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).

A Quick Update…Dear Tosh and Other Things…

I was going to save some of this news for my actual newsletter but I want to keep everyone in the loop as to what has been going on.

First of all Dear Tosh has been shortlisted in The Selfies Book Award in the Autobiography and Memoir category. I am so thrilled about this and look forward to hearing the results next Tuesday 5th April. Watch this space only don’t hold your breath.

Secondly the lovely Clemmie Telford featured my list on her website ‘Mother of all Lists‘ and I had the most amazing response on Instagram with many people saying how much they could relate to the things I wrote. Especially those who have suffered adult child bereavement or sibling bereavement. I was overwhelmed by their comments and the love that poured out. You can read it here if you haven’t already.

Newsletter will be out next week and it will be coming from France! (If we ever get packed!)

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?

Note Number 14…14th January…a Significant Date…


Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.


It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.

He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall

There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost

I know

It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad

But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true

To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed

He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.

Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011

November: 1913, 1963, 1983, 2013…all significant dates…

Today, the 22nd November 2013 is a significant date for a great many people as it’s the 50th anniversary of the shooting and death of President Kennedy.
I have a few more dates in November that are of particular importance to me.

My lovely Mum in the 1940's I think.
My lovely Mum in the 1940’s I think.

I’ve already celebrated the first date, the 7th, it was my mother’s birthday and this year she would have been 100 years old. Such a shame she didn’t make it, she left us when she was 91, so a good innings. She was a great old lady and a very lively woman until she had a massive stroke when she was 85. Then she was wheelchair bound for several years but she still managed to get the most out of life. The nurses who cared for her in two nursing homes loved her. She was uncomplaining and carried a sense of humour with her everywhere. She died in January 2004 at which time she had been widowed for over 40 years and that brings me to the next date.

My Dad in I remember him.
My Dad in 1963…as I remember him.

The 28th November. In 1963 less than a week after President Kennedy had been shot my dear lovely Dad, or Daddy as I called him, was fatally injured in a car accident on a dark rainy night. He left the house to go out for a drink and a game of snooker with his best mate and he never came back. I was just thirteen years old at the time. I’ve thought about him so often since that day. Hundreds of events have occurred throughout my life and my dad wasn’t there to share any of them. This year it will be 50 years since I said goodbye. I still miss him. Fifty is too young to die just a little older than Kennedy was.

Twenty-seven is also too young to die, but sadly that’s how old my son Tosh (Thomas) was when he left us nearly three years ago (Jan 2011). The 22nd November (today) marks the third anniversary of the last time that I saw him alive, we spent a few days together in the UK with other family and then a few precious hours just the two of us, I didn’t realise at the time how precious those hours would be but I am truly grateful for them now. Lovely memories. The 30th November this year would have been Tosh’s 30th birthday. The three years have gone pretty quickly and it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. There’s been a wedding in the family and a new baby. Time moves us on, relentlessly and every day I can find a moment to celebrate his short life.

Tosh (Thomas Hartley) My love son.
Tosh (Thomas) My lovely son.

I can’t do anything to change any of the things that have happened but I wish I had known my dad better than I did. At thirteen I hadn’t had the chance to get to know him as a person other than my dad. I don’t even know which football team he supported but I’m sure he must have supported one as he was keen on football and he was a very good amateur referee. I know he smoked Senior Service or Players cigarettes without a filter and I remember he couldn’t play the piano very well because our family have joked about it for years. I think he had a pretty good sense of humour, but that is about it! Perhaps my brother and sister can enlighten me further as they are older than me. I’m always reminding them of that; younger sisters are meant to be annoying!

I intend to make as many notes as I can about my life for my children and grandchildren. It’s not a vain thing to do it’s just that I’m sad that I don’t know enough about my parents and grandparents and now it’s too late to find out from any primary sources. All my aunts and uncles are now gone. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be left wondering.

I'm adding this picture because I love it! I love the clothes, the style, it's a great photo! From the left, my dad, my mum, Uncle George and Auntie Florence (my mum's sister)
I’m adding this picture because I love it! I love the clothes, the style, it’s a great photo! From the left, my dad, my mum, Uncle George and Auntie Florence (my mum’s sister) I have no idea of the date it was taken.

My mum (front) and her three sisters, Florence, Pip, and Vera (from the left). Sadly they've all left us now.
My mum (front) and her three sisters, Florence, Vera, and Pip (from the left). Sadly they’ve all left us now. Vera was the youngest and my mum used to shout ‘Vera!’ at me by mistake when she was cross with me!