Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Redundancy looms

I’ve been mulling a lot over recently. I’ve had good reason to. Last Friday I was given 90 days notice of risk of redundancy. Since then, I’ve hit a low patch.

I know of jobs that are available and their deadlines but have done nothing about them. It’s as if I’m paralysed by it all.

And on top of that, I’ve slowly realised – well I knew this but I hadn’t articulated it quite so clearly to myself -  that my anger is not because my son is dead. My anger exists because I feel my grief is ignored.
I know he is gone. I hurt beyond belief because he is gone. But I am consumed with a fury at the indifference displayed by those who should care.

My anger is not a direct result of his death. It’s a direct result of others lack of concern, lack of compassion, lack of basic humanity.
I miss him more this week. I don’t know why that is. You’d think I’d have enough on my mind worrying about whether the house will be repossessed by Christmas and we’ll have nowhere to live. But instead thoughts of Al permeate through everything this week

He was the perfect baby. He slept well, breastfed well, ate anything and everything I gave him – except baked beans – if they were dished up, his bottom lip would tremble and huge tears would well up and spill down his cheeks as if I’d given him a large bottle marked POISON and told him to drink.
This week I find myself remembering his physical form. It’s as if my body can feel him in my arms – how he lay in my arms sleeping, how soft his skin was, how long his lashes were when he blinked and tickled my cheek with them. And again years later - when I bought him his first electric razor and he rubbed his chin against my cheek to demonstrate how smooth his skin was.

My arms ache for him.

The irony is that if he were still here,  I’d tell him of my awful news and he’d gaze into the air, sniff, and then ask, “What’s for tea?” It isn’t as if he was ever a shoulder to cry on. I just miss the normality of him being around. I want to tell him I’ve lost my job and then feel annoyed at him for his lack of empathy. I want my normality back. I want my son back. I miss my boy.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Al's friend

I rarely write anything on Facebook but on his anniversary this year, I had felt moved to write,
Thank you to those young people who took the trouble to place flowers on Al's bench today. So few people bother to say his name that I believed he had been forgotten. This has been extremely painful for me so it meant such a lot to me to discover that this is not the case.
I wanted his friends to know that their actions were appreciated.

Last week, I met a friend for our usual Tuesday morning breakfast date. It’s become a bit of a ritual for us. My only day off is Tuesday so we meet for breakfast or early lunch and then I see my counsellor.
My friend is one of the extremely rare few who understand. Although she has no children, she is truly empathic and really seems to understand how I feel.

Anyway, we’d finished eating and putting the world to rights and I’d complained about my bloody awful family and she’d listened and made appropriate noises at the right time – as opposed to making excuses for them which is what most seem to do if I dare mention how crap I feel when others ignore Al’s death.
As we left our seats, we were approached by a member of staff. She asked me if I was Mrs Cameron-Young and I said I was (thinking ‘how does she know my name?’). She looked very nervous as she told me that she knew Alex and she wanted me to know that people did remember him and they still thought about him and missed him. She’d read my Facebook comment and wanted me to know that people cared. She talked a little of her memories of him and said, “My mum loved him. She said he lit up a room when he walked in.” There we were - stood in the middle of a busy pub carvery with my eyes brimming with tears thanking her profusely for taking the time to say that. My friend was also quite emotional. If it hadn’t been such a public place, I’d have probably grabbed the girl and hugged her but I didn’t want to embarrass her or make her feel awkward.

Nevertheless, the sense of relief was enormous. I just couldn’t express my gratitude effectively because no words could convey how much it meant to me. All I could say was “Thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to me to hear that.”
And then she was gone. And I went to my counselling appointment. And I noticed that my counsellor also became misty eyed when I recounted the incident. It still gets to me – that a young girl could take the time to talk to me about my son.

And I hesitate to even mention it as it feels like it detracts from that experience, but why can’t my family just occasionally make the effort to do the same. The contrast seems all the more stark now. But I’m so glad she plucked up the courage to speak to me. My boy had some lovely friends.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

I feel invisible

I feel invisible. Well, I feel my grief is invisible.

Two weeks ago, I attended a family baptism. It simply didn’t occur to anyone that I might find it difficult to welcome a new baby into the world just one day before the second anniversary of losing my child.
No one asked how I was coping. (I'm not). Not his grandfather or his aunts, not his uncle or his cousins. None of them. Not one. Why would they? They’ve moved on. He wasn’t their child. They have their lives to lead.

Perhaps they can sense my anger and so they avoid me. Maybe they sense that my anger is BECAUSE they ignore my pain and so they feel guilty and so avoid me even more. Or maybe they sense that I am angry with them but feel that this is misdirected and so feel justified in avoiding me. However, would they walk past a dog with a severed leg and ignore it? Because that how it feels to me. I wanted to scream at the sheer injustice of it all.
I was surrounded by other people's grandchildren. But my son will never have children. I don't begrudge any of those children - they're all so lovely - an absolute joy to see and spend time with. I do envy what I won't have. And it's not enough to say that my daughters may one day have children. Al won't - and he should have. I don't begrudge others their grandchildren - I just yearn for those that should have been. Would it have been so difficult to acknowledge my loss? It wouldn't have taken anything away from their day but it would have given me the most precious gift of all - recognition of my loss/acknowledgement of my grief.

Yesterday someone suggested that my anger is displaced - that, deep down, it’s directed at the man who ran Al over. However, according to this pop psychologist, I’m unable to admit that. How fucking dare they tell me what I’m thinking. I’m not angry with the taxi driver. Oh, I’ve had my moments when I’ve hated him, when I've wished him all kinds of torment - but they’ve been fleeting. This man should not have been allowed to drive. So I can't blame him. I do blame those who gave him the licence and the car – not him. They should have known better –he didn’t - he couldn’t.

Why are they so unable to see that my anger exists BECAUSE I feel unheard and unseen? Why is it that my feelings will only be accepted if I hate someone who wasn’t to blame? OK, that’s the way that others think they would feel but they haven’t been through it so how can they be so sure? And how dare they be so arrogant to impose their own fantasy about how it should be, onto me. How do they know how it should be? Have they had a child run over and killed by a man with learning disabilities?

Recently, I met a bereaved mother who said that she wasn’t angry with the man who ran her daughter over and killed her. To hear someone else say that gave me such an enormous sense of relief. She then said that what she finds the most difficult is others constantly implying that she should hate him, “I’d want him dead if he’d killed my child” because they are too lazy to take the time to listen to how she feels and it’s easier to make a snap judgement. When I heard her, it felt as if I’d finally met someone who really, really understood. But even if people find it hard to understand – and I can see why they might – why is it so hard for them to just try to understand. Why do they dismiss what I say as impossible? Why do they, who have no experience of it, think that they know better than me, who has the ultimate experience of it? Why does their opinion take precedence over my experience?
I feel that the sheer agony I go through every day is simply boring to others. But what they fail to understand, (or perhaps chose to dismiss/ignore) is that my pain is now caused by that nonchalant dismissal - that complete indifference.

I want to scream at the world that my son is dead and yet so few even notice that I am hurting.

If I say that he is dead, the response tends to be a nod and “yes, I know” – as if I just announced that it’s egg and chips for tea. There is no real acknowledgement of the enormity of any of it. It seems so banal and boring to them.

My son died. I am broken because of it but my pain is insignificant to the very people who should notice. I am broken but I know that the breaks will mend.  But every time I meet someone who damned well should ask how I am coping, but doesn’t, it’s like having sulphuric acid poured all over me. The broken-ness I feel from Al’s death is a dull, throbbing ache. But I am burned with a fire that sears my entire body when people who knew my son, who professed to love him, don’t acknowledge my loss. It’s this burning that keeps me from ‘moving on’.

It seems that I am expected to make allowances for others’ embarrassment at not knowing what to say but that is such an unreasonable expectation.

How can it be that the person in abject agony could possibly be expected to take care of others just because they feel a bit embarrassed? It’s the wrong way round. They expect me to take responsibility for their feelings when surely, no one with a scrap of humanity could possibly want to impose additional responsibilities on someone in so much pain. Am I going mad to think this is an unreasonable expectation?

I know that this is going to sound mad until I explain it but some days I hate my new figure. I know I look good. I know because people tell me all the time. “Ooh look at you skinny miss.” “Oh wow – you look amazing.” “Oh My God –how much have you lost?” There’s only one answer I want to give. And I want to scream it at them. “ONE SON! I LOST MY SON SO CAN WE PLEASE STOP PRETENDING THAT EVERYTHING IS GREAT.” If he were still alive, I’d be celebrating more loudly than anyone else. I’d be revelling in my new looks, in my size 12 jeans, in my curvaceous figure. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it – I do. I've dropped ten dress sizes - how could I not be pleased? I am.

But it pales into insignificance when you consider that my son died. That's what consumes me. I NEED that to be acknowledged, not ignored. Not treated as if it’s something that should never be mentioned – as if it’s a dirty little secret.  Sometimes I wish I was more than double my original weight because they wouldn't have that 'let's focus on the positive' to hide from the fact that my son is dead.

"Hey you look great." Thanks. I appreciate the compliment but my son died and I'm finding life pretty difficult." "Still ... you look great." "But for me the most important thing is that my son died." "Never mind - at least you look good."

He died. And it hurts. It hurts that people don’t even appear to notice that FIRST and FOREMOST, I am a grieving mother. Right now, above all else, this is who I am. I am a grieving mother who is doing her best to make a life in world where her son no longer exists. But please can we stop pretending that he never existed. He did. He existed for seventeen and a half years. And I need him, in all his gloriousness, AND the fact that he really did exist, AND my grief to be acknowledged.

Why is that so hard for others to understand? Or, if they do understand, why is it so hard for them to show a little compassion and just do it? Would it have been so difficult to pick up the phone on his anniversary? Did his death have to be so ignored? Is my grief and was his life, so unimportant/so unworthy of even a passing comment?

It’s the sheer indifference that causes me the most pain. I feel so invisible.

Maybe I should print out this blog entry and post it to people. But if I do that, and there is no response, I don't know how I will cope. How insane is that? In the early days after a child dies, people say, "I don't know how you cope." And the (often unspoken) answer is, "Do I look like I have a choice?" OK, there is a choice but although I have contemplated it on several occasions, I don’t think it's one I could take. But really, I genuinely don't know how I would cope if I got no response after someone read this so I guess it's best if I don't send it after all.