Brendan Cox has spoken movingly about his late wife Jo, ahead of a series of national events to celebrate her life and work.
With the first anniversary of the death of the Labour MP due to fall next month, her husband said that the past year had been “incredibly painful” but organising a range of projects in her memory had helped him with his grief.
He has written a memoir about Jo, who was murdered on June 16 last year by far right extremist Thomas Mair, as part of a new book – ‘Jo Cox: More In Common’ - commemorating her life and causes.
Brendan has also driven a project called The Great Get Together, to mark the anniversary weekend with a series of street parties, bake-offs and other community events backed by the Royal British Legion, lifeboat stations, Scouts, Guides and other groups.
On Tuesday, he urged all the political parties to take an hour out of campaigning in the general election to show cross-party support for community-building charities in their areas.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, he said that his own memoir, written during sleepless nights in recent months, had helped him come to terms with his own loss as he raised their two young children, Cuillin and Lejla.
The book will cover Jo’s early life in Yorkshire, which she went on to represent as MP for Batley and Spen after the 2015 general election, as well as her work with charities such as Oxfam.
It will raise money for the Jo Cox Foundation, which was created to promote the causes she held dear, from tackling loneliness among the elderly to helping get more women into Parliament and highlighting the plight of Syrian families in the civil war.
“It was partly about a very personal thing of wanting to try and capture as much as I could the stories that I tell my kids about Jo.” Cox said.
“It will also talk about what has happened over the past year and how our family has dealt with it.
“I knew that I would do that much better and be much more fastidious over it if I had a deadline. Having that external pressure of a book deadline made that easier.
“But also when Jo died there was this huge public outpouring of support and compassion and kindness. And one of the things that came out of that was people wanting to know more about her. It was that empathy that defined Jo. It was how she thought.”
In the interview [click above], he revealed that his own memoir for the book was part of his way of taking advice from professionals on how to grieve in his own way for his late wife.
“It’s been very hard. I have spoken a lot to psychologists, child psychologists in particular on how to get advice on how I could help them through it as best as possible.
“And one of the things that was really clear from all the advice is how important it is to be open about what you’re feeling and to process your own emotions.
“I’m the sort of person who I think I’m in danger of locking my emotions away and trying not to deal with them.
“And so the book really helped me confront them and to work through them. Which doesn’t mean it’s not been painful, it’s been incredibly painful but I think it has been very healthy because I don’t find it easy to talk to people who I don’t know, or even talk to my friends about how I’m feeling.
“I’d much rather deal with it by writing about it and by thinking about it. So I think it’s helped me from that point of view. But I probably think I am only 20% down the road of processing because it’s something that is obviously going to be there for the rest of my life.”
He said that even the simplest pleasures were tinged with grief and memories of Jo.
“And it hits you. I was climbing mountains this weekend with my friends. And grief hits you in very funny ways. And on the tops of some of the mountains that I used to climb with Jo, that sense of absence and that partnership we had previously, that you know you’ll never replace.
“It’s not something that you deal with and then move on from. It’s something that you keep processing. For me the book was part of helping me do that, making sure I took time to do that but it’s still very early on.”
Cox said The Great Get Together - which will take place on June 18-20 - would see events staged by voluntary groups ranging from RNLI lifeboat stations to RSPB reserves and scout and guide groups.
“People are taking it and adapting it and making it fit the form of their organisation, or the form of their community,” he said.
“It’s happening during Ramadan as well, so there are going to be these huge Iftars [the evening meal during the Muslim fasting period] where people break fasts together.
“What’s been inspiring so far is both the size and the scale but also the extent to which people are adapting it and making it their own.”