Living in Shadow – Extract One

This book is dedicated to Dominic ‘Dom’ Loftus

16 January 1991 – 4 October 2013



‘All lives begin before the first breath is even taken, and some lives continue long after the last breath has been drawn’




There is no purpose now, there is no more reason for you to go on. Your world has ended.  No matter what people tell you, family, friends, bereavement councillors, or just concerned well-wishers, your world as you know it is no more. Today, you need to create a new world, a world without your loved one, but you need to create the new normality that will be the beginning of your new life.

There are building blocks to your new existence; it has to be a world free of drink and drugs, a world free of blame, even when you beat yourself up, a world free of regrets, even when you wish you had one more bit of banter, hug, or goodbye.  It is I’m afraid, a world free of your loved one except in pictures, your head, or in conversations that you have and you include them in it.

The glue between your building blocks can be many things; re-discovering the love for other people in your life, helping other people in the name of your loved one, or it can be discovering a new talent or something that helps you through the dark times.

It will be a lonely journey sometimes because no-one understands or knows what’s going on in your head. Occasionally you see light at the end of the tunnel and pray it’s not a train coming the other way.

An ex-soldier and author said to me in October 2013 about the death of his brother, ‘It’s like losing an arm, eventually you learn to adapt your life to being mono-dextrous, and you get on with it. Sometimes and in certain situations, you do think that it would be really good to have your other arm back’

4th October 2014

Twelve months later, I’m still alive.

I have to be honest I don’t feel I deserve to be, and I certainly didn’t think I would be. Psychologically, I feel like a faint outline, a silhouette of the person I was before 4th October 2013. So, this book is partially about trying to figure out how and why I am still alive, but now living a different life. It’s about transformation, and about; death, grief, sorrow, love, creativity, and how they all intertwine together to create our flimsy existence.

I have wanted to die almost every day, or just not wake up. This would be a simpler outcome all round, particularly from an insurance perspective. When I do wake up the first thing in my eye line is the wooden beam across the bedroom ceiling, ten foot off the ground, just at the right height to stand on a stool. Sometimes when I’m driving, I leave my seat belt off on purpose. Or, driving on the motorway it would be so easy to make a very sharp left turn and cross the hard shoulder at 80mph.

I drink wine almost every day; often more than a bottle, I even started to write a suicide note in a drunken haze on the 27th November 2013. I decided it wasn’t to be finished after a read it the next day, sober. I’d written a line at the end of it about suicide,

‘If I was so unhappy with my life, would I really be arsed to actually write everything down, I’d just do it…’

I’m a coward but I’ve thought about suicide, or getting myself certified, every day throughout year one. I assume the principle of suicide is easy as there are many different ways to do it, many too painful to contemplate, but, 6,000 people in the UK take their own lives every year, and 40,000 in the US. Now of course there are suicide bombers, who not only take their own lives but those of strangers, which I shall touch on later.

Dominic’s grandmother took a lot of paracetamol eight weeks after he died.  That must have been very brave, but extremely painful. When I write about pain I mean physical pain rather than the emotional pain of seeing the images of Dominic flash in my head every few minutes. They drive you insane as they just swipe away every other immediate thought, without warning. I’m sure she had those images too which is way she decided enough was enough. The other possible ways I have researched would take more courage and strength than I’ve got at the moment.

I tell you all this because I AM still alive. Up to this point, I have taken 10,500,000 laboured breaths since our son was killed needlessly in a car accident. It’s him; the thought of him, the essence of him as an individual, the fact that he wouldn’t forgive me if I left his mother, brother and sister without a husband and father. And it’s him at twenty two years old that would say ‘What doesn’t kill ya’ makes ya’ stronger’ that keeps me alive, for now. That’s just one of Dom’s ‘life’ rules that he lived by, I’m pretty sure that Dominic hadn’t heard of Friedrich Nietzsche, but his Dom rules, his philosophy on life, his belief in himself, and his strength through adversity was instinctive.

Dominic was the captain of his soul (although not master of his fate – W E Henley) he was a leader, and I ask myself was it Loftus or Nietzsche that wrote the following?

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” 

He was the only person I know that was comfortable in his own skin, but throughout his life he constantly put other people first. This wasn’t another Dom rule, it was innate.

10th November 2014

Dominic would get the school bus to Penrith every day until he bought a scooter when he was seventeen, a bright yellow one. We knew he got on the bus, but wasn’t sure that he actually got to school, or if he did, how long he stayed there. He was a likeable rascal, a Cumbrian Lad, a heart throb, and a very hard worker, but he hated school. After his death, one girl had put on his Facebook wall ‘I could have been a scientist if it wasn’t for Dom Loftus encouraging me to bunk off school…..’

Living in rural isolation as we do, getting on the bus was a big adventure for many kids like Dominic. The first hour of everyday, that’s how long it took to drive the twelve miles, was very productive; catching up with ‘the crack’ or homework, ‘gentle’ banter with the bus driver, or just catching up with sleep. After he got the scooter, he hardly used school or indeed public transport at all.

The last time he did, was in March 2012 when the whole family, plus Linzi, Dom’s girlfriend and Jordan, Chloe’s boyfriend went to New Hampshire for the annual ski trip. We took the train down from Penrith to Euston station, tube to Kings Cross, then of course the Piccadilly line to Heathrow airport for a flight to Boston.

Dominic was just twenty-one, he was now a responsible young adult; sensible, a new word added to his vocabulary from the school bus days. I’d hired two fully loaded Cherokee Jeeps to take us from the airport and up into the mountains of New England. I drove one, he drove the other. I was bursting with pride when we arrived at the hotel 300 miles later, on the wrong side of the road, my likeable rascal, my Cumbrian Lad, was becoming a worldly wide man. He was hacked off though, despite being twenty-one he still had to carry his passport with him, every single bar and restaurant asked for his ID.

Seven years earlier in July 2005, at 8.50am on July 7th, another young responsible adult, a young lady called Helen, also travelled on a south bound tube on the Piccadilly line. At Russell Square, the unforgettable and the unforgivable happened.

Germaine Maurice Lindsay (23 September 1985 – 7 July 2005), also known as Abdullah Shaheed Jamal, was one of four Islamist terrorists who detonated bombs on three trains on the London Underground and one bus in central London. In total they killed fifty-six people (including themselves), and injured more than seven hundred. Lindsay detonated the bomb that killed him, Helen, and the twenty–five others who were travelling on Helen’s train.

Although my life has been in a permanent state of undress, my thoughts, naked on these pages before you – I can’t even begin to imagine what Lindsay was thinking – to take his own life, but Helen’s too?

And what was Helen’s thinking at 8.50am on the July 7th, before the bomb ripped her train apart, was it of her Mum?


12 thoughts on “Living in Shadow – Extract One

    1. Thanks Jen, thank you for commenting! I’m so proud of him!!! which is why I’m writing the book. I feel a need to be there for other people, to try to help them, show them that whatever they are thinking and however low that they get, it’s normal. Not good, and a horrible place to be, but normal.

  1. I just want to say, thank you for writing this, I was thinking of Dom the other day and although I didn’t know him well, I can still remember that beaming smile – he makes me smile even now, thank you to you and your whole family for having that same beautiful smile.

    1. Thanks J. Dominic was one of those people that even if you didn’t know him well, you couldn’t help but be touched by his humanity and humility… Thank you for your kind thoughts!! XXX

  2. Thank you for writing this, I went to school with Dom and he was exactly the likeable rascal you described, although he didn’t like school I could tell he was a bright lad and he was always kind to everyone, not a bad word to say about him. Very touching read and looking forward to the next one.

  3. Thank you Tom, as per my reply to J. above, he always put others first. I really appreciate your comments, we always take comfort from others who speak well of him. 🙂

  4. My Facebook feed flashed up today telling me I had a memory – and it was of your Dom. I am pleased for the reminder which today has led to me reading a little more about him. It was many years ago that one of mine came to a great birthday party in your garden .. feels like yesterday!

  5. Hi Ian
    Its Elizabeth from Whitby. Just reading about you and the family fills me with sorrow. I have such lovely memories of staying at Vicargate for parties, Dom and Chloe’s christenings and remembering what a lovely boy Dominic was. My heart breaks for you all. Much love xxx

    1. Hi Elizabeth, it’s loverly to hear from you and very kind of you to leave a comment. It’s been a tough two years for everyone. We miss him more and more as time goes on. He was a loverly boy and he turned into a loverly man, and into my good friend. Thanks again LoL. Ian (and Susan)

  6. I’m crying as I’m reading this, my daughter was in a serious accident a couple of months after Dom’s accident, we were told she wouldn’t make it and by some miracle she is still here with us and I’m so sorry you don’t have Dom with you too. I can only imagine how you feel but you will have so many happy memories of him. xx

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