Home News Losing my son: Brave mother finds right time to share story

Losing my son: Brave mother finds right time to share story

Every morning, Elaine Smith puts on her make-up and takes a deep breath. All she hopes to achieve that day is to be a little bit stronger than the day before.”I need to be there for my other children," she tells herself.This determination to support and care for others is the very thing that’s helped Elaine regain her confidence after facing the most difficult news any parent could ever imagine – the death of her child. Most of the details of that fated day are a blur to Elaine. She remembers her husband coming home with news that her eldest son, David Westwater, had been in an accident at work. Panic, confusion and heartbreak followed when her second son Callum confirmed that his brother David had died in the accident. "My life dramatically went from everything to nothing," the mother from Denny says as she explains the feeling of shock pulsating through her body as she tried to process the news.
On an August morning in 2012, David, 22, had set off to work with his brother, who also worked at the scaffolding company B.D. Pinkney in Coatbridge, where he had only been an employee for ten days.He was tragically killed when the forklift truck he was driving toppled over, throwing him out and landing on top of him.At a court hearing two years later, the company admitted to a series of gross breaches to the Health and Safety Work Act and was fined £24,500.Not a day has passed since David’s death where he hasn’t been in his mother’s thoughts. It has been a long journey for Elaine, who admits hitting "rock bottom" as she struggled to come to terms with her son’s death.Five and a half years later, she has taken the bold move to speak about how she has slowly built up her confidence to live a life she knows would make her son proud.She wants to tell her story in hope of comforting other mothers who have also lost a child. "I feel I’m ready to help other mothers, to show them that there is life out there, that we can do it," she says. "It has taken so long for me to get back on my feet but now I have confidence. I am able to face the world."
This is Elaine’s story
The first of her four children, David grew up loving football with the energetic youngster playing for both Hearts and Hibernian youth teams. He was the "most friendly and cheery boy" who was "a right family’s boy" Elaine says with pride. Talking of his big personality, Elaine says David found his passion in football coaching in his late teens, with one of the last tasks on his mind being how to fundraise to buy new jackets for his young team.Following his death, David’s loved ones decided to honour that wish and organised a memorial night where they raised £6000. Looking back, Elaine says she was running completely on auto pilot. When that focus finished, she began to feel the full impact of her grief. "When everything was over and done with, that’s when I went back – I hit rock bottom," she says. "I could start seeing myself falling. I went into pure depression. You just want your day to end and go to your bed."
Everyday routines became a struggle and Elaine felt she could only leave the house if she went somewhere in the car alongside her mum, dad or husband. The first time she tried to walk to the shops with a friend, she remembers feeling terrified of meeting anyone in case the conversation turned to her late son. "It was like that if somebody had spoken to me about him then it was true so I avoided a lot of situations," she says."My brain wasn’t taking in that my son had been killed, my first child. "I deteriorated quickly in every possible way. I felt I wasn’t a good mum to my other kids – I had no interest in anything in life. I felt I existed."
Surrounding herself with photos of David in the house, Elaine says she felt closest to him in this environment and felt plagued by guilt if she did go out as her mind inevitably drifted into thinking about the life he should be living. For two years, Elaine couldn’t bear to put any make-up on. "What’s the point," Elaine recalls telling everyone. A few months after David’s death, Elaine started getting help and, in the years that followed, she receieved help from a wide range of medical experts. "I thought ‘I am never going to get here and I am never going to accept this’ then all of a sudden, I said to myself ‘My kids – what did they do to deserve me being like this, it is not their fault’," she says."I had to be a mum, I had to be a daughter, I had to be a wife."I had to start turning everything around."
Led by an ever-strong support from her family, Elaine says her mum started encouraging her to go on short trips to the shops where she would insist on treating her, and husband Derek bought her a photo shoot for Christmas to boost her confidence. And when her son Callum announced his engagement, she knew she had to be there for him. "I went twice a week, and then once a week, to every class, counselling, bereavement groups – everything – to make myself better because I knew my children needed me," she says. "[My family] were there, a constant. No matter when I needed them, they were there. "It has been hard on them as well, watching their daughter and wife deteriorate but now I am back up top. And they are so proud of me. I am so strong now."
Pouring all of her love into her family, Elaine realised she also had a real desire to also help others and so decided to start a new career and become a care home assistant, a decision she says has helped give her courage to face the world again. "When I went into the caring section, that’s what really made me think ‘I can offer so much to these old people to make them smile’," Elaine says. "These people, I feel that they need me. "I am going on training courses and I’m not frightened to do so now. "If I can walk out with a smile at the end of the day and make them smile, I think I am worth something. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
"I am now a different person"
Now, when Elaine looks in the mirror and puts on her make-up, she prepares for her day knowing that her family and the residents at the care home where she works need her. And she hopes that by sharing her story, she might give a little comfort to other mothers dealing with the loss of their child."I will get up tomorrow and put make-up on and another day will go by," she says. "I will go places with my kids – I live for my kids and I live to take care of other people. "I am there to help other mothers, to help and say ‘you know what, you will get there’ and give them confidence in the different ways that I learned how to deal with things." She adds: "David is always in my heart but I think he would be glad that I am doing something for other people. "I live to do things for other people now."

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