Good Housekeeping (UK)
‘I forgive the man who killed my son’
Martyn brought a legacy of warmth and positivity
On 22 May, young fans leaving the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena were targeted by a suicide bomber. One of the 22 victims was Martyn Hett, 29. You may remember his face from the many tributes, but what you may not know is the extraordinary reaction from his mother because, although devastated, Figen Murray refuses to condemn the person responsible for the atrocity...
My son Martyn touched a lot of hearts. He was fun, kindhearted, and he always stood up for the underdog. As a child, he was a little imp, with boundless energy. He had a really quirky side, and loved practical jokes, social media and Coronation Street.
Three days before Martyn died, we had a family party to send him off on his trip of a lifetime. After the concert Martyn was due to go travelling in America, an adventure he’d been planning for two years. That day my husband Stuart suggested that we had a family photograph outside the front door – us, Martyn, his older brother, Daniel, and his sisters, Emma, Louise and Nikita. Martyn was his usual self, full of excitement for what lay ahead. It was the last photo of our family together.
On the night of the attack, Louise woke me up around 11pm to tell me she’d seen on Twitter that there had been a bomb at the Manchester Arena concert. Nobody could find Martyn.
As we watched the news unfolding on TV, I felt a mounting sense of dread. By 1.15am, I feared the worst, and felt this strange sense of emptiness. I’ve always felt in tune with my children, bound to them by invisible strings. As the hours ticked on, I just knew that Martyn was dead. I couldn’t feel his energy any more.
Early the next morning, Stuart and I went to the support centre that had been set up. We waited all day for news. Finally, a family liaison officer took us into a private room. There, she told us what I already knew in my heart. Martyn had been killed in the attack. Grief manifests itself in many different ways. I didn’t cry – I couldn’t. I’m a counsellor and psychotherapist, and for over 20 years I’ve spent my working life helping people through mental-health issues and psychological obstacles. In my professional career I developed resilience in order not to dissolve into tears in front of clients. At Martyn’s funeral, I remember the queue of people waiting to offer their condolences. As they stepped forward, I found I was the one hugging them.
There are moments when I’m in the car on my own, lying in bed late at night, or I hear the Ariana Grande song One Last Time that we had at Martyn’s funeral, and the tears will flow. But I can’t ever cry for more than five minutes. I couldn’t stop questioning why I hadn’t broken down – did I not love him enough?
Now, I realise that this ingrained resilience is how I go on. I’m not being deliberately strong, and I’m not in denial. I’m undone inside, permanently damaged from what’s happened. The only way I can describe it is I feel like a piece of paper that someone has shredded, only to realise they’ve done so by accident. They try to tape it back together, but it’s too late. It can never be whole again.
Since Martyn died, I’ve become two halves – the grieving mother and the therapist. I’m able to watch myself from the outside, and know when I’m being traumatised, yet I feel powerless, unable to do anything to stop it. I will have trauma therapy, but I know that this has changed me irreversibly.
I’ll never forget Martyn’s infectious giggle, and the way he used to tease me. After his death, I had the Manchester bee tattooed on my wrist. The words beneath say #Bemoremartyn. My son united people, and he made things happen. He brought a legacy of warmth and positivity. That’s something I want to continue.
When I saw the bomber’s face on television, the first thing I thought was, ‘You foolish boy’. That’s all he was – not a man, but a boy who had been brainwashed so much that he was able to walk into a crowded concert and detonate a bomb.
I could choose to be angry, to harbour resentment and blame. But I can honestly say that I feel no rage towards Salman Abedi. In that moment, he believed that he was doing the right thing. That’s why I’ve made a conscious choice to forgive him – hate only breeds hate. Now more than ever, this world needs humanity and kindness.
Out of bad, good has to happen. When that boy detonated the bomb, he achieved the opposite of what he wanted – he caused an explosion of love. Family, friends and strangers have come together in solidarity and courage. I’m so proud of my youngest daughter, Nikita, who took all her GCSES, achieving 11 A* grades. One of her exams was the day after Martyn’s death, but she was determined to sit it; showing incredible strength in the face of tragedy.
Martyn’s death has changed my family for ever, but I will not allow it to destroy us. When the most awful, unthinkable things happen, we all have the power to overcome. We just need to Be More Martyn.