Two Years On And . . . A New Letter to Tosh. . .

Today it’s twelve years since we lost Tosh. I thought the pain of grief would not be as raw now as it was in the beginning but sometimes it just jolly well is. It’s been a difficult month, with the weather being so dismal and I felt a little low. But, I spoke to my son in Thailand a couple of days ago and told him how hard I was finding it this year. He asked if I wrote to Tosh at this time of year, bringing him up to date with the family and world news the same as I had during the first year and when writing the book Dear Tosh. It felt like a good idea and I actually smiled at the prospect.

At the end of the book I’d signed off,

Love you and miss you Tosh.
Bye for now. I’ll write again soon.
Mum xx

I had every intention of writing again soon, but I didn’t. Getting on with life took over, and I never got around to writing another letter until today.

Dear Tosh,
14th January 2023

Today I woke up late, feeling muggy and tired. I’d been dreaming about eating, probably because I’ve been trying to lose weight so cutting down on my intake of carbs. As soon as I opened my eyes I thought of you. Most days I think of you first thing and then several times again throughout the day. Twelve years ago we were on our way to Porto, to the hospital. We had to get from Italy where we were living at the time. I was trying to remember how we go to the airport at Bologna, we must have driven but I have no recollection of the journey there or much else. I spent a few days in a world of numbness and confusion. The last letter I wrote to you was on the 1st February 2021. I cannot believe two years have almost passed and I’m sorry I have not written again before today. But here I am. I’m sitting at my desk in our cottage in Dorset. Through the window I can see the driveway of the farm opposite, the barn and the stables. Yesterday the sun was shining but today it’s raining and windy once more. The weather so far in 2023 has been dismal. The rain causing floods everywhere in the Southwest and further afield. You wouldn’t like it — it’s not good weather for graffiti!

Let me give you a bit of an update from January 2021. When Geoff and I returned from France in May 2021 I published my book about you called Dear Tosh . It’s the 27 letters I wrote to you for the 10th anniversary while we were staying in Caux, South of France. A lot of people have read it and it has helped many people come to terms with their own loss. I think you’d be very pleased about that.

I’ve not written anything big since your book, I’ve tried to write a novel but haven’t had much success. I find plotting very difficult! At the moment I’m sticking to short stories and poetry, which I find less stressful to write.

Geoff and I went to France again in 2022 and stayed near Lorgues in Provence. It was a beautiful area and Geoff did loads of cycling. Unfortunately, just before we were due to come home he fell off his bike on a cycle path, broke his collarbone, a few ribs and had a nasty concussion. Bad eh? It was quite nice for me and Jpeg the dog though, because he came walking with us for the last two weeks of our trip. Jpeg loved that! He’s back on his bike now though, albeit indoors because of our awful weather. He does 45 mins in the morning and I do 30mins of keep fit with a Youtube video. Fabulous Fifties — who am I kidding!

Sadly Jpeg died at the end of August 2022, she was thirteen and a half, so she had a good life. She was a well travelled dog. Even though you never met her I know you would have loved each other. We had her cremated and then took her ashes back to the farm in Italy where she had found us all those years before and you had convinced me we should keep her. On our way to Italy we stopped at the small village in Lorraine, France, where some of your ashes are in a beautiful village cemetery overlooking the French countryside. I shed a tear or two, I love the headstone there because it has your photograph on it. We left some of Jpeg’s ashes behind the stone so that she could be with you.

World news over the last couple of years is dire. Russia invaded Ukraine. The Climate Crisis is taking hold. I know you would be definitely behind any cause that would save our environment. There’s flooding, war, starvation . . . the world doesn’t get any better. As for the UK well it’s a disaster right now. We had three Prime Ministers in 2022! Everyone is on strike, the NHS is falling apart. We have gone back to the 1970s. I won’t say any more as it’s too depressing.

I think about you every single day, more than once, we talk about you all the time and look at pictures of you, when you were little and as a grown man. Of course I can only imagine what you would be like now. Forty this year! It doesn’t seem possible. But then again we’re all getting older year on year. Your eldest brother will be fifty this year — now that’s really something. I cannot possibly be old enough to have a fifty-year-old son. We are going out to Thailand to celebrate with him as are Emily and her girls. It will be a lovely couple of weeks. Geoff and I are going to take the opportunity to travel to Laos and Cambodia while we’re close.

Today we are trying to be upbeat about the anniversary of your death. Thinking of so many good things. We’re going to have a lovely meal, I have a new toy, an air fryer (I keep calling it an air dryer ha ha) and I’m roasting lamb, Persian style, with yoghurt and spices. I’m celebrating your life and know that if you were still around, I’d be chatting to you about my new air fryer and all the things I can make with it.

Miss you as ever.
Lots of love
Mum xxx

PS I tried to get a couple of walnut whips today so that we could ceremonially eat them, but couldn’t find one anywhere.

I know you loved them. I think Emily has been successful. I hope so.

Dear Tosh. . . One Year On

This time last year I was excited for the launch of Dear Tosh at 19.30 UK time. We, Carla Jenkins and I, had rehearsed how we wanted the launch to go and it was worth putting in the effort. Apart from a couple of minor problems (technical) it all went very smoothly. You can catch it here if you didn’t attend or just fancy another look.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of the book I gave away a signed copy to a lovely person who I met only this week in the beautiful village of Cailhau in France where The Man and I are staying for a few days. We go back to Provence on Monday and then back to England on the 10th June.

The book was well received and I’m happy to say that there are copies of Dear Tosh all over the world. The reviews have been amazing and I’m thrilled to think that the book has brought a little something into the lives of so many. If you haven’t yet got a copy you can order it from any independent book shop or from Waterstones HERE or Amazon HERE (audio version and ebook available from Amazon as well as the paperback).

Writing to Someone you Have Lost…

There are a great deal of posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and podcasts etc., all about loss and grief. It is spoken of more often today than in the past. Especially over the last couple of years it seems. We are encouraged by social media to talk about our losses and share our feelings..

Last Friday, the 14th January, was the eleventh anniversary of the loss of my lovely son Thomas Hartley. Last year I wrote a book about him and for him, for the tenth anniversary. This book is called, Dear Tosh. This year, I didn’t write another book, but The Man and I went to Dartmouth and visited Dittisham where I used to holiday with my children when they were all younger. It was a trip down memory lane. 😊

I try to write in my journal every day. Here I can write what I like and not worry about anyone reading it. . . not until I’m dead anyway. In my journal I can be honest, say what I really think but even then I hold back a little bit, just in case I leave it somewhere and another pair of eyes read it. I don’t like to, pour out my grief on social media, but sometimes I just write a paragraph or two hoping people will understand what it’s like to lose a child, even when that child is 27. Writing about it does help. At least, I think it does. I wrote my book as a tribute to Tosh, I didn’t publish expecting it to become a bestseller. Dear Tosh is slowly finding its way around the world and I’m happy to report that readers have reached out to me, often saying the the book has helped them with their own loss, or they finished it and gave it to someone else they knew who had lost a child.

This year I have found the anniversary of his death harder. Many people would say that’s not right, and that by now I should be okay. I should be ‘moving on’ and forgetting about the past. But I just don’t think that’s possible. My daughter and I exchanged text messages yesterday (the 15th January). She was feeling upset about things and I told her this: I feel low too. . .almost worse than yesterday. . .It’s like I don’t want the anniversary to be over. . .it just means I’m even further away from Tosh. 🙁 She replied: Yes I totally relate to the further away thing. It’s weird isn’t it?

I wonder if other bereaved parents and siblings feel the same way? It’s as though you cannot or don’t want to let go. Clinging on by your finger tips to stop them slipping away.

I miss writing to Tosh, that’s the format of my book, twenty seven letters written to him. I have missed writing him those letters, and I think I’m going to write a few more. I did scribble a note to him while we were away for his anniversary. I used the hotel’s headed note paper and told him what we were doing and how things were for me. I folded it up and put it in my journal and I felt better.

I firmly believe that writing ‘stuff’ down is good for mental health. One can write in a notebook, on a computer or even a scrap of paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not. It can be so therapeutic; getting things out of your head and onto the page. But. . . I have an idea for my blog readers. Why not try writing a letter to someone you have lost. A mother, a father, a child. . . anyone whose loss has affected you. Write them a letter or two, or more. Tell them what has happened since they died. Tell them things you wish you had said to them when they were alive. Ask them questions — you may find the answers to those questions just by writing them down — speak to them, tell them your thoughts. I’m sure it will make you feel better.

I’m going to write to my father who died well over fifty years ago. Who will you write to?