August has been a month of memories. A bittersweet month full of memories of previous summer days out with Jessica and Sophie while making new memories with Sophie and Thomas. A month with happy moments albeit with a constant undercurrent of sadness and longing for our biggest girl. So many moments where one of us has said the words: “Jessica would have loved this.”
Our first summer without our beautiful big girl and our first with our beautiful baby boy. Joy and sadness go hand-in-hand for us these days. Each new memory we make brings back old memories. The longing for Jessica is always there.
We have started to regain our sense of adventure again. Doing the things we used to do as a family – setting ourselves challenges and getting out and about on family days out. Having two children in the back of the car once more – but not the same two children as last summer. Our world feels strange and new and forever incomplete.
We are starting to find our new identity as a family unit. A family unit where the fifth member is always there, always with us but mostly unseen. We carry her in our hearts wherever we go and we often carry her picture with us too so we can continue to include her in our monthly family photos.
This month we have been hunting for Gromits as part of the Gromit Unleashed 2 trail in Bristol. It’s brought back so many memories of a similar hunt three years ago – looking for Shaun the Sheep sculptures around London and Bristol with Jessica and Sophie. Seeing Sophie’s excitement at ticking off each sculpture and how much she enjoys using the app to tick them off and track where to find them reminds us so much of how much Jessica loved doing the same three years ago. So many of the locations have brought back memories. Memories which have made us smile and have also made us cry. That ache of longing for Jessica is always there and feels unbearable at times.
Sometimes it feels like there are little signs along the way that Jessica is still with us. Some of the sculptures have donation points to help fundraise for Bristol Children’s Hospital. Some of these are generic ones; others are for specific wards or departments. A couple of the locations where we decided to take a family shot had donation points. We didn’t notice them until after we took our photo but they were both quite significant ones. Children’s Emergency Department and PICU. Both places where Jessica had spent time – albeit in different hospitals – and places which felt part of her journey. A couple of the locations were close to where we’d taken a family photo or one that we’d particularly loved on our previous Shaun the Sheep hunts. Bringing back old memories while making new ones.
The end of this month and the beginning of next is a particularly hard time for us. Last week hubby had his first birthday without Jessica; next week we have Jessica’s first birthday without her which will also be the day that Sophie starts school. Grief has hit us hard lately and no doubt will continue to do so over the coming days. These first times without her are so very hard. We will get through it together, holding on to the beautiful memories that we have and reminding ourselves that Jessica is still there in our hearts even though she has left us physically. She will always be a big part of our family of five – the brightest star in our sky and the best big sister that Sophie and Thomas could ever have.