• Helen Dillon-Cottee

To the One at the Start of a Long, Hard, Road

I expect you’re still trying to catch your breath now this world you thought you were living in has been shattered to reveal a different reality. I remember how I had to think to breathe fully into my lungs to stop the shallow gasps for air as the picture I painted for my life crumbled into ash. The void left was terrifying - I remember that fear.


I remember not being able to see a future as I let go of the one I’d written for myself and my family. I’d known the players, their roles, and had ideas and dreams of the storyline. But the players didn’t play their part and now there’s no dreaming left. Just the void. And the feeling of being half-alive, like all that was left of me, was a broken heart wrapped in a ghost-like shell.


This is for the one whose picture has recently turned to ash.


Today is maybe the hardest day you’ll do. It feels like you have nowhere to go. You cannot tune out the constant hum of your catastrophising mind, you probably aren’t sleeping well. Maybe you can’t eat, or maybe all you can do is eat. You want to tell everyone and no one. You just want it to stop or maybe to push a button and fast forward three years until today is just a memory.


Because somewhere deep inside, you know on the other side of this, is life. A better life. A whole life.


And you also know this next part of the journey to getting you to that whole, better, glorious life is going to be the hardest part.


You can trust your instinct, darling. That future you sense is there, and this next part will be hard. But we women have been doing hard things for millennia, overcoming is in your DNA.


And here’s how you do this: one step at a time, whenever you can, however you can. No one will be handing out medals to those who do this perfectly - there is no perfect here. There are just strong women fighting step by step for their freedom and future.


So take the step, or crawl if needs be, and when you need to just lay down - do that. And sometimes let your sisters carry you for a step or two. Let their strength be yours when you have none left.


Try not to think too far ahead - the chatter will get too loud. Just do the next thing, and then the next thing after that.


Then there will come a day when you’ll be baking cookies or reading a book and you’ll suddenly be able to see that you’ve come a long way. And you’ll smile and keep going.


Then there will come a day when you’ll be taking a walk or shopping for groceries and you’ll be able to see that the ground you’re standing on is new and the air feels clearer and fresher. And you’ll smile or maybe laugh out loud a little and keep going.


Then there will come a day when you are fully dwelling in a whole new land. You’ll have strong legs and full lungs and you’ll turn your face to the sun and realise that you’re finally free.


And you will be able to look down at some of the scars from your recent past but you’ll see they’re healing and you’ll feel a depth of joy you never imagined.


And you’ll realise that void was just a new page waiting until you were ready to start writing a brand new story.


And maybe one day you’ll be able to sit across from another broken heart wrapped in the ghost of a woman whose world just shattered, and you’ll take her hand and you’ll say to her ‘I expect you’re still trying to catch your breath…’ and you will carry on the daisy chain of strong women who refused to stay half alive.