“A West Londoner through and through, I grew up near Portobello Road where as kids we used to call jewellery 'Tom' - hence the name Portobello Tom."
“My mother was a ‘gym slip mum’ and too young to handle the responsibility of raising a child, so my grandmother brought me up as her own with her three boys on a little estate in Latimer Road, West London. I’m telling you this because I want you to get an understanding of my relationship with my gran. She was my everything and I didn’t really know how to love anyone else on that kind of level until I had my first child, Akira."
“Sixteen years ago, my grandmother suddenly passed away from throat cancer even though she had never smoked a single cigarette in her whole life - go figure. Three weeks after my grandmother’s sad passing, my mother and uncle decided they were going to the Caribbean to sort out her affairs (she had spent the last 10 years of her life living on her home Island of Dominica)."
“There was no question as far as I was concerned that Akira and I were going with them. Akira’s dad didn’t want her to go but I was adamant, she was going with me. We were going to be celebrating her third birthday in Dominica and in a funny way it gave the family something to look forward to whilst there. I struggled with the guilt of that choice for years."
“Five days into the trip, six weeks after my grandmother passed, two days before her third birthday, Akira contracted meningococcal septicaemia and died within 24 hrs of the symptoms appearing. On February 4th, 2001, my life fell apart and it has taken 16 long years to try and pull the pieces together. But pull them together I have."
“As you can imagine, my whole world fell apart. It has taken 16 long years, but I have finally started pulling the pieces of my life back together. However, my story is not about how cruel life is but rather about how strong we human beings are. How amazing the human spirit is."
“In the pursuit of happiness and healing I've discovered many things. I've discovered happiness is a right for all – and that includes me and you. It sounds obvious, but it was something that I forgot whilst battling the depression and alcohol abuse that came about because of losing Akira, and not knowing how to cope. I lost my self-confidence, my faith and my long-held belief that life was supposed to be enjoyed when my beautiful, intelligent, spirited daughter passed away."
“Over the years I found much attention was rightly given to the victims of meningitis and the disease itself. But there is another side of the story. There is the family that is left behind when a person passes away. Aunties, uncles, siblings, grandparents, cousins and most importantly parents - who now have to find a way of living the rest of their life rather than just existing like I did for many years."
"We have to find a purpose, a reason to carry on breathing and living. We have to remember how strong we are. Unlike most people I had to find a reason to be happy rather than just being happy. I had to rediscover my amazingness as a matter of survival. We are all going to go through pain at some point, but as long as we believe and hang on in there, we will always come out the other end of our journey stronger. This is partly why I am going to be producing a set of affirmation bracelets called 'Journey'. I want to remind those who have been left behind that they are strong. They are amazing. Walking through the fire of grief is not easy, it takes superhuman strength at times. But we can do it and come out the other end feeling blessed to have had our loved one in our lives, no matter how short that time was."
“I will be donating 10% of the profits from the 'Journey' affirmation bracelets to Meningitis Now. I have given a description of the charms I use on the 'Journey' bracelet in the video. When I needed help in the first few months, those early days when I just couldn't see a future with me in it you were there for me and I want to say thank you for that."
“We all need reminding of just how strong we are from time to time. Thank you for taking the time to read this. You can follow me and my journey on FB and Instagram. Here's to a wonderful life.”Find out more about Caroline's jewellery: