When your child dies, it shatters everything you used to believe was true; that the world is a safe place, that bad things don’t happen to good people and that children don’t die before their parents. Someone, somewhere has ripped up the rule book and your cosy, confined world is suddenly awe-inspiringly vast with possibilities.
After we lost Juliette eight years ago I stopped budgetting our money, no longer talked to people I didn’t like and avoided anything that wasn’t going to make me feel better. In one sense this was very liberating. I used to give too much time and care too much for the opinion of individuals who suddenly didn’t matter, and started to find gold in people that before losing Juliette I hadn’t noticed. I wrote a book. Never mind that writing is all I have ever longed to do since I was about 7, it took Juliette’s death to give me the confidence to do it.
It was a shock after three or four years to realise that in fact, nothing has changed. Or at least, I had changed beyond recognition but everything else was just as it had always been. It seems that credit card companies charge interest, even when your child has died. I had a close and loving circle of friends, but the world at large no longer gave me special treatment because of what had happened to me. I don’t have an automatic right to be published just because my book is about the daughter I lost. Watching Petals Fall has been and will be judged alongside books by authors who still have all their children.
So the old rules still apply. What I have lost and what I have gained is mine, and mine alone. The world has not changed and to move forward, I am bound by the same rules as everyone else. Whether this is fair is irrelevant because like Juliette dying, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. What I want to hold onto is that the depths I’ve plumbed are equal to the heights of my love for her. She taught me so much about seizing life and not to do so now feels like a betrayal.
I’m taking up my novel again and feel really hopeful once more that I can turn it into a story that people will want to read, and will be moved by. Juliette is sitting at my shoulder, urging me on.