On Saturday 10th December 2022 my youngest daughter Daisy was married amid a beautiful snowy winter wonderland in Northumberland. It was a magical day which saw the coming together of family and friends to celebrate this lovely couple.
It was also our family’s first major celebration since the loss of my 17-year-old son Samuel to suicide in 2020, and the death of both my parents in early 2021.
Grief and loss bring a myriad of emotions and I was conscious that the impending wedding would heighten these feelings. The juxtaposition of celebrating a wonderful event whilst feeling acute sadness at those we had lost was never far from my thoughts.
From the outset, Daisy was clear that she wanted to honour our missing loved ones on her special day. A key part of her wedding planning was exploring ideas and possibilities. I had an immense sense of pride that she wanted to share her day in this touching way.
Our wider family gathered the day before the wedding, some travelling from abroad to the deepest north of England. There was a collective understanding of the poignancy of what lay ahead, our emotions laid bare.
I felt a great sense of duty, as the mother of the bride. Trying to ensure that your child has the best experience whilst holding the added emotion that grief likes to impose. As I walked down the aisle ahead of Daisy entering I felt vulnerable and a little exposed in my additional role as a bereaved mother. Kind eyes met me from all directions, the warmth in the room was palpable. I relaxed a little. My heart was then filled with love as I looked around to see Daisy coming down the aisle alongside her older sister Lily, their bond even stronger in recent times.
Partway into the ceremony my older son Harry stepped forward to deliver a poem written by Daisy, describing her love for her little brother. She had penned it during a night shift in her NHS doctor role. It was the rawest most beautiful prose. Tears rolled down my face and I realised I should have come prepared with a tissue or two!
Daisy had asked me to deliver the main wedding speech. The only question she asked me beforehand was whether she need waterproof mascara. “Of course!” I replied.
I was honoured to undertake this role but with it came huge responsibility. I needed to get a balance and celebrate this important day whilst acknowledging the difficult journey our family had been on.
I was anxious not to alienate the many guests who were not part of our inner circle or bring discomfort. Mentioning suicide loss can definitely clear a room! Getting the tone right was key.
It was not lost on me that the last time I delivered an important speech was the eulogy at both Samuel’s and my dad’s funerals.
Fortunately, the speech went better than I could have imagined. I captured the mood, won the hearts of the crowd and it was obvious that everyone was rooting for me.
I recalled funny and poignant anecdotes about Daisy and my parents, they gave me plenty of material to choose from! That approach didn’t feel appropriate with Samuel though. Instead, I focused on the importance of the sibling bond and how important Samuel’s presence was on this day.
I was keen to end the speech on a positive note. I think I’d pulled on the heartstrings quite enough! I spoke of Samuel’s loss being a catalyst for change and him leaving a legacy of hope for the future. A final toast to the bride and groom followed and I could take my leave from all the attention.
It was a huge relief to have kept my composure whilst providing a window into our world of loss. The lovely feedback I received from guests throughout the evening was humbling.
Symbolism was such an important part of the whole day and Daisy exquisitely planned her approach. There were photographs on the mantlepiece of Samuel and my parents, plus her partner Sam’s beloved dog Millie. Daisy had a gorgeous charm made with Samuel’s picture tied to her beautiful, dried flower bouquet.
Instead of fizz, we toasted the happy couple with Strongbow Dark Fruits, Samuel’s favourite. Even a question relating to one of Samuel’s song lyrics was used in the ‘pub quiz’ activity. Nice touch, Sam!
I retired to bed early, the pressure of the day had taken its toll. My mission had been accomplished and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. As I headed to bed the fire alarm in the hotel sounded for a short while. I wondered whether Samuel was behind it. A sign that he approved of all the attention and a typical bit of chaos from the ultimate party boy!
The grief community is truly wonderful and in preparation for the wedding, we looked to others for advice and tips. Now it's our turn to pay it forward. For those planning a wedding after suffering loss here are some suggestions:
Acknowledge and accept that the day will bring mixed emotions
Research ideas from others that have taken this journey
Talk through possibilities, well in advance, some will feel more natural, and know you can change your mind
Don’t be put off by the thought of other’s awkwardness – this belongs to them
Use subtleties that are personal to you and your inner circles, you don't have to make huge statements. We wore Spiderman tattoo transfers, the same as we wore at Samuel’s funeral. We also used the something old, new, borrowed and blue to include loved ones
People will be on your side; they are there to support you and are willing you on
You can get the balance of celebrating the occasion alongside honouring loved ones. You do it every day already!
Don’t underestimate the impact the day will have on you. Take time out and plan self-care in advance for afterwards
If you think you would benefit from 121 coaching reach out to Suzanne at www.coachingafterloss.com for a no-obligation chat