This weekend was an interesting one for all sorts of reasons. We had two pretty important events scheduled for Saturday: my youngest daughter had her first group session with CHUMs, a fantastic bereavement support service for children and Lizzie was attending a celebration event to mark what would have been the 17th birthday of her treasured friend Rachel, who sadly took her own life in January.
My youngest daughter has been struggling with the loss of her precious Nana in March this year. As parents, we are aware that our children have more experience of death than most kids their age. We have lost our fair share of loved ones in recent years but this is compounded for them by the very nature of Lizzie’s illness and my cancer. At the tender age of 11, to loose her grandmother, to whom she was so close, the reality that people do actually die was a hard one for our youngest. All her fears and worries about me, about Lizzie, have come to the surface and she is now struggling to cope with her grief and her fear that we too could die.
CHUMS Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing Service for Children and Young People provides therapeutic support in a variety of ways. CHUMS has developed a unique service delivery model to ensure that children and young people are able to access a service that supports their individual needs. We were referred to CHUMs for our youngest through Social Services Early Intervention team and the referral was supported by the school. During our initial consultation, it became clear that angel number 6 also felt resentful and sad that I am not around as much as I used to be: that my time is taken up with Lizzie and even when I am not away from the home with Lizzie on appointments and hospital visits, I am preoccupied with her care and well being. I had agreed to attend the group sessions with her and it was really important to her that I didn’t break this promise.
So it was agreed that my husband would take Lizzie to Rachel’s birthday celebration and I would attend the CHUMs session with angel number 6: I can’t describe the anxiety this caused me! I sat in room with the other parents whilst the children went off to their session and all I could think of was Lizzie: I should be with her, sharing, supporting, comforting. I have travelled this path so closely with her, broke the awful news to her about Rachel’s death and taken every heartbreaking step with her. How would she manage without me? I was anxious, jittery and angry that I was not there. And of course, I feel a huge gratitude to Rachel for the love she showered on my daughter and a synergy with her family for the similar paths we walk. It slowly dawned on me that my life has truly become Lizzie’s illness. My youngest daughter is right to feel I am absent because in my heart, I am. I also found the session incredibly difficult emotionally: I knew it would be because we were there primarily because of the loss of my beautiful mother-in-law, and I miss her terribly, but I was swamped with emotion that one day we would be back, because my children were struggling to deal with the loss of Lizzie.
I know I have said this before but my children, particularly the youngest, feel that Lizzie gets everything she wants at the moment: more clothes, better birthday parties, she is even allowed piercings and bright hair colours (a pretty big deal for a mum who was previously anti any of these things!). Some of this is sibling rivalry and out of context but for the rest of it, how do I tell them it’s because I fear it will be her last birthday, that she won’t get to dye her hair when she is 18 because she may not be here? But I also know this is no way to live, for any of us. Sat in that room on Saturday, I had to let go of at least some of my demons and realise that this isn’t living, it is waiting. My other children are struggling with this situation anyway and all the attention I throw at it, isn’t going to change it.
Being a mum is never easy, everyone tells you that. But it seems the lack of support for the parents of suicidal kids means that we have to figure it out as we go along. I can’t be in two places at once but with 6 children, I am no stranger to juggling and spinning plates: I just need to reignite that skill and do the very best that I can for all of them. And who knows, my gut instinct about Lizzie may just be fear and she may come through this and go on to lead a fulfilled life….leaving my other kids with a whole load of unresolved issues because mum was too distracted!
I will go back to CHUMs next week with angel number 6 for her next session, and we will go ice skating afterwards like we did this weekend. I won’t break that promise. Lizzie was fine without me: it was alien to her to be without me as it was for me to not be with her but it wasn’t the end of her world! She text me from hospital on Sunday, a day I had planned to spend at home with the family, and said she needed me, and of course I went: I may recognise the need for balance, but I am still a mum!
None of us get it right, not all of the time. Don’t be too hard on yourselves: there is no rule book and we make the decisions we think are right for our children at the time.
Stay strong x