Saturday 15 August 2020

#TBCSmiles 2,192 Days... 72 Months.... 6 Years...

 COVID-19 has filled my life for the past 7 months. I'm not even sure how much time normal people spend thinking about it, what experience most people have, because I'm so involved in grabbing new information and reporting it. It's my special interest, and I'd be fascinated anyway, so writing about it was a natural reaction. 

In fact, I'm at relative peace with the whole COVID thing. So much so that a reader of my COVID posts, and also a friend, asked if she could send me a personalised bracelet  (£1 from every sale goes to MIND) because she had the perfect word for me. She chose CALM. I suppose I am. Mostly*. 

Bracelet made from small round purple beads, and large lettered beads spelling the word calm

I've always been well aware we are just animals living on a bit of rock, and as powerful as we think we are, nature will always be bigger than all of us. I guess that helps, but it's the fact we are pre-disastered that probably really makes the difference.  

We are a family full of people who have already lost a member to suicide. It gives everyone left behind the gift of guilt. You feel like if you could just have said, done, not done.... it would have been different. You feel you should have known, should have spotted it coming, could have prevented it. All of the 'if only' possibilities spin round your head.  We will always be terrified we might have a part in the death of a human being, and all of the counselling in the world can't take that away. It's meant that we are all happy to stay at home, even my younger children, because giving COVID to someone else is our biggest fear. Leaving the bubble is maybe going to be a bit harder than for a lot of people. 

Our lives already went through the sieve. My partner and I already lost what we thought we had, we don't take anything for granted. His meningitis in 2013 stole much of his memory and some physical health, and I've had my own health problems over the last 7 years. We have no money or property left, we don't make plans, we don't have long term goals or projects. We don't have Elspeth. All of our visions of the future we expected collapsed on 15th August 2014. 

We've picked up everything we could and tried to turn it into some sense, but losing a child to suicide takes away so much that you can't ever rebuild from what's left. You don't only lose a person, you lose your confidence in everything you do. You expect failure, so you accept it. You don't believe plans will happen, so you don't make them. You just cobble something together and as long as you get through the next day, you won. You aren't the person you were before, you're different, and so is how you feel about everything. 

When COVID was heading towards us, politicians and economists talked about 'economy or health', which should take priority? It's really not as simple as that anyway, but I didn't ever see a debate, I already know the answer. We already lost all of our money. You can't keep tabs on bills and bargains when your life is upside down. You only remember to eat because you set an alarm. We lost a child, and one of their siblings couldn't cope, and spent most of the next 3 years in hospital. Thank God we have an NHS, but it still eats whatever money you have. We are only just getting back on our feet now. One look at that confident and well young man, and the life he has built for himself, and every penny was a worthy spend. I look at our other grown up children, and our little ones, and I can tell you with complete certainty that there is no contest. I would live in a tent and survive on bramble if it meant saving any one of our children. All of the money in the world can't give you happiness, but people can.

It is 6 years since we lost Elspeth, and every day since has been a day where we are painfully aware she isn't here. It's a day where your head runs through your final conversations again, where you hear a creak in the room upstairs. A day where you might give the wrong answer to 'how many children you have', or accidentally lay out an extra plate at the table. It's a day when you remember GCSE results day, and you think of how much she'd have enjoyed uni. She would have finished her degree now. It's a day of lost hopes. But it's a day where we got through it, and we'll get through the next, and we can still find joy in our world. Every time one of us smiles or makes someone else smile, we know why we're here, and that we can keep going. Smiles are our reason for living, and the reminder of why we carry on. 

Elspeth's Field oil painting with a field of sunflowers and stormy skies above

I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has shared your smiles with me over the last 7 years. Some come easy, but some are incredibly hard won, and more precious than gold. Every single one is treasure, an infectious and beautiful treasure. 

Anyone can share your smiles, on Instagram any day with the hashtag #TBCSmiles, or on the thread on my Facebook page on the 15th of the month. Blurry, wonky, photobomb or professionally lit and perfect, as long as it has a smile. There are over 7,000 to look at, whenever you need a bit of cheering up... or a reminder that you can do this.  

Here are a random 9 of the biggest or brightest shared with us over the last month - I've tried to cram as many smiles as I can into this month's selection... 

They were shared by the following Instagrammers: 

We have our own smiles too, plenty of them. I've tried to be better at remembering to capture them on camera this month! I store the rest in my head... 

Dear Elspeth
How Children Cope With The Death Of A Sibling
13 Reasons Why Not
48 Months
5 Years

If you are struggling then you never have to be alone. There is ALWAYS someone you can talk to, and it is ALWAYS worth staying. 

The Samaritans are online and on the phone 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 Call 0800 068 41 41

If you don't feel able to talk, you can text SHOUT to 85258 anytime day or night and chat by text.

Elspeth. 12/02/98 - 15/08/14 x


At lunchtime today my older children's Aunt lost her battle with cancer. Lizzie, you were a fantastic Aunty, and you will always be missed xxx


* Although I am, for the most part, calm, even I am beaten by frustration at times, and I'd feel a liar if I didn't admit it. 


  1. Sending love to you and your family Jenny. Every time I see a sunflower, I smile, and then remember Elspeth and thunk of you and your family.

  2. No need to reply. I just want to say... You're all amazing and I am thankful everyday I found your blog through Facebook.

  3. Your Covid posts are brilliant. I prefer to read those than the news websites.
    Sending you love and hugs and thinking of your family today.

  4. I love that you are collecting smiles. You are an amazing family and Elspeth will always be a part of that. I, as always, wish I could help but all I can do is help continuing to talk about her and share -to keep her alive in memory forever xx

  5. Jenny, your posts always make me think more carefully about life and what we have. We never forget those who we have ‘lost’, obviously, and we will always wonder why, or what we could have done. But we carry on. That last photo is gorgeous; Elspeth is gorgeous x

  6. Sending you so much love and hugs. It seems like forever a go, but no time at all too. I can't believe it's been 6 years since your gorgeous girl left. Her memory forever in our hearts. I love these bracelets too. I am following on instragram and hope to order one or two at payday xxx


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