After more than five months of having Sophie at home, going back to school has been a bit of a shock to the system. It feels very quiet in the house without Sophie home during the day. Thomas is missing having his big sister around to play with him.
The night before school started was an emotional one. Preparing for the start of year 2 – a school year that Jessica never got to experience – brought home to Sophie just how much she misses her sister. She broke her little heart that evening wishing that there was some way we could “make Jessica alive again”. It breaks my heart that there are so many milestones like this that Jessica never got to reach; so many milestones that Sophie is unable to share with her sister. It’s so hard seeing Sophie so sad and knowing I can’t make it better.
Sophie was quite tearful going into school, which is unusual for her. The only other time I can remember her crying and clinging to me was her very first day at school. After such a long time at home, restarting school does feel like that very first day all over again, with the added sadness of grief that Jessica isn’t there too on top of it. I managed to hold back the tears until I got home again and had my little cry there. It feels so wrong that this is the first time I’ve dropped a child off at a Year 2 classroom; so wrong to only be taking one child to school and not two.
It makes me angry and sad that there are so many moments that we’ve missed out on. Sophie never got to experience being at school with her sister as she should have done. I never got to experience two children at the same school, and it’s likely I never will have that experience. Another one of the many secondary losses that come with losing a child; so many moments that can never be.
I know the school will be doing their best to keep the children safe and minimise the risk of Covid-19 but it is something that makes me very anxious. For over five months, I have done all I could to keep my family safe. We have kept our distance from others and had limited contact with friends and family outside of our bubble. Now Sophie is mixing in a year group bubble with 60 children, which quite frankly doesn’t sound like much of a “bubble” to me. My ability to keep us all safe has been greatly reduced and it worries me.
I did consider de-registering Sophie and home-schooling her. We’re due to apply for junior school this year; it would hopefully only be for a year before she could be back in class with her friends. But it feels wrong to make that decision based on my fear. Sophie is a sociable little girl. She coped amazingly well with home-schooling – far better than I thought she would – and with not being able to see her friends. But I know how much she has missed them and how bored she gets sometimes. It isn’t good for her to be isolated from others. She needs her friends; she needs that social contact. Going back to school is the right thing to do for Sophie.
It’s so hard to be reminded once more of how limited my ability is to keep my family safe. Once upon a time, I believed that if I did the right things, if I prayed the right prayers at the right times, everything would be all right. Now I know that this isn’t the case. That bad things can, and do, happen to people like us; that we are not immune to tragedy. Back to school in the midst of a pandemic is a reminder that I sent Jessica back to school after her surgery, where she picked up virus after virus, and that had I not sent her back when I did, perhaps she would still be here.
Back to school brings a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety which I do my best to keep well-hidden from Sophie. I hope that she’ll enjoy being back with her friends again and learning new things with them. It will different from before in many ways, which is unsettling, even though I know that the changes are there to keep people safe. The start of the school year a tough time for us anyway. It comes with the usual end-of-summer sadness plus Jessica’s birthday falls right at the start of the school year. So many reminders that time keeps moving on without my big girl, along with the knowledge that my ability to protect my family is limited, and always has been. Hopefully we’ll all manage to stay safe. In spite of my fear and my anxiety, going back to school feels like the right decision for us at the moment. Hopefully it will all work out.