Christmas is approaching. This is the time of year for celebration and family. It is hard, emotional, confusing... so many things. It should be happy, it will be happy, but it will also be tinged with sadness.
This year should be Patrick's second Christmas. I wonder what he would be like. I imagine what our family photo would look like (if we did one anyway!) with three wee ones dressed up in their Christmas jumpers and Santa hats. It would be a full house. I wish I did not have to use the word 'would' for every sentence.
Every day I want Patrick to be remembered, to be talked about, and to be included. If you talk to any person who has lost a child, they will say that their worst fear is that the child will be forgotten. This I can relate too. Without a physical presence, the name of the child is spoken less. Without shared collective memories, the place of the person in the family becomes more murky. With the passing of time, people assume that the grief, pain, and hurt is gone. Like it can be healed or the current situation can ever be deemed as acceptable.
Last night, Patrick's Granny gave us a tree bauble for him. How I cried. It breaks my heart, but in a good way. I hate that this is all I have, but I love it when someone does something for Patrick, gets something just for him, keeps him going simply by thinking of him and talking about him. It honestly does not happen often enough. Maybe this is why it hits me so much. Anything with Patrick's name on it, with his memory and presence attached to it, is priceless to me. I will cherish the bauble like some heirloom piece of jewellery.
So, now when I look at our Christmas tree I see Patrick front and centre. It is calming in a way to know that he is 'on' the tree being a part of our Christmas season and knowing all of our Christmas wishes. Who knows what this Christmas will bring.
I was at a meeting last night and I must say, I did very well at acting 'normal'.
I believe that each person has different sides of themselves which they show in different situations and with different people. The person you are at work will probably differ from the person you are on the sports field. The person you are with your Granny will be different to the person you are with your friends. We have multiple personalities which come out at different times.
Since Patrick died, this has become more apparent. The person I am at home with the hubby is very different to the person I am in public, anywhere in public. As time goes on I feel like I have to differentiate between these two spheres even more. At home I feel safe. At home I feel like Patrick is protected, remembered, and is freely talked about. He is one of my children, my second son, my middle child. In the outside world with, what I call, 'normal people', Patrick is not any of these things. People brush over the fact that he is a person and do not discuss what has happened. Each time someone dismisses Patrick or acts like nothing has happened, a piece of me is hurt. Each time someone tells me how lucky I am to have two children when they know that I have three, I am so disappointed. I suppose as time goes on this will happen more.
I feel like I have to protect Patrick against these things. I know. I do not understand my thinking sometimes. When someone asks about Patrick I am elated. When someone mentions him I am filled with joy that he is remembered and considered a member of my family just like Shay and Florence are.
I put on a front when I go out. I can no longer comfortably do small talk - the disadvantages of being a recluse and then attempting to reintegrate with society - so I place myself as the tea server, the tidier upper, the 'I'll get the photocopying for you' person. I smile, I laugh on cue. I feel like a robot on autopilot. What my life has become. I put on a front as a fully functioning member of society. I have learnt that people do not want to talk about Patrick as I do. I have learnt that people do not think about Patrick as I do. He is always on my mind. So, as a form of protection I keep Patrick largely to myself in my home. I have so little of him anyway that I feel like I now need to keep him all to myself. If people will not discuss him, then I have learnt to keep him to myself. I am trying to view this as a positive...
My front is getting better. I was hugely surprised with myself last night, if I do say so myself. It is the small things, the changes, the personal victories. The only problem I see is that the more of a front I put on, the more people forget Patrick, the more I happily build my little wall with Patrick and I on one side and everyone else on the other.
How will Patrick's death affect my children?
I know that they are only young, and Florence definitely is not affected by anything at the moment, but what about later? Will they be psychologically damaged? Will they be emotionally stunted? Will they lack self-esteem? Will they worry about life and death? Maybe they will question their place in the family? Will Florence think that she is a 'replacement child'? Will Shay take on a burden of being the only son when there should be two?
Whenever Shay talks about his baby sister, I always mention his baby brother. Is this 'right'? His relationship with Patrick and his relationship with Florence will always be different. Maybe I should be allowing him to have a relationship with Florence without Patrick? Am I distorting his image of a sibling relationship? How can he possibly know who Patrick is and then work out how Patrick relates to Florence? He has never physically seen Patrick. Does looking at a photo and saying, 'this is your baby brother', confuse him? Is Patrick a person to him or simply a photo? Can he understand that Patrick and Florence are the same because they are both his siblings, but yet they are different because one is with us and the other is not?
Should I just leave Patrick's photo on the wall and wait for Shay to ask? But, then we go to the grave together, or 'Patrick's Castle' as Shay calls it. Maybe Shay, and eventually Florence, will just accept that this is how it is and not really question it the way that I do?
I have obviously been reading too much about this at the moment... But still. It makes me wonder. Maybe it is not so much how they view Patrick, but about the security, love, and comfort which they feel growing up? Maybe it is all about providing them with a stable and grounded upbringing? Maybe, as long as this is the foundation, then the fact that they have a sibling who has died, will not affect them negatively or harm them developmentally? Is there even grounds for worrying about this in the first place?
I want Patrick to be a 'normal' part of their life. How do I strike the balance of making him a part of the family, but allowing them to have an upbringing which is not overshadowed by grief? I suppose this is the million dollar question.