The story behind 'If You Were Here'

If You Were Here is a story I wrote for my mum, Karina who I lost to cancer in 2018, and my son, Jack who was 3 at the time. (In June of this year, my sisters and I also launched mum's beautiful memoir, Life Interrupted which she wrote before she passed away.)

After mum died, I was in a whirlwind of grief. For myself, for my husband, for my sisters, for everyone who loved her. But the deepest, most debilitating grief came from the loss of my mum's relationship with my children who she loved so deeply. I especially grieved mum's relationship with my eldest, Jack as they had such a deep bond. They were best friends who would light up when they saw each other every single day.

One night, in my grief, I felt the words rise up out of me: 'If you were here, I'd tell you all the things I did today..’ and on and on they went. Through overflowing tears, my pain at what my children and my mum had lost, poured out of me in words as I frantically typed into my phone trying to catch all of them. Within 10 minutes, I had written it in its most raw form and I read it over and over, sobbing but also feeling like I had finally released a pressure valve on the grief that had been building. It was there in writing, and each time I read it, I connected with it again and cried again, releasing a little more each time.

I never intended to turn these words into anything really. I wanted to hold onto them and share them with Jack when he was older to remind him of how special his bond with his Yiayia was and still is. Maybe I would post it somewhere… Submit it into a poetry competition or something? But the more I thought about it, and how healing it was for me, I wondered if perhaps it might connect with others in a similar way.

I know now from connecting with so many people on social media, how big the grief community is. How many people are looking to connect with others who have been through an unthinkable loss because it's lonely. Loss is lonely. And connection helps us heal. 

I know there are also others like me that have children who are grieving and we are navigating our way through this experience simultaneously with our own grief. It's hard. 

There are plenty of books written on grief for children that tell them what death is and how they may feel. What I wanted children to experience from reading If You Were Here, was a feeling of connection to the feelings through Jack’s character. By going on the journey with him from a place of sadness through to hope, If You Were Here demonstrates how we are always and forever connected to those that we cherish. 

Beautifully illustrated by Anita Bagdi I truly hope this story connects with you and your child.

Elisabeth x