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Diary tells story of coping with death of a daughter
Buy this photo » Anne-Marie Cockburn
WHEN teenager Martha Fernback died in an Oxford park, her mother started keeping a diary.
Anne-Marie Cockburn found keeping a daily record of her thoughts was helping her to cope with her grief.
Now the moving account is about to be published.
Martha, a 15-year-old Cherwell School pupil from Summertown, collapsed in Oxford’s Hinksey Park in July after taking what police say she thought was the drug ecstasy.
In a bid to come to terms with the death of her only child, Miss Cockburn, 42, started typing her thoughts and feelings.
Now her book – called 5,742 Days after the number of days Martha lived– will be released by St Giles-based publishers Infinite Ideas on December 20, exactly five months since Martha’s death.
Miss Cockburn said: “I would force myself to get out of bed in the days after her death. I didn’t allow myself to get into bad habits.
“It is a pretty painful battle to face grief but the great thing is throughout the book there is a thread of hope.
“And there was always a sense of honour to represent Martha.”
The 160-page paperback was written in real time as a deeply personal diary-like account of her actions, opinions and philosophical musings about Martha’s death.
She started writing within 48 hours of Martha collapsing in Hinksey Park on July 20 and finished the book on October 30, which would have been Martha’s 16th birthday.
Police and paramedics were called to the park off Lake Street in South Oxford after Martha suffered a cardiac arrest.
She was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where she later died.
The book has given Miss Cockburn a purpose and a project in the run-up to her first Christmas without Martha.
Miss Cockburn said: “It is a way through this first Christmas. For the first time in 16 years I am waking up on Christmas morning by myself.
“The most insignificant thing can make you stumble. I found her Christmas stocking in a drawer the other day and it hit me again then.
“But you take a few deep breaths and go on.
“Most parents think if their child dies they would jump off the nearest bridge, but you find a way to go on.”
Miss Cockburn said she has never written a book before despite the fact that she has always been around them, including stints of 15 years at different publishing houses.
She added: “To be able to write and sell a book is something I have always wanted to do. It feels good.
“But this is always going to be bitter-sweet for me because I lost the one thing that meant more to me than anything else.”
Miss Cockburn said she sees her future now as as an author and is already 5,000 words into her second book.
She is also in talks about a film documentary on her ordeal. 5,742 Days is available to pre-order on Amazon.
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