Okay, so now it’s my turn…
Like Adam, this blog has been difficult for me to write. I have previously hidden behind blog posts that come from the two of us (although I am usually the author) and it is a little daunting putting a blog out there that is just me. My experience. My feelings. My thoughts. Gulp.
I cannot even begin to describe the day that Adam’s sister died. Nothing will ever prepare you for the sudden death of someone you love. The range of emotions you go through is just unbelievable. From anger to devastation to confusion. To be honest, everything about those first few days is a blur. So much happened in such a short space of time. We were close friends. More so in the year before she died. It was so great to get on so well with my partner’s sibling. It just felt so unfair that she died. We were the same age. The injustice of it all really effected me.
One of the hardest parts for me was seeing the person I love have their heart broken. And there was nothing I could do about it. The greatest piece of advice I could give someone who is trying to support their partner through a bereavement is let them be. I’m not saying this is something that I did particularly well. But I always tried to just be there. Everyone processes their grief in different ways and it’s really important to understand that.
I managed my own grief in my own way. Most of the time it really helped to be with Niece and Nephew. To see their Mummy living on through them. But other times I just needed time to be Jade. To have a bath (I am a water baby). To go out with the girls. To sit in my book corner undisturbed and read a book. But then sometimes, out of nowhere, I would be crying like a baby in my car. Everything would just hit me and I’d be like “She’s actually dead. Forever”. It was overwhelming. It still is. I really don’t think grief ever leaves you. I don’t think it really gets easier either. You just understand your grief a lot more as time goes on and are better equipped to deal with it. It definitely changes who you are though.
I would constantly put pressure on myself to appear perfectly fine all of the time. I felt like I had to be strong for Adam and the kids. If anyone is familiar with that episode of Friends where Ross finds out about Rachel and Joey and is like “I’m fine. I’m totally fine. I don’t know why it’s coming out so weird, because I’M FINE”. That was me. Sometimes I was fine. But it took me longer than I’d like to admit that to realise that these thoughts were ridiculous. That it’s okay not to be okay. That talking to my friends and family about how I was feeling actually made me feel better. A problem shared really is a problem halved.
Putting ourselves forward to become our Niece and Nephew’s guardians was an easy decision to make. Despite only being together for three and a bit years at the time, I just knew we would be great at it. It was only two or three days after Adam’s sister died that we met with the first social worker. She scared the crap out of me. She put so much emphasis on us having to have our own house because we were living with my parents at the time. I remember ringing my Mum afterwards, saying “We need to find a house! Find us a house! Do it now!!” Obviously my Mother is far more level headed than me and suggested that the kids moved in with us. She totally understood that we needed as much support as we could get. Her and my Dad then spent that weekend rearranging our house (my Brother’s bedroom had to be changed to the dining room) and building a bunk bed. Heroes.
I remember so well one of my friends saying to me “is this definitely what you want?” That took me off guard. I did have to think for a moment. Is this definitely what I want? Without a doubt.
As Adam mentioned in his blog, the Special Guardianship process was so draining. I felt so much pressure (noticing a theme here?). I have a degree in early years, care and education. Basically a degree in how to look after children. I must’ve said to every single person who asked me how I was finding everything “well I do have a degree in it!”. Obviously I didn’t actually think this. I was totally deflecting. Nothing can prepare you for parenthood, regardless of how you become a parent. But I really do think that it helped me with certain things, like supporting them with phonics, understanding the importance of routines and supporting their emotional literacy.
The constant meetings with the social worker, solicitor, CAFCASS guardian and judges were bloody nerve wracking. The social worker and CAFCASS guardian met with us and other family members at my parents home on several occasions as part of the Special Guardianship assessment. One moment that still sticks out in my mind is when the social worker asked to see our Niece and Nephew’s bedroom. I remember being all flustered and telling her to ignore the mess. As we walked up the stairs she asked us “Do they have a bed?” Well, that stopped me in my tracks. Do they have a bed?? Of course they have a bed! That moment made us realise the depth of this assessment and also reassured me that the high amount of pressure I put on myself could be relieved slightly. As Adam mentioned is his blog, that final meeting with the judge was just insane. Standing up and answering the judge’s questions was terrifying. But the judge’s final speech was just unbelievable. I wish we had a copy of it.
Being a Special Guardian is the biggest challenge I have ever faced. Being thrown into parenthood within a matter of days took a lot of adapting. My life had completely changed. Most of the difficulties are normal for any parents, dealing with a tantrum or sibling conflict for example. I question a lot of the parenting decisions that I make. Is this what their Mummy would have wanted? Do I have the right to make these decisions? Yes I do. It’s actually pretty crazy how similar mine and Adam’s parenting styles are. That was a real risk when becoming Special Guardians; what if we had completely different attitudes and values?! Thankfully that wasn’t the case. There are obviously are so many positives too. Seeing our Niece and Nephew grow up being the greatest of all. It is so rewarding and it makes me insanely proud to see the amazing children they are. Their Mummy would be so proud too. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I get to witness those moments and she doesn’t.
Let’s get one thing straight: I never will be, nor am I trying to be their Mummy. It makes me feel so uncomfortable when people refer to me in that way. Although I do sometimes feel like I am having to live up to her. But then I give myself a pep talk and realise that that isn’t the case. I just hope that she will be proud of everything I have done of these past two and a half years. I’m not going to lie, it is difficult being a parent without being “mum”. It’s probably what I have struggled with the most. It’s hard to see all of those ‘mum tribe’ or ‘mum goals’ things all over social media. It makes me think “where do I fit in?” Sometimes I feel incredibly lonely. I see everyone around me leading completely different lives and it’s hard not to compare. But then I remember that I’m not alone. I have Adam. I have a great family and friends. I have Niece and Nephew!
My future is obviously going to be taking a completely different path to what I originally thought. I have a lot more to consider now. So many of my decisions are based around Niece and Nephew. Like any parent. So many people ask us whether we want to have children at some point. Obviously! Being guardians hasn’t changed that at all. Having a baby and being Mummy is my dream. And it will definitely happen one day. One fear that I have for the future is the teenage years. About how their Mummy’s death will impact upon Niece and Nephew. I am fully prepared for “you’re not my Mum!!” to appear at some point.
I’m going to round this up by talking about the one person that has been my rock throughout all of this: Adam. Not many relationships would withstand what ours has. There have been so many ups and downs throughout the past few years. But I am totally in awe of him. He is an incredible role model for Niece and Nephew. We have been through so much darkness together but somehow always manage to come out of the other side. So if he could just put a ring on my finger that would be MARVELLOUS. Hint hint.