Ok, this is going to be one of those that I hope my children don’t read. It’s a bit of a confession.
The thing is I try too hard, with each of them. I overcompensate. I do this because I feel guilty, because I haven’t been able to give them the childhood I planned for them.
Somewhere, someone wrote about the “bright canopy” that spreads over your family before your loss. I remember a golden, brightly coloured haven that promised protection, love and happiness – torn to shreds when Juliette died. We stood bewildered where the canopy once was, shocked at the vastness of what had happened to us.
The moments where my own pain lessens are always tempered with the feeling that I’ve failed our other children with their sister’s death. How can I not feel responsible? You’re supposed to protect all your children, aren’t you?
So I love them extra hard. If one of them needs something from me – a cuddle, to sit on my lap, time with me, I can never deny them. Juliette wanted always to sit on my lap, especially when she first woke up in the morning, but back then I had four children under the age of six. Sometimes, as I rushed round trying to feed baby Raphi, find Elodie’s uniform before school, change Pierre’s nappy, check I’d measured Juliette’s chemo properly, I would say, “Darling, I just haven’t got a lap at the moment.” That haunts me. I wish for an eternity of my beautiful Juliette cuddled close against my chest, my arms wrapped round her for always.
Meanwhile, I’m making a prom dress for Elodie. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever made before and really, the stress of stretching my capabilities is bad for me. But it’s so pretty and it’s the one she wanted. To make that dream happen for her is within my power, so I’ll get it for her, like the next thing she wishes for. It’s the least I can do.
I exercise this sense of guilt most powerfully with Elodie, because she’s the one who remembers Juliette the most, and must be the most hurt. Pierre has humour and open-ness to get him by. We make each other laugh and think along the same lines. Raphi is a little enigma, as much as his father is to me. I never know whether his still waters are running deep or if he too has the uncomplicated soul I envy in Steph.
Celeste. She is my magic one - the one I have deluded myself is untouched by the loss of her sister. It can’t be true. It resonates for her equally, just differently. With Celeste I try to give her what I could not give Juliette. I’m guilty of doing things with her as way of making up the gap – all those moments I didn’t have with her sister.
Is this normal for a “longtime” bereaved mother? I honestly have no idea.