A little bit personal…

At some point on this blog, I stopped being ‘too’ personal. I’m not sure when it happened but it was a bit of a conscious decision…I wanted to try and separate my fashionable blog life to my actual, personal life. And to be honest, pictures which weren’t a new handbag or an amazing Asos buy just weren’t bringing in as many likes…so I took a different path.

This has worked for me, but it wasn’t without its drawbacks. Last year, just before my nan’s 92nd birthday, she passed away in St George’s Hospital and my world completely changed.

Me and nan with her two miniature Yorkshire Terriers, Tina & Tony, circa 1989.

Suddenly I had become part of a Social Media world where I didn’t feel like I could be happy, or down, or talk about it – it wasn’t ‘on brand’. And quite frankly, I didn’t want to talk about it.

I actually don’t think I could have written this until now, it was too upsetting (and this post hasn’t come without its tears!).

Most people who knew me would know that my family was my sister, parents and Nanna Stedders. My grandad passed away when we were young and she has always been the matriarch of our family, having Sunday roast with us most weekends and over at ours every Christmas. When I moved out of home, I lived 20 minutes walk away and would see her every weekend, my sister even a couple of times a week as she worked locally.

There’s not anyone I knew or worked with who didn’t know of Nanna Stedders (she even had her own hashtag #NannaStedders) – born in 1924 she was one of 9 children in a small 3 bed council house with lodgers (!), worked as a seamstress on Newman Street, slept in the London underground during the bombings, did official war work during the second world war working in a factory helping build planes (she used to add screws to things – this is as much as she described!). She loved roast dinners, being ‘waited on’, banana sandwiches, aero mousses and every soap opera going. Joan was a proper ‘South London’ nan – stern on the outside but soft on the inside and always kissed us on the lips and left us birthday messages on our answer machines singing the entire ‘Birthday’ song.

She was the strongest woman I knew, she had Hodgkins Lymphoma for many years but in the end she lost her life to Dementia. I think this was the hardest part, as the woman we said goodbye to was not the woman we knew. there were glimpses, only.

Nan with all her flowers on her 90th birthday

It was a huge strain on the family, and my parents and aunt took on most of the responsibilities, making sure she was eating her meals, that her fridge was stocked everyday…and my sister and cousin would fill in the gaps but it soon got to the point where carers were needed, too.

Watching someone go from cooking all their meals and being entirely self sufficient, to not caring about eating, or remembering when you had been round, or often your name (she would often refer to my sister as ‘Rocco’s mum’) was heartbreaking. It was a completely different relationship and one that gives you no time to come to terms with. You just have to adapt.

The reason I’m really writing this is because actually, my nan is one of the lucky ones. She had people and family to care for her, she had a support network and people dropping in to see her every day. Not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes my nan was a bit down with loneliness – she used to say she dreaded winter because at 4:30pm she knew she would pull those blinds down, lock the door and that’s the last she would see of anyone until the following day. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for people with no relatives nearby or living completely alone.

So I am raising money for Dementia, in the memory of nan, and to help others. She would’ve been 93 last Friday and this is something I could think of that would shine a positive light on what happened. There is no pressure at all, I will send to my family and friends, and I know there are so many commitments to try and keep up with, but if you’d like to donate then here is a link to Just Giving.

Or if you fancy having a browse in my Tictail shop, 100% of all the sales from everything that is listed there this week will go to the charity (I will not be able to claim Gift Aid on these purchases though). The pieces I am selling were all bought by myself, and not gifts from PRs.

Nan at my wedding, 2013

Thank you, as always, for all your support.

76 Comments

  1. Oh Alex. What a beautifully written, heartfelt piece. Thank you for sharing this. We lost a family member in similar circumstances; she too was the matriarch and so so beloved.
    This is a brilliant cause which I will support.
    Thank you again for raising awareness.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing someone with dementia is almost like losing them twice, the first time is slow and almost imperceptible onset of dementia, then of course there is the final loss when they pass away.
    There is one thing that has comforted me when people close to me have died, and that is the knowledge that they aren’t suffering anymore. It’s not a lot, I know.

  3. That is straight from the heart. Must have been so hard to write but I am glad you have told us about your wonderful Nan.
    I was in the same situation with two great aunts and watched dementia take away their dignity and their lives. It is such a cruel disease and it even harder for those without any family. They needed so much support and ended their lives in care homes passing away at 102 and 101 respectively.
    We must look after our elderly and hope that someone will do the same for us when we need it.
    Take care.
    Deborah x

  4. Alex. This is a beautifully heartfelt piece. Dementia is something which I’m sure has and will effect many of us and it certainly isn’t pleasant to watch. You were very lucky to have such an amazing lady in your life. Much love. X

  5. Well done, Alex. I never comment on blogs but I applaud you for writing what was in your heart and discussing something unexpected that will never be a subject people are going to ‘like’ or even necessarily know how to respond to. Nevertheless it affects so many of us. I’m sure it’s incredibly important to keep your personal life personal but the beauty of blogs is that they come from people not publishers and you have shared in a dignified and eloquent way. We lost my father in law to dementia a few months ago. He started suffering in his fifties and it took him and his dignity and made a big man with a huge personality into somebody frail and unknown. Fundraising is something we can do to help others and you’ve inspired me too. Thank you. Sorry for such a long comment!

  6. Hi Alex, thank you for your heartfelt post. Such a sad loss for your family in so many ways. My Grandad made aeroplanes during the war too (in fact he did for all of his working life). Just think, they may have even known one another!

  7. I just new you were going to talk about dementia as soon as I saw the link on twitter. My mum was diagnosed last week and I am completely and utterly devastated. Thank you for this emotional post and I am sorry for your loss. Nina.

  8. I’m so glad you have included this post here. It’s a very useful reminder that behind all the happy things we see on social media we’re all real people dealing with the ups and downs of life. Reading your blog and posts on Instagram and Twitter has been a great distraction to me in recent months when life has been quite tough and I hope you can feel supported by your followers here, both with understanding and helping you to raise funds. Fiona x

  9. The last picture at your wedding is so beautiful. I am sorry for your loss, I was close to the three grandparents I had and I miss them lots. 😘

  10. Thanks for sharing this, what a wonderful woman your Nana sounds.

    We had the exact same experience almost to the letter with our family and my Nana Bennett, who was 96 when she died and not as bad with dementia but just at the start of being forgetful of names and some carers had to come in to help etc. I miss her every single day.

    She was born in 1917 in Wigan and was a cotton weaver before working in the munitions factories during WWII and where she met my papa. Her jobs have a place in history really, as with much of that generation! They moved to Scotland, where my papa was from, and lived 15 mins walk from us so we saw them every day. Both missed very much. x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *