Tag Archives: loss


Mind the Baby, grieving, www.mindthebaby.ie
photo credit: myDays / S.Lee via photopin cc

My friend is hurting.

Her mother has just passed away and there is a huge, matriarch-shaped hole in her family’s life that aches and bleeds. The epicentre of a happy, loving family has left this world and those in orbit around her are struggling to keep on course now that their sun is gone. My heart goes out to her and to them.

There is nothing in this world like the pain of losing a loved one. It physically grips you and takes your breathe away. You can feel it burning in your chest, your eyes, your head. Even for those who knew is was coming, it is still a shock because suddenly they’re just not here.

When the funeral ends, the hoards of mourners leave the house with the empty tubberware and lasagne dishes, and silence descends, it is only then that the earth-shattering, momentuousness of the reality of their death wallops you like a blow to the chest. Nothing will ever be the same again. You think it’ll be the silent moments that will catch you off-guard but its the unexpected things like that song on the radio when you’re stuck in traffic or when a letter addressed to them arrives many months later. That’s when the tears spill out and the body-wracking sobs catch you by surprise.

The finality of it all is crushing. Death is the only thing in life that has such a permanence to it. Even though your head turns every time the door opens, they’ll never walk through it. You’ll never bump into them by chance on the other side of the world in decades time. No one will shake you from your sleep to say “wake up, it was just a terrible dream”, no matter how much you wish they would.

You just want someone to come and save you, to wrap their arms around you and tell you everything is going to be alright. The heartbreaking part of it is of course, the person you think you want to do this the most, is the one who can’t be with you any more. And it hurts.

You want time to stand still, because every minute that passes means one more minute they’re left behind as time drags you forward into the future, even though you dig your heels in. Every day that passes means that others think it’s getting easier and soon they won’t have to ask you how you’re doing any more and we can all just get on with our lives. But it doesn’t get easier, or better, or less painful. It’s just different.

You’re afraid you’ll forget things. How they smell. What a hug felt like in their arms. Those little snatches of special moments that seemed so ordinary at the time but now you cling to them, trying to hold on, like grains of sand slipping through your fingers.

Those first few months are an altered state. It’s like you’re on the inside looking out, watching the world carry on and trying to figure out why it hasn’t stopped and fallen to its knees like you have. You wonder how you haven’t died yourself because the pain is just unbearable, but somehow you keep going. Because you have no choice. One foot in front of the other. And that’s how it goes. People tell you you’re so strong, you’re so brave, they don’t know how they’d cope. But they would, because they have to.

No matter how many people you think understand – because they’ve been through something similar before, or they’re experiencing the same loss as you right now this very minute – no one understands your loss. No one else had the unique relationship that you had. No one else was privy to your true feelings for that person. No one else has your memories, your feelings, those special moments you hold close in your heart.

Grief is a lonely, long road. When it’s all so fresh and raw and you feel like you’re shivering and wet, it’s hard to imagine that road widening and flattening out but it does. You’ll get there. You mightn’t want to. But you’ll get there in the end.




Learning parenting from my father

Learning parenting from my father - Mind The Baby
Copyright: Mind The Baby

My father died when I was twenty. I was still a child really, having had a privileged existence up until then, protected by my middle-class status, my education and my loving parents. He died suddenly and tragically. It literally turned my family upside down and changed it’s dynamic forever. He died so suddenly in fact, three of his four children were out of the country and were not by his side when it happened. I’ll never know if it was a good or bad thing that I wasn’t there. It doesn’t matter really.

My father was an incredible man. I know everyone says things like that about deceased family members, but he really was.

He was thoughtful in the philosophical sense, gentle, so kind, empathetic, sensitive and a natural baby whisperer. All children were mad about him. I remember on several occasions being out and about with him and strangers’ babies would reach out to him to be picked up when he smiled or said hi.

We loved him deeply, as he loved us. He was a man ahead of his time in that he was passionate about parenting and the fundamental role of both parents in their children’s lives. He was the primary caregiver in our home. He did have a full time job and we had a childminder, but the nature of his work meant that he could be flexible in his working hours and more available to us.

He prided himself on his childrearing philosophy which in fairness would have been quite radical, comparatively speaking. It was unusual when we were growing up for mothers to work full time never mind have their fathers prepare all their meals, do all the housework and groceries and be the first port of call when your little world was rocked by whatever daily catastrophe was taking place at the time. We were rarely disciplined, never punished and I remember few rules except that 9pm was bedtime, no exceptions!

Dad died before my current life existed. My husband has never met him. I was still in college so he never met “grown up” me. And of course he’ll never be a part of my son’s life. It’s such a terrible tragedy really because if there was one person who deserved to enjoy his grandchildren, it was my father and in turn my children deserve to have this wonderful man in their lives.

I look at Baby S and I don’t see my Dad. I’m sure that sounds strange that I would look for my father in my son’s face but I have often heard people say that they see a dead parent in their new child, in an almost reincarnational sense.

He’s not there. But I’m glad. My son is his own person who deserves to live in the full brightness of his own unique light and not in the heavy, expectant spectre of someone whose loss is much lamented.

I was moved to write this post following a recent conversation with some old friends of my parents who were watching Baby S very adeptly use my iPhone. Trish started to recall how she would often scold my father for letting us watch so much television but he would laugh and say that adults were always afraid of the new rather than embracing change as we moved into the future. Just because they as children didn’t have television to watch didn’t mean it was a bad thing that should be withheld for withholding’s sake. The next generation will learn how to manage their own world and navigate it best for them. When Trish finished her story she said “and you know, he was right. It doesn’t seem to have had a bad effect on you.”

I had never heard this story before and it particularly resonated with me as a new mother. I have often felt judging eyes watching when I’ve given my phone to Baby S to play with when he looks for it. I’ve also questioned myself whether it would be bad for him especially as I make a point of not watching TV with him just yet, although my husband does. But you know what, he leaves the iPhone aside and moves on to something else when he’s bored with it. He’s going to grow up in a world where IT skills are not something for your CV but an integral part of life so maybe I’m facilitating his development, just like I do to help him talk, walk and develop social skills. Maybe my Dad is right. In fact, he probably is.

I miss him very much. I wish he was here to help me and to enrich my children’s lives. But life’s not like that unfortunately. I’m hopeful though that the great job he did raising me has influenced my own parenting style and Baby S will reap the benefits of that. I have observed that some things I have done subconsciously or have come naturally to me seem to have come directly from the Book of Dad – maybe nature and nurture are working together to do good. 🙂