The big day has arrived and it was perfect!
The sun was shinning, the happy couple couldn’t take their eye’s off each other, Meghan’s dress was the envy of bride’s to be everywhere and most of the guests were A- list royalty (aswell as actual royalty)… all round a wonderful day that will go down in history.
But I couldn’t help being reminded there was something missing, and I’m sure this wouldn’t be too far from Harry’s mind either. His Mother, Diana Princess of Wales, who passed away late August 1997.
I intended to disclose this at a later date but I thought I might as well bite the bullet and do it now as my past experience echoes Harry and William’s so closely. I lost my Mother at 8 years old, she developed Breast Cancer and was ill for about a year and a half before she passed away at the young age of 43.
When you lose someone so close to you it seems life stops; in some ways it does. Trauma freezes you in the age the trauma happened, your mind isn’t so aware of time, so that’s why it sometimes feels like these tragedies happened yesterday instead of years or decades before. I always resonated with the poem by W H Auden, particularly the first section:
‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.’
I think there’s a subconscious denial that your parents will actually die. Maybe that’s why it took so long to even consider accepting my Mother’s death as there was a refusal to believe my Mum wasn’t immortal. When your parents pass away I feel a bit of you goes with them, but then a part of them stays with you. It must have been a strange time for William and Harry as the world was grieving their Mother with them. I can’t even begin to comprehend what being in the public eye at this devastating time must have been like for them. I know they have spoken about their own personal Mental Health issues in the past, but they have turned this into a positive, by setting up a wonderful charity called ‘Heads Together’ which challenges stigma’s surrounding Mental Health, fundraises and educates. It’s truly inspiring!
As you become older happy life events are flavoured with a hint of sadness as it’s a reminder that this person isn’t around to create new memories with anymore; their story was cut short. You can’t help but think about how happy they would be that you were getting married or meeting your new baby, you end up with a feeling that I can only describe as bittersweet.
Throughout the years I’ve struggled with the fact having your Mum is around is the basically the norm and my situation isn’t. Trying not to indulge in bitterness is easier said than done as you desperately search for something or someone to blame instead of accepting that life ‘just is’. Mother’s day is non existent in my world, I run away from this day and stick my head in the sand which is probably not the best tactic. My therapist recommended visiting her grave to which I declared I’m not saying ‘Goodbye’. He assured me I don’t have to, I can say ‘Hello’ which I liked. He confided that this is what he does as he lost his Father when he was a young boy, which I was grateful for. In my opinion there’s nothing worse than a robotic therapist, I prefer the human ones!
I remember watching Diana’s funeral, it was heart breaking to say the least. Watching William and Harry mournfully follow their Mother’s coffin knowing this is not the natural order of things makes my eyes water as I write this twenty years on. I’m currently in a café with Elton John playing in the background, I’m praying ‘Candle in the Wind’ doesn’t start playing because then I’ll really lose it.
I lost my Father end of 2016. Coincidentally it was also to Cancer and again took about a year and half between diagnosis and him passing. Losing a Parent as a child vs an adult is in my experience completely different. I felt there was something particularly traumatic about losing a Mother when you’re a child; it’s taken nearly twenty years to start truly processing the grief of losing her. I would tell people about it like an over rehearsed script that I felt disconnected from and numb, whilst I watched their heart break for me. I regret to admit that I blocked her out of my life for a long time as it was too painful, it was an open wound that I hoped by just sticking a plaster on would heal on it’s own. But unfortunately the wound turned into an infection and spread into other areas of my life in the form of addiction, distorted thinking, acute self esteem issues and the list goes on. A Mother when your young is essentially your sense of self, and I was lucky enough to have had an extremely loving Mother which makes the forced separation all the more painful. I’m only starting to understand the extent of damage this can do to a child.
Diana would have been so happy and proud to see the way her boys turned out. I see their Mother in both of them, particularly through their Humanitarian work and kindness, she lives on in them, as my Mother does in me. I read an article where William mentioned that he tells his children stories about Diana, I thought this is a beautiful way to keep her legacy alive.
I’ve come to realise that this loss will never go away, I used to think going to therapy meant getting rid of the bad things that have happened, but this was not the case. Nothing will ever take the place of my Mother, but I can do things to make the pain more comfortable, for example, I’m really benefitting from support groups at the moment. Instead of a open wound that can be aggravated at any time, it becomes a scar…still a big part of my life, but no longer astronomically painful.
I’ve recently stumbled across a meet up group called ‘Motherless Daughters’ for women who have lost their Mother before the age of 21 years old. This group was inspired by the book ‘ Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss’ by Hope Edelman. I’m so happy this issue has been addressed as actually there’s little support for this particular issue, I feel a lot of bereavement treatment’s are designed for more recent losses. Admittedly I am yet to attend a meeting or finish the book, I feel this is to do with my avoidance of being overwhelmed by the reality of my early loss, but I will definitely participate as sometimes the hardest road to walk down is the best one for you. I have read sections of the book and already Hope’s words really struck a chord. My 11 year old niece also tragically lost her Mother to Cancer last year after a 17 year battle, she was originally supposed to only survive three years after diagnosis but Debbie had a strong faith and I think that combined with an intense love for her daughter kept her alive for 17 more years, it was actually somewhat of a miracle. ‘Motherless Daughters’ talks about children needing to involve themselves in activities to distract themselves from the painful reality, I see this in my Niece. Unfortunately she is growing up in the age of social media where your self worth is determined by the amount of followers you have, so I fear this particular obsessive compulsive distraction is not great. I think I became submerged in play or homework when I was young and recently bereft… well maybe not so much the homework side of it. The surviving parent thinks the child is coping well, but actually it’s more of a coping mechanism that will work for a while, but without the right care and support it could fester into a wide range of Mental Health problems.
Becoming your own parent can be key to recovery, I am learning this. I felt for so long I have been without my Mothers love in my life, loving myself the way she loved me is overwhelming and feels too good to be true. I have been surviving on bread crumbs from well meaning caregivers over the years; then recovery comes along and tells me to devour a whole loaf of bread… I can’t, even though I’m starving and desperately need it. Extinguishing that harsh critic in my head with love seems like a over optimistic fantasy at the moment, but I will get there somehow day by day, all in good time. I think love is one of the most powerful tools in recovery, we’re not supposed to be on our own.
I previously mentioned support groups, this is a wonderful thing. It gives you a sense of community, a feeling of being held, support, empathy from people who have also experienced trauma and a lot more; if I had to list everything it would turn into a whole different post. This has really helped me explore my feelings of grief in a safe environment, and allowed me to cry my eyes out with a loving and warm hug at the end. Can’t even tell you how healing this is!!
I’ve started to reunite with old friends of my Mum’s as well, this helps me see what a wonderful person she was from an adults point of view. I’m interested in what she liked, what she did, what she was like etc….identifying with her as an actual person as against just my Mum. I think we would have been great friends.
I’ve recently reconnected with my faith. I was well on the way to becoming a shell of a person, I felt life was pointless and that I seemed to be a victim of circumstances and there was nothing I could do about it. My restored faith has changed that attitude, I feel more connected to my parents through prayer; I believe its only the physical self that passes not the spirit. At times I still struggle wondering why things have turned out the way they have, but I do believe we’re not given anything we can’t handle. I wasn’t dealt the best set of cards but they certainly weren’t the worse. And one day I will become a Mother and like William I will keep my Mother’s legacy alive, and let my children know who she was, and how much she would have adored them.
I fully intend to bring my Mother back into my life; her love for her daughter is so powerful that it defies death and can restore me to sanity.