Ok, this is going to be one of those that I hope my children don’t read.  It’s a bit of a confession.
The thing is I try too hard, with each of them. I overcompensate.  I do this because I feel guilty, because I haven’t been able to give them the childhood I planned for them.
Somewhere, someone wrote about the “bright canopy” that spreads over your family before your loss. I remember a golden, rainbow-shaded haven that promised protection, love and happiness – torn to shreds when Juliette died. We stood bewildered where the canopy once was, shocked at the vastness of what had happened to us.
The moments where my own pain lessens are always tempered with the feeling that I’ve failed our other children with their sister’s death.  How can I not feel responsible?  You’re supposed to protect all your children, aren’t you?
So I love them extra hard.  If one of them needs something from me – a cuddle, to sit on my lap, time with me, I can never deny them.  Juliette wanted always to sit on my lap, especially when she first woke up in the morning, but back then I had four children under the age of six.  Sometimes, as I rushed round trying to feed baby Raphi, find Elodie’s uniform before school, change Pierre’s nappy, check I’d measured Juliette’s chemo properly, I would say, “Darling, I just haven’t got a lap at the moment.” That haunts me.  I wish for an eternity of my beautiful Juliette cuddled close against my chest, my arms wrapped round her for always.
Meanwhile, I’m making a prom dress for Elodie.  It’s harder than anything I’ve ever made before and really, the stress of stretching my capabilities is bad for me. But it’s so pretty and it’s the one she wanted.  To make that dream happen for her is within my power, so I’ll get it for her, like the next thing she wishes for. It’s the least I can do.
I exercise this sense of guilt most powerfully with Elodie, because she’s the one who remembers Juliette the most, and must be the most hurt.  Pierre has humour and open-ness to get him by. We make each other laugh and think along the same lines.  Raphi is a little enigma, as much as his father is to me.  I never know whether his still waters are running deep or if he too has the uncomplicated soul I envy in Steph.
Celeste. She is my magic one – the one I have deluded myself is untouched by the loss of her sister.  It can’t be true.  It resonates for her equally, just differently.  With Celeste I try to give her what I could not give Juliette.  I’m guilty of doing things with her as way of making up the gap – all those moments I didn’t have with her sister.
Is this normal for a “longtime” bereaved mother?  I honestly have no idea.

9 thoughts on “Confession

  1. I have no idea – but I'm really interested in the answers. Catherine was a one and only, and had lots of attention, and her illness was short – I still catch myself feeling guilty though for minor indiscretions and laspses of patience. I suppose it is natural to pick over our parenting, when we failed at the primary parenting task – keeping them alive.

  2. Although I do not have other children because Isabella was my first and only child when she passed. I do think that forever I am going to compensate for what I was not able to do with her. I am going to make sure that her future siblings experience all of the things that she didn't. I don't think that we should be ashamed of that but instead understand that maybe in a way it is our way of connecting with our children who have passes.

  3. I often wonder how different a parent I would be with a future child. And what impact on a second child conceived after the death of its older sibling. Then I think that I can't do anything about it so I'll just do my best. That will have to be enough. X

  4. It's true, Susan. Some day I will have to put away the big stick for good though.Marisa, that's a lovely idea, another way of making a connection between our child and our other children. Sally, being a mummy when you've lost one is a lot about muddling through and hoping for the best, I think. Geves xx

  5. I know that I try to compensate – especially with my youngest. When Al died, I also lost my eldest whose anger took the form of blaming/being angry at me – as if I was somehow responsible for the car running him over. She is still very distant and so it's just me and my youngest.I am far more generous with the gifts she gets – and she gets them far more frequently than the others ever did. I'm more likely to acquiese to her requests. I'm more likely to go the extra mile. This week she turned 15 and is eagerly anticipating her school prom next year. The dress is a frequent topic of conversation. She knows that she can design and I will provide. It won't be from a shop – I will make it to her precise specifications. And I will love doing it for her. Before losing Al, I'd have said we had a budget and she just had to stick to it – and I wouldn't have even offered to make the dress.

  6. Beverley, I'm so sorry about your oldest. I think that's not unusual – I feel I was "blamed" too. I don't think they can help it as our surviving children and I'm sure she'll come round in time. She's grieving for Al in her own way. xx

  7. Gosh this post has really struck home with me. I know I overcompensate with my girls but I look back at the pain they have faced and i just can't not. They are amazing girls who still love life, they miss their sister desperately but have achieved some amazing things in her memory.I look back to the nights i moaned about being awake with Livvy when all she wanted to do was giggle and play and the frustration i felt. What I would give for one of those endless nights of love and laughter.

  8. It's heartbreaking, isn't it? We just do the best we can as mothers to our living children – sometimes we mess up, but mostly we don't. That's what I'd like to believe, anyway.

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