'My little world blacked over. I wanted to hold my little boy, not bury him'

There was hardly a dry eye in the room as Carolyn Harris recounted the grief and sadness she felt after her eight-year-old son was knocked down and killed. But the room was the UK House of Commons and she has used her tragedy to put into motion a series of changes that will help other heartbroken parents at the bleakest moment in their lives. 


“On June 5, 1989, my little world blacked over and nothing was to be the same again. My eight-year-old son Martin – a bright, beautiful and wonderful little boy – stepped out onto the road and was tragically knocked down.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris was naturally very emotional as she faced her audience.

Related: Why do we judge others on how they grieve?

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Unused to opening up about such personal tragedy, she needn't have worried. Around the room, women and men alike had tears in their eyes. Harris was using her platform to bring changes in the way children’s funeral costs are paid.

Image via Sunday Mirror

“Much of what happened over the following weeks was and still is, a blur. The pain is so acute and the sensation incomprehensible and the tragedy seems almost surreal. At times I felt I was floating above the room while all this grief was dwelling and I was not really part of what was going on. It was a dream – I wished.”

Calculated

"I assessed which of my two children needed me the most and I eventually reasoned that Stuart was only three and could not lose his mam and brother all in one go."

The 56-year-old said that at the time she felt suicidal. She also had a three-year-old son who she said saved her life.

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“At the time when I was making the decision for the funeral I was actually deciding whether to join my son on the other side or not or to stay for Stuart, my then three-year-old who really needed his mum,” she said breaking down in tears.

“I calculated, and I used that word deliberately, as I actually sat in the bath and I assessed which of my two children needed me the most and I eventually reasoned that Stuart was only three and could not lose his mam and brother all in one go."

Image via Carolyn Harris

Unprepared

Carolyn told the House that around 5,000 children die each year in the UK and no parent is prepared for it - both emotionally and financially. She called on the government to scrap child burial fees.

“When the undertaker was explaining to me what the plans for my little boy’s funeral were, I just wanted to hold my little boy, not bury him. I remember the day the bill arrived and that fear in my stomach as to how I would pay it.”

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Harris is now using her position as a parliamentary representative to speak on behalf of parents who face huge financial costs during moments of profound grief and shock.

The room applauded as the bereaved mother sat down. Afterwards, Harris described it as a bittersweet victory.  " My pain will go on forever but so will Martins name. I'm so proud that even his short life will make such a difference to bereaved parents in the future.

 

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