Sunday, 15 August 2021

2,557 Days...84 Months... 7 Years...

"Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends.
Like my fathers come to pass
Seven years has gone so fast
Wake me up when September ends..."

Our 11 year old left Primary school last month, and Facebook showed me a memory to remind me of the day he left nursery, which was 18th July 2014. It's one of the most painful images I have. My innocent littlest baby, full of promise and joy at the world, and delighted with his "Goodbye" bag of goodies. It hurts so much because it's "before", and less than a month later, his sister was dead, and we were a family full of broken people. His life wouldn't ever be so innocent again.

Small boy in school uniform holding tiny plastic bag of sweets

My step-daughter Elspeth took her own life. I wrote about what happened at the time, in my Dear Elspeth post, but it will make you sad, so don't read it if you are on the bus or at work. 

That sudden evaporation of innocence is one of the things that hurts the most. My little children lost a lot of their childhood when their sister died. Aged 4 and 5, they had to accept the finality of death, the fragility of life, and they had to try to understand something none of us can understand. Why? My teenagers had to come face to face with feelings and emotions most 50 year olds can't cope with. They had to go beyond 'growing up'. They had to learn to cope with just how unfair life can be. And they didn't just lose a sister, or a step-sister. They lost their friend...

This last month we've passed several really important milestones, and every one has really stung. Elspeth should be here. She should join in the fun, the banter, the celebration.
She should be here.

She should be amazed that her youngest brother is already off to high school, she should be teasing our eldest that he's back at uni. She should be joining her brothers in celebrating the successful end of their degrees - and laughing because that means they have to go to work full time like she does. She isn't here. She wasn't here yesterday, and she won't be here tomorrow. She won't ever be here. That really sucks.

When I look at my family, the truth is that my eldest probably wouldn't be "back at uni" if she hadn't died. His life would have taken a different path. The two who just graduated uni would have almost definitely have graduated earlier and/or chosen different courses. With everyone at school, I would have gone back to "out of the home" work in education. My family wouldn't have needed me to be there, at home, for when life got too much and they had to dip out. My partner wouldn't have needed a pandemic to be able to show his work colleagues just what he's really capable of.

Everything would have been completely different if Elspeth hadn't died. We've all been shaped by this. We are not only living a different life, and viewing our world differently, we are completely different people. We all took different paths.

You can't "get over" losing someone you love so much to suicide. You can only pick up all of the pieces you have left, and the support you receive (and I have received soooo much support, I couldn't have done it without you), and the strength you can find in yourself, and create something new. I'm so proud of my family, they are setting off into the world strong, and confident, and capable. They are shaping themselves some amazing lives. 

And however far into the future you look, each one will always contain Elspeth. 

Four children aged 4, 5, teenage and 16 year old Elspeth ready for prom

Green Day were one of Elspeth's favourite bands. Her posters are still on what was her bedroom wall. It's her Dad's office now. Her taste in music made us smile, not only because it was excellent, but because she was embarrassed that she liked bands who were our age, and not closer to hers. We all liked Green Day.
Wake Me Up When September Ends reminds me of Elspeth every time I hear it. If I could wake up now, it might be over. It might never have happened. She could be here, with us, with her degree, and her future. She would be such a beautiful young woman now, and so very clever. She could be anything.
She could have been anything...

"Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are
As my memory rests
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends..."

green day poster when September ends

If you have lost someone to suicide, I hope you find solace in my post. Elspeth will always be watching over my shoulder, and she will always leave a hole in our family, but living with that hole does get easier. You learn to cope far more often. Sometimes it catches you by surprise, or you can't help but focus on it, but as time goes on, more and more often you manage to cope with the space where someone should be.

"There is no health, and there is no wellbeing, without mental health. And in this regard, we are, far too often, failing our young people. 10% of children and adolescents around the world experience a mental disorder. And for young people, suicide is a leading cause of death."
Dr Tedros, World Health Organisation

We have ALL been asked to be strong over the last 18 months. Young people have had their lives upturned more than most of us, and the frustration and pressure, the closing of their work and leisure, the lack of available counselling and support, on top of all of the other things that make being a young person hard in any year, means mental health has really suffered.

If you are struggling, or you are worried about someone else who you feel is struggling, there are lots of genuinely useful resources online, and there is ALWAYS someone to talk to. However much of a burden you think you are to anyone else, they will carry you forever if you leave. Reach out. Please. 

48 Months
5 Years
13 Reasons Why Not


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 contact 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 any time day or night and chat by text.

The Campaign Against Living Miserably have lots of ways to get you involved with other people, chatting, and avoiding loneliness.

The Compassionate Friends are there to support bereaved parents and their families, including families who have lost someone to suicide. Personally I have found no better help, except that which we received from.the following UK charity..

Winstons Wish support children who have been bereaved and their parents. They were invaluable to my children, and I'll owe them gratitude forever. Thank you. 


Sources: 

Dr Tedros

Songwriters: Michael Pritchard / Frank E. / Iii Wright / Billie Joe Armstrong
Wake Me Up When September Ends lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc


11 comments:

  1. I love you, and all of your family. Thinking of you all today, and if I’m honest, every day xxx

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    1. I love you too - thank you. We really missed camping with you this year, we'll have to sort something next year xx

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  2. Wow. Such a powerful read. A reminder to hug our babies tight. So sorry you have all been through so much xx

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    1. Thank you for your words, and for taking the time to comment. I really do appreciate it. And yes, hugs. More hugs.

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  3. You've been through so much over the years and I know you were already struggling. I also know that you have been there for each other and sharing smiles was such a lovely idea. Elspeth would be proud of you. It's hard when someone decides to go like this, but when you know it's a deliberate attempt and not just a cry for help I think it helps to come to terms with it better. I don't know if you agree. I just find a little comfort in knowing that my brother's suicide, which was the same as Elspeth's was a definite decision that they no longer wanted to continue living no matter what. I'm sorry, I hope I haven't caused offence. I know how hard it is. I remember finding out about Elspeth the day my little girl went into hospital. She's the same age as Elspeth now. The rest of your family is amazing and so much stronger than they possible believe themselves to be, so you must be amazing parents xx

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  4. Elspeth is clearly such a loved and cherished member of your family x x I'm in awe of everything you have all achieved since that horrendous day and sending you all so much love x x

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  5. Oh Jenny, my heart breaks for you reading this as much as it did reading your original post 7 years ago. I will always have my sunflowers on show for Elspeth on this date, you will always be in my thoughts, but I know that can never take away any of that pain. Big love to you and your family xxx

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  6. Thank you for sharing. A friend of my partner recently took his own life and that has been hard enough xx To lose your daughter, is heartbreaking to read, but I am bolstered by your posts on how you have all handled it xx

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  7. Elspeth, how I think of her and you guys often. I hope she is looking down and sees the smiles and sunshine she casts. But, life is not better without her, there is an Elspeth shaped hole, but we all want to hug around that hole and be there for you. How cute is your little one here. He is such a wonderful character and one who made me smile. I am sure someone will read Elspeth's story and they will follow a different path with all you do to support and advocate that there is help out there. All my love Susan xxx

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  8. I couldn't read this post when it appeared, as I cried so much for you all 7 years ago. I've read it tonight, and my heart broke again. You are all so brave. Every single one of us wishes we could make it better. I lost my brother as a teenager, and you're right, it does get a little easier to deal with, but sometimes it just hits you like a brick. All those missed events, missing how they would be now, wondering what they would have become. Much love to you all, you're a lovely family xx

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  9. Sending you all huge hugs, with tears in my eyes.I'm sure the information you have shared has helped more families than you'll ever know xx

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