She's still dead every morning, so you'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I don't think you can ever get used to it.
My second thought each morning is 'are the other children alive?' and I have to go and check. I dread having to actually go into someone's bedroom to see if they're alive. I hope that if I haven't heard them already, they'll be snoring so loudly that I can hear them through the door, or they'll answer audibly when I shout. I check on the little boys in the night whenever I wake, and I'm pleased if I've seen them in the early hours because I know there's less chance anything happened.
Losing a family member to suicide robs you of so much more than that child. It takes your sleep, your daydreams, your confidence, your trust in things you knew to be true. It takes your understanding of what is normal and moves it to another level. A parent crying is normal, a child screaming because someone has left him alone in the bathroom is normal, counselling is normal, feeling a failure is normal, and having no confidence in anything is normal.
And then I go about my day, and at mealtimes I have to include 'not Elspeth ' in my head count so that it totals 9, or I get confused and can't work out how many of us there are. And my heart breaks when one of our teenagers posts this on Facebook - because I can't make it better...(permission was granted to share).
And I see things and think 'Elspeth would like that', and I save them to a folder on my laptop that I'll never be able to show her. And I look at young people walking by in the street, and I'm so happy for them that they have the strength to go through what is frankly a pretty crap time, and I hope that they do well and have beautiful children. And I'm reminded of the words of a friend, who stopped working as an A&E Nurse because she had witnessed too much 'wasted hope'.
It is exactly one year since Elspeth died, and that is a very hard milestone to pass. To know that you've been without a member of your family for a whole year, your children are all now a year older but so much less innocent than they have a right to be, and to remember so clearly a single day that it blurs all the memories around it. Grief really is relentless, and loss really is forever.
I am so proud of family, they are all doing so very well, and we (all except our eldest) had a lovely holiday to the Isle Of Wight which I'll bore you with later. We spent a lot of time talking as a family, and my fondest memories will be of us all sitting round a campfire teaching each other card games and eating 3 tons of Doritos. It was very precious.
Last time we went to the Isle Of Wight was 8 years ago and our best holiday ever. We stayed in a different part of the same farm's woodland, and our 5 young children ran wild for 10 days. We cooked on fires and dried our clothes on bushes, and built a bivi that would make any scout proud. Everywhere you look, there are fond memories.
I didn't realise just how hard exam time would be. Like prom it stings. Last year Elspeth didn't wait to see how well she did in her GCSE's, and Jake understandably wasn't in the mood for any celebration of the results of his hard work. He has also done excellently this year - in his AS and year 1 Engineering exams, with two A*''s, a B and a D. We are so proud, but there is an obvious sadness that we aren't also celebrating the end of Elspeth's first year at College.
Best of luck to everyone getting GCSE results next week - including our 16 year old. I hope any young people reading got the right results for them, and it takes them where they want to go. And if it doesn't seem to, then do not feel a failure, you just weren't looking at the right path. Many of humankind's greatest achievements came about because someone found themselves somewhere they didn't expect they'd be.
Here are the smiles we've collected this month. We've worked hard to make sure there were plenty, including our youngest accidentally discovering a new 'swear', an hilarious hour in the garden trying to photograph Lamaloli clothes, and some from our holiday....
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it. Mark Twain