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Toddler on the neach at Saltburn by the Sea

What can I say about 2016 that hasn’t already been said, argued, analysed, chewed up and spat out again?

It has certainly felt like a defining year. I’ve had a really prolific and creative year, have experienced some truly magical moments with friends and family, but it’s also been a tough year, where I’ve experienced some hard and unfamiliar challenges.

Maybe the best place to start my reflective journey through 2016 is 366 days ago… 31st December 2015. Our young family was dealing with the heaviest blow, the loss of Linda, my Mother in Law. She had passed away just over two weeks earlier. We were all still in shock and struggling to workout how to carry on.

That New Year’s Eve served as a marker, where notions of loss, disorientation and a nervousness about the future would be predominant themes throughout the year. So on New Year’s Eve 2015 we did what most Islanders do when unsure of where to go or what to do… We headed to the coast. We wrapped ourselves up and walked the wintry beach of Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

Wellies mother and child on the beach

It was here at this North Yorkshire Victorian coastal town where another theme for the year ahead became apparent. That theme would be the joy, relief and healing that our little boy and our pet Lurcher would bring us.

Grief is a word that feels wildly inadequate at expressing the varying emotions experienced by different people at a time of mourning. Grief is more like a cloud that surrounds an individual, it is unique, complex and it is labyrinthine. It is this word labyrinthine that resonates most with me. Irregular, twisting, unfamiliar… lost.

I actually enjoy getting lost. I will often take an irregular turn or choose an unfamiliar path, not knowing where it will lead in the hope of discovering something new. But getting lost for fun in a relatively safe landscape is very different from really getting lost. That alarming sense of disorientation, the uncertainty of which direction will lead you to safety and a genuine concern that you may not make it back. Experiencing such moments are all the more distressing when you are alone. When you are lost with others around you, the fear isn’t so great and there is a sense of comfort in being lost with company (assuming you like the company).

So here we were, three adults, myself, my wife and Father in Law. All with our own maze-clouds surrounding us, aware of each other’s presence but unsure on the best path forward. And that’s where the beauty of kids and dogs kicked in. Because when you’re walking on a beach with kids and dogs you don’t really have a choice, you simply follow. Their boldness is refreshing, their excitement uplifting and care-free nature reassuring.

It is said that light shines brightest in the darkness and this year has felt considerably sadder and darker than others but in the sadness we discovered a couple lights that have illuminated our lives for another 365 days and for our little boy and big lurcher we are so, so grateful.