David Cameron has said that around 11,000 letters of support from the public helped him and his family come to terms with the “enormous shock” of losing his eldest son, Ivan.
Speaking at length for the first time about the death of his severely disabled six-year-old son, who died from a seizure last month, the Tory leader explained how he and his wife, Samantha, sat together and opened letters and photos from families who had been through similar experiences.
“It was just fascinating to read letters from people you have never met or are never likely to meet, but who just felt moved to write a letter and tell their story,” he told ITV's Alan Titchmarsh Show.
“That was helpful. We sat around and read them together.
“Everyone says that there will come a time when you’ll look back and feel happy at his life, and you’ll remember the good things and not just be sad at his death.
“I know that will come, it just takes some time. And we just miss him.”
Tory officials were furious last night over the way Mr Cameron’s appearance had been billed as an interview about the death of Ivan, something they said was done without their consent.
They have complained to the programme’s producers.
“We did not give any authorisation to pre-brief in the way they did,” a Tory source said.
“We agreed that David would be asked a question about Ivan, but it was never intended to be an interview exclusively about that.”
Mr Cameron said that though his son had been unwell throughout his life, suffering from a severe form of cerebral palsy and epilepsy, his death had come as a huge shock.
“We always knew that Ivan wouldn’t live forever because he had this very rare condition and he had been incredibly ill in his short life.
“But we never expected him to die so young or so suddenly,” he said.
“It’s just a real bolt that hit us.
“I do remember how much pain he had in his life and all the operations and all the seizures. And that pain has stopped, so that’s a positive thing to hold on to.”
He also talked about how his other children, Nancy (5) and Arthur (3) had been “quite resilient” in coping with the loss of their older brother.
“There are moments where they think about it a lot and talk about it a lot — and then other moments when they seem okay,” he said.
“Nancy takes the view that Ivan is in heaven now and he's doing things that other children do, which he couldn’t do before, like walking and talking and eating chocolate.
“That was lovely for her to say that.”