Aussie father-of-three Greg Hughes has penned a heartbreaking open letter to himself on the third anniversary of his son’s death.
His son Riley was born premature in 2015 but died from whooping cough just 32 days after he was born.
Mr Hughes writes the letter to his former self who has just lost his son, urging him to keep going.
I’m sorry, truly I am. It’s shallow, hollow, meaningless and empty for me to say this to you right now. I know this because I’m you and you’re a wreck at this very moment.
Just a week ago you were still you - the old you. The you who was carefree, who saw no danger in the world and who truly lived the perfect and serene life. Married, middle class, pigeon pair and embarking on your journey without a concern. You had it all and you didn’t even realise it.
How quickly things change.
On paper it was ‘only’ your son that passed away. The reality of it is far crueller. The old you died the day his heart stopped beating and the entire foundation of your existence has been destroyed.
Little Riley had been displaying mild cold-like symptoms and developed an occasional cough, according to Yahoo7, but despite doctors saying he was fine, Mr Hughes and his wife became concerned when their newborn son barely woke during the night. The took him to Princess Margaret Hospital where he would later die from the disease.
I’m not going to lie to you - this next three months you’ll experience will be the hardest of your life. Certain days will seem to drag on for almost an eternity. Seconds like hours, minutes like days and hours like lifetimes.
You’re probably reading this and wondering ‘What’s the point in continuing? Why bother if it’s as bad as you say it is?’
Let me tell you something - it does get easier.
Mr Hughes, who along with his wife has campaigned for change since losing their son, fighting for all children to have access to a vaccination, then goes on to give his former self some advice.
Get a counsellor. Go with your wife, she’s done nothing wrong. She’s on the same path with the same destination as you - trouble is that both of you have totally different maps written in languages you don’t understand and you can’t help each other without the assistance of a translator. That grief counsellor is your tour guide to this awful journey and right now they’re your best friend.
Those moments you want to give up?
Step up. People need you. Your family need you. Your daughter, more than just about anyone - needs you.
Don’t self medicate. There’s a time coming where you decide you want to drink away the pain. Let me tell you, the pain intensifies, the irrational thoughts start beating like jungle drums and the hangover sucks.
Communication is the medication and you need to step outside your comfort zone.
Once you get through this black smog of anguish, you’ll come through the other end seeing things so differently. People and relationships are the cornerstone of everything important.
You’ll cherish the morning cuddles with your daughters (yes, daughters, there’s
a rainbow one coming and she’s reckless, amazing, angry, loveable, hilarious and unique).
Your big one will be the embodiment of compassion and will constantly astound you with her caring nature.
Your little one will astound you with the distance she can throw pieces of chicken and her remarkable aim. You cherish this.
Not only that, but you’ll eventually come to the same place as your wife and you’ll communicate better than you ever have before (although she refuses to admit when she’s wrong - some things never change).
Lastly, and I know I don’t need to tell you this - but you need to keep going for him.
32 days. Thirty two fucking days. That’s all he got from this thing we call life and he deserved so much more. He was a victim of circumstance of which he had no choosing and you need to fight tooth and nail to honour the sacrifice that beautiful, incredible, perfect little man had to make.
He is your beacon, your purpose and your motivation.
Speak freely, speak openly and speak often. You’ll find yourself in a place of peace much sooner than I ever did.
According to NSW Health, “Whooping cough (sometimes called pertussis) is a serious respiratory infection that causes a long coughing illness. In babies, the infection can sometimes lead to pneumonia and occasionally brain damage and can be even life threatening. Older children and adults can get whooping cough and can spread it to others, including babies.”
From July onwards, all pregnant women in Australia will have access to a free whooping cough vaccination. The government has added the vaccine to the national immunisation at a cost of $40m.
It is the most effective way to protect a baby against the disease, as newborns can't be vaccinated until they're six weeks old.
“There are now no barriers and no excuses for not protecting yourself, your family and the rest of the community,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said back in May, according to News.com.au.
Visit The NSW Health website for more information on Whooping Cough including symptoms and prevention.
This article originally appeared on Marie Claire.