It's hard letting your child go. When they are the most precious thing in the world to you, to accept that your role is no longer needed nor wanted and to step aside to allow them freedom to become adults can be the biggest test we face as parents.

Mainly because most of us remember what it was like, those heady glorious years when we were young and brave and forging our own way in the world.

We made mistakes. We took risky decisions and made wrong calls. We laughed too loudly and lived brightly without a thought for tomorrow. It was a time for discovering your own boundaries and when finding out what you didn't want – in partners, in jobs, in life – was just as important as finding out what you did want.


The world is exciting and full of opportunities to learn and live and grow. But we know now, as parents, what we didn't know then as young people; that the world can be a dangerous place and there are no guarantees that the people you meet will have your best interests at heart.

Grace Millane's parents have learnt the brutal truth that no family is immune from tragedy, no matter how close or how loving that family may be.

Grace was a talented artist and a happy, confident, beautiful young woman. She had everything to live for. Until her life was taken.

The young backpacker's death has prompted an outpouring of grief in New Zealand – with thousands of Kiwis attending candle-lit vigils and, according to posts on social media from some of those attending, to highlight the harsh reality for women in New Zealand that they are not safe from violence.

One poster said that Grace's death is a reminder that men can be violent to you anywhere.

But I don't see it as a them-versus-us argument. I worry just as much about the boys in my life as I do the women. They can easily be random targets and victims of senseless crime.

I liked the comments from Dr Peter Bray, a British expat working at Auckland University.

Bray said New Zealanders tend to view themselves as family and those who choose to visit our country we see as extended family. And because we are an island nation and our children travel overseas, we want them to be looked after and cared for.

Members of the public pay their respects during a vigil for British backpacker Grace Millane at Civic Square in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
Members of the public pay their respects during a vigil for British backpacker Grace Millane at Civic Square in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

When we can't do that for other people's children, it affects us all.

That's why I feel so sad. Grace could have been my beautiful, talented daughter. When my girl left home and went off to have her own adventures, I had to kiss, bless and release her to the universe. I couldn't spend every moment of every day worrying about the what ifs and the might bes. That's no way to live your life - or your child's.

I just had to have faith that she would be OK. And seeing the dreadful loss Grace's family and friends are experiencing brings home to me just how brutal the shock would have been had my faith in the inherent goodness of the world been misplaced.

There are more good, kind people in the world than bad. But the damage the cruel people do is so devastating, it's very easy to forget that.