We even took down the decorations from the loft and got the living room ready for our Christmas tree - which we bought this evening. It's gorgeous - just look at the smile on him! We are cooking on gas.
We're also very aware of how broken we all still are. Since last month our teenager in hospital had a temporary inpatient visit from their father. Taking my partner to hospital, and passing straight through triage for the 3rd time in 2 years, this time in an ambulance with flashing lights, was not in my plan....
Fortunately he is going to be okay, and has spent the last 3 weeks being tested and given good news and medicines and is in a lot less pain. All of the important bits are strong and healthy, it's just his heart that is broken...
This isn't a string of bad luck. This is all because we lost Elspeth.
I wanted to call this post 'Five Reasons Why You shouldn't Be A Victim To Suicide This Christmas', but I was worried people might think that was maudlin. The fact is although a lot of people find this time of year too hard, too much, it's what comes next that's hardest. The party is over and the focus has gone. I mentioned the lack of direction that follows Christmas in a recent post about coping with your first Christmas after losing a child. So I changed the title.
Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Decide To Leave This Christmas Or In The period Thereafter.
1. Because you aren't alone.
Elspeth felt alone. She worried her friends didn't really like her. She felt she was a burden to her family. She didn't think she fit in anywhere, when in fact she fit in everywhere. She didn't let anyone know how bad she was feeling and tried instead to just make everyone happy and say what she thought we wanted to hear. She was so wrong.
We wanted Elspeth's friends to be able to participate in her service if they wanted. Five were brave enough, and felt strongly enough, to come to the front and read aloud the beautiful words they had written to the packed room and all those who spilled outside. And anyone who wanted to was also welcome to bring a sunflower... She was never alone, she just failed to see the people around her.
2. Because it WILL NOT be better without you.
Elspeth had Aspergers and it affected her temperament. Occasionally she would swear and scream and throw things without any control. She took up a lot of our time. She takes up more of our time now, I think about her regularly all day. Sometimes she fills up my head for hours on end. I wish I could tell her once again that I'd talk to her when she'd calmed down. I wish I was still choosing her presents to wrap.
It will never be better without you.
3. Because you will be missed.
The guy in the shop, the woman on the desk at work, your Nan. That girl who smiles when she sees you. The kid in the pram at the bus stop. Your schoolfriend, your neighbour, your wife, your child, your brother. Everyone your life touched. You will be missed. You will be remembered. I still remember Chris, a boy who took his life 27 years ago when I was at College. I remember him often. He was a nice lad.
Elspeth believed we'd just have a funeral and then get on with the rest of our lives. Sixteen months later and our lives are still on pause. There is nothing of our old lives that we can recognise ahead. We are still in unfamiliar territory, bumbling through, blinded by the sidelights and just trying to keep going in a straight line. I don't think it ever ends, I think you just have to learn to cope with it.
4. Because you become a statistic.
In 2013 a heartbreaking 6,708 people in the UK took their own lives. 18 people a day couldn't see how to carry on.
A study by The Campaign Against Living Miserably found that over 40% of men aged 18-45 have contemplated suicide.
In England and Wales, suicide is the leading cause of death among men and women aged between 20 and 34 years of age.
All that you ever could have done, and all that you ever can have been, is gone. To those who don't know you, you become a statistic and can never become anything more.
Elspeth was an artist and a musician, she was a poet and a comedian. She was brilliant with babies and little children, and she had an eye for design. Her timing was excellent and she could tell you more about Kanye West than his Mum. The world was her oyster, but if she wanted to work in the corner shop that would have been okay too. Just something, anything. Instead nothing. All those years of practice, and she didn't use it...
5. Because it's always worth carrying on.
It only stays the same forever if you don't change anything.
Carry on, but not as you are now. If you were bleeding, you would get treatment. If a car was coming towards you, you'd move out of the way. If you are at rock bottom, you need a ladder. Just one ladder to start with. Your ladder can be a smile, a chat, a call, a number, good advice or anything else. Like a person who has fallen through the ice and is treading the icy water, you will find the hardest part is reaching for the ladder.
If you carry on, then maybe you'll stick around long enough that you'll say help loud enough that someone will hear. Sometimes people are so focused you have to shout - but there are times when it's okay to interrupt.
Here are the smiles I have collected this month, to remind me we why we carry on. You're welcome to share yours on Instagram or Twitter by using #TBCSmiles - it'll be great to see them. If you can't find them, keep looking, they're always there...
If you want to talk to someone you always can. The Samaritans are on hand 24 hours a day. If you are a young person or are worried about another young person, you may feel more comfortable talking to Papyrus or Childline.
Sources - Office Of National Statistics
The Campaign Against Living Miserably