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Just Joan: I feel hopeless after death of my ill son.

Byline: Joan Burnie

Q THREE years ago my son died. When he was born we were told he was unlikely to live as he had multiple problems, but he was a wee fighter and pulled through I was also told he'd never walk or talk andwouldbe dead before he reached school age, but he survived and although he

never managed to walk, he talked. Not everyone could understand whathewas saying but I did.

Looking after him was a great strain, although I loved him so much. His daddy couldn't take it andwe split up.

When my son was born, we already had a wee girl aged three. She was really good with her brother, but as she got older I couldn't cope with them both and she went to stay with her gran.

It was only meant to be for a few months because everyone kept saying my son would die at any minute, but he hung on until hewas seven.

People said his death was a blessing but I can't get over it. I'm also trying to rebuild my relationship with my daughter but she wants to stay with her gran. I feel such a failure. Maybe I should join my son

JOAN'S SOLUTION

ANO ONE could fail to sympathise with you. You've gone through such a lot, but the reason you were able to cope is because you are a very strong person.

If you weren't you would have crumbled years ago and would not have fought for your son in the way you did.

It's more than possible that without you he would have fulfilled his doctors' worst predictions and died much earlier.

The care and commitment you gave him, as well as the love, doesn't sound anything like a failure to me.You not only prolonged your son's life, you made it as full and as rich as you possibly could. No mother, I am sure, could have done more.

You mustn't give up. Of course you're still grieving, that is only natural. But what must make it extra hard for you is this assumption from others that your son's death has come as a relief as well as a release.

Losing a child, no matter how ill, should never be looked upon as a 'blessing'. How could it be when it goes against nature for our children to die before us? Despite his handicaps, hewas your beloved son.

In fact, because of his problems and because it was eventually just the two of you, you and he must have become even closer than many mothers and their sons.

So this attitude from some people that your boy's death is somehow easier to bear is grossly unfair.

There is no time limit either on grief. No one should expect the bereaved to get over it in some specific set space of time.

Fortunately there are those who will better understand everything you are going through. There is a support line dedicated to the parents, carers and relatives of children who have died. Please give them a call on freephone 0800 282986.

It might help your daughter to ring as well because she will inevitably have been affected by the loss of her brother. She may not show it, but both his life and death cannot have left her untouched.

How could it when because of his disabilities you and she became separated? But sending her to live with her gran wasn't wrong. You didn't let her down.

All those who deal with carers are aware that having a severely disabled child within a family means that any other child's needs must often come second.

You were also, after the children's father left, managing on your own. If anyone failed the kids, it was him. Meanwhile, I dare anyone to criticise you. Few can be in any doubt that you sincerely believed you were acting in your daughter's best interests.

Clearly it also worked out. If she'd been miserable at her gran's then she'd be only too willing to come back to you. At the same time, you mustn't be too surprised or hurt by her apparent rejection.

She's at an age when it's normal for kids to give their parents a hard time. But she maybe punishing you for what she sees as you rejecting her when she was young.

As your daughter becomes more mature, she may see things in a different light and understand the choices you made. Don't push though, your daughter needs time, too.

Finally, when the dark thoughts appear, remember that The Samaritans are available, night and day on 08457 909090

YOUR VERDICTS

I LOST my dad last year, followed within six months by my mum.

Dad hadn't been well for a while and mum had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

I cannot tell you how hurtful it is when people tell you it is a "blessing". I would give anything to have them both alive, even if they weren't in the best of health.

I'm slowly getting over it thanks to my own loving husband and children, but friends and even other relatives think I should be pulling myself together.

To them my dad was saved from any more pain - which I accept is true - and my mum died before she could become what my sister-in-law called a "nuisance".

I get really upset at this attitude. My parents were very precious to me. So really sympathise with this poor mother.

Grieving daughter, Glasgow

MY own son died from muscular dystrophy when he was just 13. I couldn't have carried on without the support of my husband and my daughters.

The girls were really good with him and never once complained about the time his dad and I had to devote to him, especially as he lost more and more mobility.

We were all shattered when he died but it helped we could grieve together.

We still talk about him every day and remember all the things he managed to achieve in his short life. That was OUR blessing.

I would urge your reader to seek out those who have gone through similar experiences - they do understand the conflicting emotions you go through when you lose a childM.C., via email

NEXT WEEK'S PROBLEM

MY 60-year-old mum has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I never knew there was anything wrong until my dad told me. He is in bits because mum absolutely refuses to talk about it.

She is due for a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy. But she was very angry when she heard dad had told me.

She says it's her problem and she's dealing with it in her own way. She says we have not to tell my brother who lives in Canada.

She's also told dad she'll understand if he wants to leave her because she doesn't want him tied to an invalid.

I asked her what I would tell my two kids, aged eight and 10, and she said: "Nothing".

She says she doesn't want visitors either, although she's agreed dad can come in, "if you must" as she put it.

My mum is a wonderful person and we've always been a close family.

So it's hard watching her shut us all out when it's a time we should all be together. But I don't want to upset her, so do I just do as she wants
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 16, 2005
Words:1230
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