Update: May 2023
October 2023 will mark four years since Jess, then aged eight, lost an exceptionally short battle with leukaemia. In many ways I can remember like it was yesterday, yet life as I know it has changed immeasurably since.
You never get over something like losing a child – I think most parents would agree it’s probably the worst thing imaginable. So after the initial shock and all the stages that early grief brings, my outlook has been that we need to try and make something positive come of our huge loss. Raising awareness has also helped to keep Jess’s memory alive, and being the diva she was, I’m fairly sure she’d have approved.
So over the last three years, along with friends, family and Jess’ old school we’ve done all sorts to raise money and awareness – including charity runs, gaming marathons, sponsored events at school, writing a poem book (check out Amazon for a copy of In Our Shoes). The list goes on. I was delighted that Jess even had an award named after her which is presented to a pupil each year. She never got to go the primary leavers’ party with her friends, but that didn’t stop her friends making sure she was there with tributes, cakes, awards, speeches, memory boards and fundraising too. Jess would have approved I’m sure.
But as much as we try to keep Jess’ memory alive, life after Jess goes on too, it has to. And seeing first hand how fragile life is has made us want to pack as much as we can in. So we try to make the most of every opportunity and do new things. Of course, moving forward comes with challenges; firstly we’re filled with guilt that Jess will never get to experience new things and we’re reminded of all that’s she’s missing. Then secondly we’ve met new people along the way who know nothing about the family we once were. I’ve still not fathomed out quite how to introduce us as a family, what to say when someone asks if you have any children. And then telling the tale with dry eyes is a whole new challenge again!
So to that end, I still document our journey, tributes, special occasions, support we’ve had and all sorts of other memories through the Team Jess website which I set up after Jess passed away. Whilst it’s quite a personal tribute, I hope it will help to raise awareness, support fundraising and maybe even offer some support or ideas to the countless other families who sadly endure what we do.
Jess was bold, brave, beautiful and not scared to stand out from the crowd. I hope by speaking out about our story we’re keeping her spirit alive in a way that reflects her personality.
Jess’s mum, Jill, May 2023