Over the past seven years I have been asked to talk to children in schools, young people in colleges, and academics and professionals about knife crime prevention, bereavement and resilience, victim care, trauma, and trauma recovery. It is not easy to talk about what happened to Josh and the impact it has had on my life, but I do it because I promised Josh that I would. I promised him that I would do all that I could to help others in his memory.
My passion for change is driven from deep down within me and when I picture myself seven years ago today standing patiently outside the bar where Josh’s body lay for 15 hours before he was taken away to the mortuary as his life was taken from him in an unprovoked attack, I promised him that I would make him as proud of me as I always was of him. I have spoken to thousands of people about Josh over the past seven years sharing his story and my life with and without him. From the very moment when he was born, his first breath and the way he felt on my chest as we touched for the first time, to the last day that he was alive and the way his life was taken. I talk about his first word, Mumma to the last words he said to me, I love you mum, the latter of which I should never have to talk about as he should be here living his best life.
Being a mum to Josh for 21 years was a gift and a blessing, and one which I will be eternally grateful for. But the pain of living without him and knowing how he suffered is excruciating and leaves me speechless. I pore over every conversation and over every experience that we shared, some make me cry, like holding his little hand when he was a toddler walking down the road. I would smile down at him while he looked up at me feeling safe and protected. But now and after years of practice they mostly make me smile, as Josh was funny, his laugh was infectious, his heart was big and he gave his love generously.
Over the past seven years, I have met so many people who have come into my life during different stages of my grief. Most have said that they can’t imagine the pain and suffering that I live with every day and others have said they would have given up and died. When I hear their thoughts and fears I agree with them because, to be honest with you I don’t know how I push forward, I just do. There have been too many times to mention where I have thought that my heart would stop because the pain in my chest hurts so much. In moments like these, I have even thought please just stop it would be easier as I wouldn’t have to face another day. “Broken heart syndrome” also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, is real and people do die from broken hearts. I ask myself if my heart is broken why does it keep on beating? While it is comforting to read and hear that a person who is in such profound pain and who is grieving the loss of their child is starting to move forward with life, the struggle determination and effort it takes for them to get to that point is indescribable and it is usually hidden behind closed doors because no one can understand unless they have experienced the same.
When I sit alone with my thoughts about the enormity of what has happened to Josh and the reality of my life, like writing this blog on Josh’s seven-year anniversary, I have to push them down. When I meet people for the first time, I have to push away the stigma that comes with me ‘the lady whose Son was murdered’ and speak openly and truthfully about my grief and about my darling Josh in an upbeat way to save their pain. When I talk about Josh, I see it as another opportunity for someone who never had the privilege of meeting him to do so through me.
So many days when I open my eyes, I wish that I was in Heaven with Josh and straight away I feel utterly selfish because I have my daughter Brooke, my grandchildren, my family, and friends to think about. And here in these moments I feel like I am only ‘halfway living’, half here in this world with my pain, and half there where Josh is, somewhere beyond my comprehension. I think about this place of beauty that Josh occupies every day and what it must be like to live without pain, and I pray that he is happy and ask him what it is like there.
But while I am here my grief and pain which is my love with nowhere to go, keep me close to Josh. Being close to my pain and the rawness of my loss allows me to feel closer to Josh as my love for him is eternal and as long as I live Josh will live in the hearts of others too.
Time heals some wounds, but it will never take away my pain. Josh’s untimely death seven years ago today feels just the same today as it did then, but I will continue to push forward in memory of him.
God bless Josh
#sevenyearstoday #forever21 #grief #grieving #bereavedmum