Family Matters: Mother’s mission in memory of lost child

Pictured is Nicola Richardson  at home in Kirkhill Bank,Penistone. holding a framed picture of Alexander who died at 17 months
Pictured is Nicola Richardson at home in Kirkhill Bank,Penistone. holding a framed picture of Alexander who died at 17 months
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For South Yorkshire mum Nicola Richardson, raising money for the Lullaby Trust has been a vital way to celebrate the life of her son Alex, who died suddenly aged 17 months.

Nicola, from Penistone, lost Alex seven years ago when she found him lifeless in his cot.

She said: “For us, we came across the trust when we were handed leaflets in hospital when Alex died. They suspected at the time that it was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”

Nicola said that the charity helped them to understand what was going on – that the involvement of the police was normal, for instance.

She said: “We didn’t have anything unusual, we’d done all the right things. Alex was a little bit older than most cases of cot death.

“He was 17 months old. We thought why would he die of cot death? It was a help to know it was not abnormal and it can happen.

“It was important to know that there is a charity in the background, working so hard to cut cot death and supporting the parents if it does happen. Also, to know you could do something to help them, that is where the support came in.”

Nicola has helped to organised a yearly Mile of Memories event in the grounds of Cannon Hall, Barnsley in May each year. Families who have lost a child walk a mile in the grounds and have a picnic and take the time to talk to each other. This year they blew bubbles to remember all the children who have died.

Her main charity effort is Alexander’s Ball, which takes place around the date of Alex’s death on February 15 each year.

The ball has grown from a gathering of 200 people in Tankersley Manor to an event being held in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, next year with more than 500 tickets already sold.

Nicola said: “It’s Alex’s day, it’s his legacy. The only thing I can do now is this. I don’t want his death to be he died and that was it. I will never forget him and my family will never forget him.

“To me it’s a senseless death. He was happy and healthy with nothing wrong with him.

“I’m fundraising for a selfish reason, to be able to get answers for me and other people with babies who have died.

“My other boys are making their way in the world and making their mark. I’m picking up the baton for Alex and doing it for him.”

She and husband Ian have four other boys, Thomas, aged 16, Jack, who is 15, Alex’s twin Harrison, aged eight, and Joseph, who is four.

The charity offers support to any parents who need help to cope with their grief. Nicola was trained as a befriender last year. The invaluable work can be done by any family members of someone who has lost a child.

Nicola added: “My head says you don’t need to blame yourself, you didn’t do anything wrong. I do think: ‘What if I’d done this, what if I’d checked him earlier?’ At this moment we have no answers to why it happened.”