Monday 15 August 2022

#TBCSmiles... 96 Months... 8 Years.

 8 years ago today, we woke up to find that one of our teenage children hadn't survived the night. In the early hours of the morning she had taken her own life. I wrote about it at the time, here

After 8 years we know that today isn't likely to be as hard as you might fear. It's not a reminder of Elspeth, because there is nothing forgotten, and mentally we know this date is coming, so we can brace ourselves for it. This is a day we can at least take off the mask and any illusion of pretending to be fine, even if we aren't. 

Sunflower drawn for us by a young student in Wakefield

Any day might be interrupted with a surprise memory, a badly chosen comment, a celebrity story, or a worry about someone you know, or don't. Any day can end badly just as it can end well, but each and every day is a mundane sort of grief, a new normal that you learn to live alongside. 

There are never quite enough people for dinner, or enough washing to go in the machine, and nowadays I cook mainly in silence standing alone, without Elspeth sitting at the kitchen table chatting. I usually love cooking, but sometimes I just can't bring myself to do it. 

When I read a book or watch a movie, I don't get to ask her opinion. Choosing gifts is impossible, because all I see are things she would like. Moving furniture, adopting pets, cutting hair. You wonder what she would think. Sometimes someone speaks and I can hear her voice in their words. I miss her dry humour and sarcasm. Being funny without her is just not as good. 

Elspeth standing in the doorway smiling in her prom dress with my small boys

When I chastise my children, am I being too hard, or am I being too gentle because I don’t want to be too hard? Did I say the right thing? Do I tell them enough how proud I am of them, and have I told them I love them today? Can I still be a good mum? Parenting after losing a child to suicide is a minefield.

Birthdays, Christmas, Summer holidays, kids at uni, kids going to work. What would she be doing with her life now? Would she be close to the other kids? Would they be as close to each other if they hadn't had this awful shared experience? And are they okay? When did I really check in on them last? Parenting children and young people who have lost a sibling is incredibly stressful. 

How is my partner coping? Is he throwing himself into work or a game to hide away? Has he eaten? Am I being supportive enough to him? Being an adult to another adult when you are tired and sore yourself is as much about leaning on each other to stay mainly upright, as it is being there to catch them if they fall. I am so glad we have each other, and I worry about anyone trying to do this alone. 

I lost my mum less than 2 months ago, but is it Elspeth who sits at my shoulder as I tidy her house, and acts as my conscience when I'm not careful enough with something my mum labelled treasure. Grief is a long, slow process that is constantly interrupted by the child who shouldn't have left, and that brings with it more feelings of guilt. I loved my mum, she has a right to fill my thoughts. I should be thinking of days at the beach and playing with Tupperware toys on the carpet, but somehow my mind always turns to our own children, and me as the grown up cleaning skinned knees and sharing out sandwiches. 

Elspeth is always present in everything I say or do, and I know that she will always be present... because she should still be here.

A hand made felted angel - she has long curly hair, a long blue gown, golden wings and carries sunflowers

It has been a hard and very long 8 years, but with a huge amount of care and support from people like you (thank you), and Winston's Wish, and the Compassionate Friends, and the NHS, we are all still going strong, and our children are thriving. 2 of our young people are still at uni, and 2 are currently working full time. 3 of them have now moved out to live with friends, or their amazing partners, and the youngest 2 are currently enjoying their school Summer holiday and doing all those things teenage kids should be doing... 

Life throws a lot of things at you, and the best you can do is shake the worst of the dust off, change your path and keep going, and try to keep your heart soft, and your dreams hopeful. 

We've come a long way already. We can do this....

A painting entitled Elspeths Field. It's a field of golden sunflowers beneath a bright blue sky with some darker clouds in places

(The regular #TBCSmiles sharing of your smiley photos from Instagram will be on Wednesday 17th this month, including the delayed TBCSmiles from July, which was when I was busy with my mother's funeral. The two paintings and the felted angel in this post were gifts, made especially for us by incredibly talented UK artists.)


  1. I just wanted to send you all my love. We lost my Uncle to suicide several years ago. The family dynamic has never been quite the same since. There will always be that wondering if there was anything we could’ve done. I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone, least of all children. Keep strong, you’re such an inspirational family for all you do, even if you don’t realise just how much you touch other people’s lives. Thank you xx

    1. Og bless you, that's such an amazing comment to receive. I am so sorry that suicide has touched your family too. It brings with it the opportunity for a lot of guilt. All of the counsellors refer to it as 'an individual act'. It's something that person alone made the decision to do, and it's never going to be your responsibility. Love and support to you, and to your family.

  2. Sending love and hugs to you and your family. Thinking of you today and always. x

    1. Thank you Kim, you really have been there throughout, and I have always been aware of your support. Love to you and your gorgeous brood x

  3. I had the police at my door who rushed up to my eldest daughter's room. She'd told a friend online because she didn't want to bother me because I have enough to deal with ( her words) she was okay, but this had been part of our life for nearly 20 years now. The person who broke her took his own life, he was also family. I get so much of what you say despite still having all my children still here. You have always been so inspirational whereas I feel I have to hide my feelings. I'm not trying to make this about me, I just wanted you to know that people like you help people like me. Losing your Mum is also extremely hard and my heart is with you. You are doing great, even if it doesn't feel that way at times xxx

    1. Oh bless you. You have every right to share your own experience, and you aren't 'making it about you', you need to be listened to too. I am so very glad your child got the help they needed that night, I really am. The entire experience sounds like it must have been a nightmare, and that you are going to struggle with it for a while yet to come. Find somewhere you can talk freely, let your feelings out - be kinder to you. We can all smile and keep our mouths shut, but you have to be able to speak as well. What has happened to you all isn't fair, and it's terrifying for ever more. You don't have to hide that and carry it secretly forever, there are people who get it, who understand, who can offer support.
      I'm so glad that I help you with what I write, and thank you for your words - it really does mean everything.
      Strength to you, you obviously have plenty because you seem to be doing okay too, but a little more never goes amiss.


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