At Abi’s first anniversary on 10th February, my contact at the local newspaper contacted me with an offer to run an update story on fundraising that had been done in Abi’s memory over the year. I was pleasantly surprised that he’d remembered and was happy to oblige. It would be good to once again recognise the work people had done to collectively raise over £22,000 for Bristol Children’s Hospital in her memory.
I mentioned this article to an acquaintance who gave me a concerned look and asked if I was okay with it (the Press involvement). I hadn’t really considered that view before but I could see that some people might wonder why we’d willingly ‘sell our story’, as usually the Press was only out for itself… digging up dirt to sell papers.
The title of this post might seem odd. Perhaps it should read ‘How could you…?’ Why would you discipline a child who was grieving for a lost friend or relative (in our case sibling) and recovering from the trauma of that loss when all they need is love, understanding and security?
We feel we are as fair as possible with our discipline methods. We try to give our children freedom to be themselves within a stable home environment. We’re certainly no experts and of course as children grow and change so do the discipline methods, but over the years I’ve come to realise that discipline is different in every family so I no longer worry that we’re doing it ‘wrong’.
We try to lead by example as we’ve noticed that when we are ‘well behaved’ our children are too, but when we’re too tired to care (which happens perhaps just as often) their behaviour follows suit … to go ‘off routine’ is a risky move which almost always ends in disruption. We aim to teach them the basics such as good manners and the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, but they’ve all been so different in personality that we’ve had to adapt our approach to suit each child. For example, one gets upset at being shouted at and would rather things were explained, the other prefers a quick blast of order and is usually happy to move on.
One of the biggest challenges I think I’ve faced since Abi’s death is understanding my other children’s different reactions. Contrary to my posts about openly talking about Abi and avoiding the elephant in the room, the approach with our children has had to be carefully considered.
Abi has always been in their lives. Her sister is just 22 months younger, so they were very close and did everything together, and Abi was six when her little brother came along, making her a great big sister able to share cuddles and play.
They were with us when she collapsed, they visited her at the two Bristol hospitals and then they came with us to her funeral. They saw every newspaper article, the house full of cards and flowers. They saw us cry and their daily routine disrupted. At that time, Mum and Dad were likely as much lost to them as Abi was to us.
Surviving my bereavement is not something I feel I’ve achieved by any means, yet, but I am beginning to see that in order to survive the loss of my child, I’ve needed to find and maintain a balance between grieving and living.
‘Surviving’ feels like an unusual word to use when I consider that it’s me who is still here with my life ahead of me, but the grief that I’ve seen and have felt has the potential to end that life – socially, mentally, physically or even literally. It’s a scary prospect that sorrow and despair – and, dare I say, an unavoidable self-pity – could easily eclipse everything and everyone that was once so important to me. Nobody knows just how grief will affect them until they are faced with it.
One on behalf of my husband… I know he and Abi used to love listening to this song in the car, and having their little talks.
…You’re gone, gone, gone away I watched you disappear All that’s left is the ghost of you. Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart, There’s nothing we can do Just let me go we’ll meet again soon Now wait, wait, wait for me Please hang around I’ll see you when I fall asleep…
Often, during the week, a prayer, hymn, or Bible passage will be repeating in my mind. I feel this is no small coincidence as it often reflects or resolves something I’m brooding over.
When writing my blog posts the other day, the lyrics from this prayer/hymn (from my school days!), ‘to be understood as to understand’, came to mind and seemed to convey perfectly my need to write to understand how I’m feeling yet also to give the opportunity for my grief to be understood by others.
The start of the Winter Olympics has brought back memories of Abi’s excitement for the 2012 London Olympics. It is hard to know she is not here to watch this with us, no doubt she would have loved it.
She followed the London Olympic events with interest and I can remember watching the amazing opening ceremony with her, it was like a mini party at home! We took her to see Zara Phillips carry the Olympic Torch into Cheltenham Racecourse, and danced with the huge crowd to music acts like Labyrinth.
She even held one of the torches, which went to her school briefly, and attended a women’s football game with her dad thanks to tickets given away at school. She was naturally sporty and outgoing so she revelled in the hype surrounding the Games; her enthusiasm was infectious. She even chose an Olympic bed set for her new room, which we now have carefully wrapped, unwashed, in storage.
Abi’s memorial has a cherry blossom tree next to it, but it’s only young, having been planted last May with her ashes. The first small buds are starting to form ready for springtime.
So, while it’s still small and not much to look at, it is a poignant reminder that life carries on… Soon there will be pretty pink flowers over Abi, reminding us of her vibrance, joy for life and beauty.
To commemorate Abi’s passing, we bought lots of small ribbons in bright colours… blues, pinks and funky leopard print.
We tied them all over the tree and were really pleased with the result. It looks pretty for a young teen and suits her style.
Even so, we can’t believe that this is all we can do for her, but at least it’s something. Tending a grave or memorial is such a vital part of still feeling like her mother, by doing practical, motherly things for her; just like I would help her with choosing hair accessories or makeup, I want to ensure she always has pretty flowers and looks presentable.
I have no idea how we will do this over the years… will our tributes change as she ages, or will she always be aged 12/13 in our eyes? That is something we can’t possibly decide now and will have to face with time.