I love September. It’s a bit like my New Year. September is usually a lovely month weatherwise, I feel refreshed after the holidays and I’ve usually had a spring clean in readiness for the new school term.
But I’m deflated this year. Last year was different, odd. I was about three months pregnant and completely focused on that. The pregnancy hormones and tiredness kept me occupied.
This year, I have my healthy baby who brings laughter to our house daily. Yet this year my grief emotions are surfacing again for new reasons.
My second daughter left primary school in July and tomorrow will be her first day at secondary school, the same school Abi attended for just six months before she died.
I remember us taking photos of her. That ‘first day’ photo. I have to do this again, see my daughter dressed up ready to start this big new stage in her life, just as Abi was.
Abi was so excited about growing up. She was awake early every morning for school, had everything ready. She spent months choosing her school bag, and deciding how to wear her hair. My other daughter hasn’t gone near any of her school stuff. She’s not interested in her bag or how she will look. She’s not looking forward to it one bit. Abi headed off to meet her friends an hour early! My other daughter wants me to walk with her. While she’s very mature for her age, she’s emotionally more attached to home and me, and her anxiety holds her back. I believe, though, that secondary school will be the making of her.
My stomach will be in knots for her and for the loss of Abi for some time to come, as she walks the path that Abi took for just six months… and when that time is surpassed, perhaps it will get easier for me as the experiences will be ones that Abi never got to live… It’s just another mountain to climb on this journey through grief.
Perhaps it was because I’d just told my six-year-old son that he looked a bit like Abi when he gave me a cheeky grin. It wasn’t to make him feel sad, it just slipped out. Is it bad to say things like that? I don’t know.
Last night, my son was getting ready for bed and was in his bedroom. He’d been quiet for a while and came into my room where I was feeding my baby son on my bed.
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.
At times in the past year, I’ve heard it suggested that at least we have our other children to keep us going. It’s never said to mean that Abi’s death was any less distressing, but as a way to comfort and reassure.
I’ve often thought this myself too. When I feel mournful, I consider how it’s my two children needing me that gets me out of bed, that stops me feeling too sorry for myself and gives me a reason to live on. But it’s a constant struggle between the despair of my loss and being ‘thankful for my lot’.