Let’s Talk About Grief

Death is part of life, but it’s also difficult, and on the whole, crap.

It might not be that bad for the person dying – they might have been ill for a long time or might be ready to die. But for those left behind it’s usually rubbish and leaves them living with grief in some form. (If there isn’t anyone left behind then that is also crap, because nobody should be alone at the end of their life, so whichever way you look at it, death is rubbish).

Despite this, grief is something rarely discussed. It’s a bit odd, because while some subjects are becoming less taboo and more talked about, which is brilliant, grief appears to be lagging behind.

I’m not entirely sure why this is. It might be because those working to break down stigma – being more open, sharing their stories, talking about difficult subjects – tend to be slightly younger and maybe haven’t yet reached an age where grief is a feature in their lives. (I appreciate this is a huge generalisation and stereotype and there are older people also doing some brilliant work).

Whatever the reason, grief isn’t hugely talked about

This year seems to have contained more celebrity deaths than any other in my memory. A lot of people are blaming 2016 but it’s more likely to be that they were all a similar age and life happens. The fact that so many people are blaming 2016, instead of seeing death as part of life, further illustrates how afraid people seem to be to see death as something unavoidable that happens to everyone. It can be far easier to blame the concept of an evil year, than to face up to our own mortality.

Mum had excellent end of life care. She worked in palliative medicine all her life, so she knew what she was doing, but she died where she wanted (at home), pain-free, next to Dad, and I can’t think of a better death than that. Mum knew what she wanted, Mum and Dad discussed it, and her wishes were made known to all of the people looking after her. I’m absolutely convinced that Mum wouldn’t have had a ‘good death’, without having these conversations frankly, honestly, and in enough time for her wishes to be carried out.

Since Mum died, I’ve blogged about grief a little, and heard from people all over the world, of all ages, who are going through a similar thing. The fact that I have heard from the variety of people I have, shows that there is a lack of conversation surrounding grief, because if my blog attracts these people (and I’m just one little person typing from my bedroom, onto a blog that I put no money into advertising), then people are clearly hunting out the ‘I get it’ of another grieving person.

I’ve found that when it comes to grief, so many people don’t know what to say or do with me. As many of my friends know – I’m as blunt as they come at times – I certainly don’t expect anyone to do and say, or not do and not say, anything at all, but I still feel like there can be a wall between me and other people sometimes. Weirdly, the people I’ve found most at loss of what to say have probably been services, some people in services are brilliant, but others blame things on grief that aren’t grief-related, ignore grief at times when it’s probably worth bearing in mind, and trot out generic lines which aren’t at all helpful. I know I’m not alone in this because I’ve spoken to other one-parent people my age who have found the same thing.

If there’s anything that comes from all of these celebrity deaths, I hope it’s that we can open up conversations around death, dying and grief. It’s something that I never really thought about until Mum became ill, but since her illness and death, it’s something I’ve realised is massively important. It’s important to have conversations with your loved ones about what you’d all want at the end of your life, it’s important to keep talking to your grieving friends, and it’s important to keep talking to others if you find that you are grieving yourself.

Happy Christmas

xmasHappy Christmas to you all with so much love from me and my blog.

I hope that you all have a lovely day wherever you are – whether it be alone or with family and friends, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not. I hope that you can be as happy as little me in this picture, and that if you’re not feeling that way , then your day is peaceful at the very least.

Christmas can be a tricky time when coping with loss, it can highlight the fact that someone is missing, I know I miss Mum a lot, so be kind to yourselves if you can.

I’ve donated to our Martin House fund in Mum’s memory this year because I can’t exactly get her a present. You’re more than welcome to do the same which you can do here.

If you’re feeling lonely, Sarah Millican is running her #joinin hashtag on Twitter again this year. The Samaritans line is always open, Blurt’s peer support group is there, and Beat have kept their helpline open again this year if you need someone to talk to.

This is to those of you for whom Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas.

This is to those of you for whom Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’m sorry that you are hurting.

I know that the ‘merry’ in ‘merry Christmas’ can feel as though it is mocking you.

When the whole world feels as though it is laughing, smiling, and celebrating, but those are the last things you feel like doing.

Crowded rooms can feel the emptiest.

Hugs can feel like they’re not quite tight enough, not quite long enough; never quite reaching you.

You smile but it doesn’t reach your eyes, and your own laugh seems distant and far away.

The pressure to be perfect can press down on your chest until you can no longer breathe and the number of people around can make your head spin. Occasionally you feel your mask slipping and you have to run to a bathroom and fix it before anybody sees.

Everybody wants to know what you’ve been doing all year and what your future plans are. That can be hard to answer when you’ve spent so much of the year in doctors appointments, hospital visits, and counselling sessions. It’s hard when your test results are medical rather than academic, when so many of your peers are patients or services users not students or colleagues.

It’s okay if your biggest achievement this year is survival. Fighting against the crap in your head, the illness that is determined to infiltrate your body, or the general difficulties that life insists on constantly throwing your way, is huge. It’s hard, brave, and courageous to continue to get up and dressed every day (or most days), when circumstances seem determined to destroy you.

Maybe you’ve lost someone this year. They might have died, or might have just exited your life. Maybe you lost someone last year, or the year before. Time doesn’t heal it, it just gives you longer to attempt to get used to it. Sometimes it makes it harder because the longer they’re gone, the more they’ve missed. Christmas can feel like it’s shining a light on the space that they’ve left behind.

It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to grieve for them. The fact that they have exited your life doesn’t mean that you have to erase their existence entirely.

Be kind to yourself this Christmas. Let yourself have some time off. It’s absolutely okay to cry if you need to. If you want to laugh, then laugh – nothing in your life cancels out your right to feel happy. Let people in; if you can, and if you want to. Let them hug you. Let them be at the end of the phone. Let them text you. Let them listen. Let them be there.

Maybe you’re feeling just fine. If so, then please: try to be considerate this Christmas. Please understand that not everyone will be happy, not everyone will want to share copious amounts of food, not everyone will be able to manage being around large groups of people.

Christmas is only one day, but it can be incredibly stressful for those of us who don’t feel able to tackle it. Mental illness, physical illness, or other things, can all affect people’s ability to ‘Christmas’, and more often than not, we’re not trying to be difficult, we just can’t do it.

I hope that you all have a peaceful Christmas this year. I hope that it’s as stress-free as possible. I hope that you get a little time with your family or friends and that it’s as enjoyable as it can be.

I’ll leave you with some Winnie the Pooh wisdom:

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
― A.A. Milne

Wallowing

You know that episode of Gilmore Girls after Rory breaks up with Dean and Lorelai is begging her to wallow but Rory just wants to stay super busy and then at the end she decides she needs to wallow?

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That’s how I feel about grief right now.

For a while everyone says ‘well it’s so soon’ and ‘you’re still experiencing the first of everything’ and ‘you’ve bounced back quickly’ and stuff like that and then grief just settles into this sort of monotony and everyone (including me!) goes on with their lives not forgetting but not really remembering either in quite the same way.

It almost feels as though for a year everyone’s been telling me to slow down/step back/be sad/whatever but all I’ve wanted to do is to get on/move forward/learn how to live again without the unpredictableness of cancer (because however unpredictable grief can be I can guarantee it’s still more predictable than terminal cancer).

It’s been working, too. There have been moments/days/the occasional weekend when I’ve cried more than others. It’s definitely not all been an upwards trajectory of ‘feeling better’, more a steady meander into ‘okayish’ via a few potholes and the odd massive dip… but on the whole I have been slowly beginning to feel a bit more ‘me’ again – dipping my toe into old hobbies, finally meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in yonks, allowing myself to smile and laugh again.

At the moment, it feels as though things are sliding. In truth, things began to slide and I didn’t realise, then I ignored them, then I pretended to ignore them, and it’s only been the past few weeks that I’ve been a little more forced to stop ignoring them.

Right now there is so much in the world that is making me so sad (and occasionally angry). Every day I seem to see or hear something that makes me feel as though I’m breaking all over again. Often it’s things in the news, or on my social media feeds, but sometimes it’s a song or a smell or a memory. All of a sudden I’m wanting to cry all of the time (again), and finding it harder to leave the house than I have done in months (except for work… the majority of the time work seems to break that particular spell), and I’m struggling to come up for air.

I want to be doing projects and organising things. I want to want to go out and do stuff. I want to want to get dressed. I want to want to jump in the car and go to places… but I don’t. I’m permanently exhausted.

I’m trying to limit my use of some social media sites/apps right now. I’m trying to be kinder and softer towards myself – surrounding myself with blankets/teddies/heat packs. I’m trying to get to bed on time, trying to let myself wear my new fluffy PJs (my old ones were at least 6/7 years old and it’s only taken a few months of almost flashing every time I stand for me to force myself to buy some new ones with some elastic that works…) and let myself sleep in the new bedding I finally persuaded myself to buy. I’m trying to give myself the hug that Mum would have given me.

I will get the me of a few months ago back again, I hope. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I know I have some amazingly lovely and wonderful people by my side to help me get there. For now, until I get there, I might just need to let myself ‘be’.

(PS. If you haven’t seen Gilmore Girls then I don’t even know what to say other than please go and get yourself a Netflix subscription and watch every episode ever made back to back. It’s important, I promise).


We’re currently fundraising in memory of Mum, one year on.
Here is where you can donate to Mum’s ‘one year on’fundraising page online.
If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

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Dear Mum, It’s Been A Year Since You Died.

Dear Mum,

It’s been a year since you died. 525600 minutes if ‘Rent’ is to be believed. ‘525000 moments so dear’ (quite what happened to the other 600 moments is anyone’s guess).

It’s gone fast in many ways, though part of that could be because I lost a number of months to depression, sadness, anxiety, or whateverelse you want to call it.

Time is a funny old thing. No matter what is happening, it continues. It can feel fast or slow, but ultimately, a second is a second, a minute is sixty seconds, an hour is sixty minutes. Time really does go on.

The world is a little darker without you in it. A little duller. Your laugh no longer bounces off the walls of the house. Your arms no longer gather me into a hug when I walk through the door. Your smile doesn’t greet me as I come up the drive. I’m remembering things with a positive slant. Of course it wasn’t always like that, especially when you were working late, or once you became ill, but who wants to remember the bad stuff? I still can’t believe I’ll never take another photo with you.

The depression is nothing new, you know that. Often, when you would wake me up on a morning, I would be crying – crying in my sleep, literally waking up on the wrong side of bed, having a bad day before I’d even moved a muscle. You would see me crying and give me a hug. You would get my clothes ready for me and remind me how to get dressed. You would feed me chocolate on an evening (because it could fix anything). You would only ever be a text away, even when you were ill. You would let me come into your bed in the middle of the night when the world felt dark and the nights felt never-ending. You would ask what was wrong but not expect an answer. Your calm, quiet understanding and love could carry me through the hardest of days and the toughest of nights.

I need a hug, Mum. Things were getting easier for a while but at the moment they are getting hard again and often getting from my bed to the kitchen feels like wading through treacle. It can be hard to move. Everything aches and I don’t know why. Maybe my body is missing you. I have to set my alarm earlier in the morning to allow for the dazed confusion when I can’t function or remember anything much at all when I wake up. Sometimes life can feel all over the place and I need a ‘Mum hug’ to ground me. A Mum hug to set everything straight. A Mum hug to make the world feel safe again.

I keep panicking that people are dying. You were the healthy one, the fit one. You ate well, had a normal BMI, exercised, never smoked, didn’t drink much… the perfect candidate for a long and healthy life. I look at those I care about now and see walking diagnoses. I panic when I get a text from Dad or one of the boys. I’m waiting to hear that someone else is ill or someone else has died. It’s only a matter of time.

A lot can change in a year, it seems. I’ve moved house twice, and well and truly moved out of the house I grew up in. I’ve started a new job – well, two new jobs, but one was short-lived. I think you’d like my boss and colleagues; they’re on your wavelength. Both J and I have passed our driving tests (finally!). J has started at a new uni on a new course, and from the significant drop in the number of texts I receive on a daily basis, I can only assume he’s enjoying it (or he’s got fed up of my lack of replies…). E has started sixth form and seems to be loving it. He’s met new people and worked out that every other week his frees align with his friend’s and they can all go round to someone’s house and eat pie. He’s found someone at school who went to his nursery – we looked for his nursery class photo but couldn’t find it. You would know where it was. Dad has started learning to swim front crawl, he’s joined the local AmDram, he’s continuing to use his share in an airplane fly all over the place (though never as often as he’d like), and he’s just about keeping on top of the selling FairTrade stuff at church. Pops has had a pacemaker fitted which brought a new lease of life – he’s back to emailing us little poems and procrastinating raking up the leaves in his garden. We’ve all ‘moved on’ in our own little ways – maybe ‘moving on’ is the wrong choice of words, but we’re all sort of continuing to live.

Someone asked me the other day if I ever talk to you. I don’t. What is there to say? It’d be a pretty one-sided conversation. I often talk about you as if you were still alive, though. It catches people off guard, sometimes. Most people have stopped asking now. Death is just a part of life, but not a part that people like talking about – as a palliative medicine doctor, you always said that people should talk about death more, and now I understand why. I don’t think that death is something which should be feared. I was talking about this with E the other day, we both decided that if we were held at gunpoint we would rather die than be seriously injured. Not that people who have had serious injuries can’t lead fulfilling lives, it’s just somehow more scary to contemplate that than it is to contemplate death.

I miss you. Many people say ‘time heals’, but time only seems to make it harder. It’s more time without you, more times where I’ve missed your advice, more time without a hug from you, more times that I’ve not been able to update you on my life, more times when you’ve not been on the end of the phone. It often feels like a gaping hole – I never knew that absence could hurt so much. The pain can be crippling.

Time has taught me how lucky I was to have you and quite how amazing you were. I hear stories from your friends, colleagues and classmates. I find your work online. Lessons you taught me come back to me when I’m going about my day. I take your values to work with me every day. I chat to people who never knew you, I describe my relationship to you (the ups and the downs, because it certainly wasn’t all plain sailing), and they remind me how lucky I was to have had a Mum as amazing as you.

I know you wouldn’t want us to spend time missing you. You would want us to make the most of every day. To take every opportunity and try our best in all that we do. You would want us to value the time we spend with each other, enjoy our jobs, and ensure that we play as hard as we work. You did all these things with such apparent ease. I have no idea how you kept everything going, I struggle with a fraction of what you did, but you did it. You worked hard, played hard, loved hard. An incredible wife, Mum, daughter, colleague, doctor, auntie, congregation member, band member and friend, right to the end.

I want to say that I’m sorry for not being more, doing more and achieving more. But I know you would tell me that my best was good enough and I need to be kind to myself. I want to say I’m sorry for not always being kind to myself – I’m not sure what your answer would be to that (probably a hug).

I’ll end this here. It’s very long and nobody wants to read all that. Plus, you can’t exactly read it so I’m not sure why I’m writing it. Maybe in a vague attempt to help someone else. Perhaps an effort to make sense of some of the crap filling up my head. I don’t really know.

I miss you Mum. Lots of love. Xxx


We’re currently fundraising in memory of Mum, one year on.
Here is where you can donate to Mum’s ‘one year on’fundraising page online.
If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Birthday Memories

It’s my brother’s bithday today. He’s 21. Does that make him officially an adult? If it does then the world should probably be a bit scared.

He’s down in Oxford loving life/studying/whatever it is you do down there. It’s his first bithday away from us. I’ve sent many things in the post (a blog for another time).

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J’s cake last year (before Mum stole a strawberry lace…).
Last year we had a party for J’s bithday. We did it the Friday before Mum died. We made homemade pizzas. I made Mum a tiny one with everything on top of it chopped up into teeny pieces. We made J a cake and Mum stole a strawberry lace off the top. She couldn’t move out of her chair independently, and slept a lot, but she was very much in the room. It’s the most lucid I remember her in those final weeks. It’s the last time I remember her eating solid food. A day or two later, she stopped getting out of bed at all. A week later she died.

Dad asked me what they did for my 21st, when trying to decide what to buy J as a present. I got a Pandora charm from Mum and Dad. I spent the day working on a residential and Mum and Dad came over in the evening. We managed to find a restaurent with good enough disabled access for Mum to manage. A month later we had a cake. It was my last birthday with Mum.

A few weeks before my 21st, Mum went into a coma. I remember Dad saying that maybe it was a good time for her to die. It had been very quick. My birthday could be something positive to look forward to after the funeral. I never have been one for making a big deal of my own birthday (though I love making a big deal of others), but I felt even less like doing anything that year. In the end Mum woke up and lived another 8 months. This year I didn’t do anything at all.

I don’t know what Mum would have done for J’s birthday this year. I don’t know whether ‘well Mum’ would have made a big deal of 21st birthdays. There’s a lot I don’t know.

We’re currently fundraising in memory of Mum, one year on.
Here is where you can donate to Mum’s ‘one year on’fundraising page online.
If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

#LightsUpMyLife

Hello lovely person who follows my blog or social media (or just happened to stumble upon this post, in which case hello and welcome, here is a little more about me, and here is a bit about Mum).

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Mum – continuing to support us with charity events, even when she was wheelchair-bound.

As you may know, I’m currently fundraising for Martin House Children’s Hospice. This post tells you a little bit about all of that, but essentially, I’m attempting to raise £5000 in order to improve the lighting in the corridor of the children’s bedrooms to both improve the general light levels, and highlight the artwork on the walls. I’m doing this in memory of Mum, a year after she died.

It’s an ambitious target, and we have lots of plans for events and other things to help raise the money, but it would be amazing if we could hit £1000 by the anniversary of Mum’s death (Sunday). To help us on our way with this, I’m starting a social media campaign. It’s not particularly original, but hopefully it will be effective.

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Our little family of five ❤

The idea is, to post a picture of something which lights up your life (we’re lighting up a corridor, and Mum lit up the lives of many people, so it seems fitting). It could be your child, your cat, a friend, a sunset, a bar of chocolate… anything which lights up your life in some way. As you post the picture, tag 5 of your friends to do the same (there were 5 in our family so it seems like a good number), and text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1/£2/£3/£4/£5/£10 to 70070 to donate to Mum’s fund, or, if you’d rather donate online, you can do so here.

Thank you to everyone who joins in with this, hopefully we can make a hug difference.

Xxx

How Do You Celebrate A Dead Person’s Birthday?

It was Mum’s birthday over the weekend. I asked my flatmate how you celebrate a dead person’s birthday. Perhaps with a caterpillar cake and a solitary candle, alone in a room somewhere. She said she’d join me on the cake.

It’s odd how arbitrary dates become meaningful when somebody dies. So many days have passed by since Mum died, most without a second thought, but the 23rd of each month, the monthly anniversary of her death, always sticks in my mind.

Mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer just before her 50th birthday, and it really wasn’t a ‘thing’. I was talking to someone the other day about how it literally wasn’t a big deal when Mum was first diagnosed. None of us thought it would ever come back. None of us were ever particularly worried about it. Mum had caught it early; she had a lumpectomy, and then chemo and radiotherapy. But we were told the chemo and radio were preventative not cureative. Mum would take a week off work for each round of chemo, and for radio she just nipped down while she was at work. Cancer round one flew past us and we barely blinked. It was nice to have Mum home a bit more, and she taught me how to knit, but beyond that life carried on as normal.

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That’s why, when the terminal diagnosis appeared, it was all a bit of a shock (at least to us, I think Mum had known there was something not quite right for a few months).

It was four years ago now that Mum was first diagnosed. It’s both amazing and horrible how much life has changed in that period of time. Four years ago I had never seen Mum with no hair, I’d never seen her in a wheelchair, fed her water through a sponge, or wiped her face for her when she couldn’t reach. I’d never made a tiny pizza cut into tiny pieces, made scrambled eggs, or cried into Mum’s unresponsive body. Dad had never sent Mum flying upon encountering a rabbit hole whilst driving her wheelchair, broken such horrible news to our family and friends, or driven to and from the hospital upwards of five times a day.

Even in the almost-year since Mum died, so much has happened. My brother got into Oxford, my other brother picked up a handful of GCSEs, and I got a new job. My granddad has been reinvigorated upon the installation of a pacemaker, my Dad’s flown his plane to new places, and my aunt and uncle have visited new countries.

24th September, Mum’s 54th birthday (or do you stop counting when someone dies?) passed, just as every other day has. People often say that they hope their loved ones are celebrating wherever they are but I’m not sure I believe in heaven, or an afterlife. I’m not sure I believe that Mum is alive in another world, space or time. I think she’s probably just dead. But her spirit and everything she’s taught us will live on in us.

One thing we have decided to do (which is perhaps a little cliché, but we’re rolling with it) is to raise money for charity. The local children’s hospice needs £5000 to install new lighting along the corridor by the children’s bedrooms, which will not only make it nicer for the children, but will also light up the artwork on the walls. Mum worked there for many years, before later becoming a trustee, and myself and my brothers have fond memories of spending time there while she was working. The hospice holds the values, vision, and beliefs that Mum held. It’s an ambitious target, but we’re hoping to raise this money through donations and fundraising. If anyone would like to make a donation in Mum’s memory, you can do so here, or by texting ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Featured: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/naomibarrow/celebrating-birthday_b_12199738.html

Remembering Mum, One year On

Tomorrow, September 24th 2016 marks what would have been Mum’s 54th birthday. October 23rd 2016 will mark one year since Mum died.

We’ve chosen to spend the next month doing what we can to raise money for Martin House Chlidren’s Hospice. Mum worked there for many years, before later becoming a trustee. They share all of Mum’s values, and do some absolutely brilliant work; providing care and respite for families facing harder times than most of us can ever imagine.

Martin House need around £5000 to install  new lighting in the corridor that links the children’s bedrooms which as well improving the general light levels will also enable the superb artwork that decorates the walls and ceilings to be better displayed. We feel that as well as being a very worthy course – it reflects the light that Mum brought to all of our lives.

We’d love it if you could join us on this (ambitious!) mission to raise this money over the next month, and possibly beyond. We don’t mind how people get involved – dontating directly, holding a coffee morning at work, having a swear box in the office… no donation or fundraising effort is too small (and if you need ideas or want to run it by us, feel free to message me!).

Thank you in advance for any help/donations you can give to this cause.

Here is where you can donate online.

If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Children Can Bring Light To The Darkest Of Days

Cycling home today, I saw a lot of Mums pulling various uniform-clad little ones across traffic lights, book bags trailing behind them. I also saw a couple of late-teens-early-twenties-aged-child-looker-after-ers laughing and giggling with their rabble, jumping and skipping along the road.

I love seeing it, it’s so lovely to see people happy and enjoying life.

It does make me miss the various little people (and slightly bigger people) I’ve been lucky enough to take care of, though. Growing up, I babysat for the vast majority of the village from the age of fourteen (being a Beaver Scout leader and having younger brothers helps with that!). I’ve lost count of how many lounges I’ve sat in, stories I’ve read, and games I’ve played.

Through volunteering, there are even more hours spent looking after children to add up. The hordes that have come through Beavers, Cubs and Scouts (at one point I helped out at all three, spanning two different troops), and those I worked with when volunteering with Shout Out Leeds, with Team v, at a school or two, play groups and church.

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When working in a toy shop for a few years, I met a lot of kids, some very briefly, but there were other more regular shoppers who I got to know quite well. As a student ambassador for a couple of years, I interacted with children and young people of all ages. With many it would be a ten-minute chat, or occasionally a day doing various activities. But residentials were the best bit of the job: whole weeks getting to know some incredible young people, being privileged enough to share their stories, hear their worries, and listen to their hopes and dreams. There are so many young people who I got to know really well, but who I will never see again.

Out of all of the children I’ve looked after, there are a couple who have, perhaps, made the biggest impact on me.

The twins who showed me that even though the world can be ridiculously rubbish, there are still smiles to be had, and Peppa Pig can fix almost anything. They showed me that what my body looks like doesn’t matter, so long as it’s healthy enough to take them swimming. They reminded me that baking can be fun, giggles are infectious, and that mess can be joyful. Their Mum recognised that things could be rough, cancer was rubbish, and hugs from little people were sometimes all that was needed to calm a storm.

The three children belonging to my friend. The youngest, born just a month after Mum’s terminal diagnosis, reminding me that life is cyclical and though people die, and it’s crap that they die, people also live, people are born, and life is precious. The middle one has enough energy to keep a power station active for a week and an imagination to rival that of acclaimed writers, who continues to show me that dreams are important and life isn’t as serious as you think. The eldest, an incredible footballer with a big heart, always outside playing with his friends – a continuous reminder that life is greater than these four walls.

Finally, the two boys who I spent Summer, Easter and Christmas with for three years. The boys who baked with me, swam with me, built dens and Lego models with me, ran down to the river, came to the library and tackled buses with me. The boys who took me to the Great Yorkshire Show, the Royal Armouries and Leeds museum. The two boys who let me kiss things better, let me hug them, let me care about them through a time when the world felt so uncaring. However rubbish my night had been, whatever crap was going through my head, however downright awful I felt, they never failed to lift my mood, show me how to smile and bring light to the darkest of days.

Kids are incredible (as are many of their parents!). I’m not entirely sure how/why their parents decided I was responsible enough to keep their little people alive, but I’m so glad they did. I don’t know how many of them will remember me when they are my age, but I will remember many of them.

Summer has come to a close, and I haven’t done a single day of childcare. It feels very odd. I’ve finally emailed my student ambassador job to let them know I’m not coming back, and had a lovely email in response. I miss some of these children a huge amount. I hope that I can see some of them soon (though a couple of them moved to Guernsey which is mildly inconvenient). I’m growing up and moving on and it’s impossible to take everything from my past to my future, I guess it’s just about recognising that these experiences will always be a part of me and my life – they have shaped me and helped me grow into the person I am today; they have got me through some really tough times. Moving forwards is hard, leaving things I enjoyed and loved is hard – but ultimately, it’s right.

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