An MP broke down in the House of Commons recounting the overwhelming grief and suicidal thoughts she experienced after losing her eight-year-old son in a car accident.
Carolyn Harris, who is the Labour MP for Swansea East, was speaking in an adjournment debate on children’s funeral costs on Monday when she discussed her own tragic experience
“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,” she told the House.
“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.”
The 56-year-old said her grief was so great that she contemplated killing herself.
“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.”
Ms Harris, who is calling on the government to scrap child burial fees, says she was in such a state of grief at the time of her son’s death that she did not consider the costs and it was thanks to the kindness of her neighbours, as well as a bank loan, that she and her husband were able to afford the burial.
“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.”
She said she has decided to use her position as a parliamentary representative to speak out on behalf of the parents who are faced with stark financial costs in a moment of profound grief and shock.
“Approximately 5,000 babies and children pass away each year in this country and it is not something any parent can or could be prepared for. No one expects to bury their children, it is completely in the wrong order. So when that tragedy happens, parents will be totally unprepared, both emotionally and financially.”
Costs for children’s funerals vary across different local governments yet Ms Harris says if the government invested £10 million the cost for children’s funerals could be covered throughout the country.
At a recent Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May responded to the issue by suggesting people could be aided with funeral costs through applying to the government’s social fund, recipients of which will be assessed after they have completed a 35-page document.
“I say to the Prime Minister that at the darkest moment of a parent’s life, I could not even fill a kettle, let alone fill in a 35-page application form,” Ms Harris said.
A representative for Downing Street did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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