You may be surprised to find that this article is nothing to do with the election, Katie Hopkins or Protein World. It's actually about grief. 'Oh joy', I hear you cry. Wait. Stay with me.
Death is horrendous, losing someone is the worst and grieving brings on a roller coaster of emotions that you could never possibly prepare for. I think the best way to summarise it, is that it's utter sh*t. And what do we do? We dance around the topic, make awkward jokes through nervous giggles and, most brutally, we often suffer in silence. That doesn't need to be the case. I'm making it my mission for that not to be the case.
When my mum died of bowel cancer just over three years ago it was quite the shock to say the least. I tried to keep going - to battle on - but it wasn't long before I grew tired of society silencing me. I was desperate for the chance to talk about her without feeling guilty or as though I was going to make other people feel uncomfortable.
To celebrate what would have been Mum's 60th birthday, I left a creative tribute in her memory. I used notes on postcards - scattering them around Paris (you can read more about that here) - and the process of writing, telling the world about her and throwing myself into a new project began to help me to release some pain.
I was pretty terrified about sharing my experience but eventually plucked up the courage to document it online and I am so glad that I did. It all became worth it as messages started to flood in from readers. Even though they all told a completely unique story, there was such a feeling of unity with every one I read. It identified a real need for an outlet for the bereaved and that is why I am working on the launch of a collective.
"The Tribute Collective will offer people an alternative way to channel grief through the creation of unique projects in memory of lost loved ones and provide a platform where stories can be shared and connections made."
Now, how am I going to make this work? Good question (I say to myself). Making something like this 'cool', accessible and comfortable is pretty tricky thanks to the almighty taboo surrounding death. Honestly? Before losing Mum I would probably think it was a bit of an odd idea, myself. But if we look at how many meet up groups there are out there for things people have in common, it's actually quite surprising that it hasn't been done yet.
What will the collective provide?
1) A modern, savvy, user-friendly website where people can upload notes/stories, seek guidance on creating their own unique tributes and connect with other members.
2) Workshops, talks and meet-ups where members (and friends of) can listen to guest speakers, gain face-to-face help with creative projects and they can interact with others.
3) A Tribute Collective HQ in the form of a creative café where all of the above can take place (long-term goal).
The most important thing about the collective is the variable in how visible you choose to be. Some people may just want to look at other people's stories and to benefit from that moment when you nod in agreement at something you have read. Some people may want to post stories but remain anonymous. Some people may want to have that opportunity to shout out for the world to see or to sit in a room with people who just 'get it'. It is vital to me to get that part right to make it as inclusive as possible.
How will I do all of this?
By working bloody hard. But, I know I can't do this on my own. I've got the passion and the drive for it, research is underway and I am receiving feedback on my initial ideas - now I am looking for business guidance and funding.
So, what better idea than to aim high and enter The Tribute Collective into Richard Branson's latest competition, #pitchtorich? You can take a look at my pitch here. Feel free to vote, share and join the movement.
(If you would like to know more about the collective or want to get involved, please feel free to contact me via my bio page).