A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
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.