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You look the other way for a moment and your child has drowned. Then try to live happily ever after.

HEDDY BAKKER (44, Elementary School) lost her 6-year-old daughter, Marith, in 2014. Her son is now 12 years old.

“Why didn’t anyone hear her?”

“I just broke up with my ex-husband of three months when he took the kids to his parents for Father’s Day. Separate house surrounded by water. I said over and over, ‘Please be careful, she can’t swim.’” Mareth was a cheerful girl who saw no danger. When she was puberty At the age of a year and a half, she suddenly began to speak her language. Her development did not pass according to the book, but we will never know why. Doctors could not diagnose.

On that day, June 15, 2014, she was allowed to roam the house. My ex-husband was playing with Nils, our son, who was 4 at the time. It took Mareth a long time to come back. Very long. In the end it was my ex-brother who saw her slippers float. Perhaps she wanted to retrieve a lost toy from the hole. I then asked the trauma surgeon, “Why hasn’t anyone heard of her?” He said that children often drown in silence. They want to scream, but their lungs instantly fill with water. It’s going so fast, you might hardly even notice it. This is my big hope: Mareth won’t panic.

After my ex-boyfriend called me, I raced with them. “I warned you about that!” she yelled. My ex-mother-in-law and a bystander were performing CPR, but I immediately saw that Mareth had died. I didn’t move an inch from her side. The fire brigade, the police, an ambulance, a shock helicopter came. And the whole time I thought, please leave her alone.

The hardest moment of my life was closing the coffin. Unfortunately, this had to be done after three days. I knew: I would never see her again, and I could never hug her again. When there was no stone on her grave, I did not dare to go there. I really wanted to dig it up.

Eight years later, the sadness has not diminished, though it fades into the background for those around me. It is understandable, but I find it difficult. I don’t want you to forget Marith. Whenever I meet new people who ask me if I have children, I am faced with a dilemma. Saying I have one child just doesn’t feel right. But the immediate talk of your drowning daughter is very intense. “Are you sure you want to hear that?” I ask now.

I thought a lot: if I had stayed with my ex, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Nils also had such thoughts: if I had not messed with dad … Fortunately, we could talk about everything together. With my ex-husband, on the other hand, I haven’t exchanged a single word about it. “Why didn’t the parents notice?” You often read below news reports about drowning children. painful. It can go wrong quickly. I warned my ex, but I don’t blame him. This is the last thing he wants. It can happen to any parent.”

LOT VAN DER HEIJDEN-DE GRAAFF (64, mediator) lost her daughter Milo (5 years old) in 1998. Her three other daughters are now 32, 31 and 25.

“I see people thinking: 1998? Oh, that was a long time ago. But I don’t care. This isn’t a slowly fading pain. You’re an amputee for the rest of your life. We live near water, so we wanted our kids to learn to swim as quickly as possible. In that Today, August 17, I took our third daughter Milo to swimming lessons. Parents were not allowed to watch, so I went home. Once I got home, the phone rang. Can you come to the pool? Milo is currently being revived. Three lifeguards had lost her during A strapless exercise. Then it turned out that Milo had been underwater for twenty minutes before she was noticed. She was still having a slight heartbeat when she arrived. I rode with the ambulance. Meanwhile, the police warned my husband, Ludwijk, and he headed straight to the hospital. The doctor said, “We have to stop CPR, it’s no use anymore.” Milutje was placed in my lap. The three of us sat in that room crying and silent for a while. Until we realized that our other children knew nothing about it and that we couldn’t Coming home with a deceased sister. We took the girls, then eight and six and a half years, and took A milo home together. There I came in a different position. Anesthetic acts as protection. Our house was overflowing with people. Lodewijk and I acted as facilitators as we made coffee and comforted others. It was unreal. I didn’t cry at the funeral. I was kind of a zombie, a passerby. And it stayed that way for years. It was better for my husband to bear his grief. The fact that our other children went on with their lives gave me a headache at first. It was only later that I realized that this was not normal. They subconsciously tried to save us, were never a nuisance, never went through adulthood. I find that painful. Their belief in life was seriously violated at a young age. Your sister goes to swimming lessons to avoid drowning, of course, and does not come back. The prosecutor asked if we wanted to try the three rescuers; After all, it was premeditated murder. We said “no”. This must be on your conscience. You can’t punish worse, right? For a long time, we had hoped that these lifeguards would one day be on our doorstep. But we didn’t hear anything. he lost his mind. Milo was a beautiful and happy girl who stumbled behind her big sisters and was very happy with her little sister’s arrival. That she was living a carefree life is my only reassuring thought. The pain remains. It is in me, in my husband and children. But you can also be happy with an amputated leg. I have a beautiful marriage. Gorgeous girls. They – along with some friends and a family member – are a source of food for dealing with this life.”

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“The three lifeguards didn’t see this happen.”

Marjolin Hartmann, 48, owner of three cigar stores, lost her son Max, 22, in 2020 in the surfing drama Scheveningen. Her daughter is now 9 years old.

“It’s never been such a long night.”

“At quarter past two in the morning they were at my door: female officers. Max is missing.” I had no idea he had gone surfing. He had been living alone in Delft for four years. “You shouldn’t have hope,” said the Scheveningen investigator over the phone. “We found his car and his friends confirmed that he had gone into the water.”

When the cops left, I was there alone. My daughter Ivy was with her father, but he didn’t answer his phone. Nor my sister. are not friends. I kept calling, but all cell phones were on silent. A night that never lasted long. I thought that as long as they found it. And when they found him the next morning, if only I could see him. I couldn’t think of more than one step forward.

Max lay on a concrete floor covered with towels. the cold. I hugged him. The pain is physical. Something breaks off of you, leaving a deep wound behind. The first year felt like a free fall. I thought any deeper and I would die. I can’t wear this. However: you wear it.

I loved Max so much, my grief is the price to pay for the love I have received. But the fact that I no longer feel connected to others makes it even more difficult. I get advice: “Go and do fun things.” fun stuff? I’m happy when I get out of bed. People don’t understand how devastating it is to lose your child. Words like “happiness” and “happiness” have new meaning to me. I was Max’s mother, and now I’m a dead baby’s mother. When I walk into the village, people look away. In the event of an accident, you turn your head too, that’s instinct, but you can think about your instinct again and choose to start the conversation anyway. Actually giving rest is quite simple. It is an admission of sadness. Understand: you are hurting, although I do not feel it myself. For many people, this has proven to be very difficult. I lost a lot of friends.

Max was at home almost every weekend. He often helped out in the store, and everyone ran away with him. Not for nothing were eight hundred people at his funeral. All I have of him now are memories. I thought: If Ivy came up with questions later, she might have forgotten everything. So I decided to write her a letter. To explain why she lost not only her brother, but also a part of her mother. Of course we go to the playground and on vacation, but the rash is gone. I don’t go crazy from home anymore.

The letter became a book: raw, which has now been published. Writing filled my lonely evenings. And he gave me some peace. With memories on paper you don’t have to stick with them. I don’t lose them anymore.”


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