You first snuck quietly into my life when I was a teenager. You brought confusion and sadness—but inevitability, too, as I had long understood that older people died. That death was a part of life.
You and I became better acquainted on the day I turned 24, when my beautiful, inspiring cousin died, and the foundations on which my beliefs lay were shaken. For I realised that horrible things can happen to the very best of people. I carried you closer for the next few years, lighting candles in churches around the world to remember the loved ones I'd lost.
You were with me, grief, but you were only a tiny part of me, manageable, easy to ignore if I needed to.
And then, on 16th April 2013, you consumed me.
From that day forward, we have been inseparable. I no longer know where I stop and you begin. At times, I long to end our relationship. You are so very hard to live with. But without you, who would I be? Without you, grief, I would not bear the title of 'bereaved mother', something I am so proud to hold, even though I wish that I could simply be 'mother of three'. So I will never ask you to leave, because you are both the hardest and most precious part of me. You exist because she existed, and so I will try to cherish you as I do Maeve.
Spending so much time with you has changed how I see the world. Because of you, grief, I have seen true compassion, the kindness of my friends, and the immense strength of others living bravely with loss. My wonderful friends accept without judgement that you and I are a package now. I wonder if they sometimes wish I would just leave you behind. I think they understand that I can't, and they accept that I have less to give them because of all I must give to you.
Our relationship is exhausting, draining. You can make it hard to see the light, the positives. You fuel my self-doubt, and you are a constant reminder of the guilt I feel for bringing you roaring into my life. But at the same time, you give me clarity of vision, you remind me of what's truly important, and you show me that the responsibility I feel pales in comparison to the love and pride I have for my children. I believe you make me a better mother to all of my babies. And so, I am grateful for you.
Our relationship is lifelong, you are my shadow on a sunny day. We're stuck with each other, you and I. And so I am going to use you to fuel a fire of change, to do what I can to help others, to improve practice and to make the world a kinder place in memory of Maeve.
As long as we are together, grief, my heart will feel broken. But I have learnt that letting go of the hurt, and healing from this pain, is about making peace with what happened to me and to Maeve. Perhaps, one day, you will be a whisper rather than a shout.
Until then, let's face this day together, grief. Maybe today we can make a difference.