of my mouth with Eric, that that's the only thing I could say, like I was looking for him to.
To make it better, you know, and then we just asked to we asked could we see him and they brought us us to intensive care and he was in he was, in fact. And he just looked like, you know, there was no cuts, there was no bruises, there was no bumps. He just looked like he was asleep.
I can imagine as a parent, just me personally, is that I would probably want to see a bump or a lump because that I could in your mind, maybe I'd be able to justify it. So I what you said, he just looked like he was asleep. There was no marks of an injury or an accident.
Yeah. Yeah, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. His face is perfect. The only marks that were on him were from when the paramedics were trying to save him by resuscitation.
Of course. Yes, they were the only marks that were on him. He had no facial marks. No no bruising. He just looked perfect in. And in the bed, you know, we brought his blankets with them and covered him with blankets and sang songs and, you know, I kissed all his fingers and I kissed all his toes. And, you know, we said, you know, it's time to wake up. Now the girls are waiting for me at home.
And my friend Leon came in to see him. And, you know, she said the same thing. You know, Avery, it's time to stop messing. That was time to wake up. But unfortunately, a few hours later, they called us out and said that there was no brain function. Right. And that they were going to bring in another team from Spain to do a second run, and that would give us a. Our final answer then, whether he was gone or whether he will come back, from what you're telling me, it seems as if they tried a lot of stuff and they worked tirelessly.
They did everything. They tried everything. They. They they didn't want to see him die, you know that. And I think that's what they do. That's their job, you know. That's why they train in their profession. They want to save lives. They don't want to have to tell parents that their child is dead, that they will go to the ends of the earth to try to try and save them. Do you remember your your last moments with them?
Do you remember when you walked into that room again when they tried the second time and they told you they were?
Yeah, they they asked us. They asked they told us that the the new team was here, that it would take about an hour, you know, go have a coffee, go for a walk. So we did and the hour passed and we were brought back in. I'm same thing into a room. There was the doctor. They had finally got a translator over. And I think there was the director of nursing there as well. And she sat in front of me and just grabbed my hands and said, I'm so sorry he's gone.
And she cried like I didn't cry. I, I just remember looking at the floor and I just she she was crying. She said, I'm a mother myself. And it's the worst news I have to give to any to any person, to any parent that their child is gone. And we went back in to Avery and we had decided to. Or donate his organs. They asked us, would we? And we didn't flinch, we just said 100 percent definitely, you know, take take what you can both please leave with.
Yeah. I mean, because I suppose he saw his world through his eyes and. The same thing we just left with him and sang songs and kissed all his fingers and kissed all his toes and. I'm. Yeah, just just spent those precious, precious moments, I caught some hair, you know, because I want to take some of his hair. And they said that they were going to be bringing him down for organ retrieval at six thirty.
So we had we kind of had a few hours with them and they came and they brought him down then to the teeth her. And we walked with him down, down, down to the basement. And the surgeon was there to to take him over. And I just said to him, you know, look after him, please, please look out. And he he didn't have a clue what I was saying.
Big language barrier.
I know. I mean, I suppose we can laugh now, but I know what you mean. It's he's thinking what she said.
Yeah. And he was just nodding and nodding. And I was like, oh, no, please, please, just just look after you look after him. And it was like something out of Grey's Anatomy, looking back at it, you know, he he rolled him in and then these just two glass doors closed over. And I just remember my hands on the glass. And, you know, that that was the last time then that we got to spend time with him after after that it was.
It was it was different. Talk to me about the organ donation, and it seems to me when you were mentioning it there, that it was just something straight away, that it was always going to be a yes.
Was that a discussion you would charge with Eric? What made you come to that decision so quickly?
We didn't we we didn't have a discussion the minute they asked us. We automatically suggests in the ICU where Avery was, there was babies in every other room that had been there for weeks that had I'm sure had been there for months, you know, and we had only been there a few hours. And to see the devastation on their faces and how sick their children were, I suppose we both have come to the conclusion that if only God was to come out of every state, it would be this and he would still live.
He was delivered. I'm sure there's some little Spanish girl running around starkers naked, you know.
I mean, I think it's a parent. It's very, very selfless to think like that in your in the worst pain of your life. But you're still being kind when you're a parent. You know, the loss you have suffered and you don't want anyone else to suffer that loss. And by doing the the donation, you stop that. Do you know of anyone that received any of Avery's organs?
They don't let us know. We got a letter from the Spanish hospital thanking us for our our selfless act. And it was in Spanish. So we had to have a translator sit.
Here we go again. You need to learn Spanish.
I know it was never going to be a no. It was never going to be anything for any parent, you know, to have a sick child and to get a gift like that that your child can live on. Because I know if. In Oregon could have saved Avery and one parent, nor had given me that I would be so, so grateful and, you know, that person would always be remembered. It just it just did we know wasn't an option.
Talk to me, did you realize when all this was happening that it was making. Headlines in other countries and especially in Ireland, that it was such a big deal. Um, I did write I did a I, I be honest, I was angry, I was I suppose, you know, we want to protect we want to protect our children and to see your son special over like where did they get these photographs? Where did they get these information from?
I mean, I know there was a man in Spain taken he took photos of Avery on the ground.
Oh, no, that's dreadful. And then splashed it all over a Spanish paper. I just I just couldn't get my head around this because obviously a tragedy like this had happened a few days previous and there was nothing there was nothing said. There was nothing in the papers. There was nothing. What makes us so special? What makes us different? I'm I I would have once I hopped on Facebook at one stage and went down through a few comments and they weren't very nice, you know, where the hell was she?
Do parents not look after their children anymore? And at that point I.
I didn't I didn't look any more, but that's that's so dangerous, Amanda, for anyone to be so stupid and ignorant to write something like that when you were going through absolute torture, you're not in any state to be reading that. God only knows the damage that could have done to you and the rest of your family if you were to take that shit seriously when you read it like it's so dangerous.
Oh, come publicly. I'm you know, there were people saying that I was at the gym and has left him home alone. Now, not only that, I had left Avery alone, but I also left to what they're going alone in the house and went off to the gym for myself. And there was just a lot of lies, a lot of anger, a lot of hurt, a lot of being. You know, when I always thought that when somebody died, it would be this big, you know, we would all come together and we would all, you know, get through it together.
And that's not the case. You know, I'm. That's just that's just not the case. Where do you put all that anger, that blame, that hurt?
I put it on paper, OK? I put it on paper. I write as I said, you know, I write it. I read it out loud, and then I just let it go. I you know, life is short and I don't want to spend the rest of the life I have on this earth. I'm fighting, blaming am I want to live the rest of my life remembering Avery and making him proud. And I'm making something positive out of our tragedy or our values.
You know, I think you've definitely done, especially with the organ donation, as I've said, selfless. But you turned you change someone else's life. Another parent won't be going through the torture you're going through because of your selfless act. And I think that's amazing.
You could do that those ten days when you were still in Spain trying to get your family back. When you got on the plane, did you feel any better that you were coming home?
I couldn't have been more happier to pack my bags and hop on that area and guess flight, I felt like. I wa I was coming home, I was coming home to my people, to my friends, to my brothers, because my brothers were back here, I'm, you know, trying to organize stuff with the Kevin Bell Foundation and trying to organize, trying to get Avery on that flight, on that plane with us. And I even though.
I hit them back with a hoodie with a baseball cap pulled off the longest two and a half hours, just waiting and waiting and waiting to land in Cork Airport and get back home tomorrow to to our home with our girls.
And I agree, even though you're feeling that loss and the tremendous grief. Did it feel more real when you got back home to the extended family, to your brothers, to all your friends? Was the loss greater when you were able to have them home? It was because. His stuff was here, you know, his room is here, his you know, my friends have come over and cleaned the house from top to bottom.
You've got great friends. You've got great friends that I wouldn't have to face it.
When I came home one week, Tricia had rang me and said, look, if this court is hanging just inside the doors, the first thing you're going to see when you come in what you want me to do. And I said, you know, put off just Hank, go up to his room, put it all, hang it up in his room. And she came back and she rang me again. She said, Amanda, you're not going to believe this.
She said at the top of the stairs, on the dresser, out in the hall. There's a baby scan, and it's Avery's first baby scan. That that it was just there, just like just sitting there on the computer. I don't I don't remember.
Oh, I'll be leaving his baby scan there. And she she just she's like, he's here. He's here. He's here.
What did you actually we've talked about since before on this podcast, did you take that as a clear sign.
And I didn't then. I didn't because I saw were intended for me. I just wanted him here. I just wanted him here in my arms. But even up to last even up to the other night, I was in work and. You know, normal stickers, the next day I turned it over and it was Avery, Avery, Avery, Avery on the back of this pack of stickers. The company was called Avery Dorahy on the back of the sheet was his name, like 10, 15 times written down, and I was thinking, oh yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe he is here, maybe.
Maybe he's letting me know that what I don't want to be doing that what I'm talking about. What I'm trying to achieve. He knows he's in on it.
He approves. He's giving you a thumbs up. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But coming back coming back here, even the dog knew there was something wrong. We had walked in myself, Eric, the girls. And it was like he was waiting for that one more person who had always come into the house. Wait for him to come in. And he was still looking at the door, waiting for that for a comin, and people were so kind, you know, we never had to cook.
I think small villages, the mentality and everything is just amazing with all the food. They're so kind, aren't they? And also, I think Irish people are just so filled with love. And I think family is so important to us Irish people. It is.
And I suppose in Spain for the 10 days I you know, I felt like I had to be strong. I felt like I had to have my shit together, you know, I couldn't fall apart. But I knew once they came home I could because I would have my people around me. I would have my friends, my family, and I'd obviously have the girls back in a safe environment. I wouldn't have to worry about them. I would have Avory stuff here.
And then we came home. We had to organize his his funeral, you know, talk to me about that.
How was the funeral. The funeral. You know, my when when my girls were born, my dad bought them this gorgeous wicker basket and it was the first thing Avery was put into when he was born. And so when he died, I didn't want a casket, I didn't want a coffin. So we looked for like a little Moses basket to put him into. And we found one and we had a closed casket because I felt that when I saw Avery again after he had passed, he didn't look like the Avery we remember.
And I didn't want anybody to have those memories. I wanted them to have the happy memories of the glory cheeks, the big eyes and the blonde hair, the blonde hair, the naked bomb running around.
Yeah. And he was a child. And I think anybody that would come in and see, you know, a child in a coffin would be real sad. And I didn't I didn't I didn't want that for all. I didn't want that for him. I didn't want to put him on show. So we got as many photographs as we could and got them framed and had them all around on the floor, on the chairs so that people came in but didn't know if we would be able to see what he looked like and kind of pick up his character from from the photographs that were around.
People just came from everywhere. Everywhere I'm to pay their respects and I we had every cremated I just felt like he I didn't want him to be alone. I'm I wanted him here with me. So we had picked out a gorgeous it's not doesn't even look like an urn. It looks like a little toy box. You know, it's blue, yellow, red, green. I'm from there and it's just a little square toy box. So we had him cremated and we had him put into that.
And he's here. He's we get to see him and talk to him, you know, every every day whenever we want to.
I didn't want a funeral because and because then that will be final. Yeah, that was this. He was gone. That was kind of the final steps. And I didn't I didn't want that I. Wanted to hold on to the idea that I would have them with me forever and I would have them at home with me forever. You know, we would go to the funeral home, we would see him. There would be no more of that after the funeral.
You know, I go to the funeral home and I could touch his hair and I could kiss him. There would be no more of that. And when we did go to the funeral home, you know, they took care of him. They put like little plasters over his bruises and stuff like like little mini most plasters. Might those sort of awful, um, yeah, I, I didn't enjoy it, I because I knew that that was it was so final.
And I remember clinging on to we had left the funeral home and he was there putting him into the hearse. And I just remember clinging on to that basket just seeing like five more minutes. Just give me five more minutes. I'm I'm hearing this sounds commo to me that I've never heard. Ever, ever. I actually have never heard it since it was just like this agony wailing.
And they literally just had to remove my hands because I wasn't I wasn't letting go.
He was your little boy. You wanted to stay with them till the end.
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, we we brought him into the world and we we took him out of the world. You know, we walked him down the.
The aisle to the altar and we will to most, you know, just the two of us and. Yeah, it's, um, it was kind of it was the final stages of. No, what do we do, because when we were in Spain, it was getting home, getting home. We have to get home.
You have something else to focus on. So you're not you're not immersed in the grief fully. There's distractions. There's things to do.
Yeah, one hundred percent. Because then when we came home, it was the funeral. It was the flowers. The casket was gone. Where what are we going to wear. All new people are coming. Where are we going to afterwards. And then it was the girls going back to school. We have to get them ready. We have to get uniforms, books. And by God, the first of September, we were almost like those gates.
You know, the girls were in their uniforms and it was after that. Then when we got home, we kind of sat down and kind of went. What know what age were the girls when Avery passed? Did they fully understand at that age what was going on?
I know they did. They didn't we didn't go into detail when we were in swing. We we said that, you know, if we had had an accident at the pool and he's gone he's gone to heaven and. And it wasn't until we came back that one of the guards was were was in school and one of our classmates had made a comment saying, oh, I heard your brother was pulled out of the pool like a rag doll, like a blow up doll.
And she came out of school with just hysterical, absolutely traumatized that somebody would have said this because it was written in the paper, obviously somebody had been talking about it and this child had overheard it. And then I just I'm not we don't we don't go into we don't go into detail. And, you know, they they go to play therapy because obviously they were not equipped to deal with their emotions. You know, God forbid, I don't want to be saying the wrong thing or a bad job.
We found a fantastic therapist here in Miloje, and they they go to see her and they're they're actually doing really well. I'm you know, they do miss him. They talk about them. They draw pictures. I'm. He's always there, he's always going to be their father, but he's just not he's not here. Do you like them talking about him and drawing pictures? I suppose when he first started, I couldn't acknowledge, you know, I didn't want I didn't want to talk about him, I couldn't talk about him.
I actually went so far as closing his bedroom door, taking down his photographs. I'm because I. Didn't want to believe that he was gone, that the rest of my life, he wouldn't be here, I wouldn't get the next birthday, I wouldn't get the Holy Communion, I wouldn't get the next Christmas with them. I'm so when people did bring Avery up, I would try and change the subject. And I would, you know, oh, the weather is lovely today.
You know, what did you do yesterday? And it wasn't until a few months ago that I kind of really sat down and kind of said, you know, boy, you do this why he was a part of your life. He was a big part of your life. He was your child. He was your baby. And, yeah, I just had to work. I had to work through it. I had to put the photos back up.
I'm because I, I would get this physical physical pain in my chest like I couldn't breathe, you know, it would just be pain. And I didn't know what that feeling was. And it was grief. It was utter sadness. And they're just things that I have to I have been working on and the girls have been working on them. And, you know, we're working we're working on it together. Always remembering him, though, always remembering him.
It really is a process. And I think it's also a journey and a process to me. If you say that what it's a process, you kind of think, oh, it'll be over, it'll be over quickly. It's not that long, but a journey can be a long, long.
And for me, I just always say it's a process. It's actually not a process. I swapped the word now when I say journey, because it really is a journey as something that you you'll be on this journey, Amanda, for the rest of your life until I see him again.
Yeah, until I see him again. Someone had sent me a message on Instagram on my page saying, you know, when are you going to be happy again? You know, when you're like in when are you going to get over? So I said, I really it's like I'm the Debbie Downer of Instagram. Yeah, if so, I popped on Instagram and I said, you know. When my son walks through that door, when my son is not dead, then I will start grieving.
I got a message not that long ago from someone who said to me, Oh, you know what? That's a real shame that your mom passed away. But like, you're not the only one that's ever lost a mother. And I thought, who the fuck is this bitch?
Literally is what I thought. And then I put it on my story because I just thought someone who sends me that message, they're not in a good place. They are. They're hurt. And I always think hurt people, hurt people.
So I didn't I didn't put her name or a picture up. And I just thought and I put up, but obviously people sent me messages going, oh, my goodness, continue talking about, you know, your mom, she's your mom. The podcast becomes have helped so many people. It's why I'm still doing it. But I just thought, how dare that person say that to me? I'm an adult. I lost my mom. But for someone to say that to you over the tragic loss, an accident of your three year old son, what is wrong with people?
And I actually got messages afterwards after I said it. And we had come to the conclusion that she obviously had never experienced loss or experienced grief in her life or she had. And she has just stopped it so far. I don't yeah. That's like it wouldn't even come to the surface. I would. Yeah, that's that. You know, I've put my I've put myself out there, you know, so I'm not expecting everybody to agree with me or follow me or like what I like, what I post, you know.
But my grief journey I'm but the that's the thing about Instagram. They don't have to. Are you religious?
And I suppose I'm spiritual. I would have my own beliefs, I wouldn't go to church. No, but I do believe I suppose I have to believe, OK, that I will see the good I am.
Where do you think Avery is and what are you doing?
Well, I actually I went for Ricki Lake, Ricki Lake, because I was having really, really bad neck pain and nerve pain. I got caught up off the chair and there was just tears just flowing down my face. And he said, I don't know. You both are. You see, I'm a medium as well. And I thought, Oh. Here we go.
No, I got to be my reaction straight away. Totally. Like I like I give you my five minutes. And he said, I see a lady with blond hair and she's in a garden of roses. My mom was blonde and her name was Mary Rose. And my dad plays my mom are always every Thursday and pops it up in front of her own home. And she said he has she has a little boy and he's saying, thank you very much for the shirt, mommy, because when we buried or when we put it into his basket, I had bought a shirt with trucks and planes and fire engines and all all these these this stuff on his shirt.
And he's saying, thank you very much. I love my shirt. And I was like, how does this man know this? Like, I haven't I've never told anyone about this. And here he is standing in front of me saying, you know, thank you for the shirt I read. I really love him. And he said that. That if we had a job here to do. OK, I'm. And that he's gone back to do another job like that is, I don't know, at that point I kind of said.
Yes, you're like enough. I'm out. I just find it, you know what you were saying. There is a thing so sad, that sad, but quite nice that he's. Excuse me. He's he's with your mom. You know, do you find any? So does that make you feel good that your mom is now looking after him and he's looking after her? It is it does, because if I believed anything, if I didn't believe that, that's.
There wasn't a heaven or whatever people want to call it, if I don't believe that I want to see them again, then you know what what's what's this life all about?
What? You know why? Why are we here? I'm but I have to I for my for my own journey from my own going forward, moving forward, I have to believe that they are together, that he is finally that he is safe, that I will see him again.
Because I suppose if I didn't believe I don't I don't know where I'd be, I, I don't know where this journey would take me.
You know, my own experience with grief and its individual is that it can take you to really. Dark places, and over the years, I've let my imagination run away at myself because you just want to be reunited so badly with that person, can actually send you much grief, can send you absolutely mad. It can affect the most sane, well put together person. And grief doesn't care much like disease, who you are, what you do, what you wear, where you live or how much money you have doesn't give a fuck.
And that's what grief and disease have in common.
Yeah, well, for me, you know, I when I, you know, the whole blame thing, I felt like I was I wasn't worthy to be a mother. I wasn't worried you to be. Or if I wasn't, I wasn't worthy to be here on this earth. Thanks. You took my son. I took my husband. Son. I took my. Daughters, sibling, the grandparents, grandson. I just felt like. That every morning I woke up, I would be thinking, oh, God, why did I just not die in we sleep?
Why? Why did I? And I would think like that, that I would wake up like, oh, God, in the morning. In the morning. I'm here in the morning of feeling like this.
You know, I really admire and respect your honesty, but I completely get it. But I think that's also part of this journey. It's the blame game. Who can I blame?
And fortunately for yourself, you blamed you blamed yourself because you're his mother and an amazing mother to two other children. But I also think having the girls, the two girls is a complete blessing. And we on this podcast, I use this word quite a lot destruction. And I don't mean it in a negative way, but I think it's so good that you have that focus and that destruction and that when all that happened, what Avery and it was the funeral when I hit September the 1st, September, you had to get those girls ready to get their uniforms.
You had to get their books. The girls need lunch. They need nice dinners. And that is a blessing for for all of us that have distractions and on families, because when it gets dark, it gets dark. And we always need to focus on other people.
One hundred percent. And they they were my focus. I they were my focus from seven o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. When they went to bed they were I have to do this for them. I have to do this to them. I have to do this for them. I they were walk me through it. I can. One hundred percent say that if I did not have those girls, if Avery had been my first child, I wouldn't be here, I would 100 percent be with him when and then when I was having those thoughts of, you know, why me?
Why am I here?
And I think, you know, it is actually very selfish because I have two children here that everything that they need you, they need you now more than ever, you know, am so what I want for them to see from me is I want to see I want them to see me grieve. But I also want to see I want them to see me live and grow and have fun again and smile again and be able to talk about everyone else, you know, being sad.
We're not going to move on from this. You're not always going to be there for all we can do is move forward. General, remembering every making Avery proud and yeah, just living our best lives that we have now from everything you've gone through.
And I think we'll finish this. You've talked so well. Thank you so much. What do you want parents to be aware of what comes out of all this?
And, you know, when I, I always and I say this to everybody, I say to them, make memories, take as many pictures as you can, because that in that is all you're going to have left. You know, you're all you have is is your memories. All you have left are your photographs. That's all I have left. So I tell people you don't take us, make as many memories, take as many photos of your loved ones, of your parents, of your children, of Jesus, your husbands, your wives, your pets, because we do not know what tomorrow is going to bring.
We can only live for today. Also, try your safety. I'm just a big advocate of like the summer's coming around and I'm absolutely petrified for people that are going away on holiday.
This is a passion for you, Amanda, isn't it? About safety and children and and swimming and people knowing what to do.
One on one hundred percent. We're trying to come up with a plan to bring in teaching to three and four year olds, because at the end of the day, they are the ages that our children are drowning out. It may be it could be at a beach. It's at a pool. It's out of. But it's interesting that the back, you know, in the summer time, they are the ages between three and five. So that's what we're trying to do.
We're trying to bring awareness, guide people in the right direction, make sure the barriers are OK, never leave. Obviously never leave your child unattended. If you are, make sure the person if they can swim CPR is a big thing, because if you don't know CPR or if you don't know the emergency call to your area, you're waiting for someone else to go to reception or you're waiting for someone else to get their phone to look up the code and you're just wasting precious, precious time that could have a totally different outcome.
Haven't said if you had those in place.
Thank you so much for being so honest. Thank you for sharing Avory story with us today. Anyone? That is going through this are in the same situation. One thing you could say to them, you're not alone. You're just not you're not alone. Talk. Just just get it out. Please do not hold it in. You know, there's so much support out there for for people that are in the same situation, you know, whether especially in this lockdown, you know, we have no physical contact with anybody.
And I won't say it gets easier, but it gets more bearable. And you you find things that will work for you, what works for me may not work for you. What works for you, may not work for me. You need to find what works for you.
Amanda, thank you so, so much. Have a wonderful day.
And hopefully we'll get a chance to have a conversation face to face someday when 20, 21 turns back into 2019 or whatever, we can actually have some sort of normality and a drink and we can have a proper conversation. But thank you so much for being for being so honest, being so brave and for being so open today. I think a lot of people will get a lot from this episode.
Thanks for having me and thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak. I'm very, very grateful. Not at all. Thank you, Amanda. Take care. I have such respect for Amanda for choosing to share the harrowing details of our story in the hope of helping others. I really hope this episode raises awareness for Turtle Tots and water safety. Next week, Aissatou Jess Redon Jess talks to me all the way from Perth, Australia. She opens up about losing her father and how covid has impacted her plans for the future.
Everybody's parents are so involved, but my parents were just glued at the hip that they were meant to be together. I remember thinking, you know, and we'll just pop shops and just think really makes your mom. They were just filming. They never spent a night apart. They were you know, their dialogue was just so infectious. Anyone that was in their company would know what I'm talking about.