I’m writing to you at age 26, which might sound old, but life is just beginning for you. You have a great job, you went to university (and got two degrees!), you have an adorable cat called Ian and an amazingly supportive boyfriend called Sam.
There are a few things I’d love you to know so that you can be prepared for them when they happen.
You’re bullied, a lot. Mainly by a boy who calls you ugly, stupid, and annoying (but then you bump into him in a night club when you’re 20, he doesn’t recognise you and asks for your number lol), but it will hurt every day for months, years. You will grow up wishing you looked like your friends who got more “likes” on their photos, they seemed to be able to speak to anyone, and you will question your self worth over and over. You are neither ugly nor annoying, but it will take you a few years (when you’re around 18/19) to realise that. Oh, and you’re definitely not stupid.
You grow up to be a confident, intelligent, open minded, funny, empowered, self-assured, considerate, body positive, driven woman. People will unfortunately take advantage of your openness. There will be one man in particular who you trust at the time, but years later you will realise he did some really bad things to you and your body.
You will have a couple of boyfriends that make you sad a lot of the time, but this makes you understand what healthy relationship behaviour is, and you will find that healthy support, communication, and unconditional love with Sam. He will really help you to love and embrace yourself to the fullest extent you can.
Next I’d like you to know that family struggles will happen. Grampa will die suddenly and unexpectedly and it will be really difficult. You’ll learn to take solace in knowing his last moments were sitting on the sofa next to his wife, with a pint in his hand, watching Have I got News for You.
Dad will do something that seems unforgivable at the time and you will spend so long feeling pure anger towards him. It’s quite a complicated situation which is why it takes you three years to speak to him again, but you will come to an understanding of why he did what he did. He will apologise and become a better parent, and he will make effort to rebuild your relationship. Which is really important considering my next point about Mum.
She will be diagnosed with cancer in December 2016. She gets really unwell and you don’t know how to help, which is really, really tough. It will seem that she gets better, but she will unfortunately die in 2018. That period will be the most difficult and emotionally challenging time of your life. Watching Mum’s health decline is going to bring this intense agonising pain that just will not go away. You will hate being at home because of the intolerable condition she is in, and you will hate being at work because you’re not spending time with Mum. It is a really conflicting time and you won’t feel listened to or cared about. You will think about and miss Mum every moment of every day. That’s normal, but some people won’t get it. They won’t understand your grief process and they might assume that because you have a positive outlook, you’re “getting over” Mum’s death. You’re not getting over it, you’re learning to live with it.
Nothing will prepare you for how scary Mum’s actual death is. She dies in bed at 3pm on a Saturday in March, after the most intense snowstorm the UK had seen for decades. You will find that no one tells you about what happens with a death at home, for example, it’s pretty gross and smelly.
Your journey with grief will be a rollercoaster and you will lose yourself in it. You will lose friends, passions, motivation, confidence. And after Nan dies a year later, it is so hard to get back.
Your grief will become all-consuming for a short amount of time. It will be made worse by the external pressures from family members about what they believe you should be doing with your life. You will get overwhelmed, upset, frustrated with these moments and you will hate those conversations, but you’ve got to have them and I’m sorry about that. You’ll find that people have their own ideas on how you should do things, without knowing your full story or circumstances, which makes their input super annoying! Their intentions are good and they’re trying to promote the best for you, but they come across as insensitive and it will negatively affect you.
You will go to therapy (two separate counsellors), at first you will find that it’s a bit awkward and confusing to open up to a stranger, but your second therapist is incredible and she will help you piece your life and identity back together. You’ll laugh, cry, and share things you’ve never felt able to say out loud.
You and Sam will move to London and both find careers you love. Yours enables you to shape and support young children’s minds, and you’ll find a way to express your grief and heartache that helps other people who find themselves in a similar position. You’ll find a community of people who understand and support one another, and you’ll love them.
Let your picture be taken, smile more, and remember that sometimes people won’t live up to your expectations. You are a really good cook, you have a great sense of humour, and I am so proud of you.
All my love babe