So, this week it was my birthday, 35! Can’t believe I’m now mid-thirties!!! It seems like 5 minutes ago that I was 17, (the longest year of my life!) waiting to obtain the all important ID. These days each year seems to whizz past faster than the last, and I’m desperate to savour every second before it dissappears with our little family.
Anyway, as Birthdays and any life milestones/anniversaries seem to do, it evoked lots of emotions, and as I pondered how our family life is shaped and all the changes we’ve experienced, my mind drifted back to my own childhood and thoughts of my Mum, who passed, very suddenly, 5 and a half years ago now.
As a child I was extremely close, verging on clingy to my mum, I liked to stick by her side pretty much constantly and I think she had a real affinity with my painfully shy character as she had experienced this throughout her life also. When I reached early adolescence, we started to drift. I’m not sure why to be honest, I couldn’t pin point the reason and, in truth I think we just clashed more as I matured due to being of such similar character. When two people share the characteristics of being quiet and fiery at the same time, its actually quite a deadly combo!
Thankfully, after the children came along, we found more mutual ground in my new motherhood and for this I am so grateful, I still have regrets for some of the battles we had that were, in hindsight, totally unnecessary. My older, slightly wiser self would have bypassed such nonsense altogether. I have made peace with this over time, regrets are obviously futile and I have so many fantastic memories of our time as mother and daughter to remember.
At the time of her passing the children, (then aged 4 and 2), had never had to deal with any kind of loss and I vividly remember finally telling Henri, who although tiny at the time, had a well cemented bond with his Nannie. It is without a doubt the most painful conversation I’ve ever had. He couldn’t compute that Nannie wouldn’t be at ‘Nannie’s house’ when we went there. He continued to say, “but she’s at Nannie’s house, we’ll see her when we go there,” nodding at me and desperately searching for some reassurance, to which we had to repeatedly explain that we wouldn’t.
It was truly horrendous watching his face, full of confusion and feeling like the worst Mummy and Daddy ever to inflict this upon him. But at the same time I didn’t think it was fair to allow him to walk in there at some point expecting her to be there, so knew we had to bite the bullet and tell him.
A small mercy was that Molly was too young to understand. She had only just turned two and the two years difference felt immense in this situation.
Since this, I have to admit I have avoided exposing the children to anything at all about death. Great Grandparents have passed and I haven’t told them. This is terrible and obviously completely goes against my philosophy of being as ‘real’ as possible with them, but after receiving such a huge blow at such a young age it’s the one area I just feel like I want to protect them from.
I know this is not equipping them well for the future as undoubtedly they will experience more loss.
I’ve talked in a recent blog about the questions the children have asked and how we’ve found its so important to answer openly and honestly, to all of them, even the taboo ones! But they haven’t actually asked any specific questions on the subject yet. Maybe they’re not ready for the answers to these questions just yet or maybe its because they sense my hesitation around the whole area? Which is a really horrible thought.
So I started to think about how to go forward with the situation. What is the best way to approach death and loss with children? Did we do the wrong thing back then? At the time I couldn’t see another way and felt like it was a ticking time bomb that I had to take the little control of that I could, by deciding how and when he found out-like a controlled explosion! Perhaps we should have held off?! But wouldn’t it have been just as painful regardless?
I’m definitely going to need to be more open with them about the sad reality of loss. Supposedly protecting them in the short term, could cause damage in the long term, and as they get older could potentially leave them with a level of ignorance about such an important life subject.