The issue is me? Facing my anxiety.

I will never forget the first time I went to speak to a counsellor. The room was small, there was a musty smell in the air, the decor was very bland. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would be emotionally exhausting.  The counsellor came to the waiting area and called my name, the 3 metre walk to the small room, in where I would be baring my tortured soul, felt like it took about an hour rather than just a few seconds. My hands were clammy, my heart racing, chest tightening, legs feeling super weak and I could already feel the tears pricking my eyes.

After signing various paperwork (confidentiality agreements etc…) the counsellor put 60 minutes on the clock and we began.

The counsellor gently asked “So, why are you here?”

My rambling started.

“Well…I am anxious and depressed…I feel like it is taking over every day…I don’t know what to do…I have anxiety attacks and I end up so upset…I had a series of strokes so I know it stems from that period…I can’t walk properly anymore and that upsets me…I feel like I am letting my son down…”

The counsellor did not look phased one bit! “So tell me about your health issues, take your time.”  The rambling mode softened and I explained about my physical health, about the strokes and about the decline in my health with the chronic health conditions I had been diagnosed with. The counsellor sat and listened, taking notes which I was desperate to read!!

As we drew to the end of that first session the counsellor said “do you realise that your anxiety towards something is in fact the result of how you react to the situation? when you are going through a depressed period it is down to the way you have reacted to an event or situation?” I sat there looking slightly baffled, was I being told this was all my fault? Is that what this all meant? Surely this wasn’t what counselling was about, being told you are the problem?

It was time for the session to end, I thanked the counsellor and said I would see them the following week. I left the offices feeling a strange sense of “did that happen? is all this my fault?” Over the next few days I spent time thinking about situations that triggered my anxiety and recalling depressive episodes and looking at how I got to that place. Suddenly it all made sense. It WAS all down to how I reacted. If I could adjust my attitude towards situations would that help? All I could do was try. Over the next few weeks I gave some serious thought about my attitude. I realised that when presented with a situation, I would focus on my pre-conceived idea or feelings about what was happening and because of that I would end up extremely anxious and then the usual cycle would continue and I would then feel depressed.

Example.

  • Invited out for a meal with friends
  • Accept the invite but then start telling myself that people would stare at me and judge me due to my walking stick and slower pace of mobility
  • Think each day about being judged whilst out in public
  • Anxiety kicks in. Chest pains. Head aches. Insomnia. Quick breathing and feeling like I was going to collapse.
  • Deciding the best idea would be to not go out for the meal.
  • Stay home, the anxiety softening but then feeling depressed because once again the anxiety has won and I have missed out on going out with friends.

It was such a tiring situation to be in and suddenly I had this idea that maybe the counsellor was right. Over time I started to adjust my attitude to situations and unbelievably I felt so much more relaxed, The anxiety was much less and therefore reducing the depression.

Example with an new attitude.

  • Invited out for a meal with friends
  • Accept the invite. Look up the location and check out the accessibility
  • Plan what to wear etc…
  • Continue to feel grateful that despite health issues I am still able to get out and about!!
  • Tell myself that having a mobility aid is nothing to be ashamed about. If having a walking stick is the difference between going out and staying in then surely the walking stick is a great help.
  • Remember that if someone stares it is usually due to good old basic human nature, people see a stick and wonder what is wrong with you, like I said that’s just some peoples nature.
  • Go out with friends, enjoy myself and plan another event soon!!!

 

So these days my diary is much fuller as I don’t hide away and let my brain take over and keep me from enjoying life. I looked at the way I reacted to situations, broke those feelings down, looked at why I would feel certain ways and I created new ways to look at things.

I now have a far more positive attitude and all because I realised that the counsellor was right. The anxiety and depression is still there and I think it always will be, however, the good days now far outweigh the bad and I seem to have a good hold of how to treat situations. My attitude to everything in my life is the key thing that contributes to how I handle things, some days I tell myself “come on, look at the positives that could come from this!”

My advice to anyone who lives with anxiety or depression is that you must take the time to assess the situations you know will trigger an episode, how do you feel about the situation? how can you change your attitude? will changing your attitude create a better outcome to a situation? Know your triggers and deal with your attitude, then hopefully you will successfully create much more balance to your life and seriously reduce the stress on your mental health.

 

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So I took a year out….now I’m back!!

Well well well!!! Hello there!!! It has been over a year since my last blog post and now I find myself back here and raring to go! I think it is best to start with an explanation of where I have been. Quite simply I have been off and just being me and getting comfortable and adjusted to life with my health issues, both physical health and mental health!

Towards the end of last year I realised that my anxiety was slowly taking over my thoughts and encroaching on my life to such a degree that I needed some help. I came to the point where I was ready to seek help and do what I could to get ‘back on track’. I undertook some counselling and also a wellness course, the wellness course completely changed my life and this year I haven’t had a severe attack of anxiety/panic….the kind where I am on the floor and feel like I can’t breathe!! I now say I LIVE with anxiety and depression rather than I SUFFER, because I have accepted that these conditions are part of my life, I know more about how they work and how I can help myself when I start to ‘wobble’. I will speak more in depth about my mental health and coping strategies etc…in future posts.

So why am I back now?? Well I have missed blogging so much and have toyed with the idea of coming back for a month or so, but then yesterday I attended an amazing event hosted by BBC Radio 5 live called #MUMTAKEOVER I came away feeling so empowered and with the desire to resume blogging and to have a voice once more and so here I am!!

The #MUMTAKEOVER is all about mums and mental health, talking about our experiences and reaching out to others to receive support and also give support. You can find out more about #MUMTAKEOVER HERE

You can also check out my moment in the spotlight where I talk about feeling guilt as a mum at the 28 minute mark in the video HERE 

 

GOPO 12 week challenge – Week 10 Update

Hello there everyone!! Well it’s been a while since I posted here on my blog, mainly due to the fact that we have been having so much fun during the summer holidays!!! Ethan is such an adventurous 6 year old and we’ve had some really fun adventures, we visited the fabulous city of Cardiff for a few days and we have just returned from a camping adventure (Ethan’s first camping trip!)  at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it was absolutely brilliant!!!

Anyway, I am 10 weeks into the GOPO 12 Week Challenge and I truly feel that the results I have had from taking these supplements have greatly contributed to the comfort I have felt whilst out and about on our trips. There is a definite improvement in my joints, I’m not feeling as much pain and I have been able to reduce the amount of prescribed pain relief medication I take. Being able to reduce the pain medication is a winning factor for me as who wants to stay on large doses of strong prescribed pain relief???  This natural alternative is far more beneficial in my opinion.

It goes without saying that I will continue to take these supplements once the 12 week challenge finishes. My pain is definitely worse throughout the winter months (sunshine does me a world of good, the cold ….well that just hates my body!) and so I will be interested to see how my joints hold up this winter now I am taking these supplements!!

Goodbye for now folks, off on another adventure soon and so need to get preparing for some more fun!!!  I absolutely love this feeling of knowing I can go and do fun things with my son and know that now I have something that works for my joints I don’t have to worry about pain ruining our days out!!!

 

 

GOPO 12 week challenge – 3 week update

Just over 3 weeks ago I started the GOPO 12 week challenge (check out my earlier post HERE for an intro to the challenge!)  GOPO supplements contain rosehip and vitamin c and are taken to support the health of your joints. I may have been slightly cynical at first to be honest, I suffer so badly with my joints I felt I was beyond help! However, I have been pleasantly surprised and somewhat shocked that they seem to be really helping me.

Over the last fortnight I have noticed a real difference in my joints, they aren’t as painful, they don’t seize up as much. My mobility has definitely been much better than usual and I have been able to use my wheeled walker on some occasions where previously I would have to rely on my mobility scooter. I have also felt I have more energy and have therefore been able to do more with my time. After 2 years with my M.E and Fibromyalgia I have figured out when I need to rest, I focus on planning my schedule according to rest periods etc  and now with the supplements appearing to work for me I am able to get my activity and rest balance just right!

I will update again in another few weeks. For information on the supplements please visit www.gopo.co.uk

I’m shaving my head! Brave the Shave 2016

Well the title of this post pretty much sums it all up, I am having my head shaved!!! EEEEKKK!!!!! I know many people would feel terrified at the thought of it but I am so excited and can’t wait for the ultimate trim!!

I never have the same haircut twice, each time I sit in the hairdressers chair I request something different from my previous cut. I do not fear the clippers, I have had one side of my head partly shaved, the back shaved, a line shaved into the side of my hairstyle, I have often said to my hairdresser how I would love to have a shaved head.

One day last week I had this idea, ‘I’m going to take part in Brave the Shave‘ I announced to my very supportive mum!! This is a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan are an amazing organisation, when my nan Mary was battling pancreatic cancer we had an amazing Macmillan nurse called Phil Whelan, he specialised in Pancreatic Cancer and is based at Liverpool Royal Hospital. Phil was a really nice guy, funny, entertaining, supportive and he explained everything in a way that we could understand. For people like Phil to continue the amazing work they do they need MONEY!!! Macmillan needs continuous funds to keep up the amazing work and so fundraising is a huge part of that.

For many people going through treatment for Cancer, hair loss is a common side effect. One that I simply cannot imagine. Having no say in what happens to your hair. We are kinda used to seeing a man with a shaved head, but what about women!!! Can you recall the last time you saw a women with a shaved head? or a women wearing a head wrap?  what were your initial thoughts? did you think ‘cancer’?  or maybe you thought they looked a bit ‘thug’ like with a shaved head? These are all initial responses that after some research I have realised are very common. I have chosen to shave my head, to raise money for Macmillan along the way and then funds can be used by Macmillan to support those experiencing hair loss and changes in their appearance, to support those going through diagnosis and treatment, to provide nurses to be there just like Phil was for my family.

It is 3 years now since my nan passed away after her brave fight with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. If she was here now she would tell me I was crazy, she would probably plead with me to not have my head shaved, saying “ooohhh don’t be so silly!!”. Yes it’s a little crazy,  yes I will probably have people stare at my shaven head, but at the end of the day it is nothing compared to what the millions of cancer patients go through each and every day!!

I will be having my head shaved on Saturday 30th July!! If you are able to sponsor me, every penny counts, it really does, then you can do so at my Brave the Shave page here

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An emotional mummy moment! my ‘baby’ grows up!

It is now just 5 weeks until the summer holidays. I am so excited to have some wonderful adventures with Ethan over the 6 week holiday and to make some fabulous memories! Come September Ethan will be back at school and starting year 2. Over the past week or so I have found myself very weepy at just the thought of him being in year 2. Yes, at the moment I am one very emotional mummy. I must admit that I can shed a tear very easily at sentimental moments, beautiful songs, moving videos etc… and at the moments the tears keep falling when I realise just how quick Ethan is growing up. I’m mummy to a 6 year old….6…..!!!!!!! It really does seem like just a year or so ago since our very first cuddle

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I remember when he was just a few hours old, I had him laid in front of me on my bed on the maternity ward and I was telling him that we were going to have so much fun together, he lay there, a little 6lb 13oz bundle, new to the world and the greatest gift I could ever receive.

Fast forward 6 years and I feel the same emotion now than I did when I very first laid my eyes on him. This year he has been very poorly, he developed a condition called ‘pyomyositis’ which is basically an infection in the muscles.  The muscles around his hips were very infected and he was very septic, thanks to a wonderful team at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital he got the treatment he needed and he made a full recovery although for a short spell he was unable to walk and no one could guarantee that he would walk. They were very scary days and I will forever be thankful for the amazing care he received at Alder Hey.  To now see him running around the school yard with his friends, well that makes me very happy!

As we head towards the end of his time in year 1 at school I can’t help but reflect on his time at school so far, he started in the nursery unit there at age 3 and he has grown so much in confidence and in character. I remember him coming home and excitedly telling me he could read the word ‘cat’, nowadays he loves to curl up on his bed and read a Horrid Henry book to himself!  My ‘little baby’ reading a book!!!  Then I realise that although he will forever be ‘my baby’ he isn’t actually a baby any more, he’s a young boy. A boy with his own thoughts, ideas, opinions and dreams. A boy who each day is growing and making me prouder and prouder.

I don’t think anything prepares you for all the emotions you go through as a parent. To see your child growing from a tiny little baby who depends on you for practically everything to a young child who can read and write, it is a wonderful experience. I now realise that when I have a weepy moment over Ethan growing up, it isn’t because time has gone so quickly, it is quite simply because I am so proud of him and that they are also tears of joy because I am so excited of what lies ahead for us in the future.

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pain pain go away! The 12 week GOPO Challenge

I am 33 years of age but most days, thanks to my chronic health issues, I feel 93! Sitting down is easy, standing up…well that’s a challenge. The aches and pains are something I seem to have just got used to, I take a handful of medication each day to keep me ticking over and to help keep the pain levels at a minimum. Whilst I am thankful that there is medication to help me, I’m not thankful of some of the side effects that I seem to suffer with and for several months now I have been curiously researching more natural alternatives to help with the pain.

I have recently been made aware of GOPO Joint Health Capsules and was intrigued to find out more. These capsules are made from 100% natural rosehip. This rosehip is specially cultivated and contains a high level of “GOPO”- a component which is said to be extremely effective in contributing to the good health of joints and joint tissue.  The capsules are free from yeast, gluten, wheat, dairy and lactose, this is also beneficial for me as I seem to have become intolerant to a lot of dairy products lately. The ingredient list is super short (much shorter than a lot of my pain relief medication!!)  rosehip, vitamin c (sodium ascorbate) and gelatin. The gelatin forms the outer shell of the capsule and can be discarded if you decide to sprinkle the capsule contents over food as opposed to swallowing whole with water.

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After reading up on the product I decided to embark on ‘The 12 week GOPO Challenge’, I am interested to see how my body reacts to these  supplements and if there is any positive effects on my joints. This isn’t about necessarily replacingthe medication I take already but it would be great if I could at least reduce the amount that I have to take.

I have now started the challenge and for the first 3-5 weeks the dosage is 3 capsules twice a day. Then after that it goes to a maintenance dose of 2 capsules twice daily. I am just a few days in and so I don’t have anything to report as yet but I will be posting an update here on my blog every 2-3 weeks.

For more information on this product you can visit the website by clicking HERE

Disclosure: I was provided with a 12 week supply of this product in order to take part in the 12 week challenge and to review. I am not being paid to review this product and all views are my own 

The Mummy Tag

I have been tagged in ‘The Mummy Tag’ by the fabulous Katy Gibson. Hopefully the questions in this tag will enable you to get to know me a little better.

 

Are you a stay at home or working mum?

I am a stay at home mum at the moment, due to my various health issues I am unable to work. Throughout the 6 years since Ethan was born I have been a stay at home mum, a working mum and a mature student mum. In 2014 I had a stroke and my health has been poor since then and so our lives really have changed quite a bit.

Would you have it any other way?

Tough question to answer really. If my health hadn’t taken a turn for the worse then I would have graduated with a degree in tourism management and hopefully be working in that industry now. However, being unwell and now living with chronic health issues, although I am physically weaker I am mentally stronger. It has also made myself and Ethan even closer than we were. We have such a strong bond and we really are best friends.

What is your one must have item for your child?

When Ethan was a baby my must have item was muslin cloths and now 6 years later…..they still are!! I constantly use them as a mini picnic blanket when he is eating otherwise we end up with crumbs absolutely everywhere!!!

How many kids do you plan on having?

Just the one. In all honesty having kids wasn’t in my life plan. I had never thought about it. Then one day I woke up and had the most painful boobs ever!!!!! I decided to take a pregnancy test and it showed up positive and at my first scan I discovered I was actually 31 weeks pregnant, huge shock!!!  7 weeks later Ethan was born!!

What’s your child’s favourite show?

Ethan loves watching youtube more than TV, he loves the youtuber ‘DanTDM’ as he is a huge fan of minecraft and he thinks Dan is absolutely brilliant!!! When he was younger he loved ‘In the night garden’ and ‘balamory’. Together we love to watch ‘Full House’ and ‘Fuller House’.

Name one thing you bought before you had your baby that you didn’t end up using?

I don’t think there was really anything I didn’t use at all. I bought Tommee Tippee bottles for feeding but within weeks I switched to Dr Browns as I found them much better and Ethan wasn’t as ‘windy’ when drinking from them.

Your child’s favourite food?

At the moment Ethan is loving coco pops, I think it is because the milk goes chocolatey! He loves pizza but it has to be a mini pizza from the Co-Operative, their own brand, I think it is about 60p and there are never any leftovers when he has one of them!!!!

Weight gain before pregnancy, during, after and now?

I actually lost weight in early pregnancy. I was attending weight watchers and I had no idea I was pregnant and I lost about 2 stone!  Once I found out I was pregnant (at 30 weeks) my bump suddenly appeared, I had quite a neat bump and only gained about 1stone. On the maternity ward I was the only one who didn’t still have a bump after giving birth. Pregnancy weight soon came off but now 6 years later I am much heavier (I am plus size), I have issues with my weight linked to my medication and I am physically unable to be as active as I have been previously. I have further health issues that need addressing at the moment and once I know what it going on I hope to start my weight loss journey again.

Dream holiday with the kids?

Inter-railing around Europe! This is something I really hope to do with Ethan. I love to travel and see new places and meet new people and I hope Ethan grows up with the same passion. I would love to take this trip with him in the next few years.

Dream holiday without kids?

It would be with my mum, in a nice traditional village in Spain, enjoying the local vino and tapas.

How has your life changed since having kids?

I now see how how selfish and self centred I could be previously. Now I have Ethan he is at the heart of everything I do and everything decision I make. He has changed my life for the better, he makes me a better person.

Finish the sentence. My heart melts when….

Ethan helps me. I have mobility issues and often struggle to just sit up or stand up, Ethan sees this and always comes and helps me. He knows when to call for more help, he understands there are times I need rest etc…. He is a very caring and understanding little boy and I am so proud of him.

Where do you shop for your kids?

George at Asda are without a doubt my favourite place to shop for Ethan’s clothes. They are fashionable, good quality, the sizing is good and they are very affordable. School trousers and polo shirts are always from there, very hard wearing!!! I also like Primark, they have some great summer wear this year and I have stocked up on shorts, tee shirts and vests for Ethan! ..

Favourite make up and skin care products?

Garnier micellar water and the Garnier 7 day intensive moisturiser are my favourite skincare products. They are gentle on my skin and they leave my often troublesome skin feeling fresh and soft.

Huggies or Pampers?

I actually used Aldi nappies and they were absolutely brilliant, all the way through from newborn to toddler pull ups, very well priced too!!

Have you always wanted kids?

As I said earlier, I never really though about having kids, it wasn’t really on my radar. I can’t imagine not being a mummy now though 🙂

Best part of being a mummy?

The endless cuddles, adventures together, seeing him grow and develop into a confident child, the list is endless. When he hugs me and says I love you, that is the greatest feeling in the world.

A huge thank you to the fabulous Katy for the tag, I now tag the lovely Becky .  Please head over and take a look at their blogs, they are both awesome x x x x

Goodbye nanny. Grieving with a child.

Losing a loved one is quite simply just heartbreaking. Mourning the loss of that person can be very difficult, and even more so when young children are grieving too. It is now 3 years since my Nan, Ethan’s great-Nan passed away and when I look back over that time I realise just how right I got things with Ethan when explaining Nan’s illness and subsequently her passing.

In early 2012 my Nan, Mary, got jaundice, we giggled with her saying she looked like someone from The Simpsons. Nan was never unwell, I don’t ever recall her having a cold! She visited the doctor and they said they suspected she had gallstones and they would send her for a scan. It was nothing to worry about. We weren’t worried.

What happened next was a huge shock, it wasn’t gallstones, it was pancreatic cancer and worse still, it was terminal. This couldn’t be happening, this happened to other people not my Nan, not my family, she couldn’t die, surely they had got it wrong. The specialists explained that palliative chemotherapy would hopefully keep Nan as comfortable as possible but realistically we were looking at 6-9 months. My world came crashing down, I had always been close to my grandparents, we lived with them, 4 generations living in one house! I felt so lucky that Ethan was being raised in a house filled with so much love with his mummy, Nan, Great- Nan and Great-Grandad, but that was going to change, his Great-Nan was going to be gone, how would I explain all of this to a young child.

Ethan was only just 2 years old when Nan was diagnosed and so he was too young to understand what was going on, but when Nan had a day when she felt rotten and would be in bed he would always go and cuddle her and I always told him “be careful, Nanny Mary has a poorly tummy’. Nan was a true fighter and soon 9 months had passed, she had bad days but she was still going out shopping etc… she knew that time was limited but she never dwelled on it she quite simply just enjoyed the time that she did have. Christmas 2012 was a turning point, Nan was in and out of hospital and we all knew that our time really was limited, I knew that this would be our last Christmas, she was deteriorating and I realised that somehow I was going to have to prepare Ethan for what was to come. I didn’t want to overload him with lots of information, he was so young but I felt I needed to prepare him for the day we would be waking up and Nan wasn’t here. I found a way to help start explaining things to him, we started by watching the Disney film ‘Up’. Now this film is a comedy adventure about Carl Fredricksen, he has a lifelong ambition to visit South America and he fulfils it by tying 1000’s of balloons to his house and floating there. Yes, funnily enough this movie introduced grief to my child. Early on in the film we see flashbacks of Mr Fredricksen with his wife Ellie, we see them falling in love, buying their house, having lots of fun, planning an adventure to South America, but then we see Ellie become sick and she dies, Mr Fredricksen is extremely sad but he vows he will make their dream trip to South America happen. Ellie dying in the movie became the starting point for preparing Ethan for losing his Nanny Mary. Over the space of a few months we watched UP several times, I would say “ooh let’s watch the movie with the floating house” and Ethan would happily watch it over and over again. Each time I would start to chat with him about the character of Ellie dying, explaining that everyone dies at some point, some old, some young and although it is very sad to lose someone we will always have our memories and when we feel sad we should just think of a happy memory.

Around May 2013 it was quite clear that we didn’t have much time left with Nan. One night as I put Ethan to bed I told him that Nan was just like Ellie from the movie, she would have to go and live with the angels because they needed help looking down on everyone. His response was so clear, he looked at me and said “if nanny Mary goes to be an angel she can look after us”. This innocent 3 year old boy understood, he understood that our beloved Nan would have to go soon. I was so proud of him.

June 4th 2013, we knew it was just a matter of hours. Nan was with us at home and at this point was mostly unresponsive but I still felt she knew we were there with her. Just before 6pm Ethan was getting ready to go upstairs for a story and bedtime, I told him to go and give Nanny Mary a kiss, which he did. He was never phased seeing Nan unwell in bed, never scared. When we went upstairs I said to him “remember when we spoke about nanny Mary going to live with the angels? Well she will have to go there soon”, I will never forget his reply, “OK mummy, can I have some juice?” As I made my way downstairs to get his juice I heard my mum shout us all to ‘come quick’, I rushed into my Nan’s bedroom and there, at 6.04pm, surrounded by her family my Nan passed away. About an hour passed and I realised I hadn’t taken Ethan his juice, I went back upstairs and he was fast asleep in bed. I finally made it to bed around 3am and Ethan woke up as I climbed into bed, “Mummy, is nanny Mary with the angels now?”. I scooped him up, cuddled him next to me in my bed and said “yes she is, so she will be watching us all the time”

The days that followed were some of the hardest days we have faced as a family, Ethan was very laid back about things though, he kept us laughing, he gave my grandad a reason to carry on without his wife of 50+ plus years, he gave us all a reason to keep on going I guess. Nan’s birthday, Christmas etc… we buy a helium balloon and Ethan goes in the garden and lets it go, he says he is sending it to Nanny. Sometimes we send a balloon for no reason, just to remember her. He loves Mr Kipling angel cake slices and he thinks they are made by his Nanny Mary and the angels, I don’t quite have the heart just yet to tell him they come from a factory!

He is now 6 years old and we still talk about Nan every day, she is mentioned in conversation at some point. Ethan will often talk about a memory he has of Nan or he will ask a question about her. We have had times where he has had a cry and said he misses her and I have explained that it’s OK to cry, to miss someone, to feel sad, but we should always remember all the happy things about that person. We still watch ‘Up’ every so often and Ethan always remarks that Ellie is just like Nanny Mary!

In a way I think that helping Ethan through the loss of a loved one actually helped me with my grief too, I saw things through a child’s eyes, it was easier to remember all the good times.

I know this has been a long read and so thank you if you made it this far! I wanted to write this as I think sometimes we avoid talking about death and grief and how we cope. I know not everyone would explain things the same as me but this is the way that worked, and continues to work, for us.

Diary of an imperfect mum