Stories for our hearts

Dying Matters Week - May 2024

This week is Dying Matters Week, to raise awareness about the importance of dying, death and bereavement, and how we talk about it, the language we use and conversations we have to support the dying, and the bereaved facing life without their loved ones.

We’re often not very good at it, because it’s difficult, uncomfortable, because we’re afraid of hurting others feelings, but the thing is its the one thing we’re all sure of in life, dying is a part of life and being able to talk about is always helpful, is always a good thing.

Personally, as a bereaved parent I’ll never wish you didn’t bring my son Ruairí into a conversation easily, it always hurts missing him, you bringing his name up doesn’t add to that, you’re not reminding me of him or making me sad, you’re letting me know you’re thinking of him too, you remember too, or you’d like to know about him, and that’s always a tonic for my heart.

May is the month Ruairí died, it’s such a tough one to face into as we remember our last weeks with him, the aftermath of his death, and facing a life without him.

But his presence remains, right inside our hearts, Ruairí Michael Hoyne.

Remembering and thinking of all the families missing someone who left too soon.


April 2024 - Ruairí's Birthday

Ruairí would have been 7 this month...

We went to the beach, without you. And with you.

Always with and without you.

We wrote your name in the sand, keeping you with us in the ways we can. I heard myself giggling at Rufus’s silliness and the boys kicked a rugby ball. Happiness amidst missing you.

The invisible weight of your absence present among the three of us. We were together missing you, and alone with you. Grief is like that.

Each passing year without you is the same. And different. This year I find myself reflecting on the year you turned one. How do you live knowing your child is dying? I think of what I knew, of what I felt and of how hard I fought against both. How much I fought to hang on to hope, to life, to you. Despite, everything. 6 weeks later you would die in my arms in a dark hospital room.

I think of how much I loved you then.

And how much I love you now.

Your heart inside mine, always.


February 2024 - Children's Mental Health Week

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week.

Giving our children ways to find words for how they feel so they can use their voice to express their feelings, to know they are not alone in their feelings and that they matter is a really wonderful thing to do, and books are one of the loveliest ways to help do this.

In grief, books can help start difficult conversations with children. They can help validate feelings of confusion, fear, anger, sadness, and they can help find words for difficult feelings they are holding, they can help them feel understood, and they can help them feel less alone in a world where grief so often isn’t spoken about.

This is why I wrote RuairÍ’s Rocket to heaven, to help start some of these conversations, to help children find their way through grieving.


December 2023 - Christmas Reflection

This will be our 6th Christmas without Ruairí, even writing it in black and white I don’t know how it’s true. The only Christmas he was here feels like yesterday and a million years ago. A Christmas that captured the most treasured, sweet memories, now they catch my breath. I hold onto them tightly though, these memories. I know that the ache they bring is the love that lives inside them and so I lean into those cherished memories, lean into all that love that comes with remembering. And that same ache that feels so palpable is his presence, I feel so full of love for him but he’s not here to pour it into him so instead it goes into lit up photos, decorations on the tree and writing, and tears, and talking about it all in therapy.

I go back to the truest thing, that he is with me through all my tears and laughter, in every moment. That is what makes what makes moving forward possible, what allows me to embrace life today… I am his and he is mine, he is woven into the very fabric of my being, determining how I live my life today and the choices I make, just like the words of this poem;
“anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling” (Ee Cummings)

Your heart inside my mine💞

14th December 2023 - Ways we can include our missing loved ones at Christmas

Christmas can feel sad when we are missing someone special who has died. These are some of the things from the book Charlie, and his Dad and I do to include Ruairí in our Christmas;

✨Put special decorations on the Christmas tree

✨Write a special message on our memory wall to RuairÍ

Share stories and look at photos 

Creating these rituals helps us feel like RuairÍ is part of the holiday season and that brings comfort.


 18th November, 2023 - Finding ways to Remember

Finding ways to remember and feel connected to our loved ones can be so comforting. These are some of things from the book that have helped Charlie (and his Dad and I too);

✨Creating a memory book with photos and stories

✨Lighting a candle on special days like RuairÍ’s birthday or the anniversary of his death

Creating a memory wall to write notes to RuairÍ

Often ‘doing’ something together helps us feel closer and brings big feelings to the surface to be felt and held together. 


November 13th - Children's Grief Awareness Week

I read once that siblings are often the forgotten grievers and it made me cry because it often is true. Charlie was just 7 years old when Ruairí died, no child should have to go through what he has gone through, what he has had to learn and understand at such a young age. The cruelest and traumatic introduction to death has life long impacts. But the sad reality is that babies and young children die, and there are so many boys and girls living without their sibling as a result. Supporting these children in understanding feelings that are difficult, that are often very big, helping them understand these feelings are normal in grieving and they are not alone is so important for them. 

Writing the story of my boys in a book was inspired by Charlie. At the time he was trying to understand how Ruairí got to heaven, and his creative little imagination decided he got there in a rocket, and that was the start of Ruairí’s Rocket to heaven. It took a few years and many edits but it grew from there into a children’s story book conveying the love between siblings and their everlasting connection, and exploring the difficult topic of the death and bereavement with tools and ways to support grieving, “A heartbreakingly beautiful story of love and loss, hurting and healing…let the magic of the story touch you too” from Sarah Hodkinson, head of family support at Shooting Star Children’s hospice. 

Books are such great conversation starters, especially difficult conversations. So if you can help me create awareness of Ruairí’s Rocket to heaven, to help start conversations please do share the book 🚀


September 5th, 2023 - A new school year is upon us

A New school year is upon us. As another year passes and a new school year is upon us it brings with it the empty feeling of Ruairí’s absence. New school years are big milestones for our children, and they are a real marker in time that is hugely missed each and every year for our children who aren’t here. 

A fresh wave of grief comes. A huge absence, imagining what they would be like starting their new school year too. It’s that time of year, that like many, holds the conflicting emotions of grief and joy. As my older son starts his new school year I am filled with pride, love and gratitude for him and wonder at the young man he is growing to be. Being present with him, alongside him, is the greatest joy, the greatest privilege of my life. Equally as Ruairí doesn’t get to grow, as there is no new school year for him, there is instead the grieving, the sitting with the ache of his absence. I have learned how to sit with this huge ache, I know now I can withstand the pain. I know this feeling as love. I know grief and joy, hand in hand. Thinking of every parent sitting missing their child as this new school year starts.


August 14th, 2023 - A week at the beach

We spent a week at the beach. An escape from our London suburb to a beautiful lodge retreat, a real haven. 

The beach, my absolutely favourite place, the place with the sound of waves and cold water swimming bring a unique sense of peace and calm. And so much fun and laughter, the waves were huge this summer, perfect for a lot of wave jumping! And so much missing my sweet Ruairí from all of it.

Writing Ruairí in the sand, a way to keep him with us, a way to love him in his absence. Remembering walking on the beach with him safely snug against my chest, dipping his toes in the ocean water, I’m so glad we did that, I’m so glad he got to hear the sound of the waves and feel the water on his toes. A beautiful memory.

Grief and joy, hand in hand. 


July 3rd, 3023 - National Bereaved parents day. 

5 years ago my sweet, beautiful and oh so fierce Ruairí took his last breath. It felt like I did too. That day changed the course of my life irrevocably. I am a different person because of my sweet boy. I have learned so much, because of him. And while I would trade it all to have him here, I am moving forward loving him in the ways I can, and bringing what I can to the world in his honour. I am a better Mom, a better person, because of him. I am honoured I get to be his Mom, to love him always with a connection that transcends life and death.

When Ruairí died I could not have said any of that. But now, five years into this journey I have learned there is no end to grieving with the passing of time, it is a continuous journey, one filled with learning and rebuilding, it is a different life, one that no parent ever wants or can imagine, until you have to, but with support, love and a lot of learning, there is hope to be found in this life, and hope is what we all need to keep moving forward. We can lose it after our children die (repeatedly), when their absence fills every part of us and our hearts simply hurt too much. Yet hope, it can be found, and slowly and intentionally we can rebuild our lives.

Hope is the light that creeps into the shattered crevices of our hearts and allows us move forward. Like many parts of grieving, it ebbs and flows, but it’s always there. 

I find hope in many places, through family and friends that continually show me the good in this world and laugh, cry and everything in between with me, through daily nature walks with my dog Rufus, through the birds that sing in the trees on those nature walks, through swims in the ocean and walks in the rain, through the ones that didn’t know me before but hold my hand and help me find my way when I feel lost, through symbols like rainbows that carry new meaning and connection to my child, and through the stories of other bereaved parents who remind me I am not alone. 


June 21st, 2023 - Children's Hospice week

It’s children’s hospice week, a week to bring attention and awareness to the vital role that hospices have in caring for our most medically complex children, and their families.

As a supported family for years by Shooting Star children’s hospices I can say from my own personal family experience that children’s hospices provide a lifeline for our children and our families who are caring for them. Their wide range of support from diagnosis through end of life care and bereavement support is exceptional and so very necessary. No one ever wants or expects to have a child with an illness or illnesses that are so difficult to manage every day, a child that you know will die one day too young, but having the support of a place like Shooting Star Children’s hospice makes the kind of difference that is hard to put into words, a place to make beautiful memories with fun activities together, a place your child can go for respite (like a fun holiday) so when you’re exhausted and need a break you can rest knowing they’re safe, and that’s often the only place they can be cared for safely, and at the end of their life, a quiet place to spend their last days with them.

My family and I are incredibly grateful for the support we have had. I can personally say it has been truly life saving support, helping me rebuild myself and my life when the incomprehensible happened, I don’t know where I’d be today without it, but I do know I definitely wouldn’t be here brave enough to write and publish our story through my children’s book ‘Ruairí’s Rocket to heaven’. It’s written to support young grieving children and their families, it’s also a way to keep our sweet boy’s presence alive, and in continued support of the wonderful work they do the profits from sales go to the hospice.

“Let RuairÍ and Charlie take you on a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love and loss, hurting and healing. A childhood story that can’t fail to touch the depth of your soul’’, from Sarah Hodkinson at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices


17th May, 2023 - Mental Health Awareness Week.

It feels like a good week to share the message of happiness in grief for children, the message that feeling happy is okay after your loved one has died. Sibling grief is full of complicated and big feelings, at just 7 years old Charlie felt guilty for feeling happy after his baby brother died. Talking about it helped him understand he doesn’t need to carry that heavy feeling of guilt.

Excerpt from the book “Other times Charlie felt happy but he wondered if it was okay to feel happy?  It’s very important to know that it’s okay to feel happy again we can have sadness inside our hearts and still feel happy and enjoy life too”


19th April, 2023 - Creating and keeping rituals

Creating and keeping rituals to remember, to love Ruairí is an important part of grieving. These can bring so much comfort for our grieving hearts.

Excerpt from the book “Here are some of the things that Charlie discovered to remember all the wonderful memories he has with Ruairí, and these help him when he feeds sad and misses him”


12th April, 2023 - Ruairí's Birthday

Today you would be six.

There would be squeals of excitement and little feet running down the stairs.

There would be laughter and present opening and pancakes for breakfast.

There would be a party to celebrate with a cake and candles.

There is not.

There is a quiet start to the day as we say your name with our hearts aching.

There is one special candle to light.

There is remembering, sweet and perfect you.

Beautiful, heartbreaking memories.

There is wondering, what would you be like?

What would you have wished for?

So many would you’s…

You are forever our sweet, beautiful and oh so fierce one year old little Ruairí.

We love you beyond what words can write, beyond what our hearts feel like they can hold, beyond the space between life and death.


The passing of time is challenging since Ruairí has died. It shows us clearly how long it’s been since our little boy has been here, and it doesn’t feel that long, the harsh reality of dates like birthdays make the passing of time  impossible to escape. One of my closest friends wrote to me this morning and said ‘it feels like yesterday in so many ways’, she loves Ruairí too, saw us most days, it’s comforting to know the passing of time also seems surreal for Nicki. She feels like he was just here too.

There is a familiarity to the heavy and profound sadness that creeps inside every pore of my body, settling down in the broken crevices of my heart. It’s a sadness that’s always there but on the days around marker days it’s a harder fight to find the light and let it creep in through those broken crevices. So much remembering, intense memories, beautiful and heartbreaking memories. So much wondering, about our little 6 year old boy that would be.

Our lives were swerved so harshly and cruelly onto a different path the day he died. It’s a path that juggles the conflicting emotions that a life grieving our boy brings, joy and pain, gratitude and disbelief, love and grief, darkness and light. There is no end to grieving with the passing of time, there is learning and building and rebuilding, a different path, finding ways to move forward as we grieve, as we love. And time, it does not heal all wounds, but it does allow us ways to learn how to integrate the loss of our sweet boy into our lives today, how to carry him with us in the ways we can as we do the best we can to live this one life we’ve got fully and with meaning.


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