Wednesday 15 August 2018

48 Months, 208 Weeks, 1461 Days. 4 years.

It's been 4 years since we lost Elspeth.

If you have a 4 year old, all that time they've been alive, she's been gone. While they learned to walk and talk, make friends and use a crayon, she's not gone any further. It's such a long time and she should have done so much, but she didn't give any of it a chance.

Our kids have grown. Our big kids are all grown adults now. Work and thoughts of Uni are filling their heads and it's so hard not to be seeing Elspeth off for her 3rd year. She should be going. She should be getting wasted and staying up all night to finish assessments. Living on 17p noodles and bringing all of her washing home, and expecting me to do it (which I do, because I'm soft).

She should be playing board games with her little brothers, she loved to play and they're both old enough now to play proper games. She should be watching her favourite movies with them, and they should still be happy to belt out songs from Les Miserables.

What I really want to say is that it's all just a bit shit. It's really crappy and unfair. We should have her with us, but because at the moment she decided she'd had enough, no-one happened to ring or send her a message, or knock on her bedroom door, she's not here.

4 years ago we were a family coming through the other side of Meningitis and feeling positive. We were the kind of people who took 7 kids on a tour of Europe and our house was always manic and alive. We were back on the up after our blip and then we got up one morning and life stopped.

Everyone, EVERYONE, tells you it'll never be the same. They are right. Every aspect of your life is different. The way we talk to our children, to strangers, to authority. The things we think are important. The immense lack of confidence, the survivor guilt, the constant feelings of failure.

You carry around a backpack of stuff that is no use and weighs you down until you are on your knees. I remember every second of that morning so vividly. It never leaves me, it is always a clear and present memory. It taunts me constantly,  and jumps on every possible trigger.

I don't think you can ever 'get over' a suicide. I will never get over losing my brother. He was lost in a world of his own grief and I didn't have the strength to hold him up. None of us did. We had to watch him sink, as he stoically refused to put out a hand for us to grab. Elspeth let us all believe she could cope. We held out our hands and she clenched them. We had her.

We thought Elspeth had all the hope she needed. She talked of the future and had plans. She spoke of children and Winter and college. She lied to us. I'm annoyed at her for that, it was always a rule. You may be in trouble, but it doubles if you lie. I am annoyed I can't call her on it, she cheated me. She didn't give us any chance to save her.

Now we are a family who are still trying to pull ourselves back together, still trying to find our future. Life is much easier than it was 4 years ago, but it's easier because we've learned to pick up the backpack and step around the hole in our family, and make allowances for it. The hole will always be there and sometimes, like today, you slip into the hole and have to scrabble for the edge.

It will always take us longer to be ready, it will always be harder to find the energy, to agree to go, to feel good putting on a posh frock. We will always be scared, we will always come across barriers we didn't expect. Reminders we can't get past, rooms full of too many people. Elspeth will always be there. Her suicide will always be there.

We have found the strength to keep going. My little boys can talk about their sister now and maybe one day they'll be ready to share how they feel. We have counted smiles and made happy memories. We can talk of holidays and retirement plans, where we'll live and what we'll do. The things we'll see. We know the potential for joy ahead, even when things go wrong in the moment. We have hope, and while we have hope, nothing can beat us...

Two of our young people will be off to start a whole new adventure at Uni in September. Best of luck to anyone who has A Level exam results tomorrow - I hope that you get the result you need to take the path that suits you best. I hope that you never see failure in missed chances, only a new road that can take you even further.

Each day comes and I wake and I count my children. I check that they are all alive. I am aware of Elspeth before I step out of bed, and I go to sleep at night thinking of her. I don't give parenting advice, I doubt my own abilities. I am soft on my kids because I never want life to be too hard for any of them, never again.

I look to the future, and I can see what it can hold, and I am excited for what my children can see and do, the places they'll go. The people they'll meet. I know Elspeth was wrong, I know life wasn't going to be that shit for her forever, I just wish she had the benefit of my age and experience, and could have seen that for herself.

If you don't know our story ~ Dear Elspeth
If you don't think you'll be missed ~ 13 Reasons Why Not

Each month on the 15th I collect the smiles my family have made and share them here and on Instagram. Other people share theirs too. Anyone can join in, just use the hashtag #TBCSmiles - smiles are the reason and the reminder of why we carry on. I'll share this month's tomorrow.

Huge thanks to Sim. Fate and location made us friends, but she's had a hand on my spine for 4 years and without her to prop me up, I'd have fallen much further many times. She's my hero. Everyone needs a hero like Sim.

If you haven't met your Sim yet, then The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day for anyone who needs to talk or is struggling - Call 116123
If you are younger or worried about a young person then you may prefer to call Papyrus UK - Prevention Of Young Suicide 0800 068 41 41

Never think you are alone, there is always someone to listen.


  1. Sending you a massive hug. I am so sorry! xx

  2. Jen,
    It's scary that it's been so long when it seems so recent.
    you say you doubt your abilities, I wish I could say something to show you shouldn't. You are a wonderful mum, partner, relative and friend to so many.
    Personally i would say you are the one who helps to remind me that family doesn't have to be in the same county to stay close.

  3. You are always so honest, and your words so moving. I am so sorry that your lovely family have had to deal with this. Elspeth will never be forgotten. Xxx

  4. I don’t even know what to say but I always think of your family this time of year. I think you are an amazing mum with an amazing family and I am so sad that you never had the chance to persuade her to not make that decision that day. Sending you so much love and strength to get through today xxxxxx

  5. The tears don't even manage to reach my cheeks before they fall in a big splash upon my desk as they are so full and heavy. So much love is sent your way today and every day.

  6. Thinking of you all, your family , and the loss of Elspeth, are never far from my thoughts.

  7. Im so sorry for your loss, sending you my love and a bloody big hug xxx

  8. So much love to you Jenny and your whole family x

  9. Sim is a star and I am glad you have her in your life. I am sending you all so much love and hugs. Elspeth will never be forgotten. xx

  10. As a mum...I read your posts every month on this a mum....I have so much to say to you but don't know how to put it into a mum...I send you virtual hugs as sometimes words aren't necessary.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I read every one and try my best to reply!