How rugby, the support of friends, and creating a legacy 
after our baby died in 2002 helped me through this dark time. 

By Will Greenwood

 

It was helpful having teammates – the sporting community rallies round each other. I had the support of some really strong friends who were there, and who were happy to just sit in silence with me - it helped a lot.

I tried to blank out the first few days, weeks and months after Freddie died. It’s as low as you get and difficult to imagine yourself in a darker place. I buried myself in sport – it was a great release - being chased around a field by scary human beings took my mind off it. Sport has given me the ability to forget myself for a short time. You can’t play rugby if you’re thinking of other stuff – you’ve got to stay focused or you get hurt! It was helpful having teammates – the sporting community rallies round each other. I had the support of some really strong friends who were there, and who were happy to just sit in silence with me - it helped a lot.

When it happens you feel completely helpless – there’s nothing you can do about it. We had some help from Child Bereavement UK and were advised to take photos and spend some time with Freddie after he’d died which was really important. At that time things were still old fashioned in the sense of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and keeping a stiff upper lip, so I’m glad we had that time to reflect, to sit and be with him. I think I would look back and regret it if we hadn’t.

Freddie died in 2002, and when Caro was pregnant again in 2003 with Archie, I had to fly back from the World Cup to be with her as we thought it was going to happen a second time and everything would all come crashing back to earth again. It’s thanks to Mark Johnson, the doctor - Archie wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.  

I have a huge amount of pride in his legacy of how many people know his name, and the money raised that has gone into research into premature birth – it has his name cut through it like a stick of Blackpool rock.

Freddie was our first born and our other children often talk about the fact that they had an older brother. On the anniversary of his death we have a quiet family day and are around for each other. It’s now 18 years since Freddie died and it would have been his birthday in September, or in 2021 if he had been born at full term. I always wonder what might have been and what he might have been doing now. I have a huge amount of pride in his legacy of how many people know his name, and the money raised that has gone into research into premature birth – it has his name cut through it like a stick of Blackpool rock.

Having the ability and a platform to talk has helped me and made me content that the little boy has and continues to make a difference.

Of course everyone would rather go through life and not have any tragic circumstances, but barely any family avoids a traumatic experience and we had ours at a young age. A lot of people have been through it and lots don’t talk about it, but having the ability and a platform to talk has helped me and made me content that the little boy has and continues to make a difference.

Having a network of people who have walked in your shoes, who have seen it, lived it, breathed it, who have the vocabulary, know the pitfalls and can help you keep on the right side of the line – no doubt that is something that is hugely valuable and helpful. We know that Child Bereavement UK is there and we signpost people to them, and I would say to others going through this: ‘Offer yourself up and reach out to others and organisations that can help you. I know you might not want to talk but it will help you in the long-term.’

Is time a great healer? For me as a dad who didn’t go through birth, time has helped me heal. I can’t speak for Caro but know how difficult it must have been to carry a child and leave hospital without him, so I think it’s very different for my wife. For me it is what it says on the tin, but time means something different to everyone – what is one year to one person could be six, or twenty for another – there’s no right or wrong. But having a support network that understands makes all the difference.

Will Greenwood, Patron of Child Bereavement UK