Last night we had the latest of the Anyone’s Child events with two of our mums from other sides of the globe. The evening was a powerful and inspiring symbol of the urgent need for international drug policy reform.

Decca Aitkenhead, the wonderful Guardian journalist, interviewed Donna May, the mother who changed Canadian drug policy, and Anne-Marie Cockburn, one of the UK’s leading campaigners for drug policy reform.  In the most touching of interviews, both Donna and Anne-Marie told their stories and made the case for why they think that legally regulated drugs would have protected their daughters and keep other young people safe.

Decca interviewing Anne-Marie and Donna

Following this event, Anne-Marie also went on to feature on BBC Newsnight, discussing her journey from bereavement to campaigning for legalisation. This is fantastic proof that the dialogue in mainstream media and public opinion is changing.

Below are Anne-Marie’s reflections on the week spent with Donna:

Unexpected Friendships

I was invited to talk at a drug policy conference in Washington D.C. in November 2015 with a charity I support, Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control. Whilst there I met another mother called Donna May who had lost her daughter Jac, in 2012. There’s nothing quite like it when you meet another bereaved mother. Surprisingly I’ve found that apart from our respective losses, I seem to have very little in common with many of them, but when I met Donna there was an intuitive connection – one that needed no declarations, no polite words of sympathy.

I have a deep respect for all bereaved parents as it is a treacherous road to tread, a lonely and barren landscape of haunting images and ‘what ifs’ reverberating through the fog of adrenaline-fuelled pain. With Donna I sensed a determination and strength that seemed to mirror my own. Neither of us felt like victims and both of us were using the pain to motivate us into taking positive action, in order to try to save lives.

Here’s a clip of Donna and I speaking outside The White House (5 mins in).

Through our respective understanding of what it’s really like to be ‘us’, we formed a bond on behalf of our girls – Jac and Martha.

By coincidence I found that Donna was also using Jac’s converse trainers as a poignant symbol of her absence as I had Martha’s. By carrying them with us – we take the steps they cannot, we tell the world that there is no-one to fill them now, but most important:

We speak for the dead in order to protect the living.

Martha’s shoes

This blog was adapted from Anne-Marie’s blog What Martha Did Next