WE WILL ALL BE STARS
- MY STORY
Right now, I am working on a picture book for children about bereavement. My own story is a sad one, but this gives me the opportunity to start a conversation with children about loss and how we can find ways to remember our loved ones and keep them alive in our hearts.
I would love to think that a child might pick up my book and see the character of little Flo looking back at them. Perhaps they wonder why I’m looking sad, and perhaps this starts a conversation with their grown up. My hope is that it would encourage a child to open up and talk about their own feelings. Even better would be for them to realise that if I found happiness and acceptance then it’s possible for them too. Even sad stories can be filled with love.
When I was four my baby brother died at just 6 months old. It was a cot death, pneumonia. My family changed forever. My parents were devastated and from that moment on I was never allowed to mention his name. His name was Duncan.
In the days that followed I remember spending a lot of time at Auntie Maureen's around the corner. It was all so confusing, and I had nobody to talk to about it. Nobody could bare to talk. Years later, whenever I thought about it, it felt as though I had lost both my brother and my mum on that day. For a long time, I felt as though Mum resented me whenever she looked at me. I was a constant reminder of him. She loved me of course and showed it in every possible way, but she was unable to give me what I needed the most – the opportunity to talk about my brother. Over the years, I tried to ask her questions, and she refused to answer. I now understand – as much as it’s possible to – that she couldn’t give me answers because she and my dad were in the most unbearable pain.
When I was 15 Mum died of breast cancer. For a long time she tried to hide it from me, but when she became so ill that she couldn’t keep it hidden for much longer, it all came out in an argument – one that I had started. By now, I had two sisters - Helen aged 11 and Nancy aged 8. I was the big sister, so I had to be strong. My grandparents had Victorian attitudes as far as emotions were concerned. We don’t cry, we don’t get upset. I wasn't even allowed to cry in front of them the night that Mum died. The 24th December 1985. Instead, I had to sit at the table in silence, and eat my dinner, one painful gulp at a time.
In my story book, I have a star which I can see and talk to. The star guides me and will always remain a constant in my life. Fin the dog is another friend that I talk to and he gives me unconditional love. I find other children who are sad and that makes me realise that I am not alone. The star is also my brother, but I don't realise this until the very end when a whole family tree of stars appears. The message throughout the book is a positive one, yet it doesn't shy away from the truth. My intention is to be sensitive and honest, and as my audience is 4-5+, the wording will be chosen carefully.
I now have the most wonderful 5-year old niece. Her grandparents and uncle are her stars. She says goodnight to them every night and I have created a family tree for her so that her family exists forever in ink.
After all, we will all be stars one day!