Penny Counsell

William

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My husband Piers and I have very recently lost our wonderful 15 year old son, William. He was tragically hit by lightening whilst riding his motorbike on our family farm in southern Zambia last December. My husband has lived in Zambia all his life and I am originally from England but moved to Zambia 20 years ago. I still feel many of my roots are in the UK and since we live in a very remote place and do not have much access to things like counselling or bereavement support, I have found this website and forum and am hoping I may be able to find some common ground and supportive help and advice from others who have found themselves in this most awful of holes.

William was, as many Zambian children are, at boarding school in Grahamstown in South Africa (at St Andrews College). This is relevant because we are used to our children not being with us all of the time while they are away at school, but his prolonged absence is now seeping in as reality. We are both struggling to accept that this has even happened.

The accident happened 10 days into his Christmas holidays, on 17th December 2016. William's body was taken to the nearby clinic where we first saw him. I have Christian faith and despite the shock, when I saw him I knew that his soul had gone to heaven and I felt I could not hug him. I am struggling with this now. Also the smell of burning is something I cannot forget. We know that he did not suffer for one minute and this gives us comfort. He spent the night in a coffin on our farm and I was then able to talk to him and touch him. He was then cremated the next day in Lusaka, a 6-hour drive away.

We live in a remote farming community, far from the main city, and on treacherous roads. There are roughly 50 or 60 farming families in a 2-300km radius around us and we have tremendous local support. Both my husband and I are open people and accepting of the huge support and help we are receiving, but we have no professional support anywhere nearby. We are talking freely and have open minds about how to cope and deal with our grief. We had a memorial for William on our farm a few days after his cremation, at which almost our entire community was present.

After William was cremated and the holidays were over, we had to take William's younger 13 year old sister, Ellie, back to her boarding school, DSG in Grahamstown (sister school to William's St Andrew's College). We had a very powerful memorial service at SAC for William, which enabled all his South African school friends to look back on his life together. It was a very moving yet positive service.

I stayed with Ellie while she started her new Grade 8 boarding year to support her. It may seem brutal to some of you that we have left her at boarding school, but that is what the children here accept as their secondary schooling and that is where her familiar routine and friends are. Despite the urge to keep her at home with us at this time, all professional advice we received said it was the right thing to do. She will be coming home in 2 weeks for an extended half term holiday with us on the farm with her horses. There are massive support structures in place at the school. She does miss her big brother terribly as he looked after her so well in her first year there last year.

William is/was a very beautiful boy from the inside out. He was loving and kind, humble, loved and respected by all from children to adults. He was also an extremely talented long- and middle-distance runner and rower, and a huge character who was quietly followed by all the boys that knew him at school. He was also an accomplished polocrosse player in Zambia, and had represented Zambia internationally in Zimbabwe and in the UK in August 2015, as part of the under 16s squad. William never sat still for a moment - he lived every moment of every day to the full. He was always fishing, hunting, riding and making things on the farm. He had reached that teenage stage of independence where his father was becoming his best friend and he probably would have carried on farming in the future on the family farm. He has left a huge hole both in our Zambian community and in the school community.

Piers and I are now back on our farm in Zambia and are now just beginning our changed life here without him. I believe, from doctors' advice, that we are still in post traumatic shock and are both on sedatives, but we still need to function on a low level (with a lot of help from friends and neighbours), in order to keep our own farming business afloat. Piers runs the cropping side of our farm and I run the cattle and administration.

We are very aware, from advice we have had so far, that we need to make the family home a happy one for Ellie to come home to and continue to grow up in. But we are struggling enormously to come to terms with our loss, with missing William's physical existence (even though we know he would normally be at boarding school and so not necessarily here). The grief is at times unbearable and Piers especially is really struggling with feelings of guilt that he didn't pick William up in the car that day, instead of him returning home on his bike, which is what he always did in our Zambian rainy season which can be stormy. There was no storm when he was riding home, it had passed, but we think a freak bolt of lightening came down a distant power line and very specifically took away our son, William. Everybody else was out on bikes and fishing in the same weather. It was, we think, a very unlucky and freak accident, but I believe in my faith that God wanted William's soul and that he is needed somewhere else. He was and will always be our golden boy. Piers and I are able to comfort each other and as I have said, have huge support from our community. We are trying very hard to put one foot in front of the other to carry on each day.

We are only 6 weeks into our journey and I now believe that there will be no end to it. I sometimes get very scared of the future because I know that our lives will never be the same again, and I ask please (although I know they are different for everyone) what the common phases of grief are for cases of loss like this. I feel at the moment that there is no light and although I trust in God, I find it very hard to find the strength to carry on. Even for the sake of my daughter sometimes. I need to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that people learn to accept this. Does the pain get more manageable?

Piers and I have both found peace in talking to other bereaved parents in the last 6 weeks, which is why I have come on the forum. But in addition to this, are there any online counselling services available that we might be able to access from where we are, given our remoteness.

I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who has gone through anything similar, and I know it would help me right now, and hopefully my husband as well.

William.jpg

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Penny, 

I am so very sorry about the loss of your precious William. I am going to move your post to the "Loss of a Child" forum. Most parents who have lost their precious children of all ages post in the "Loss of an Adult Child," thread in that forum. That is where they gather; even parents of young children and babies. 

Please go check that forum out. You will find support and encouragement.

We will be here with you,

ModKonnie

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Loss of an adult child is an excellent forum with some very wise members who can offer you help and support join us there.

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