Posts tagged ‘loss of a child’

IT’S A NEW DAWN. 

Well, here we are again. Another year.  2017. Donald Trump is the American president and it’s safe to say the times they are a changin’, for me personally and on a worldwide level. It’s safe for me to say that because times always do. Change is our constant. 

My current psych is trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with me. Part of that is mindfulness. Be in the now. Sure. Still, as much as I acknowledge that the past is the past and cannot be altered the inalienable truth for me is that the absence of my Daughter Number One is my present. I acknowledge that she is gone but that loss, the great, gaping, abyss-like wound caused by her absence is with me always. And most days, most minutes of most days, it takes everything I have not to just fall right in. Some days it takes everything I have not to just jump. Or to simply let go and drift gracefully into the warm, inky, welcoming, comforting, NOTHING blackness. 

Because for me, there is nothing beautiful about my own struggle. It is me, hanging on by my fingernails as I feel them splinter, grazing my knees and elbows as I stumble along, blinded by my tears and struggling to breathe against the constriction of my chest. Aching joints, aching head, aching heart. And that is me being mindful. That is me living in the now; where my other children grow older and my Daughter’s friends get engaged to be married and my first born Daughter never does and never will. Where I accept the reality of her absence but that will never make it ok. 

After George Michael died last year, after Prince and Leonard Cohen, I commented somewhere that it was the year the music died, but of course I was wrong. The music is eternal. The gifts people give the world, that is what they leave us to hold onto. For someone who only lived fourteen years the legacy of love my Daughter Number One left behind is immense. I am awed by it. Sometimes I am even comforted by it. But it is not enough and never will be. Call me a greedy bitch if you like, I know some people have much less. But I want more. 

Since I have told you what there is safe to say and what is fair, let me tell you what is UNFAIR and not safe to say out loud. Ironically, as I wrote that last sentence I wrote ‘fear’ instead of ‘fair’ and I allowed myself a wry chuckle, that, sitting on a crowded flight with tears escaping from my eyes, could only enhance the aura I imagine surrounds me!

This year I face the fourteenth anniversary of my Daughter’s murder. No anniversary is easy and I have told you before that the months between her birthday and the anniversary are progressively excruciating. As the years have passed though (how is that even possible?) I have been aware of an increasing dread. As we start off another year I can tell you it has now grown into a creeping, cold terror that wraps itself around me. It is crushing. It is paralysing. 

It is the knowledge that at a certain point this year my Daughter Number One will have been gone for longer than she was here. And for some reason the thought of that is DEVASTATING to me. For a start, it doesn’t even seem possible. To continue to be living this long without her. It is a thought my mind has trouble containing because it is just so wrong. JUST SO VERY WRONG. Incomprehensible. Perhaps it is the simple fact that we are not meant to outlive our children. It isn’t the way it is meant to be. Which is why, when Debbie Reynolds died so quickly after Carrie Fisher, I thought ‘Oh, that’s good’. 

Rationally I know that this year will not make my Daughter any more gone but I can only tell you how it feels. And how it feels is like I am losing her all over again. That, somehow, she is getting farther away. That she is disappearing further and I literally do not know how I will bear it. I do not know how to do this. To keep doing this. I am so scared. What I don’t expect people to understand unless they have similar experiences (and I don’t wish that on anybody) is that it isn’t and has never been one finite loss. Clear cut and contained. It is a million, billion losses that still – daily – assault me. Sometimes with the force of a sledgehammer and sometimes more of a pin prick but they are chronic and unending. My loss does not diminish. It is infinite and immeasurable. I have simply lived with it longer, the longer I live. 

My other children, my beautiful friends, my family of the heart; they are the reasons I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know I am so lucky to have them. I know I do not walk alone. But oh, gosh, it’s been such a long walk. I am so tired. It is not so much good days and bad but better days or worse. I know joy, I feel happiness but they are bittersweet. Part of that is guilt. Even when I am happy I am sad. Trying to ‘pass’ as a functional human being is exhausting. 

Today I am travelling and I enjoy that. I love being up here in the air. When you get above the clouds the sun is always shining. I am sitting in the emergency exit row. My first time ever. I don’t like having to put my handbag above me in the overhead locker and not having it easily accessible but, eh, I took out everything I hope I’ll need on this short flight so ok. It seems a small price to pay for the extra leg room! I am actually sitting here with my legs crossed! Which is probably really bad for my circulation but feels so comfortable! 

This is the second of three flights I will take today and as usual I am taking the long way around. The road less travelled. My first flight took me south. This flight takes me north, over and past the point from which I started and the flight this evening will take me west and home. Five flights, four airports and three states total in forty eight hours. I am lucky to be able to spend time with people I love on this journey. But parting is always such sweet sorrow. So I am in a state of agonising ecstasy today.  

I knew early on, after my Daughter’s murder, that it would be terribly easy to slip into a cosy state of detachment. In fact, completely switching off emotionally is what I constantly, consciously fight against. It would be so easy, to just not feel. It would be So. Much. Easier. And some days I need the reprieve. But as a very dear, much loved kindred spirit reminded me today, indifference is the opposite of love. And I choose to keep loving. And feeling and living. Because how is any of it worth it otherwise? 

My not so little now Daughter Number Two said to me yesterday “It is hard when you are always missing someone.” 

And she’s right. It is. It just is. 

Safe onward travel x 

AM I ON MY OWN? AM I EVEN CLOSE? 


Well, that’s Mother’s Day done and dusted for another year. I know I am not the only one who finds Mother’s Day hard. There are lots of reasons it can be hard for people. Those who have lost their mothers. Those who have not been able to have children but who have deeply wanted to. I don’t pretend to have any monopoly on Mother’s Day related pain. Really, who would want it? Truth be told though, it is not a day I enjoy.

There are obvious reasons for that and for those of you following along, here’s one more:

In a few days it will be Daughter Number Two’s birthday. She will be nine. The day after that it will be Son Number One’s 22nd birthday, but he is much younger than his years in some ways and however old you are it’s nice to feel people appreciate having you around, particularly on your birthday. Thirteen years ago I was decorating a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake with my beautiful first born Daughter for her brother’s 9th birthday and then ten days after that she was dead. Each and every year since Sam’s death my eldest son’s birthday has fallen into the chasm of grief that opens between Daughter Number One’s birthday and the anniversary of her murder. Every. Single. Time. And since Daughter Number Two rocketed into the world her birthday is consumed by the same black hole.

It’s not like I forget the dates. I know when they were born! I was there. It is just that the dates kind of sneak up on me. Every time. So last Friday I was speaking to Daughter Number Two on the phone and I said to her “It’s Friday tomorrow, so there’s only one more day of school before the weekend!” And she answered “Yes! And you know what the next Friday Is!” And I, her Mother, said no.

“Next Friday is my birthday!”

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck. “Oh yes! Of course I know that!” Fuck. Really? Already? But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

When I was awaiting Daughter Number Two’s arrival into the world I was so excited she was due after the anniversary of her sister’s death. It would give me a positive focal point past that dreaded anniversary, I thought. But best laid plans and all of that… Daughter Number Two made her grand entrance six and a bit weeks early, completely overshadowing her eldest brother’s 13th birthday the following day, a fact from which he has still not completely recovered.

It’s not like I don’t try. I do. I knew the birthday’s were coming up. I knew I had preparations to make. I had thought a little bit about what to do this year. I just hadn’t done anything yet. But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! Except now there wasn’t any time left and to have any chance of getting anything to them in time for their birthday’s I would need to get something into the mail to them the very next day. I said my goodbyes to Daughter Number Two on the phone and sat on my bed berating myself for my failings as a mother. ‘What THE FUCK is WRONG with you Kate? You are their MOTHER! You know when their birthday’s are! How can you drop the ball EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR??!!’

Since detailing my shortcomings didn’t seem to be getting me very far I decided to focus on what I actually do have and what I actually could do, better late than never. Limited time, limited finances and limited capacity to think of anything in the face of my guilt and shame made it an uphill battle. Until it hit me; what I have in abundance! Where my wealth of riches are found. In my family of the heart. My beautiful and amazing friends.

So I wrote a post on facebook asking for help in making my Son and Daughter’s birthday’s special. I asked if anyone would be willing to send them a card, because I thought having more than expected mail would be a fun thing! And so many of my lovely people came through. People who have their own shit going on. No one particularly financially wealthy but all incredibly rich in heart and generosity. I know I have told you before here but it is a point I cannot make too often; I have the very best friends. Where ever I go and whatever I do, I never walk alone.

I had already asked for their support earlier in the week when I spoke at a workshop run by Angelhands. It is always a honour to be asked and I hold on to the hope that sharing my experiences will somehow, someway, someday help someone. My friend Ann was also there and I always get much of value listening to her speak. Ann was recently appointed an ambassador for Our Watch. They are lucky to have her. We are all lucky to have her.

On the day I spoke at the Angelhands workshop I had posted on my facebook saying only that it was a big day for me and asking people to keep me in their thoughts. As always my beautiful people had my back. Son Number Two and another lovely friend physically came with me. The kindness of the comments on my facebook post and even just in the acknowledgement of their ‘like’s’ – ‘I see you, I hear you’ – was a reminder that my friends stand with me. Always. How lucky I am.

After I managed to get something in the mail to my children I had time to reflect on why this happens each year despite my best efforts. I realised that if I don’t actively acknowledge the birthday’s are fast approaching then the anniversary cannot be fast approaching either. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

Because I remember what we were doing and that my Daughter Number One was still alive this time thirteen years ago. Because I didn’t know that those would be the last times we ever did things together. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! But there isn’t. There is no more time. And that is that.

I am so thankful for all the kindnesses I receive. I try to pass on these kindnesses, to pay them forward. It doesn’t take much, as I said in my last post, to change someone’s day. I can’t pretend that it’s completely altruistic on my part; making someone else feel better makes me feel better. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. But a win-win can’t be a bad thing!

I have been doing a bit of reading on love languages recently. There are, apparently, five main ways we express love; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. I like to think I am fairly fluent in all of those but that doesn’t mean there is not room for improvement. The more opportunities to practise, the better. Love is my religion. My reading has also been useful for reflecting on the ways that others around me show me I am loved. Acknowledging that to them and to myself is important. Especially when I don’t feel loveable.

I love and I am loved. At the end of the day it is all that counts. So, just do it, while you still have the time.
Two days before the anniversary of Sam’s death this year is the eighteenth anniversary of the day a man I loved deeply committed suicide. I still miss him enormously. He was my friend.

The day before the 13th anniversary of Sam’s death is the first anniversary of her father’s death. While I know he suffers no longer my heart breaks at the thought of how hard this day will be for his wife and his sons. Selfishly I mourn another piece of my Daughter gone forever from this world.

Then comes the 13th anniversary itself. And I inch ever closer to having the time spent living without my daughter become longer than the time I had to spend with her and, truly, I don’t know how one bears that. I just know that there doesn’t seem to be a choice.

Hard days. Hard days. I’m not going to lie. It is the love of my children and friends that holds me upright and in that way I am truly blessed. That is what I hang on to. At the end of the day that is what matters.

Life is short. Love hard.

Safe onward travel x

WHAT WOULD YOU THINK IF I SANG OUT OF TUNE? 

  

Son Number Two and I moved into a place we can call our own this week. It needs some work but it is a step in the right direction. Since moving in we have been offered a bed, a bicycle for Daughter Number Two, a vacuum cleaner and a landline telephone, amongst other things. It is heartening, the kindness of strangers. 

I am always grateful for the beautiful people I am privileged to call friends. People who pick me up when I am down and love me generously. Those people, my friends, know me though and know that I love them back. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement; a two way street. Although I am always and eternally grateful for my gorgeous family of the heart (and particularly to the phone charger fairy this week) this post is more focused on the kindness of strangers. 

I watched a documentary the other night called ‘Craigslist Joe’. According to Wikipedia:

“Craigslist (styled craigslist) is a classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, communitygigsrésumés, and discussion forums.”

In the documentary, available on Netflix, Joe – the protagonist of the piece – decides to spend one month over December, thirty one full days and nights, living entirely from things he’s sourced from Craigslist. Food, accomodation, transport, any extra clothing in addition to the one set he is wearing – everything. He has his laptop and phone to access Craigslist and connect with the people he comes into contact with there. And off he goes! I won’t spoil it for you. You need to check it out for yourselves. It is safe to say though that my belief in the inherent goodness of the majority of my fellow man remains. I have to believe, given the opportunity, most of us choose to do the right thing. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and random acts of kindness as well. 

  

Most of us, we lucky ones, have enjoyed a long weekend of family and fun and chocolate. I was doing just that, spending time with Daughter Number Two and her male counterpart, when I saw a post from one of my facebook friends. It said that one of their two little daughter’s preschool teachers – someone who she says ‘helped form our beautiful daughters into the girls they are today’ – was driving home from Easter celebrations with her own family when there was a car crash. Two of the preschool teacher’s children died. Just like that. Life spins on a dime. There is a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to help the family. It is here: 

http://www.gofundme.com/qzy8xk

It could be any of us, driving home over the long weekend. If any of you can help, even just because it wasn’t you, then please do. That goes for any occasion the opportunity arises to do something good for someone else. Just do it. Most of the time you will never know how much your kindness means but let that not deter you! Just remember all the times in your life someone has been there to catch you and hold out your own hands to someone else. 

Safe onwards travel x 


GONE, GONE, GONE.

Each morning, out of habit I turn on my computer. It means I can see the time and as the day gets going and the morning routine begins I play music on youtube. I open all my regular sites – I usually have at least five open at once – and it stays on most of the day, even if I am not sitting in front of it. Some things I absorb without being really aware of it; things on my home page, stuff I scroll past on my newsfeed. This morning however I was stopped in my tracks. A page I have ‘liked’ on facebook, which is for a website that I enjoy called ‘Mamamia’ had shared a story about a mother whose child had transitioned from female to male. 

Regular readers will be aware that I am extremely open and accepting of diversity. I celebrate all colours of the rainbow! In a little while I will be going to the wedding of one of my dearest, oldest friends and my friend and her wife to be have asked me to do a reading as they formalise their commitment in celebration of their happy home, gorgeous family and ten year partnership. So, any article about a mother’s acceptance of her transgender son would only be a good thing in my book, ordinarily. Except, and it’s quite a big ‘but’ really (I like big butts and I can not lie!) the story made statements about her female child having died and been reborn again as a male. Ok, metaphorically I get it. I do not think that situation would not be without it’s own grief and losses. But she lost me when she said things like “My daughter Grace passed away in September 2010. There wasn’t an obituary. There wasn’t a funeral. There wasn’t a casket or even a body to put in it. No one sent me sympathy cards. No one brought me casseroles.”

She then, two sentences later, stated the obvious “It was because my child was still alive.” Well, yes. I had lots of food delivered to me. Mostly lasagne. I had a body that was the charred physical remains of my beautiful, intelligent, loving, talented child. I got to plan her funeral not long past her fourteenth birthday. Lucky fucking me, hey?

As the writer went on and outlined her road to acceptance she waxed lyrical about special events that had caused her to shed ‘happy tears’. Um, yes, that would be because her child was still ALIVE. Able to grow and change and develop. To live and love and learn and as his mother she had the privilege of being able to watch that and support him and nurture her child. To some extent, at some stage in our children’s lives we all have to let go of the child we dreamt of and imagined and accept them for the people the actually ARE. This woman’s experience was probably more than most of us would expect but how dare she, HOW DARE SHE compare her child’s transition to losing a child to death. There were NO happy tears shed after my daughter died. Because my Daughter actually DIED. Wasn’t alive any more. I can no longer watch her grow, hear her laugh, hold her in my arms. Never again. Ever. Not in this lifetime. That kind of dead.

The article was originally published here on the Huffington Post site. and then republished here on Mamamia. If you have any thoughts please feel free to go there and share them. Comments here welcome also!

I cannot even explain the white hot anger I felt at the words so thoughtlessly used. I know that unless you have outlived your child you cannot imagine it. I am GLAD for you that you can’t. But in this situation there was no comparison and you’ll be lucky if you get to take my word for that.

Safe onward travel x

photo (10)

ISN’T SHE LOVELY.

Tomorrow is my eldest Daughter’s 25th birthday, or it would be, you know, if she hadn’t been murdered and everything over ten years ago. 

It’s still her birthday I guess, only she doesn’t get to be a year older. 

I don’t get to meet up with my twenty five year old Daughter for lunch and reminisce, or chat about her job, or what she’s wearing out to dinner – with her friends? A new romantic prospect? A long term partner? 

I will never know my Daughter as an adult. Years of birthday’s flash through my head before coming to an abrupt halt at the last one. 

There were nowhere near enough of them. 

Tomorrow I will give thanks for having known her at all. And that is not enough either. 

Travel safe x 

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