I used to cry in front of my kids as it was my strongest weapon to win the mommy versus kids’ war that often rages in my house. Forget the first few years, they were just a blur of nappies, breast feeding, pooing, toilets, sleepless nights and questioning my sanity as I struggled with the reality that arrives when you become a mom.
It was only after they became little people that I started to enjoy being a mom. It was also where I faced the biggest challenges. These little people not only had senses of humor, but they were wily. They could be cunning and frustrating. They were stubborn as well. I have no fucking idea where they got it from. They could squabble, compete and whine until I thought my head would implode. That’s when I discovered my secret weapon.
Sometimes I felt like a bitch, sometimes it happened naturally, sometimes I just did it because it was the only thing that would give me five minutes of silence. I could cry on cue. When my children started to resemble little assassins, whether it be standing at the kitchen sink, driving, or folding laundry I would start to cry. It worked like a charm. Every single time they would be shocked that they had driven me to tears and calm would be restored to our little home, for a few minutes at least.
I never once let on that sometimes I did it on purpose because it was better than going fucking insane. It was my secret and I was keeping it close to my chest because if they ever caught on, I would have lost my advantage.
Now it is very different and my life has been remarkably changed. Now I cry because I cannot stop.
Recently, my youngest sister and dearest friend died. Her death was sudden, unexpected and even more horrific because she ended her own life. Tears have now become something that I no longer have any control over.
When you are a mother you can never be alone in your grief, even though I think it is one of the loneliest paths you can ever tread. As a mother of young children, it can be very hard to hide your grief. I made the decision, because I could make no other one to share my grief with my children.
We were alone on the other side of the world and I heard the news via Skype. As I started to keen, my poor distraught mother who was going through a hell of her own, reminded me that I needed to think of the kids. I needed to tell Archie and Rissie. I also knew I needed to go home. In the 48 hours, it took me to return home, I experienced horror and heartbreak and my kids were with me every step of the way. Organizing the flights and the train trips, ending the trip of a lifetime, catching trains and planes. Being overcome with grief the closer I got home, my kids were with me every step of the way. I cannot remember which airport it was at, but I told the kids I did not think I could breathe and I sank to my knees with my backpack on and lay face down on the floor until breathing was no longer a problem. The closer we got to home, the more that my heart broke, the closer the reality of the horror I was returning to became. I simply could not stop my tears.
We buried Tiney and the kids heard my eulogy of farewell to my beloved friend. Because of that eulogy and because I wanted the kids to understand the truth. I had to have a conversation with them that Tiney had ended her own life. It is a conversation that I never want to have again.
There are times when I am strong and try to hide my grief from others. I tell my kids how much I miss Tiney, that I cry because I am sad. I tell them as much as I think that 9-year-old children are capable of digesting. I cry in front of my kids because I want them to understand that I miss my sister and that pain unfortunately is part of life. I also cry in front of my kids, because I want them to know that people do survive great suffering.
When we returned home there was much talk about a show on Netflix called, “13 Reasons Why”. I decided not to watch it and probably never will. I don’t know if it glorifies suicide or substantiates it but I wish that someone would make an alternative series called, “13 Reasons Why Not.” Suicide is an act that does not just affect the person who dies. It is like strapping a bomb on your chest, sending yourself to oblivion and leaving behind a devastating trail of shrapnel that wounds, cuts, slashes and almost destroys those you leave behind.
In Archie and Rissie’s case I see little marks where the shrapnel has fallen, though day by day those marks become faint scars. I see the trail of destruction that the shrapnel has left in those that I love. At times, I fear I am permanently scarred and that I am missing a limb, or there is a big gaping hole in my chest, that time will never heal and no amount of love will ever fill.
I snuck a look in Rissie’s journal to see if she was doing ok. She wrote, “Mummy is crying, she is sad.” She also wrote a song called, “Nice Girls Poo as well”. I think Tiney would have loved that song. I was tempted to get Rissie a little banjo so she could belt it out and the whole world could hear her. It was Rissie’s way of saying no-one is perfect. I think it means she understands. She understands I am sad, she understands she is tough. There are so many reasons I continue to cry in front of my kids but the main one is because I want to wrap them in bubble wrap, lock them in a box and keep them safe forever. But I can’t do that because it would be deemed to be fucking abusive and it is impossible to shield them from the world.
Because I can’t wrap them in Bubble wrap I want them to know they are loved and that sometimes very bad things will befall you but you can survive. I want my tears to be etched on their brains so they remember I hurt but they also remember I survived. I cry so that if they are ever in that situation, when life appears as if it might eat them whole and spit them out in little pieces, that they remember. They remember that I cried and survived. I cry so that that if they ever find themselves one day, dark and twisted contemplating an act that might seemingly end their problems, but in fact opens a door of horror to those that they love, that they remember my pain. And they pick up the phone and say, help me Mom.
I cry in front of my kids, because my heart is broken and because they are loved.
Lara Flanagan is a photo taking, food obsessed, foul mouthed, constantly writing and country-loving Mamma. She is the author of the blog My Notes from New England where she shares her stories. She is on the constant hunt for taste, colour, flavour and love with lashings of food for the soul.
Her blog covers everything from dealing with life in the country as a single mum city-chic to being diagnosed with MS to travelling the world with twins armed only with a laptop and her camera, to handling grief and her love of the land she calls home. My Notes from New England is all about her love of vegan food and the life she shares with her twins and her two mad dogs. The good, the bad, the funny, the sad and the downright fucking ugly.