I was invited to talk at a drug policy conference in Washington D.C. in November 2015 with a charity I support, Anyone's Child: Families for Safer Drug Control. Whilst there I met another mother called Donna May who had lost her daughter Jac, in 2012. There's nothing quite like it when you meet another bereaved mother. Surprisingly I've found that apart from our respective losses, I seem to have very little in common with many of them, but when I met Donna there was an intuitive connection - one that needed no declarations, no polite words of sympathy.
I have a deep respect for all bereaved parents as it is a treacherous road to tread, a lonely and barren landscape of haunting images and 'what ifs' reverberating through the fog of adrenaline-fuelled pain. With Donna I sensed a determination and strength that seemed to mirror my own. Neither of us felt like victims and both of us were using the pain to motivate us into taking positive action, in order to try to save lives.
Here's a clip of Donna and I speaking outside The White House (5 mins in).
Through our respective understanding of what it's really like to be 'us', we formed a bond on behalf of our girls - Jac and Martha.
By coincidence I found that Donna was also using Jac's converse trainers as a poignant symbol of her absence as I had Martha's. By carrying them with us - we take the steps they cannot, we tell the world that there is no-one to fill them now, but most importantly:
We speak for the dead in order to protect the living.