dealing with grief
As a child life seemed pretty straight forward. Apart from the odd worry, the process of puberty and the occasional heartbreak from the girls I had a crush on nothing seemed too hard to handle. But at 18, (a month off my 19th birthday) my Dad took his own life.
I was (just) 20 when she died. Looking back on it all I can see that I was a kid, nothing more. So immature, so tied to the apron strings, so lacking in any meaningful life experience. My parents had managed to shield me from the worst of what life had to offer, which, I think, is a big part of your role, as a parent.
Losing my wife and soul mate Katie is the most difficult thing I have ever had to face. It is a reality I had never imagined and should never have needed to comprehend, but in many ways, I was fortunate. I don't enjoy writing that, but there is a truth to it.
I am not someone who tried tirelessly to have a family; who spent thousands of pounds and years of my life on failed IVF treatments; who received a devastating diagnosis of unexplained infertility; who tried and failed to adopt; who miscarried; or whose child tragically died. Nor am I someone who's imagined herself as a mother throughout her adult life.
I've lost count of the number of times people have told me how strong I am. Considering I rarely set foot in a gym and my body bears the sagging signs of having carried three children, I'd be surprised if they meant physically so. Rather, they're talking about the resilience I've shown since losing my mum to cancer last summer.
I wouldn't be the strong, empathetic, open-minded, make-the-most-of-everyday kind of person that I am. When I talk to people about my illness, I am very often met with confusion or pity. You should know that you shouldn't feel pity, because I don't either. This is my life now, and it's a bloody good one at that.
This is something no-one wants to hear, but it is true for you as much as it is for the critically ill patients I treat each day in hospital. Many of them are much closer to the end than you are, however, life is unpredictable, chaotic and sometimes cruel. Few of us will die at the time of our choosing.
Every Wednesday lunchtime, for about a year, I sloped off from my office desk, alone. Away from the shiny soulless glass buildings of Canary Wharf, towards the fishy world of Billingsgate Market, and the little bobbing private narrowboats of the marina.
A couple of months into my trip, it was the anniversary of Laurens' death. It was a difficult day and speaking to his Mother made me long to be commemorating the day with them. That night, I slept in the desert in Jaisalmer, and let myself cry for him and all he was missing out on. But as I gazed up at the stars, I was reminded that whist he'll always be the brightest star in my sky, the universe still has a lot to offer me.
"I wanted to get a tattoo, I think to have a physical connection still with him. Yes, I claimed a hoody and a favourite shirt of his, but I wanted something to represent the fact that our love never spoiled. Something that marked me as his. I think if I was thinking rationally at the time, that's how I would have put my feelings into words."