18 months. 18 months of having to live without our beautiful big girl. Part of me wonders how it can it be 18 months already, but then sometimes I look back and it all feels so long ago. It’s such a horrible feeling – that life with Jessica can feel so distant at times. There are days when the memories are fuzzy and I look at photos and videos to try and regain that sense of realness once more. Hating the fact that life with Jessica can feel dream-like when I want to remember it crisp and clear. The thought that I might forget frightens me. I know I won’t forget Jessica – I could never do that – but I don’t want to forget the little ordinary moments of life with her; the sound of her voice; her smile; the way she and Sophie would play together.
I guess we’re learning to carry our grief as time goes on. We’ve picked up the shattered fragments of us and glued them back together as best we can, with one piece forever missing from the puzzle. Moving forward together as a family, carrying Jessica with us. Allowing ourselves to laugh, to smile, to find happiness in the little things. Trying to live our lives as Jessica would have wanted us to and making happy memories with her siblings along the way.
Some days we manage it. And on other days, there is just pain, and loss, and longing.
The storms of grief, when they come, are as fierce and strong as they ever were. Sometimes we can anticipate the storms; other times they spring up almost from nowhere. We’ve learned not to fight the storms. Sometimes we even welcome them. There is beauty in the storm at times and it can be in the deepest, darkest moments of my grief, that Jessica comes close once more. I wouldn’t wish the storms away. They are fierce and strong because my love for Jessica is fierce and strong. And sometimes I need to feel that pain because it tells me that Jessica matters. And she will always matter.
A very wise friend who is 30 years further down this road of child loss told me this:
On the days when I carry my grief more easily, Jessica is beside me, watching as I go through the day. Then, just as my other children do, she has moments when she needs my complete attention. Those are the moments when the pain is raw and the ache for her feels unbearable. Those are the moments when she is standing in front of me, calling to me, “Mummy, I’m here! Look at me, listen to me!”
And like her siblings, if I don’t respond to the call for attention, she will become louder and more insistent. Because she deserves my attention, and my time, just as much as her siblings do.
So now in those moments when it all feels overwhelming, I remind myself that this is Jessica’s time. This is when I have to stop, and allow myself to feel the pain and cry the tears I need to cry. To let the memories wash over me. This is the time for me to give Jessica the attention she needs from me as her mother. ‘Mummy-Jessica time’ as she used to call it. It’s not Mummy-Jessica time as I want it to be, but thinking of it in that way has helped.
And in the storms, and the tears, and the pain and the anguish of longing, I remember my beautiful girl and her sunny smile. I remember her laughter and the way she would snuggle up to me. I remember her strength and the joy she brought throughout her life. And I hold those memories close and cherish them. Holding Jessica as close as I can. Because she lived, loved and mattered. She is ours and we are hers, and she is loved more deeply than words can say and missed so very, very much every moment of every single day.