Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

mother’s love

This is a guest post by a mother who wishes to remain anonymous 

Many people have been in touch with me via the blog and the Facebook page to tell me how suicide has touched their lives. This story is written by a 40-year-old mum of two young children. It is about coming to terms with the death of her mother who took her own life in 1980. It explains how it took the birth of her own child 25 years later to understand that her own mother truly loved her. I for one am humbled and touched that this lady has chosen to share such a moving story to help others understand (and potentially challenge their perceptions of) suicide. 

My mother committed suicide when I was six. She threw herself from a multi-story car park.

I was already in the care system at that point. Being moving around between different foster families because the state didn’t deem her capable of looking after me. In all honestly they were probably right – though one can’t help but wonder how much support they offered before separating us.

I don’t remember the last time I saw her. I do remember our dingy flat, having cold baths, being left to look after myself and the teasing at school for my inadequate clothes. And although much later in life I saw photos of her, I don’t remember her face for myself. I simply can’t recall being kissed, cuddled or loved by her.

When the social worker broke the news of her death to me I didn’t cry. I vividly remember sitting on the carpet playing with some toys as she explained what had happened to my mother. I wasn’t yet comfortable enough in that foster house to risk crying. After all I might get moved on again and I quite liked that particular family. So I took my tears and my fears and buried them deep down. And although that night in bed I had horrible nightmares I stayed in my room and just sucked it all up.

Happily for me those foster parents eventually adopted me and I’ve led a privileged, much-loved life. But they were told by the judge to let me forget my mother, to not talk about what had happened and to give me a new life. Apparently this was ‘best practice’ to helping children deal with trauma in the ‘80s. 

This meant I grew up with no information and no one to talk to about my mother or about what had happened. This made me quite distant to the grief. One year when I was on a school camp I told a group of girls about her death. They wept so hard a teacher intervened. But I wasn’t one of the girls crying.

It’s hard to describe but as a child I treated her death as a kind of story tale. I’m sure all the grown-ups felt I was ‘coping really well’ and I guess I genuinely was. But with the benefits of hindsight I can see that it did affect me. I wasn’t very confident, I kept to a small selection of ‘chosen friends’ and the nightmares continued.

Fast forward two decades and eventually, I properly wept from the heart about losing my mother. I finally realised she must have loved me enormously and how much it must have hurt her to have me taken from her. It took having a child of my own to make me really understand this.

I was in the nursery at home late at night cradling our new-born baby girl and it hit me. My mother must have held me just like this and looked down on me with wonder and adoration.  Just as I felt such huge rushes of love and emotion as I played with my little girl’s tiny fingers and gazed into her eyes, my mother must have had those same emotions with me in her arms.

Whoever my mother was, however she behaved, whatever she did or didn’t do for me, having my own child made me truly realise she loved me. And although the crush of grief was enormous it felt good to know. 

10 comments on “mother’s love

  1. Lucille
    March 1, 2013

    That’s a powerful story and one with a positive ending. Bad people don’t commit suicide…

      March 1, 2013

      I try hard not to push my views on the blog but as this is the comments section where others do, then perhaps I can too. The act of taking ones own life goes completely against all natural instincts for survival. It’s with that thought in mind that I conclude, with no education in psychiatry, that a person who commits suicide is mentally debilitated, even if only temporarily. Many might say they are selfish but I simply don’t believe a person who gives up on their own life is fully in control, mentally, of their own devastating actions. I feel great sadness for both the victim and the people they leave behind who often feel tarnished by yet another of death’s taboos.

  2. caroline starkey
    March 1, 2013

    sooo deeply touching….

  3. Karen Ritchie
    March 1, 2013

    This was unexpected I read your blog because I knew Des . My own father killed himself when I was 5 . He had bi polar which then was not diagnosed my brother who was 3 at the time has also got bi polar, he is still here thankfully. But this isnt about me take care and love to Jackson xxxx

      March 1, 2013

      Hi Karen. The comments section is about you if you wish it to be. It’s about sharing stories so feel free.

  4. CK.
    March 1, 2013

    Tears have sprung to my eyes after reading this. My own mother died recently, and I have lost 2 friends to suicide in their 20’s so it got me from both points of view. I am so glad you have gone on to lead a happy and fulfilling life with a family of your own. Your mum would be very proud.

  5. lesley
    March 1, 2013

    My brother died by suicide last September.he was 43 With a beautiful wife and 2 amazing children aged 2 and 6.he had a lovely home and a very good an outsider he had it all.but he struggled for years with depression and with issues arising from an abusive childhood. The day before he took his life he told me what he planned on doing.However he then told me I had convinced him not to end his life and I believed him. The next day he led me to believe he was having a great day out in London. He was actually on his way to beachy head. He rang his wife from there and told her where to find the note he had left detailing all the arrangements to be made once he was dead. It took until the next day for his body to be found and another day for it to be identified. You cant understand suicide unless you have been suicidal.that didnt stop me spending hour after hour trying to understand what he did. Ben I agree with you that if you take your life you are not fully in control mentally. There is no doubt that my brother wanted to die, it was so well planned.But I believe he was having something similar to a psychotic episode. In his normal frame of mind he would never have left his childre.Thank you so much for dealing with this subject

  6. SHB
    March 1, 2013

    WOW the timing of this is so amazing as only just commented on your last blog the day before yesterday . Can’t even begin to go into the co-incidences…Ben I hope you see and hear how these these stories, all so different to your own, yet still resonate with empathy for what you have and are still going through. x

  7. Julia
    March 2, 2013

    I found this such a moving and terribly sad piece. I am running my first half marathon in two weeks to raise money for the mental health charity Mind. I feel so very strongly that as a society we need to raise awareness about mental health and to end the judgement and taboo surrounding it. I have also learnt that last year in the UK there were 6,045 suicides. I was horribly depressed a few years ago and somehow with my last few grains of strength managed to find the help I needed, but I can see how isolation, stigma and a complete lack of self-esteem could prevent somebody from doing that. If as a society we were more accepting of mental health issues and the stigma were reduced, surely this high rate would be reduced.
    My heart goes out to the writer of this piece. And to Lesley after her brother’s suicide and Karen. I will keep you all in mind when I’m running my half marathon.

    • lesley
      March 2, 2013

      Thanks Julia.I am doing a 10 k and 5 k run to raise money for Mind.i couldnt agree more with your comments

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