20 years on
As the 20th anniversary of my Mum’s death approaches, I have been reflecting on how her death has shaped me. Really when I reflect, I feel like my Mum’s death was only one part of my trauma and not what has shaped me the most, but maybe it is. Maybe I need to stop focusing on the alcoholic, but the mother.
When watching the news recently and hearing the devastating news that Nicola Bulley’s body had been found, my immediate reaction was ‘Oh no, her poor kids.’ I said to my step mum, Karen, as we watched: ‘I can’t imagine having to go home and tell your parents that their Mum isn’t coming home.’ Karen’s reply was, ‘Yes you can. Different circumstances, but you can.’
This made me reflect on my narrative around my Mum’s death and how I am quick to almost sweep it aside as lesser. I use a LOT of dark humour to cope with it. Because my Mum died from her alcoholism, I have felt that I won’t feel or don’t deserve to feel the pain that others losing a parent would feel.
I understand their pain
Sadly, I have had some close friends lose their mums in the past few years. They have turned to me as they know I understand their pain and for some guidance on how to navigate their grief, for someone to talk to who ‘Gets it.’ I have had to check myself now as I am aware I have said things like, ‘Yes, but my Mum did that to herself’, or ‘It’s not the same, it must be worse for you. I always knew she would probably die.’ I feel I owe my Mum an apology for the way I am sometimes quick to dismiss her when it is not meant.
Why am I dismissing my Mum and my own grief? And why am I brushing my Mum’s addiction and death under the carpet as if that makes her less so? I loved my Mum as any child would. She was the centre of my world. Although there was a sense of relief. It broke my heart when she died and 20 years on that grief is still there in a little part of my heart kept only for her. Because her addiction is what killed her, does that make my grief any less valid or what happened her fault? Absolutely not! This has not been the opinion of others that I am aware of, but of myself and I need to stop and reframe that.
My Mum was not just an alcoholic
There has been a lot of anger and I often say that of my Mum and Dad (even when he is being a prick, which he can be, as any dad can), ‘Well my dad is here being a parent and my Mum isn’t here through her own choices.’ I think I need to be kinder to my Mum’s memory. Nobody grows up wanting to be an addict or an alcoholic. I know only little about what pain my Mum was blocking with alcohol and I am sure there is more.
Did she want to be an alcoholic? No. Did she want to spend her days feeling sad and worthless? No. Did she want the judgement from others? No. Did she want to be sectioned? No. Did she want her kids removed from her care? Absolutely not. My brother and I were her whole world and purpose for living and I know that having us taken from her must have broken her heart into a million pieces, but sadly her addiction had too strong a hold. Although I may not have known her as well as her family and friends who knew her before she became ill, my Mum was not just an alcoholic, but a person who had hopes for another life.
Love was still there
I often question why she ‘wouldn’t’ give up drinking for us. Why were her kids not enough? Why did she not love us enough to stop drinking and stay here with us? I realise now that we were more than enough. She loved the bones of us. She tried to get sober, but her addiction was a battle and one that she would have won if she could have found the strength. It does not make her love for my brother and I or our love for her any less.
I am glad I have taken the time to reflect on this. When speaking with a group of children recently as part of my Nacoa volunteering, one of the main points I made was that because someone is an alcoholic, does not mean there is a lack of love. There may have been many other things happening and alcohol may have altered my Mum’s behaviour, but love was still there underneath it all.
My feelings towards my Mum are not static. They have changed and probably will ebb and flow over time. I know at times I will still battle with loving her and being angry at her for not getting better and not being here. But for now, I am going to hold onto the memories of love. There might not be as many as others have had, but I know they were there. I am in a good place just now and on the anniversary of her death, I will try not to remember my Mum, the alcoholic, but I will celebrate the life of Margaret.
Love you Mum x
For more experience stories, find Support & Advice.