Trolled as we grieved
During the time of their grief, Jennifer Gellatly, 33, from Dundee, and her children had to endure sickening abuse from strangers…
Watching my son Jayden with his older siblings, I beamed with pride. Jessica, then 11, was humming the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune.
It was her baby brother’s favourite show.
Jayden, then one, giggled as he lay on his back, wiggling his little legs in the air.
‘He’s so cute,’ Dylan, then 15, cooed as Daniel, seven, tickled Jayden’s belly.
As a single mum, nothing made me happier than watching my kids together.
But it hadn’t been easy for us over the last year.
All my older kids had been perfectly healthy babies.
And my fourth pregnancy had gone as smoothly as possible, too. But when Jayden was born in August 2014, things were different. ‘He’s having trouble breathing,’ the doctor said. Jayden was whisked to a specialist unit, leaving me terrified. I had to wait for hours before I could see him. So poorly, yet so beautiful. Jayden was kept in for tests, and at nine days old, he had an operation on a bowel blockage. Soon after, he was diagnosed with a string of health problems. Glaucoma, causing damage to his right eye, a heart defect, and liver disease. The doctors didn’t know what had caused it. But they hoped, given time and the right treatment, Jayden would recover. Still, over the next months, he battled various infections.
He had surgery to fix his liver, and to his eye for the glaucoma.
As time went on, Jayden’s head started to grow and seemed out of proportion to the rest of his tiny body.
‘Jayden has a build-up of fluid on the brain, making his head swell,’ the doctor said.
While I stayed with Jayden, the kids stayed at home with my mum, Linda, 59.
They visited Jayden whenever they could.
‘When can he come home?’ they’d ask.
They all already doted on their little brother.
Finally, that moment came in December.
‘Surprise!’ I cried, carrying him through the door. ‘Jayden!’ the kids all squealed. Baby Jayden was constantly fighting off infections, and needed a cocktail of medication.
His head continued to swell, but sadly, doctors couldn’t do anything about it.
But despite everything, he was such a happy little boy.
The five of us would enjoy cosy afternoons snuggled underneath the duvet watching TV.
We’d spend sunny summer days in the park.
The kids would fight over who got to push Jayden’s pram.
They barely noticed strangers’ stares and whispers. But I wasn’t blind to it. ‘What are you looking at?’ I would snap.
Yes, Jayden looked unusual, but he was still just a child. My beautiful baby.
How dare they? I thought. His first birthday flew by, and
before I knew it, it was August 2016 and I was planning his second birthday party. And despite endless hospital visits, I still hoped he’d get better. One morning, I changed Jayden’s nappy, then put him back in his cot. Only, as I went to leave, I heard a high-pitched scream. It was an agonised wail I hadn’t heard before. Running downstairs to find another nappy and some medication, I headed back up to Jayden’s bedroom. But now, he was silent. ‘Jayden?’ I whispered, my heart thumping in my chest. But he wasn’t breathing or moving – just lying there. His skin was grey. I dialled 999 and an operator told me to start CPR. Within minutes, paramedics arrived and took over. ‘Please save him,’ I wept, feeling utterly helpless.
He was rushed to Ninewells Hospital, where doctors battled for an hour to save him. But it was too late. Jayden was gone. He’d died from endocarditis – an infection of the lining of the heart.
Doctors believed that it had been caused by a previous infection which hadn’t cleared up.
Nothing could have saved my precious little boy.
‘Jayden has gone to heaven,’ I told the children as they cried.
We were all overcome with grief.
We couldn’t imagine life without Jayden.
Weeks later, his tiny coffin was carried into the church for us to say goodbye.
We held hands and watched a slideshow of family pictures as Ed Sheeran’s Photograph played.
For two years, Jayden had needed me 24/7. Suddenly, I felt redundant. It was like a piece of my heart was missing.
But it was comforting posting photos of Jayden on social media.
Sharing my love with the world. Here’s my beautiful Jayden,i wrote on one of the posts. And supportive messages flooded in. Jessica, then 12, posted pictures on her Instagram account, too. But one day in February 2017, she came running downstairs. Her eyes bloodshot from sobbing. ‘What’s wrong?’ I cried. ‘Look!’ she shrieked, holding out her phone to me. Reading a comment below a beautiful snap of her and Jayden, I felt my heart shatter in two. Your mum should’ve had an abortion, someone had written. I felt sick to my stomach.
Jessica had replied to the message to say that Jayden had recently passed away.
But the nasty comments kept on coming. Vegetable… You pulled the life support from your little brother…
Each word made my stomach churn and my skin crawl.
Taking screenshots of each post, I immediately reported them to Instagram, who took action. They deleted the troll’s account. But I couldn’t believe that someone could say such horrific things about an innocent little baby.
Especially knowing Jayden had recently passed away. It was sickening. I told Jessica and the other children to make all their social media pages private.
‘Block any followers you don’t know,’ I said.
But earlier this year, another troll managed to slip through the net on Jessica’s Instagram.
Worse, the posts were from a teenage girl.
What would make someone so young so cruel? I felt hopeless. I wanted the children to be able to voice their grief on social media.
To share pictures of their little brother they loved so much.
But it seemed every time they did, they received abuse from strangers. ‘Block her,’ I told Jessica. It was all we could do. Now, I want to warn other parents about the dangers of trolls online.
They should keep a close eye on what their children are posting – and what they’re being sent.
Sharing memories and pictures of Jayden is our way of remembering him and I won’t let strangers stop us from doing that.
I refuse to let the trolls win.
How could they be so cruel?
So poorly but perfect
We ignored the stares from strangers