It’s hard to believe that we’re now just days away from the London to Paris bike ride, having signed up some seven months ago. This was the first of many events we decided to do across 2017 to help raise awareness of stillbirth, raise some money for Sands and most importantly of all to help keep the memory of our little boy Theo alive by doing something positive in his name.
So much has changed since those early few weeks, from slowly adjusting to life again without Theo to coping with the ever changing journey of grief – a maze of never ending twists and turns and the odd blocked pathway along the way. The charity events have been a great focus through this journey. Whilst the training has been hard it has also helped give some structure and a positive influence to our future. Having these goals in place has probably helped more than we realised, something to fall back on when times are tough, knowing we are making a contribution and having raised over £3000 for Sands already which is amazing. Everyone has been extremely generous.
Dave (my twin brother) has been fantastic throughout, from signing up to do any charity event I threw at him (2 bike rides, 1 marathon and 1 open-water swim) to just the little chats along the way. It’s shown how important family is and what really matters in life, we now even have a cat (called Baloo-Claude!) which we got having lost Theo for some extra company. He has made us smile everyday without fail, I wasn’t even too keen on cats beforehand to say the least but I’ve been happily proven wrong and he’s also far more popular on Twitter than I am – @BalooClaude
We have made some good friends during our journey and discovered many great charities, which often do so much unseen work to support bereaved parents and their families through some of the toughest times anyone is likely to face. The Lily-Mae Foundation in particular have been fantastic and their monthly informal meetings in a lovely little pub really help remove a lot of the boundaries to talking about Theo. Everyone here understands. They’re a very welcoming bunch and really helped with all the little steps along the way. We’ll certainly be doing whatever we can to support the charity in the future, including their 10k later this year. Another event for the list!
I’ve started writing a few posts in the past few months with the intention of writing one after 3 months, 6 months and so on. However during the couple of days I started writing them, things changed one way or another, due to receiving hospital reports or just simply down to the rollercoaster journey that grief is. So I was keen to make sure I write something before the bike ride and will do a write-up of the events too. I think Nickie and I will most likely write some retrospective posts moving forward so that it may help someone else going through similar challenges. Often all you need is the comfort of knowing others are facing the same battles and have been through them and come out the other side. Knowing and understanding that all of the steps that you’re feeling and having are completely normal is invaluable.
The London to Paris bike ride does help symbolise the journey we have taken so far, with the hardship of training and no doubt some wrong turns and tough climbs on the road to Paris, but yet still moving forwards all of the time. We’re looking forward to meeting other people riding for a whole host of charities too and I can’t wait to cycle through northern France experiencing some of the historic places, different culture and no doubt great food and wine!
As we head to London in the morning ready to start the bike ride early the following day it’s a surreal feeling. As we signed up so long ago, I’m excited and really looking forward to the physical challenge and social side of the ride. But it’s an odd feeling with the charity events suddenly a reality having some of these ‘goals’ set so long ago. And also knowing where to go and what to do next once they are done… not that the events will be done any time soon! I’m sure as soon as I see the Effiel Tower in the distance I’ll shed a tear, then be in floods of tears when I meet Nickie under the Effiel Tower and see the rest of our wonderful supporters who are making the trip over to Paris. We’ve even had custom cycling jerseys made and a friend Paul is also joining myself and Dave for the ride which is great to have another person on the team.
It’s a journey I can’t wait to get started on and one I’m sure we’ll look back on for many years to come as a great experience, wondering how we ever even trained for it and completed it given how hard the recent months have been. But it shows that you can be pretty strong when you need to be and often without realising. I’m sure we’ll have a giggle along the way too, despite such a massive loss that we have faced, but we’ve learned that it’s OK to do this and that it’s important to still smile and have fun for little Theo, as much as for ourselves #ForTheo
Andy & Nickie