We see no reason, other than the attitudes of the adults concerned, as to why these children should not enjoy a normal, happy relationship with their grandparents.
Social care welfare report
It has been a while since my last post, life has been quite hectic and I felt that continuing with this blog would be counterproductive to my getting things straightened out. My research has been incredibly helpful to me in terms of making sense of the effect that being bereaved by suicide can have on a life, and taking time to reflect on that was important. For now at least, I’m back on track.
I have very little recollection of my mother and her behaviour while she was married to my father, but social care welfare reports and the writings of family members at the time indicate that the atmosphere in the family home was tense.
An affidavit written by my father when my mother’s parents were seeking access to their grandchildren following their daughter’s death stresses the negative effect that her illness had on me. My brother, being younger and having less understanding of what was happening, seemed less influenced by it. I believe my father attempted to care for his children as best he could on becoming a single parent, though his actions were sometimes self-serving and showed a lack of emotional maturity. His relationship with his parents in law was strained at best, and he seemed to believe that they would emotionally manipulate his children with memories of their mother. The bitter resentment between the two parties would continue for the rest of their lives.
A welfare report conducted by social care as a result of the access case notes the tension between the adults and the potential for it to affect familial relationships going forward. My father seemed unable to compromise on the matter, and based this on the assumption that his former in-laws would continually reference their daughter’s death in front of her children. Eventually, we did have contact with our maternal grandparents, though it was clear that there was no love lost between the estranged parties. Of course, this led to feelings of awkwardness for my brother and me whenever it was time for a visit.
My mother’s parents seldom talked about their daughter when we saw them, seemingly for fear of upsetting us or saying anything that could result in our father stopping contact. Having to airbrush her from memory while her children were present must have caused tremendous pain, but I understand and respect their decision. Better to be able to have some kind of relationship with their grandchildren than none at all.
I do feel that my father’s actions in keeping his former in-laws at arm’s length were detrimental to his children’s emotional development. His parents lived quite some distance away in the south-west of England and he had no other family, so estrangement from my mother’s family meant that we were isolated from other relatives who could have given us love and stability.
For a while, I was unconcerned by this isolation, as I do have some happy memories of my childhood, but on reflection, I have realised how damaging it was. My father did his best, but his resentment at the hand life had dealt him became evident over time and what he claimed to be an easy going parenting style was actually quite neglectful. The comings and goings of various wicked stepmother types over the years didn’t help either. As we grew into our teenage years, he did little to maintain the family home, ensure he had dinner prepared each evening and encourage his children to achieve our potential as young adults.
Naturally, growing up in this environment had an impact that has, in some ways, lasted until now. There have been times when I felt emboldened to overcome the tremendous difficulties life can present, and others when I found myself crippled with anxiety at things that wouldn’t concern most other people. I believe that I have now reached a point in my life where this has lessened, learning all that I have about my mother’s life and death has certainly helped in building my emotional resilience and self-belief.
It is incredibly hard for any family to come to terms with suicide, especially when blame is apportioned from different sides who have an axe to grind. I do wish that all the adults involved when my mother died had handled things differently, but there is little use in navel-gazing about what might have been. My mother, father and three of my grandparents are now dead. My maternal grandmother is currently in a nursing home with advanced dementia, I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit and tell her I have a better understanding now about what happened all those years ago. She seemed to understand and it was wonderful to be able to let her know that her daughter is not forgotten.