It was 18 October 2019 when I became a member of the club no one ever wants to join – my beautiful, spirited, loving 8 year old daughter passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, following a short battle with leukaemia. I felt pain like never before, an indescribable sadness filled my every moment. My journey with grief began.
I didn’t know what to do; how to manage my jumble of emotions and thoughts. The days and weeks passed by in a bit of a fog, and I didn’t know how was I was going to get out of it and focus my mind on something positive. I wanted someone to map out how this journey through grief was going to feel, but I quickly learned that everyone’s journeys and experiences are different. In spite of countless shows of support from family, friends and support groups, grief was (and still can be) a very individual and so lonely place sometimes. People would ask how I was, but trying to collect my thoughts and explain them in a way they could understand seemed almost impossible. I put on my brave face and buried all of my thoughts and emotions as best I could.
About 3 months in, I started to write like never before. I’d always loved language and had a few language related sidelines/hobbies, so I turned to writing as a way of focusing on something productive where I could do it as and when I felt able to. Aside from Jess’ eulogy, I’d not really written like this before, but I discovered that writing in general helped me process thoughts and enabled the fog to lift a little. I enjoyed doing something productive and a few months after that my partner suggested I use my writing to support the fundraising we were planning. From there, the idea for the Team Jess website ( www.TeamJess.co.uk ) was born and I’ve since been able to document all sorts of things on there; from memories of Jess to how we’ve coped and navigated through anniversaries, birthdays and difficult times, to some of the poems I’ve written along the way. Somehow it’s kept Jess’ memory alive and I think she would have loved that there’s a website all about her. I also hope that if anyone stumbles across the website having been through their own tragedy, it might help them somehow.
Launching the Team Jess website (which so far has helped me raise over £21,000) gave me confidence to write regularly, featuring in both magazines and on another website I’ve launched too which is www.writtenright.co.uk. Losing Jess has reminded me more than ever to treat life as a gift, as you never know what the future holds; so if you want to do something, then do it! Written Right is not about grief at all, and in fact the mixture of writing and proofreading I do for a wide variety of people comes in all shapes and sizes, for example poems, blogs, articles or book reviews. But my experience of grief, of conquering adversity and daring to be brave and bold, just like Jess was, has very much inspired me to launch Written Right. Whilst I don’t want being a bereaved mum to define me, it goes without saying that it has shaped me into the person I am today.
For me, writing has been a massive part in processing my grief. But it has become so much more than that now, and now I’ve not got my youngest mini me shadowing me, I’m filling some of my time with something else I love too. Being keen to start some new Christmas traditions now, I’ve even written a Christmas poem vlog instead of sending Christmas cards – I would never have thought I would ever do something like that! I can’t imagine a world that doesn’t involve writing now. It goes without saying that I miss Jess every single day, but making something positive come of a tragedy has started a new chapter for me and makes me feel good. And I think Jess would be proud too.