When I look back to a year ago, I realise that a year really does make a difference. This time last year I had to watch my 5 year old daughter heart break because her sister had disappeared with someone that she met on the internet. He had then proved to be a paedophile and was sentenced in court. My daughter had her baby taken away and adopted to a family for her own safety and my family was in chaos. I didn't know what I could do! Tilly had no idea what had happened and had asked me if her sister was dead. Tillys older siblings and I tried to carry on as normal for her, well as normal as we could be in the situation. We all put our feelings on hold to protect the most vulnerable person in the family. We surrounded her in protection and love, but it wasn't enough.
A few months later she came home from school and told me that they had learned about bad people on the internet, so I took that moment to explain that this was what had happened to her sister. I felt she was ready to know some of the truth of what had happened because she couldn't go through life thinking her sister was dead. We obviously never told her the extent of Nathans crimes, she was only a baby still after all. From that moment on I knew she needed to start healing so I thought of a plan to use travel as a therapy, I hadn't heard her laugh in months and months since her sister had disappeared. I needed to see her smile and hear her laugh again - but what could I do?
I asked her if she would like a holiday, I thought that giving her something to look forward to would help her focus on something else other than her sister and the grief she was feeling for her. She was crying herself to sleep every night, saying she wanted her sister. I would hold her in my arms and I had never felt such pain, you are supposed to protect your children from harm and upset. But here I was, I had let my guard down and let evil into our family. She told me she wanted to go everywhere on holiday, I wasn't sure how this would work, but it was the only thing she had asked for other than her sister so I was determined to do it. When I get my stubborn and determined head on, nothing can get in my way.
I went to the travel agents and bought home some brochures, she spent hours going through them and told me, she wanted to climb a mountain to go to the top of the world. She wanted to cross bridges in Budapest because it looked so pretty and she wanted to go and see her brother who had moved to Holland. Really she couldn't have chosen three most far away destinations to go to, but if thats what she wanted, then thats what we would do.
We booked Interrail tickets and set up an itinerary, I was determined that this holiday was going to be the start of healing for her. I was going to show her that there was so much kindness in the world still and not evil everywhere. By this time she had started with a therapist because she was struggling so much with her feelings at school and at home. She suggested that I talk to Tilly and tell her that talk of Nathan Green was banned from the holiday, as soon as we board our flight to Switzerland, we are on holiday and that means it is full of fun.
A friend was coming with us for the first part of the holiday, So we all left for our European trip and it really was the start of something amazing. We went to the top of mountains (the top of the world as Tilly called it) in Interlaken, Visited palaces in Vienna, decided to go off the beaten track and take train trips out of the way to see some spectacular sights. We met some travellers, all of them had a different tale to tell, they all had their own reasons for travelling. We went to Dachau in Munich and Budapest in Hungary. We did have our scary moments, We turned us to a hotel in Budapest for it to be a flea ridden dirty pit of a place, so we were frantically looking for a new hotel at 10pm at night. We finally found one and had to walk the streets of Budapest at 10.30 looking for our new accommodation, but once we were there we just rolled about laughing. Tilly seemed oblivious to it all and she took it in her stride. We went to areas of Czech republic that didn't speak English and then on to Prague. Whilst we were there It was my grandaughter first birthday, so we wrote her name in chalk alongside many others on the old town hall over looking the old square, and we went out for a meal. That was my turning point, I knew that I had to start looking forward as well as trying to help Tilly through this. I suddenly realised that this holiday had actually been therapy for me too, and it had served its purpose with me without me even knowing.
We travelled on to Berlin, and Hannover. This was where we started to use the holiday to bring fairy tales to life for Tilly. We visited Hameln and learned the story of the pied piper, watched it bought to life with the town all getting involved in the story. From there it was on to Amsterdam and Rotterdam where Tilly saw her brother. Then on to Osnabruck and Bremen for the musicians of Bremen, then a trip to the Harz Mountains to see where the Brothers Grimm got their inspiration for the fairy stories. We climbed mountains again and did fairy tale trails, we went to castles in mountains and hills that were the inspirations for stories with princesses.
We finished of our holiday with a visit to Copenhagen to meet the little mermaid and a quick trip over the amazing bridge that went over the sea to Malmo. But then we knew we had to come home.
I had enjoyed running away for a whole month in the summer, a carefree summer. A summer where I saw Tilly smile. where I saw Tilly relax and a summer that bought my Tilly back to me. i started to get my old Tilly back! I would really recommend it after a family tragedy. Tilly learned so much, she learned different cultures, she learned different languages and most importantly she learned to live again.
Now it is 6 month on from our holiday and Nathan Greens name is never mentioned, She never cries herself to sleep and she laughs! she actually whole heartily laughs out loud, it is the most precious laugh and I love to hear it all the time, because there was a time I thought she would never laugh again.