Parenting is a challenging experience, but when you are an adult bereaved as a child there are added complexities to navigate. One of the challenges might be how to bring your missing person into the family in the here and now. Or to speak with your children about death and what happened in your family. Children are curious creatures they want to know how they got here and where they belong. I was reminded of this only a few weeks ago when my granddaughter asked me “who is your Mummy”? Ah yes, how to have THAT conversation! I got a picture of her Great Grandmother and explained, this was my Mummy. She couldn’t quite understand that I was a child in the picture, but it was enough for a 4 year old to understand her family of origin a little more, and for my Mum to be known. I will tell her more as time passes.
I don’t remember my children asking about my Mum, perhaps somewhere in their sixth sense they knew what had happened? It was not to be spoken of, just as it had been when she died. Maybe because I did not talk about her, neither did they? I have a sadness that I was not able to bring her to life with my children. It is a part of my parenting I would certainly do differently. My Mum was a woman who existed, who they are a part of, but I did not know how to do it, and I was not guided to try. I had little memory of my Mum as a bereaved child of nine, but what I did know from others I would have liked to have been able to share. This comes not from a text book but a personal journey of wisdom. Talking about her, as I know in my professional capacity today, would have helped my grieving process. It would have started my healing earlier and would have given my Mum a place in my world. I appreciate the sharp intake of breath many will have thinking about that, but I encourage everyone to start those small steps.
In my practice some of my clients want to explore parenting alongside their grief, and how to bring their person back into the family. Changing family patterns of talking about death and loss helps society as a whole and informs our children safely. One of my lovely clients shared the most beautiful story. It made me weep, and highlighted further why I work with adults bereaved as children. She kindly wrote a piece to express what happened. This is her gift for all of us, and I am truly grateful.
I sought therapy as a 43 year old woman and mum of 2 small children. I lost my mum when I was 14 and was very aware of my unresolved grief and its impact on me and those around me. One of the reasons I sought therapy was I didn’t want my children to ‘inherit’ my unresolved grief. My sessions with Mandy have helped me so much on my journey and given my children the ability to understand death and its impact, as well as become unbelievably articulate around these subjects which adults find so difficult to talk about.
An example of this, is recently I was sitting with my little girl who is 6 and she was telling me about a difficult day she’d had at school and I said ‘sometimes you just need a mummy cuddle’. Then she said something incredible- she said ‘but you don’t have a mummy, who do you cuddle when you need a mummy cuddle?’ Her empathy and understanding blew me away. She then went up to her room to work on her current favourite activity- making friendship bracelets. She appeared a bit later and said she’d made me a bracelet. The bracelet said ‘remember’. When I asked her why she said ‘so you can remember your mummy and Gaga (my granny)’. In that moment I was struck by the power of therapy and the ability it has given me to speak of my mum and my grief which I have passed to my children. It made me cry tears of joy. Thank you Mandy for your wonderful insight- helping me to do the work on myself so I can give my children the language and permission to talk about death, loss and grief.