Inspiring Stories is a regular series featuring interviews and discussions with well known authors, motivational speakers and entrepreneurs from within the widows and widowers community. In today’s edition we chat to writer and campaigner Stephanie Nimmo.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became bereaved?
I met my husband, Andy, when I was 20, we were married when I was 24. We lived in London and had four children together. Our youngest daughter, Daisy, was born with a rare genetic condition called Costello Syndrome. She was life limited with a very complex care regimen and I had to give up my career to look after her. Andy and I were such a strong team and thought that life couldn’t throw any more curveballs our way. However, in late 2014, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and sadly died just over a year later. 13 months after Andy died I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to switch-off Daisy’s life support, she had been overwhelmed with irreversible sepsis.
You went from being a marketing professional to a full-time carer and stay-at-home mum. How did you cope with the transition?
When my daughter, Daisy, was born, prematurely and very sick on 22 December 2004 my life changed overnight. I mourned for the child I thought I was expecting and I had to get to know this little girl who was very poorly and not expected to reach adulthood. My career ended the day she was born. My life revolved around caring for Daisy as well as bringing up our other three children who were only 2, 5 and 7 when Daisy was born. The first few years were tough but we found our new normal and tried to really live in the moment, making the most of the precious time we had with Daisy.
You started your blog ‘Was this in the plan?’ in 2008. Was it always your intention that it would one day become a book?
Initially, I started the blog as a way of processing what was happening. I found writing it very therapeutic and I felt it was also important to share and shine a light on this new world I had found myself in. I was always very open and honest about our journey with Daisy. When Andy was diagnosed with cancer we decided (with the permission of our children) to be equally as open and honest about this new journey. There was so much positive feedback on the blog and how sharing was helping other families, I knew I had to write a book one day too. In fact it was Andy’s dying wish that I wrote the book and it became a way of processing my grief after he died.
On your blog, you mention how ‘we may not have control of what is happening to us, but we have control over how we respond to it’? How important has this life philosophy been for you?
This is how I live my life. I could never have predicted how my life would turn out. It was Andy who used to say “it’s not the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them”. None of us knows what life has in store but our resilience is strengthened by each situation we come through. If someone had shown me a glimpse into my future life all those years ago when I met Andy, I would have run a mile, but I have grown stronger and stronger as I have had to face each challenge.
On your blog, you mention that you ‘try to reflect the issues faced by so many families like ours and speak for those who cannot speak out’. Do you feel single-parent families are given enough exposure in the mainstream media?
Andy died when I was 47 and I became the sole parent of four children, one of whom had complex medical needs. Along with the grief and loss, adjusting to becoming a single parent has been so hard. It’s not just the practical and financial support, more than anything it’s the emotional support I miss more than anything. There is a lot of stigma associated with single parents and people make a lot of assumptions.
How important has writing been for you during the grieving process?
Writing has been my most important therapy. It’s helped me process what has happened and it’s been important for me to share my feelings through my words as well as helping my children to know that it’s OK to talk about and share their feelings.
Can you share with us five things which have helped you through your bereavement?
– What one book?
I read Paul Kalinithi’s book “When Breath Becomes Air” a few months after Andy died. It was hard to read but I found it motivated me to want to tell my own story.
– What one activity?
I have always been a runner, it has helped me get through the stressful times of caring for Daisy. After Andy died I also took up open water swimming and I find it so therapeutic. I love swimming in lakes, just me and the elements, it’s definitely helped me cope.
– What one quote?
It would have to be Andy’s favourite quote “it’s not the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them”. I have chosen to keep putting one foot in front of the other and make the best of this new life I now find myself in.
– What one piece of advice?
Years ago I confided in a colleague that I really wanted a promotion to a global role in my company. Her advice was to “decide what I want and make it happen”. That piece of advice has shaped every decision I have made since. I knew I wanted to write my book and I made it happen, no excuses.
– What one song/piece of music?
It will always be “Times like these” by the Foo Fighters. We played the acoustic version at Andy’s funeral. I love the line “I’m a brand new sky to hang the stars upon tonight”. It’s like Andy saying, life will go on Steph, seize the opportunities, seize the day.
Stephanie Nimmo is author of the book ‘Was This in the Plan?’.
This article is part of the ‘Inspiring Stories’ series.