Posts tagged ‘loss’

AND THEY CAN NEVER TEAR US APART.

For my True x

What goes up must come down. I’m definitely in a slump at the moment but also highly strung – isn’t the English language funny? I’m both of those things and also feel on edge which sounds like I’m being torn in three different directions and actually that’s fairly accurate, if not an understatement.

As wonderful as having my children together is, it is proportionally devastating to have that change again. It is hard.

When they are together it is as if they have never been apart. Sometimes they squabble and I have to remind myself that it is normal sibling behaviour, even as the anxiety rises in me because as soon as the clock starts time is running out. ‘Play nicely guys because this is all the time we have’.

But now is always all the time we have so I try not to focus on the hard stuff to come or the hard stuff that’s been. Instead I marvel at how alike they are, how in sync they are. How much they love each other.

We talked together about Daughter Number One. It made Son Number One too sad so we had to finish the conversation when he wasn’t there. It made Son Number Two sad as well so he phoned his best friend. It made Daughter Number Two sad but she said through her tears that she would rather know all she can about her sister even if it made her sad and together we read some of the things Daughter Number One’s friends had written about her after she had died. We talked about her hopes and dreams and Daughter Number Two’s understanding of her Big Sister gained poignant dimensions; that her Big Sister was a girl not much older than she is now herself, who had hopes and dreams. Followed swiftly by the cutting realisation that Daughter Number One never got to live out her dreams, or her life.

Talking about her Big Sister and sharing our memories is the only way that Daughter Number Two will know her but they are so very alike it is uncanny. Both with similar talents and passions. Both with huge open hearts.

When our time with Daughter Number Two was coming to an end this time – just for now, just until next time – we travelled the country and beat our previous record with four states in twenty four hours. Definitely taking the scenic route! Although we didn’t have time to see everything and everyone we wanted to see we did have time to connect with some very special people who are dear to us. A constant theme here is the wealth of love and support we have to draw on and how strong our family of the heart is. They are there to lift us up, to love us and our lives are so much the richer for it.

Someone speaking to my ten year old Daughter Number Two this week called Son Number Two her ‘half brother’. It was a remark meant to belittle and diminish the bond between them. Instead, it only served to belittle and diminish the speaker, and really, who even thought that was possible?

How pathetic that an adult would try to lessen for my Daughter a relationship she holds so dear. Technically speaking Daughter Number One and Daughter Number Two are ‘half sibling’s as well. Her Big Sister that she will never get to meet. She will never get to sing a duet with her Big Sister or go on adventures with her, as she does with her Brothers. She won’t ever feel her Big Sister’s arms around her, giving her one of the hugs she was renowned for. Daughter Number Two will never see for herself the ways that she and her sister are similar and the ways that they differ. So, hasn’t she lost enough, my ten year old girl? Why would anyone want to try to take any more away from her? Why do some people have to try to tear others down to build themselves up?

And I think of all the people we are privileged to have in our lives, my Daughters, my Sons and me. I think of our family of the heart who stand with us so that we know we are never alone. I feel the fierce love that surrounds us; from one end of the country to the other, across the world, through the years and, as we head towards the fifteenth anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder, even beyond death. People who show up for us, consistently, when we need them. People who love us, even when we can’t love ourselves. People who speak my Daughter Number One’s name and remember her always. And then, I can feel pity for the person who can only define family in such limited, simplistic terms as shared genetic material. Compassion I will have to work on.

Although I feel in a bit of a slump I lean into the love that surrounds me. All the laughter and good times my children and I have shared are still with me and with them also. Even those I am apart from are always in my heart.

Safe onward travel x

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A PLACE WHERE EVEN IF THERE’S NO CLOSURE, I’M STILL SAFE.

Well, hello 2018! It’s been full on so far!

Today would have been the 18th birthday celebration of a beautiful girl, if she was still here with us to enjoy it. Instead we remember her and are grateful for the bitter sweetness of it all, because that is all we have. Today also marks ten months since another much loved soul left us and how time keeps marching on is a little bit beyond me but it does and here we are. Today is also the birthday of one of my very best friends, a glorious being who has borne excellent children and who has known me now for much of my life but who loves me still. All of the people and all of their stories on all of their days. And the days keep on coming, one after the other. So, hold onto the good ones; the good people, the good memories, the good days.

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On Monday, Son Number One flew into town to spend the week with us. Daughter Number Two, Son Number Two and I were all at the airport to meet him. It is indescribably joyful to have my three living children together in my home. They bounce off each other with wise cracks and having the luxury of time together is blissful!

Because I never like to do things by halves Monday night, after we had said goodnight to Son Number One and he’d gone back to his accomodation, the rest of us got ready to attend a Very Special Wedding. We were honoured to be invited to one of the very first same sex marriages solemnised in Australia. We headed into the city to be there for the ceremony which concluded as soon as it was possible, just after midnight. It felt momentous and incredible to be a part of history but mostly it felt exquisitely beautiful to be a part of such LOVE. I watched the ceremony with tears in my eyes and warmth in my heart. Such a profoundly happy event.

Daughter Number Two hasn’t been with us to any rallies or marches. She wasn’t here with us to celebrate Pride. So she was beyond excited and thrilled to be able to attend this wedding with us. Even though it is summer and the weather is very warm, the midnight wedding meant Daughter Number Two was able to wear a special jacket that belonged to her big sister. I put it on her and rolled the sleeves only once and said to her that it was almost like her big sister hugging her. Almost. Then I watched her skip through the city, in my first born’s jacket, beside one of her brothers, on the day her eldest brother came to visit. As close as I can ever get to having all my children together.

It’s been a big week. Tomorrow we are having some friends over. Surrounding ourselves with people who love us and who we love. I highly recommend it! Because that’s the stuff you hang on to.

Safe onward travel x

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT.

A few weeks ago Son Number Two came home from a movie night with The Boys. He said “Mum, there’s a movie we have to see!”. He went on to explain that he had seen the shorts for a film called’Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He said “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh”.

As I’ve said before, Daughter Number One loved Winnie the Pooh and her room was full of Winnie stuff. After her murder my Sons and I decorated her coffin with Winnie the Pooh stickers, messages of love, glitter and their tiny handprints. So, “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh” – Of course we did.

Off we went, on my birthday at the beginning of the month. It was a very good movie. Terribly British in a charming way; it had themes of the futility of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mistakes we make as parents, forgiveness, family of the heart and how we carry on. It is the back story of bow Winnie the Pooh came to be. I didn’t have any knowledge of Winnie the Pooh author A.A.Milne outside of Winnie himself and it was incredibly moving and interesting to watch this film. I cried, oh, how I cried. And I unreservedly recommend you watch ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ too. I also recommend doing your own research around A.A.Milne and reading some of his other works.

Well guys, it’s been a year! Christmas is almost upon us and then another year. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. My plan is to spend my time and energy on the people I love, who love me. That’s all I’m sure about. As always I am tremendously grateful for those who travel with me.

Wishing you and yours health and happiness! Safe onward travel x

IT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE IN THIS SWEET MADNESS, OH THIS GLORIOUS SADNESS.

We are hurtling towards the end of the year and soon 2017 will be done.

To be honest, I’m not sure I will miss it. Next week, here in Australia, we find out the result of our criminally wasteful, hate mongering, progress delaying postal survey to see if some of us can have the same right as the rest of us. And still nothing will change, because this postal survey doesn’t actually change anything – except the degree to which people now feel free to spew hate about a certain group of us. Oh, and the millions of dollars less we now have to spend on silly stuff like education, health, the homeless, the environment. All those trivial things which can’t really matter much if we have money to burn on what is essentially ugly confetti at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe they are seeing how many more mass shootings they can cram in before the end of the year because gun control is a less attractive alternative (What. The. Actual. Fuck. ?????!!!!)

SIGH. If only we could use our powers for good.

Guys, I’m exhausted. The last few months have been intense. Good things and bad things, both, but intense and I’m weary.

Son Number Two graduated high school recently. This is a good thing. I am incredibly proud of him. I know how far he has had to travel and the obstacles he has had to navigate. I didn’t finish high school. I was pregnant with Daughter Number One by age seventeen. I went back to tertiary studies after having children but I didn’t finish high school. Son Number Two is the first of my children to finish high school. His graduation was a big deal to me, for his sake and for mine.

I don’t think I anticipated just quite how much of a huge deal it was to me until we actually attended the ceremony. Son Number Two had to be there early for a rehearsal so he’d gone ahead with his friends. I was attending with one of my friends. As soon as we entered the ceremony room tears started streaming down my face. Luckily the lights were low and I held on to my friend tightly as I struggled to compose myself. I managed to contain any sobs but the tears quietly snaked down my face for a long time. Before proceedings had even begun; before the graduating class was even in the room. Eventually, my tears slowed, then stopped. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘I’m ok, I’ve got this under control.’ And I did. Right up until one of the speakers asked us to think back to when our students had started school.

I do remember when Son Number Two started school. He started school eight months after his big sister was murdered. My little boy’s world had been blown apart and at that stage we were still lurching between the inquest and other court proceedings. There was no security. There wasn’t even much familiarity. Everything and everyone Son Number Two had ever known had either been brutally ripped from his life or changed almost beyond recognition, including me. He was so small and so defeated. I remember standing beside his desk – was it an orientation or the first day? I can’t be sure. What I remember is the sheet on the desk and his downcast eyes as he said ‘It’s too hard. I can’t do it.’

It was too hard, because everything was too hard. Over the years I’m not sure things got easier. Times changed. Schools changed. Six times over the course of his educational career. It’s only really been in the last several years that Son Number Two has had any confidence in his abilities or discovered there were actually things he enjoyed about learning. He was lucky to have some help along the way, someone who cared enough to see his real potential. Someone who, one way and another, inspired my Son to start living up to that potential. Like me, he has very good friends. Son Number Two took the road less travelled but he got there in the end. I am so proud of the young man he is and so excited by who he is becoming.

I was completely overwhelmed throughout the graduation ceremony. My head was pounding. We were seated near the door so after Son Number Two had sauntered from the room like a rock star my friend and I went into the hall to wait for him. We found him as he and his friends went to get a photo together at the end of the corridor. The entrance to the building was at the other end of the corridor and, as we waited, the corridor started filling with people spilling out of the ceremony room. I could feel my throat closing over and my chest getting tight so my friend and I elected to head outside for some air.

Son Number Two finally emerged. We took some photos and exchanged hugs and wished him on his way. I was staying at my friend’s place so my Son and his friends could celebrate at ours. As soon as I got into my friend’s car the sobs I had been containing broke free. Noisy and ugly. We made the short journey back to his place where his daughter had dinner waiting for us. I went to get changed into less formal wear and then walked out to the back patio to sit with my friend. As I walked through his back door the nausea I had been trying to suppress all evening overtook me and I walked straight past my friend and threw up in his back garden.

There were so many conflicting emotions. My focus had been my Son but the empty space where Daughter Number One should have been felt emptier that night. As proud and happy for him as I am it is bittersweet for me that he is the first of my children to graduate high school. And I fruitlessly wonder how much more of his potential he would have realised, or how much sooner, if things had been different. I let the anger wash over me and let it go. It is what it is. And really, as far as he has come, it is still only the beginning for my Son Number Two.

I haven’t really been able to hit my stride again yet. There are lots of emotions at this time of year and this year has been a long one. Not the longest, to be sure, but still. Lots of first times. Lots of last times.

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I took this photo and the one below at Stockton Beach on the east coast of Australia, mere months before my Daughter’s murder and around a year before Son Number Two started school. In the top right of the photo of Daughter Number one dancing in the waves is a corner of the shipwrecked MV Sygna. You can see it clearly behind four year old Son Number Two here.

Last year, a few days after the anniversary of Daughter Number Ones death, most of what was left visible of the MV Sygna slipped into the sea during storms. Apparently there’s only a tiny bit there to see now. Soon enough you won’t be able to see it at all.

There are only so many days left of 2017. Try to fill yours with love. This too shall pass. All of it. Make memories, take photos, go gently with yourself and others. Travel safe x

I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. 

In the last few weeks there has been the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and the sixteenth anniversary of September 11. There were many television programs commemorating the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I watched some of them. I heard her sons speak of the last conversation they had with their mother; a brief phone chat. Their regret that they had not spoken to their mother for longer. Those poor little boys. 

There were also lots of articles commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Tales of ordinary extraordinary people. Stories of brave survival and honourable death. Poignant conversations. Answering machine messages. We don’t generally have the luxury of knowing in advance when ‘last’ times come. The luxury of savouring each millisecond and commiting each moment to memory. We usually only recognise them when they are past. The last time we hear someone’s voice or see them smile or hold them in our arms. 

In between the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and September 11th this year Connie Johnson died. Boy, that chick knew how to live! And how to love! Connie was amazing. Her public memorial service was held in Melbourne today. If you are not familiar with Connie’s life and her work you can read up on her at loveyoursister.org  Please do! Or, you know, google. Look up Connie and what she was about. She left quite a legacy for everyone who loved her, especially her sons. But I bet they’d rather still have their Mum. 

Anniversaries, anniversaries, anniversaries. Whether it’s an hour or a day or twenty years they pack a punch. That’s loss I guess. That’s life. 

Even without working it out exactly I know that I have now lived longer without my Daughter Number One than I lived with her. I don’t need anniversaries to still feel the enormity of that loss. It is the way it is. This cartoon references mental illness but could just as easily relate to grief and loss for me. 

It’s not that I am unaffected now. Far from it. Just that it is what it is. I have lived longer without my Daughter than she lived her entire life. And however wrong that is, , however unbelievable, however fucking unfair, that’s the way it is. Knowing that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a night last week, as I turned the tv off and locked up the house, when I glanced at a photo of my Daughter and a sob burst from me with such force that it bent me double and I found myself on my knees, with tears streaming down my face saying over and over “Please come back! Please come back!”. But however much I plead and beg and cry she is never coming back. And the world keeps turning and the sun keeps rising. 

This year has been another one filled with loss, for me and people I hold dear. But not ours exclusively. Loss is the flip side of love. I try to focus, as best I can, on the love. It’s what there is left to hang on to. When all else is gone love is what remains. 

So I guess this is what I want to say today; love hard. Take the photo, make the phone call, send the message. Connect with the people you care about in any way available to to you! We have the technology! Get the most out of it! Send a video message or record a voice message. Do a video chat! Or go old school! Send a letter, write a card, post a care package. Let those you love know about it. You, your time and energy, are the most important gift you have to give. So invest in the people who matter to you, while you can. As much as you can for as long as you can. Savour it all. 

Safe onward travel x 

LOVE IS WATCHING SOMEONE DIE. 

We are through the first half of 2017, and almost halfway through July now as well. I made it through the 14th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder but only just, regular viewers, only just. I am still here, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. 

I don’t try to pretend it is easy. It really hasn’t been. During the first five months of this year two beautiful souls I had the privilege of connecting with died and in June another, most precious, followed. On top of my own personal grief, watching people I love in pain is almost more than I can bear. I say almost because there isn’t a choice. I love them and they are in pain. If the most I can do is bear witness then it needs to be done. But I have been so sad. For me, for them. It all hurts so much. My body hurts, my soul hurts and oh, I’m so tired. So very, very tired. 

In the week before the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder we had the bombing in Manchester, at Ariana Grande’s concert. An attack on children. An attack on music. Shortly after came the London Bridge attack, again involving young people on a night out and shortly after that came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Babies and children, whole families, living their lives, losing their lives and all of these events in quick succession hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of it, mixed with the other losses in my own life. The pointless waste of snuffed out potential. The reinforcement of how tenuous our grip on life is. How quickly everything we have and know and hold dear can be gone. It was crushing. 

As always, during these times, we were offered the very best and the very worst of humanity. Stories of homeless men running to give aid and strangers holding children, comforting them as they died. But the overwhelming aftertaste was of man’s inhumanity to man. These are the things I try not to hold onto. I really try. Consciously. I choose to look for the good and to be better, not bitter. But every ‘Missing! Hasn’t been heard from’ photo on facebook and each confirmed fatality, each snatched glimpse of footage showing billowing smoke and bereft people before I quickly changed the channel, took me back to a policeman’s face and the sound of his voice saying “There is nothing to identify. We’ll have to use dental records”. Over and over and over again. 

I am still sad. I am still scared. I am scared because at some point, in some way, love will equal loss, because that is the deal. And I choose to keep loving. Is it better to have loved and lost? Still, yes, I guess. For me at least. But the loss bit is just so very hard. 

Still, I get up in the morning and I put one foot in front of the other. Some days are slower than others, but I try and I try because the best way I know to honour the dead is by living. All the dear ones I have loved and lost, none of them would want me to not live my life. It would not give them back theirs. 

I have spoken before of the privilege of being adopted by a network of ex servicemen and women of all designations; military, police, fire and ambulance: Their support and generosity of spirit are second to none. A friend wrote recently to share his positive experience with a new medication he was trialling. Traditionally a blood pressure medication, it is said to have the bonus side effect of getting rid of ptsd related nightmares. As someone who routinely screams herself awake this sounded almost miraculous. In truth, after all these years I cannot imagine what life might be like without them. I just know it sounds good to me. 

After using antidepressants for over ten years I stopped taking them four years ago. A doctor said to me that she didn’t think my depression was biologically based, rather a reaction to events. I thought ‘Abso- fucking- lutely’ and at that moment there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to take them. I only speak for myself. I don’t make judgements about what does and doesn’t work for anyone else. I was under medical supervision. But for me, I have not had any more bad days or anymore good days since I stopped taking them. That’s what I know. 

Four years down the track from that decision, hearing about a medication that specifically targets the nightmares was pretty exciting! So I made an appointment with a gp and asked. The Dr I was seeing had never heard of using this particular medication in that way so she rang a registrar for more information. She confirmed what my friend had been so generous to share. So, I got my prescription. And I don’t know that it will work for me but I don’t know that it won’t. And hope is a fine thing! 

One foot in front of the other until you get to the other side, while sirens in the distance have me listening for the voice that will never come. 

Safe onward travel to all my lovelies, wherever you are and wherever you are headed x 

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. 

This morning I woke up from a nightmare in which I was getting my children ready for some imminent apocalyptic event. I don’t remember what it was, I just remember speaking to my kids and trying to prepare them, in a detailed way, including instructions on what to do if separated from me, or from each other. They were smaller, younger, more vulnerable versions of themselves, just to add to the ambiance. I was talking to them in a very matter of fact way while in my head I was screaming because I knew it wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough and the very bad thing was coming and I couldn’t keep them safe. 


Yesterday I woke up from a dream that left me so disoriented that it literally took me a full sixty seconds, without exaggeration, to work out – first – where I was, but then, when I was. In that order, which is weird. Yesterday disappeared into a bit of a hole that I was unable to crawl my way out of. The level of exhaustion is hard to describe. I read somewhere that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feel so tired all the time because you are basically on high alert constantly. After nightmares all night (I will wake up several times during the night and even if I go back to sleep all I remember are nightmares) I slump into some days. My head pounds, I have chest pains and my limbs all feel like they are made of concrete. My whole body aches with heaviness. Everything, every. little. thing. requires such effort that, even if I can be bothered, a small task can take up most of the day. There are days I can’t even pretend to be a functional human being. 

I guess this is my annual Mother’s Day whinge. Feel free to stop reading. I don’t claim any exclusivity. Everyone has hard days and Mother’s Day is hard for lots of people, for many reasons. Childless mothers, motherless children, women who mother other people’s children, children and mothers who are separated by whatever circumstance. I don’t pretend my list is comprehensive. You all know who you are. 

For some, it will be their first Mother’s Day and for some it will be their first Mother’s Day since. For some, it will be both and that’s just the way it is. What I know is that as soon as Easter was over, literally the day after, shops were full of Mother’s Day merchandise. Mugs and slippers and photo frames everywhere you turn. Brochures in the letter box and advertisements on television and Mother’s Day espisodes of television shows. Choking up my newsfeed in every direction. A constant assault that is impossible to escape. And for me this year the added bonus of a later Mother’s Day bringing it even closer to the anniversary of my Daughter’s death. Two and a half weeks to go. Bonus. 

Would I have been a grandmother by now? I cried on the packed train today, silently, after scrolling past a mother guessing her daughter was pregnant on a facebook post. Bit, fat, hot tears that dropped singly from my lashes and felt like lava carving their way down my face. 

After tomorrow there will be marked down slippers, mugs and photo frames and that is nowhere near as fun as marked down Easter chocolate, nowhere near as fun at all. But the days, even the hard ones, pass. Just a bit slower. 

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Tonight I am baby sitting three rascals of the four legged kind. Two very special babies and the big brother of the little girl Son Number Two and I have staying with us; precious souls all of them and I am glad to be here. 
A friend asked me to edit her manuscript recently. I cannot possibly put into words what it meant to me to be trusted with that task, but it meant so much. It worked for me on a number of levels. 
I have friends I can text random things to and they will meet me where I am. I recently went to see a performance of live theatre. It was an incredibly moving adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank hosted by the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts. I’ve had lunch in the quiet, leafy grounds of a University and laughed at my Daughter Number Two and my Sons. I have felt the relief of cool nights after just warm enough days. Videos of small boys and big dogs that melt my heart. And, you know, marked down Easter chocolate. 

The best of times and the worst of times. 
For the rest of my life; the best of times and the worst of times. 
Safe onward travel x 

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