Category: Ella

“Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS but she IS NOT, all at once.

She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”

~Author Unknown

 

Jumbled thoughts scramble to make coherent sense at 2am. No fewer than three subjects of blog posts emerging at the edges of my consciousness begin to form.

Five days on and my girl is still fighting off her middle ear infection and tonsillitis. I’m so spent after keeping vigil while she endures her fitful feverish sleep next to me and getting only grabs of twenty minutes’ shut-eye at a time myself all night, every night, that I go to talk now and it sounds like jibberish.

I think I’ll save talking for another day. But it is time to write.

This article has been on my mind since I read it yesterday. It’s all so familiar that to read it once more, to highlight and quote from, would feel like reliving it again. I don’t need to do that to myself, not today. Instead, I urge any of you reading this to bookmark it and go through it carefully. It’s as brilliantly written a piece on a mother’s grief as any I have ever read – or written (back in the day, I used to write and write and write on the subject myself and, ironically, still didn’t feel heard despite the acknowledgement of supportive comments).

I am staring down the barrel of my tenth year on this Earth without my baby daughter. She would be celebrating her double-figures birthday this coming January. I’d have a moody female on my hands by now! She would have endured untold numbers of heart operations too, even to this stage of her life. We were told she’d never be able to be active, there would have been restrictions on her that by now we would have surely adapted to.

Looking through that piece, and the many comments in response to it, so much is familiar. But I have to ask myself, this far on, who really cares? I hate to tell any of you who are newer to the experience… but you get to a point where you feel a little trapped. You’ve had no choice but to walk on by now. So if you are here, still breathing, moving through your daily existence, and the years pile on… well, surely, you’ve reached your maximum limit of goodwill from friends and family.

Those who have stuck in there with me have changed, as much as I have, in these intervening years. People who had no children or young families ten years ago all, without exception, have offspring now of various ages and stages. Back then, my daughter’s short life and death were sprung on them just as shockingly as it was on me. Some got out of the task of supporting me early on, others remained and carried me through in varying degrees (as best they could). Others were on the periphery, throwing me lifelines every so often up until just a few years ago. But as their lives have changed (as has mine) and their commitments have grown and widened, the contact has waned. Who knows what will befall those families? I pray I never have to support any of them in the same manner they had the call to action I inadvertently gave them in 2004.

The lengthening of my grief began quickly at the hands of someone I thought would be a stalwart supporter. And it shocked me as much as it did rile me, in my burgeoning Anger Stage of grief. See, I was abandoned less than two years after my daughter died by a close relative who had always been the first to call me if she needed my support, including being there through her two newborn phases even while I was grappling with infertility and miscarriage, putting her needs first. That embittered reaction to my own grief response remains in place today, hurts of the other party allegedly greater than that which I was going through (and still carry today). But so be it. For that person’s pain to be so insurmountably great and heavy a burden that I had to be abandoned, it’s little wonder she couldn’t stick around to “cope with me”.

At first it seemed insurmountably hard to also grieve this loss to my life, so soon after trying to find my new normal. But the saddest part about this estrangement to me is the removal of the opportunity to learn and grow together. It simply was not this person’s destiny to walk alongside me, I accept that now. But it has taken years to reach this point.

In the remaining eight years, I’ve had minimal and varied levels of support from my ever-changing circle. It’s no accident that I have now a completely new set of friends. Firm friends, meaningful connections, easy relationships that are not costly on my energy. I can only assume, as these are friends by choice, that the same goes for them towards me.

The thing that strikes me is that over the course of a decade, everyone changes. My family makeup has changed, through deaths, births, estrangements, divorce and marriage. Where some members of my family have stepped away, other relatives have stepped forward and it has been one of the best and timely surprises (suffice to say, I LOVE and adore cousins – one of the unsung and overlooked connections and, to me, possibly more important than the sibling connection which can be so fraught with pain, belittlement and competition). And yet, I’ve still managed to enshroud myself with guilt that I am the one who’s caused all the problems because of the metamorphosis I underwent, beginning ten years ago. I have become this new person since the days before, so much so that they had to stop relying on me for a time. Because I changed the game plan, see. The person I was died in 2004 along with Ellanor.

In many ways, to this day, and because I feel I can never reclaim the dignity and sense of self I lost along with her, nor can I repay the listening-ears (for effective or not, they were still doing their best to hear me, a walking, talking, seemingly bottomless well of expression), I cannot overcome the feeling that I abandoned them. That in me, they lost a peppy, witty sister who was not prone to bouts of crippling depression, who could always say and do the right thing, who would take the knocks and the jibes with good humour and laugh them off.

Because I changed, because I don’t put myself second any more (for survival at first and then out of newfound respect for my core, original self – the one who emerged from those ashes), because I have worked so hard to constantly monitor and be responsible for what I do and say which is much easier said than done… I find myself on the outer of my family. I have no old history with my relatively new friends.

But am I worse off? I ask myself, in my state of being so tired that I am unable to mask my historical wounds. And the answer is an emphatic and, finally, truthful:

No.

 

Please hang in there with those who are journeying with you as best they can. Let them be there. You don’t have to accept what they say, you don’t have to be pragmatic and say they’re being abysmally ineffective with their words or deeds. But these things will happen, despite how well you try to protect yourself from them. So in the end, it’s not so much what to say/what not to say to a bereaved parent that is going to matter to you. It will depend on whether you can forgive yourself – your vital, natural, original self – for your actions and responses towards those who have hurt you deeply on your walk.

This was originally posted on October 23, 2009 – it’s one of those Bigger Picture posts that was time to bring back out and ponder. So here it is, freshly dug up and republished.

 

I have this friend at the moment who is presenting a lesson for me. It got me thinking yesterday, as I mopped the floors (oooh don’t I sound all domesticated), about how people present themselves in my life in order for me to gather information – not so much about them, for that happens as a matter of course and friendship – pertinent to learning more about who I am and how I act and react, how I “hold up” and how centred I am. This learning is synonymous with the colour Red.

It’s an interesting thing I have come to recognise. Where once I never realised how many similar friends I had in my circle, who I would allow to sap, push, pull and mould me, I can now see a definite course through my (at least adult) life; that there are those who have been a familiar “type” and these are the ones who always used to undo me at ten paces.

In my study at Peace Space of both the 13 Human Perceptional Levels (via colour rays) and the deeper aspects of the psychological, ego and psyche via the Masters Colours, I’ve been learning that we get tested (and how). We are given tests of agility, stamina, our will and just how sound that is…. and sometimes, the test feels endless: “Have you got that yet? Have you got that yet?” For instance, it is, mostly, the colour Magenta that will support you through this kind of repetitive lesson (also the colour of Mother love, unconditional Universal love), the vibration that will be recognisable within these lessons and be the ‘cruel to be kind’ teacher. Hey, it’s no coincidence my username (elsewhere) is what it is. It is a constant reminder, to me, that my journey to parenthood was a “Got it yet??” series of agonising months and years stringed together. And that it wasn’t merely about how well I held up while we waited and lost, waited and lost, over and over. No. There was untold learning in my lesson/s during that stage of my life. Hence, my online moniker in certain communities.

So I have this friend here at the moment. And I am keen to rush in and do and say what I normally would. Take the current crisis on as partially my own to carry with that friend, I suppose. But I have seen a pattern in these crises, as well, and I can’t ignore that now that I see it. I’m left pondering the ebbs and flows of people reaching out (and whether they are really asking for help or simply needing to be heard) and what I duty I have as friend to not only them, but to myself.

It’s an interesting thing, sitting still. OOH, gosh, I just realised something about that previous post and the card the LGBB gave me. Hmmmmm, maybe there was something not so random in that after all! Because I spent much of the afternoon yesterday, while I was cleaning, thinking about how my inaction may be perceived just letting it be as it will be this time, without even rushing in to smooth things over or defend myself for not giving more and all the rest of it.

Preservation of the Self first. It’s the most important thing, more important than giving, to me (for giving comes so naturally that I have had to recognise it more consciously)* – I have come to see that, since Ellanor came along – it’s been one of the biggest lessons for me out of losing her. Me, looking out for me. I never really did it before knowing her. And if she had stayed, I still wouldn’t have done it. Not that it’s a good enough reason, on its own, to lose my child. Of course! But it’s definitely in that suitcase of gifts that I rummage around in. I’ve tried so many things on from that suitcase and almost everything fits so far. What a lucky girl am I, to have it.

Have you ever found yourself waking up and realising you have unwittingly become a rescuer? What did/do you do? What’s your pattern? (You can email me if you like, if you want to share but not online – I’m always ears… er, eyes…)

 

* not that I’ve quite got that lesson, for I still don’t always recognise what I give and when, although I do now notice the sapping/draining/leeching of energy feeling and, I regret to say, sometimes that happens with my posts here which is why I often don’t post what I was going to, when I really need to conserve my energy is when you see a barrage of funny posts here.

Over the past eight years, I’ve shared a number of songs here that have meant so much to me. Music on the whole has always shaped so much of my life, like so many of us (if you know me well or have read here for a while, you know this too).

After Ellanor died, so many brilliant songs suddenly sounded completely different. They became vital. Beacons of proof that I was still able to be moved, that all of me was not shattered, utterly lost and forgotten. Somewhere in there, I was still the teenager who laughed her way through high school with a bestie who loved to recite movie lines as much as I did; the child who had kept an imaginary horse in her yard and snuck sugar cubes out to it; the girl who spent countless hours upon hours dancing, dancing, dancing to music.

In the beginning, the very thought of getting myself to move was impossible. It felt WRONG. Laughter, though it had peppered my every day before, was bitter medicine, if not “the best”. Slowly, my body needed to dance. The flow of life force couldn’t be stopped, it seemed. It wouldn’t allow me to stay down for long.

So I began to dance. It was painful and hard. It was all part of my new normal, a very difficult “first time since Ellanor…” to overcome.

Beloved music. Promise, hope, upliftment. But now, the lyrics took on greater purpose. Love songs felt as though they were trying to explain the inexplicable: Our physical separation, as mother and daughter, although the bond would forever remain. They became messages from me to her and I seemed to be able to find meaning in every one. Today I want to share one of the ones I would sing, smiling through tears as I moved my body and danced through the house. Such a strange mix of unbearable yearning and uplifting euphoria. So much, in fact, that my grief would be suspended for the duration of the song.

And yet… I was crying so hard.

Every feeling – good or hard  or even indifferent – was just so intense around that time. It was as though I had never properly felt every emotion available to me until that point in my life.

Did you feel that? Are you still stepping through that part?

This is one of those songs. It is a great song. Computer speakers do it absolutely no justice, of course. This thing needs bass to be properly consumed! Mind you, if you’re not a Daft Punk fan, it might never reach you no matter how sorely I try and convince you (or how awesome your speakers are). But oh. How I danced and danced and danced to this around my empty house in 2004. And now, not even a bittersweet angst remains when I hear it. It’s just the sweetest upbeat song (to me) that makes me want to move. That’s good music if it can hunker down with you in the deep troughs and then catapult you over the peaks of your journey so you can soar high.

Happy of happy joys, this week I’ve introduced Lolly – very belatedly – to Daft Punk. It’s not hard to see why she, too, is now a fan of the song. As if the song wasn’t cute on its own, check out the cool film clip!

 

What’s your best happy song? Tell me in the comments!

 

“Digital Love” – Daft Punk (from the 2001 album “Discovery”)

Last night I had a dream about you
In this dream I’m dancing right beside you
And it looked like everyone was having fun
the kind of feeling I’ve waited so long
Don’t stop come a little closer
As we jam the rythm gets stronger
There’s nothing wrong with just a little little fun
We were dancing all night long
The time is right to put my arms around you
You’re feeling right
You wrap your arms around too
But suddenly I feel the shining sun
Before I knew it this dream was all gone
Ooh I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
I wish this dream comes true

Ooh I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
We’ll make this dream come true

Why don’t you play the game ?
Why don’t you play the game ?

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live.” ~Natalie Babbitt

 

 

It seems the ways in which I can have the wind knocked out of me when Ellanor’s name is mentioned never completely go away.

“Are you pregnant?” Lolly asked me last night with a bright and hopeful expression. It came from nowhere, delivered upon me as soon as I entered the bathroom. She was in the bath. I was preparing her pyjamas so they would be warm when she got out.

“No,” I said, matter-of-fact – the best way, I’ve found, to respond to her regular honest inquiry. “There will be no more babies for Mummy.”

“How many babies have you tried to have?”

“Fourteen,” I replied.

“Including me and Ella?”

“Yup.”

She raised her eyebrows, looked at me silently for a moment and then returned to playing her game. A Pollypocket was attempting to jump through a plastic ring on the back of Rusty the mechanical fish. Death-defying and delicious fun. I watched her for a moment, immersing myself in her free-form fantasy before picking up my shattered mother heart and retreating with the dustpan and brush to the kitchen where I requested a hug from Steve. I told him what had happened.

“You know Ellanor was conceived ten years ago this week, don’t you?” I asked as I broke the embrace and busied myself with tidying the kitchen table.

“Ten,” he said, the wind visibly knocked out of his sails. “My God. That’s unbelievable.”

We pottered in silence for the next several minutes. I had finally let the impact of it settle in. I knew this year was coming. I could see it in the distance about five years ago and gave thanks that I had time. The buffer of time to get through first, second and third anniversaries (not just birth and death anniversaries but that of passing milestones like when Ellanor would have started school, what grade she would have been in when Lolly started school, and so it seemed to go on and on). We’re well through those.

But this. Double figures. Ten years. And to think, when I fell pregnant with her Steve and I had already been together ten years. It feels almost like two lifetimes; certainly two different ones.

I have been through myriad emotions this past fortnight. Coming to the exhausting yet liberating realisation that blood ties/family are not a given, cannot actually be relied on any more than any other relationships you choose and, in fact, sometimes by their very nature, probably should be relied on even less so than others in your life (blood may well be thicker than water, but I for one prefer to use the saying this way: Blood is thicker than water… and water is a hell of a lot stronger too!). I choose not to reduce or dilute the spiritual ties I have with friends and loved ones by considering it lesser – mere water – as if blood is superior when, quite simply, it is not.

Then, pondering my inner world as my 38th birthday approaches and reminiscing how long it has been since the pall cast over my life, the experience of the death of my firstborn child seeping into every cell of my being and every aspect of my existence. Forever. That will never change. Have I changed? Immeasurably. Would I take anything back? Not one skerrick, not even part of it… not even any of the strained relationships and estrangements.

When my stepmother died earlier this year, I wrote a line in a post that came from somewhere just beyond my conscious awareness.

I feel I am back in true service after quite a long lull. It’s not that I didn’t already have great purpose before, but this is a renewal of life-giving energy for me that had become depleted by simply “living the daily grind”.This is the beautiful thing about death. It enlivens the living.

Once it was out and on the screen, I appreciated it more and more. I always knew this. But sometimes, we need the reminder don’t we? So I’m giving it to myself again.

Ellanor and all the experiences she brought with her are like a blanket over my life. A warm, familiar, nurturing coverlet that allows me to feel safe from the inside out. Through her, I have learned to begin my walk again – renewed and shining my own truth. Letting this be the light that guides me on my way.

I’ve been pondering all things “blogging” and the social media black hole. I’ve been wondering if there is any purpose left to serve in this blog of mine. I’ve been chatting to fellow writers and considering my future direction; has it served every conceivable purpose I had in mind when I began it eight years ago? Did I even have a direction eight years ago? (I did not, I’ll tell you that right now).

And then a week like this comes along. All at once, I get the bigger picture again. All the insecurities that surface late at night when I wonder if I’ve shared too much over the years, bled my heart too much for all the readers who’ve come and gone, admitted my faults (as one half of an infertile couple, now with a thriving child and beyond my own child-bearing years), tried to keep up with the Joneses who have gone through similar loss experiences to me but who don’t bear all – and I’ve questioned myself so many times about what it is that drives me to continue to share, when others continue not to share – and I have aimed to balance the divulging of my darkest points with the flipside joy and hope of not just living, but immersing oneself in the life one finds themself in.

Ultimately, weighing it all up I see the deeply important gift for readers that rely on knowing there is someone who carries a lantern on a walk that is deeply impacting and never truly over.

Especially on weeks such as this. When that torch-bearer who willingly bares all meekly requests of the sometimes cold and always boundless Internets: “Hold me?”

 

Oh, help.

This morning has been spent with my stepmother’s notes on my manuscript. She made them in the final two weeks before her death. Damn! She left so quickly, I had no time to ask for her unrivalled ability to tease out my best thoughts.

If you are just catching up on my “story so far”, here is a brief synopsis of the current pressing points: my stepmother and I had been estranged for the better part of the past ten years. When it became apparent (that is, when she could no longer manage the pain in her body through sheer willpower alone) last November that she was gravely ill, I went to her bedside and remained there with rarely more than three days’ break at a time for the next two months. The times I was not with her physically would usually find us on the phone for hours at a time. Literally. I have already written about our conversations regarding my memoir, which she had yet to read.

The last night I saw her, she had handed it back to me. Only today did I feel strong and focused enough to approach the files on my computer and put her notes into “practice”.

I knew today was the day because I had this song playing on a loop in my head as soon as I woke. After two hours, I could take no more and acceded it was time to spend some time with my Ellanor.

 

So now I am at a part in the story where Susi has written in the margins that I have made “an important point – perhaps two – and I’m not sure quite what it/they are. So, more clarity. As in…?” She then goes on to deftly rearrange, and make better, the following paragraph.

From this:

The truth is, I had no idea when I began what was expected to be an ordinary, everyday life with my chosen partner that there were such rich rewards to be found in adversity; that with Steve I was, in fact, destined to live a most extraordinary existence. Embracing my experiences and their potential to transform me into my most natural state of being was actually a choice, I would soon discover. Not in spite of our hardships but because of them.

To this:

The truth is, when I began what was expected to be an ordinary, everyday life with my chosen partner, I had no idea that such rich rewards were to be found in adversity; that with Steve I was, in fact, destined to live a most extraordinary existence. Embracing its experiences and their potential to transform me into my most natural state of being was actually a choice, I would soon discover. Not in spite of our hardships but because of them.

 

Such subtle tweaks, but ones I could not see because I am too close to the work and have read it too often. Now, any editor who goes over my work would find and fix these. However, I’m not so sure I will be lucky enough to find one who will help me tease out the magic. It’s like knowing there are Easter eggs in the game you’re playing but not exactly sure where they are – even if you have an idea where they could be – and then, no idea how to unlock them to gain the extra levels.

More expansion, more contemplation. To answer the question, “What do you mean – not in spite of our hardships but because of them”? Or does that come out as the reader reads on? It’s hard for me to say. It’s equally hard for me to trust others’ input on this. And so, I have reached a new intersection on the journey of writing a big book.

This work is the work of my life. It is right that it is difficult, painstaking. It is fair that I go away from it and come back and that it taunts me when I am not focused on it. Like a petulant child of the Me Generation, I want to reap the fruits of my labours NOW! But to do so would be denying the as yet untapped and hidden potential in my words. And my short-term gain would greatly diminish the potential of the book’s true worth for the reader. While I could scour the internet and other resources for the finest, most in-tune editor I can afford, ultimately, I know that there are still diamonds in the rough of my words. Worlds within the words. Places the reader will be able to go as they put my book down and really ponder their own truth.

That is what I want. An expansion for the reader. But first, I must be the one with the vision of where the book must expand. It’s so close. And I am incredibly buoyed by the sight of my stepmother’s hand on the pages I entrusted to her. In many respects, far too late. But so poignantly timed it takes my breath away.


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