Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A different kind of loss

My landlord visited recently. He's a Greek Cypriot musician with strong family values. When he heard of my loss he asked me 'how did people cope with this kind of loss 100 years ago?' To my surprise my partner piped up 'they gave them another baby, it happened to my nan!'.

His Nan is not 100 yrs old. But she is 90, and she did carry a baby full term which was stillborn. The war times as they were did automatically send her home from the hospital with another baby to adopt, love and treat as her own. She had that baby for 1 year before the natural parents decided they made one huge mistake and asked for the baby back. That was that! My partners nan was called in to an office, made to hand this baby over and then sent home with another. I can't begin to imagine her pain.

This led the conversation onto different kinds of loss. The loss of the the single parent. In England it was commonplace until the late 1960's for single mothers or mothers out of wedlock to be committed to mental asylums and their babies placed up for adoption. Today, things are very different, the loss is that of the unmarried father, the unnamed on the birth certificate. We find fathers desperate for access of their children donning superhero outfits demonstrating on roof tops, outside Downing Street, anywhere innovative and media worthy, parading placards 'FATHERS FOR JUSTICE'. In the media they are ridiculed but I feel it is a genuine cause. All too often are fathers cast aside by ex partners in favour of the new. Surplus to requirement. But as a child of a broken home, I know it is damaging for the child and not just the father to be segregated from kin.

And this leads me onto an observation of a different type of loss again. I have worked in the homeless sector and advice services for many years. Many of my clients have endured mental health issues, addictions, dual diagnosis, abuse and much more. I had a client with poor mental health who conceived at a young age as a result of abuse. She was forced to give her child up for adoption. She had been secreted from extended family so that the pregnancy had been unknown. My client would feel so wretched that she would attempt to take her life every anniversary of her child's life. The loss was too much to bear. I had other clients that were homeless and felt unworthy of contacting their children. They would pin pictures of their offspring to the hostel walls, talk endlessly of chance encounters, pave with affection and pride. Yet they felt so worthless they could not contact the children and be an active part of their life. They dearly wanted to but lacked the confidence. Their loss and grief was so deep.

Some may think that there were choices to be taken. But please don't judge or underestimate the power of low self esteem.

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