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Sarah and her Mum

Imagine a mother losing her own parent... as a mother herself.              

But what's it like to lose a mother as a childless woman? 

As a childless woman, you learn that the world does not behave the same way for you as it does for other women. You are an alien in it. The most innocent of every day activities can turn dangerous. A trip to the supermarket around Christmas, Mother's Day, or even just a Bank Holiday can bring you face to face with treble life-size posters of families beaming together in front of the photo-shopped table or picnic blanket. The workplace discussion in the office kitchen after the weekend, someone will have mentioned their hectic time with the kids.  You won't have all that - lucky you! The family party, passing around the photos of the latest addition, a little globule of humanity floating in its mother's inner space.

So you learn to be alert. You know that any of these innocent encounters has the power to bruise or, on a bad day, to maim. You learn to hold yourself carefully.

But there are some experiences which seem so profound, so universal, that I would not have seen it coming. Like I said I've got used to it so, on good days, I can look right through it. What I didn't expect was to feel excluded in my bereavement. Surely losing my mum is a wound that we can all share? A wound that levels the playing field?

Me and Lilley live life very much alone. There really is just me and her. Like Sarah and many of you I have no parents or grandparents, or siblings alive. And, of course, no children to share the grieving with.

As Sarah says......(cont'd.)

When I lost my mother, I did what so many of us do - I went online. I sought out the comfort of the online forum, where I could, under the cover of a pseudonym, express myself more openly than I might wish to in face-to-face life. The cover of a username could give me the freedom to be my utter self, in all its sadness, and confusion, and guilt - all its toddler-like need. Initially, I found great comfort with others who were seeking the same support. But I began to notice that all the messages ended in the same way. 'Thank god I have my boy.' 'At least I have my children.' 'I don't want to get up each morning, but I have to, for the little one.' On and on and on. A chorus of grieving adult children whose parenthood is vital to them.

Of course, in some ways - as I am often bluntly reminded - I am lucky. I only have myself to take care of. Yet, I am also deeply unlucky. I only have myself to take care of. There is no teenager to pick up after in the living room, no toddler waiting to be picked up from the nursery. The tending and the picking up, which of course require energy you don't have when you are stripped of your bearings by grief. Yet the requirement to tend and to pick up are also blessings. They give you purpose. They structure your day, your week, your years and years ahead. Children change your relationship with time. For a mother, time takes them away from their own mother. Yet it also takes them into a future of new beginnings - the new school; the gap year; the university; the first grandchild. For me, time swings open as a vast emptiness. I can fill it, of course I will. But imagine the effort it will take

With my parents and dog Patch at Land's End, Cornwall, on holiday in the early 60's. When one is totally alone, as Sarah talks about so eloquently here, and many of you do, it's easy to be forgotten by society. As in - your 'social situation' is wiped off the slate. Inconvenient perhaps?

Sarah's story is important. It relates to so many of us and we're being forgotten. Again...

Well done Sarah for bringing it to the fore. Now let's continue the journey....



Apr 25

Thank you. As always I enjoy reading your blog posts. One thing to be very aware of in our situation is hospital stays. Especially in the UK with end of life care path this can transform very quickly into a death sentence. So as childless elderly people we ought to take great care not to succumb to NHS protocols without protection of a support network at the very least. I encourage the viewing of this recent documentary:

Apr 28
Replying to

Same for the U.S. Statistics say if an elderly person goes in the hospital, even if just for a broken bone, the chances of them dying is 80%.

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