Dear Jessica (18 years old),
It’s the 23rd May 2014 and you’re rushing out of your school assembly hall after sitting your second A-level exam. You can’t wait to drive home to change out of your school uniform. You run down the stairs and quickly shout goodbye to your mum and dad but of course your mum will have to see what you’re wearing and determine if it’s appropriate for the weather. She tells you off for wearing sandals as it’s too cold outside, but you sigh and roll your eyes whilst swiftly leaving the house. You meet your friends for pizza and drinks (now that you’re of legal age to drink alcohol, you had to celebrate with your friends after completing an exam!).
You have a great time with your friends, and you decide it’s finally time to go home. One of your friends had planned to stay at your house that night so you both jump into a taxi and text your mum telling her that you’ll be home soon.
As the taxi approaches your house you can see that the utility room light is on. That means that your mum is awake downstairs waiting for you with a cup of tea and toast to help sober you and your friend up. This was also her time slot for her next batch of medication.
You and your friend walk into the house through the back door into the utility room and then into the kitchen expecting to find your mum waiting. She isn’t there. You notice the hallway door in the kitchen is open slightly. You find her lying there. She’s already gone.
Your body goes into emergency mode screaming for your dad and brother to wake up and do something, anything. You forget your friend is here. Your dad and brother sprint down the staircase whilst your friend calls 999. You stand there frozen. It feels like time has stopped.
The next few days will be the most difficult days you will ever experience in your life to date. You are surrounded by loving supportive friends and family, but you just want to be left alone in your bedroom praying your mum will walk through your door at any moment.
You have to help plan her funeral, what she wears and if you will speak at her funeral service. You were incredibly brave and decided to a read a poem at her funeral in front of hundreds of people. You realise how loved your mum was and also how loved you were by so many of your friends attending. Suddenly you sense that your childhood has been ripped away from you yet the thought of having to sit another A-level exam in the following week lingers in the back of your mind. You were desperate to go to university but now it doesn’t seem possible. You felt numb.
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The day of your exam arrives, and you put on a brave face trying not to show any emotion as your future depends on this exam. You quickly find your desk and bury your head into the exam paper. You avoid making eye contact with anyone. A teacher approaches you to inform you that you have an extra 15 minutes. You didn’t take the extra 15 minutes for that exam or the last exam you have next week. You were too angry to take the extra time. You wanted to be treated like everyone else.
Fast forward to September and you’ve just picked up the keys to your university halls bedroom. You can’t believe you made it! You start to unpack but you’re too busy watching other students with their parents helping them unpack and settle into their room. You are full of anger and jealousy. These emotions will appear more often during the next few months and it’s totally normal, you must know that.
In the next month you receive bad news. Your uncle has suddenly died. He dies of a heart attack, just like your mum. You find yourself standing at both of their graves, side by side. You are confused, angry and helpless but mostly you are tired. You don’t understand why this is happening. You think over and over again “why me?”. These years are supposed to be your happiest and most carefree but instead grief takes control.
In the next few months, you will be attending therapy sessions provided by your university. You are very sceptical at the beginning and will find the process extremely difficult to digest. You soon let your walls down as well as allowing yourself to show and feel every single emotion possible. It’s a huge release and life begins to shine that little bit brighter. You start to feel like yourself again.
Four years later, you gain a first-class honours degree and graduate job in London. You pack your bags and fly over to the big city to start a new chapter in your life. You are open to new opportunities and meeting new people. You know deep down that this would have never happened if your mum had never left you. You have worked so hard for this and feel immensely proud of yourself. You’re no longer that 18-year-old lost little girl.
You take your grief in your stride. You seek professional help whenever you recognise that you need it. You learn to talk to your friends when you feel low. You slowly develop into an emotionally intelligent young woman with a lot of empathy for others. You are able to connect with people and build beautiful relationships. Your mum’s death has shaped you in a way that no other death can.
Grief is something that you will carry with you throughout your whole life. It’s there when you wake up and when you go to sleep. It’s there when you’re faced with challenges when all you want to do is curl up into your mum’s arms.
Birthdays, anniversaries and Mother’s Day will become less painful throughout the years. You learn to remember the memories and laughter you both shared together. It’s a time for reflection of how far you’ve come. You discover that journalling really helps you gather and process your thoughts on these days.
This is a letter to say that, Jessica, I am so unbelievably proud of you. You are an inspiration to not only yourself but others. You are very strong and capable of whatever life throws at you. Please remember that it’s ok to cry and allow yourself to be vulnerable even though you want to fight against it. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. This is all part of the healing process that you will go through for the rest of your life.
I know that someday you will be a great mum, just like her.
Lots of love,
Jessica (27 years old) x
How to get help
If you’re struggling with grief right now, Winston’s Wish is here to help and here to listen. Winston’s Wish provides support for grieving children and young people (up to the age of 25). We offer one-to-one and group support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline and email service where you can talk to bereavement professionals.
If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.