Publishing my first book was always going to be poignant. When I wrote Ivy And The Rock, it was because my two girls had lost both their grandfathers – one before they were born, the other not long after. The text came from a poem I wrote for my dad’s funeral, who took his life in 2006 when I was 24.
Attitudes around suicide have changed, even since then, but there is more to be done. It’s not as often you hear people say, ‘my Mum died of cancer, but she was a lovely, wonderful, intelligent, warm person’. I still feel duty bound to explain what a wonderful, gentle, loving, supportive and lovely man Dad was when I talk about his death.
Incidentally, my mum did also die from cancer, a couple of months previous to me writing this. As I say, publishing my first children’s book was always going to be poignant. I didn’t realise quite how much, but that was 2020 for you.
I celebrated my 39th birthday last June by signing my first publishing contract, thus fulfilling a lifelong ambition. From there, these extraordinary times we continue to live in would make sure the sentiment behind my debut picture book grew ever more pertinent.
Mum lost a courageous, four-year fight with bile duct cancer in November which, until the pandemic, was never going to be cured, but was being managed. Her treatment was stopped amid Covid-19, the fall out chaotic. She spent her final year at home alone or in hospital with no visitors. We broke rules to be together. We fought collectively to bring her home, to stop her going back into hospital, to be with her when she left us, which tragically only one out of three of us siblings managed.
A matter of weeks later, my children’s 94-year-old paternal Great Grandmother also tested positive and then very sadly passed away too.
And how, then, do you explain the loss of people as familiar to your children as the blanket on their bed against an already ever-shifting bedrock of everyday life? I had the idea for Big Issues For Little People a few years back when my eldest daughter, now almost six, started asking questions about my dad and why he wasn’t here.
I wanted to create something which explained not only what it meant for Dad to die, but also how it felt for those of us left behind. I wanted to be up front about life’s most difficult subjects, and maybe in some way prepare them. Because, although it breaks my heart, I knew from experience that one day my girls would have to feel that magnitude of loss too.
I just maybe didn’t realise it would be so soon.
So here we are – I hope you like the site and that you can make good use of the resources on here with your own children if needs be. I hope you will share your stories of love and loss with me over time so that we can all feel better equipped in trying to be open and honest with our children for the sake of their own future selves.
I hope that Ivy And The Rock is the first of a number of books looking at life’s biggest issues in a child friendly way. I hope you are able to tell me about the kind of things you would like to be able to read about with your children yourselves.
And I hope you are still able to be hopeful, and happy even at times, regardless of the love and loss you will have undoubtedly experienced in your own lives too.