Attending a first aid course as a grieving parent

This weekend was stressful and emotional, as well as coming down with the obligatory back-to-school cold.

I finally plucked up the courage to attend a first aid course and it’s taken me some time to process what I learnt, and to deal with the memories and emotions that it stirred up.

After Abi died, I actively encouraged others to learn CPR; having had to perform CPR on Abi in that high-panic situation made me realise just how important it is to have this knowledge. I also wanted to attend a course myself so that I knew the best way to help someone in trouble.

However, while it sounded a good idea in theory, I didn’t immediately realise that it wouldn’t be impossible for me to attend. The idea was there. I knew how important it was. Yet I was held back by the fear of being taken back to that moment on my bedroom floor. I carry that trauma with me every day, why… how can I put myself in that position again?

But, since my baby arrived, I felt it important I try to overcome my fear and learn some basic techniques. So I looked around for a course and one came up at my local children’s centre. It seemed to focus on babies and young children so I thought that it would be the best option for me.

I was nervous though, so I emailed the course leader (a paramedic) and told her about my reservations. I told her about Abi and that I might find it hard… to be honest, I had no idea how it would make me feel. I’ve been pretty ‘brave’ so far so I thought I could just ‘zone out’ like I do with other difficult things.

She was very supportive and encouraging. She said that performing CPR on a stranger is hard enough but on someone you know – not least your own child – is a whole other level. She reassured me I could take a quiet breather at any time.

So, I arrived and was fairly OK with the first section, babies choking. We had baby manikins to practice on. (If you don’t know, five sharp back slaps between the shoulder blades, five chest compressions on the nipple-line until you can get help or it dislodges.)

But then we had to practice CPR on a child-sized torso on the floor. Despite it being just a rubber model, it looked surprisingly realistic and of course that is intentional.

I found doing it in front of the other seven people relatively okay, although I declined to do the mouth breaths as this was optional (which I was glad about as that was the bit I did on Abi, I just didn’t feel any desire to go through those motions again). But watching other attendees do it was tough and I had time to remember my experience – knowing that what we were doing was nothing like the panic and emotion of the real thing.

I felt on edge the whole time in case the other mums asked me about my children. Some of them knew of a friend of a friend’s child who choked or bumped his head. But thankfully we didn’t talk about our own children, although some of the discussion was difficult to listen to – I kept zoning out by looking out of the window. Strangely, I wanted to tell them, to stand up and tell them all about how horrendous it is, what really happens, how you really feel, but yet I also didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. They’d paid £25 for this course, each of us had to focus completely throughout to get the most out of it.

I found it hard to listen to their chatter about them worrying how many beats per minute, how hard to press, what if the patient had been sick – I wanted to tell them how when you’re in that high emergency situation, nothing matters you just do what you have to – but of course I was exactly like them before 6th February 2013. Those blissful days of not knowing true terror. (Incidentally, it’s 5 rescue breaths and then just compress the chest in rounds of 30 – there’s no need to do further breaths, the paramedics found this aspect was actually putting people off performing CPR at all!).

The last part of the CPR training involved us practising an emergency situation – I held back on that one and took myself off to the loo and had a small cry. I was trying so hard to focus and absorb the information but was finding it so hard not to just leg it. There are many things that remind me of Abi but this course was like reliving the very worst moment, bringing the trauma that I’ve buried deep within me right to the surface… feelings I’ve really not dealt with at all.

The course finished with febrile convulsions and how to treat burns. It was a very brief overview to teach the basics for the most serious accidents.

Afterwards, I hung around and had a private chat, and a cry, with the course teacher. She gave me some good advice and told me she thought I was remarkably brave to do this so soon after Abi’s death, and in fact most people tend to hide from anything like this after an experience like I’d had. She told me the importance of crying, and of crying in front of others – something I find hard to do. She reminded me not to be afraid of grief.

Despite feeling low again and missing Abi more than ever, I feel so proud of myself for getting through it to the end and I do feel better knowing I’d know what to do if ever someone needed emergency first aid, but I pray that I don’t.

You know what I’m going to say, if you’ve not already done a first aid course, please consider finding one and attending. If I can do it, anyone can! This course was run through Complete First Aid Training and you can email them to find out about other courses.

Areas covered include:
Head injuries
Cuts and grazes
Serious bleeding
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation for babies and toddlers
How to deal with a choking baby or toddler


Also try NCT or the Red Cross.

3 thoughts on “Attending a first aid course as a grieving parent

  1. I am in awe that you were able to go through that and hold it together so well. It must have brought back some horrific memories for you. Well done on being so strong and putting others’ needs before your own. x
    Now I really must book that course…

  2. I am finally reading this. I used to be first aid qualified, so I had my basic but outdated understanding of what to do. I have been trying to muster up the courage to update it. Maybe one day.

  3. Pingback: The heartache of decluttering after Abi died  – Chasing dragonflies

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