Small miracles

I went to see my son today, braced for another absolutely terrible time as that is how it’s been for the last few visits, but by the Grace of God or sheer luck, he was in an excellent mood – calm, relaxed and happy. I was able to enjoy my time with him and vice versa. He watched videos on his tablet and ate the chocolate I bought for him. There were no behavioural issues or stress. It was all exactly how it could have been if these issues weren’t even in the equation. For a short time I breathed easy and thanked God/the Universe for this unexpected miracle.

This is even more poignant since yesterday was a dreadful day. I spent hours on the phone trying to sort my son’s finances out only to be told he wasn’t entitled to anything (which isn’t true) and desperately trying to make sure the paperwork was being completed so that my son’s carers would be insured to drive a car to take him out. It’s all been frustratingly slow and horrendously stressful but will hopefully be sorted soon. At one point yesterday I was shaking and crying and livid with my son’s dad for the mess he has left in his absence and felt it was all simply too much for me. The last thing I felt like doing this morning was visiting my son and being punched in the arm (or worse). So to arrive and be greeted with a smiley, happy adult child, was like the greatest gift I could have been given.

I am so grateful for this and also for the care everyone is showing him. Despite his upcoming eviction notice, the professionals involved in my son’s care are pulling out all the stops to tackle his behaviour on all levels. I do feel a lot of it is being abandoned by his father who no longer visits him, as well as not being taken out in a car to a range of activities which is needed to keep him entertained and healthy. Due to his autism, my son can’t express his feelings in the way most people can. He can’t say he’s confused or sad or missing his dad. It’s got to come out in other ways and for him that’s destructive and violent behaviour. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier for the carers to deal with when they’ve got other residents to consider, but it’s certainly understandable.

Today’s miracle has given me hope. My son can still have happy, calm days. He may settle down yet and find his place in the world. Maybe everything the carers are doing will make a difference. And once he has access to his car again, he’ll be doing a lot more things that he loves. Maybe he’ll be okay. I’ll keep hoping and praying so. It’s a long hard road but today shows we may be heading in the right direction.

Keeping the faith

Not for the first time I feel like Job in the Bible asking ‘why’ in the midst of despair.

Some time ago I mentioned to a therapist that I often wondered ‘why me?’ during my painful struggles and she said that when she said the same many years ago people in her circle used to respond ‘why not you?’ There is a bitter truth in that. We cry out from the depths of our hearts. Our pain feels so deeply personal. So much so that God/the Universe must have done this to us. Like Job, we feel wronged. We know we’ve always tried our best, or even if we haven’t, we’ve made up for it somehow. So why did this terrible event/situation/tragedy occur? No one has or ever will have an answer to that beyond that suffering is a given and no one is spared. It’s just that some people seem destined to suffer much more or less and the only way forward is to somehow trust that it’s all unfolding how it’s meant to be because otherwise it would be different than it is.

Yesterday I heard that my son is being evicted from his residential home. I knew how much the staff were struggling with him but somehow I never thought this would actually be the outcome. I feel bone-crushingly sad. I have no idea where he will go now. It could have been such a lovely home for him. Those are the words I seem to constantly repeat in relation to my son: could have been. I pulled out all the stops to try and make things easier for him so that his behaviour may improve but it hasn’t worked. I know there is a lot of hurt in those words. I feel affronted that none of it made any difference. It’s a deep-seated wound that nothing I’ve done has made a difference to my son but I know that isn’t true. It springs from my sadness that I wish life had been different for both of us. And I know if I hadn’t become so sick/hospitalised and that if my ex wasn’t the way he is, things certainly would be very different now.

And therein lies my struggle. It drags me down like a lead weight until I feel I have no strength to fight. Giving in feels too much, too painful. So I frantically search for a way out, considering all the addictive tendencies I’ve had in the past as a way to escape unbearable feelings, but not able to bring myself to go there because I’m too aware, too conscious of my actions and their consequences now. I’m left with raw pain that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I can’t cry either so I’m just staring listlessly into space and waiting for someone to ring me – my son’s social worker, the home, a family member – so I don’t feel so desperately alone with it all. At the moment it seems the social worker will call tomorrow. I don’t yet know the way forward.

I’m remembering a scene from the movie ‘The Shack’ (wonderful movie, btw) where the guy is in a boat which is breaking up, a metaphor for his terrible pain and struggle over the abduction and murder of his young daughter, and Jesus walks up to the boat, on the water, telling him to ‘have faith’ and ‘look at me’ because each time the guy focused on his suffering, the boat broke apart more and water poured in. Eventually, the guy found his faith and climbed out of the boat onto the water with Jesus, finding himself able to walk back to the shore. This is a natural re-telling of the Bible story where Jesus told his disciples to have faith. I don’t believe the walking on water was literal, although who knows it may have been, but a metaphor for our ability to overcome our emotional pain when we keep the faith in something bigger than ourselves, whether that’s God, the Universe, or our own soul/higher/Christ self.

The Bible is all about faith in the midst of terrible suffering, as well as the human need to cry out and ask ‘why’ when we are hurting. Whilst there’s never any clear answers to why we suffer, what’s certain is no one is alone, and while life is desperately hard sometimes, with faith we find the strength to keep moving forward.

Acceptance in the midst of it all

I was talking to someone about acceptance. She asked how I was doing with accepting my son the way he is.

I replied that maybe I was a little further along, but that in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop wishing things were different.

This was the same day I found out that my son had punched a carer in the ribs, forcing her to go to A+E due to swelling.

On reflection, there are many layers of acceptance. If I can’t accept my son the way he is without sadness and longing for things to be different, THAT is where acceptance lies: in my longing, in my heartbreak, in the sitting with my son feeling helpless that there’s no way to reach him, in the knowing that even as his mother I am so very limited. Acceptance happens through each moment. It might look and feel different on any given day. It’s not somewhere in the illusionary future, but right here, in the midst of it all -the entire diabolical mess.

Learning what love REALLY is

After a full night of dreams I woke up with the well-known song ‘I want to know what love is’ by Foreigner playing in my mind (lyrics after text). As is often the case when this happens, I can’t think of more apt words to describe my situation right now.

I went to see my son yesterday. As much as I tried to tell myself not to push anything on him, not even in my attempt to connect with him, I did just that: I tried to show him a photo on my phone and asked him who it was. He refused to look and chucked any name back at me. I insisted that he looked properly and he flipped out and punched me on the arm.

It’s a familiar story: I try to connect with him in any possible way, he doesn’t want to, he gets upset, I retreat. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. The difference is that now I’m really trying to put him first and not force on him my desire to connect with him. I’m trying to stay in a place of unconditional love and think of his needs, not my own.

It was never going to be easy. I look at him and long to reach him in some way. Maybe I do, just not in the way I wanted. Life has brought me to a place where I have to set aside my own grief, abandonment, unmet expectations, and think about what is right for him. Some parents seem to do this automatically but I never have; it’s something I have to learn, over and over again. And I admit, I don’t really know how.

That’s where the song comes in: I want to know what love is. Yes, I truly want to know. How do I love my son in the way HE needs, not in the way I want to love him? How do I let go of everything I wished for – all the unfulfilled pain of my upbringing and need for a family – and be in the moment with my son, having no expectations?

It’s a sacred journey. It really is. It’s a stripping bare of everything I thought I was, wanted to be, longed to have. I don’t know how to do it. Maybe the love is surrendering to not knowing. For all my spiritual knowledge, my son is my greatest teacher.

In a dream last night I was saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again like a mantra. I can’t remember the context but it felt deeply spiritual. I think it was coming from the part of me who knows as a human being I’ll never get it exactly right. Psychoanalyst Winnicott described the ‘good enough mother’ and that is important for me to remember. Love and compassion starts with myself. I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best. Maybe the willingness to love my son unconditionally despite the difficulties is enough.

I want to know what love is by Foreigner

I’ve gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older

This mountain, I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds, I see love shine
Keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me (hey)

Gotta take a little time
Little time to look around me
I’ve got nowhere left to hide
Looks like love has finally found me

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me

I wanna know what love is (I wanna know)
I want you to show me (I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is (I know, I know, and I know)
I know you can show me
Let’s talk about love

I wanna know what love is
(Love that you feel inside)
I want you to show me
(I’m feeling so much love)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know, you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me

Oh, I wanna know what love is
(Let’s talk about love)
I know you can show me
(I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me
I wanna feel what love is (oh, I wanna know)
I want you to show me

Songwriters: Jones Lesly, Jones Michael Leslie
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: Musixmatch

Fear, love, guilt: Tomorrow’s visit

I’m visiting my son again tomorrow and my anxiety about it is through the roof. I’m not scared of him, I’m scared of his suffering. I’m scared of seeing him hurting because he’s missing his dad, and not understanding the practical issues that his dad has not taken care of. He doesn’t know the details, all his knows is that his dad has not visited and that he is unable to do certain things that he used to. He doesn’t know his dad has failed him. In some ways that feels even more heartbreaking.

I’m no stranger to suffering. I watched my father die of cancer and all I felt was love. I had no fear because in that moment I allowed everything to be as it was. I felt great empathy for his pain but I was not afraid. I knew what was coming and so did he. I sat with him until the very end and surrendered to the love that was guiding his journey home.

My son’s suffering frightens me. I feel a raw, primal instinct to protect him from hurt, but I know that’s impossible. His vulnerability and lack of comprehension increases my desire to keep him safe always. I also know that my fear of his suffering is probably tied up in a large amount of guilt. It’s displaced because I’ve never let him down – I’ve always done my best for him under difficult circumstances – again, always. But somehow the guilt is still there, probably linked to my grief around parenthood in general, that I was sick and unable to be the kind of parent I wanted, and that my son, due to his needs, wasn’t able to be the child I wanted either. My self-image is clouded in guilt and sadness and a sense that I have failed.

Maybe the fear of my son’s suffering is not only because I fear the pain that comes with knowing he is hurt, but fear that it will break me as a mother because I didn’t have the relationship I wanted with him and his pain presses on that wound. His pain will force me to come face to face with myself as his parent without running from those feelings. I will have to sit with them and learn. Relationships are our greatest spiritual teachers after all. They are our mirrors, showing us where love is most needed.

Unconditional love goes beyond images and labels but leaves out nothing. It embraces fear, pain and grief. This isn’t about trying not to feel scared or pretending I don’t feel guilty. It’s allowing all those feelings to be there and giving them to the light. It’s being with the reality of the situation, which is that it is hard, and all sorts of issues are activated, including my own abandonment wounds. I can only do my best in any given moment and leave the rest to the Divine light/the universe to take care of. That’s what I’ve always done for my son and will continue to do, no matter how scared I am.

The problem of suffering

It’s the hardest thing when your child is suffering and there is no real way to help them. I don’t know how anyone can possibly make peace with that. I feel guilty for even wanting to feel at peace when I can’t help my child. Even worse is knowing my child is suffering as a result of the actions of his narcissistic father. I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve spent a good part of my life coming up against my ex husband’s self-absorption, his controlling behaviour, and total lack of empathy, and realised a long time ago that it was pointless getting frustrated and angry – he isn’t going to change because he can’t see the problem. I had to make some terrible sacrifices as a result of the situation I was in. It wasn’t easy but I did the best I could for my son and myself.

Now the staff at my son’s assisted living accommodation are experiencing what I did for years with my ex – a complete lack of responsibility and integrity, even a tendency to outright lie when it suits him. My ex is free to live the life he chooses – and he certainly does – but when it hurts our son and threatens the security of his new home environment, well that’s a whole different thing.

The staff and myself are doing all we can on a practical level to improve the situation. Unfortunately when so much depends on one person’s willingness to communicate and getting nothing, there are real limits to be faced. I have taken some action which I feel terrible about and may not even change things, but I simply could not just sit and face the helplessness.

On a spiritual level, how does one deal with situations like these? Meditate, pray? Surely the real test of any spiritual practice is when we are facing helplessness in our lives. Unfortunately when I’m distressed the very last thing I feel like doing is sitting on a meditation cushion to find peace. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My mind is thrashing around, distressed, heartbroken, angry, clawing for a solution….but there is none. Maybe the only answer is surrender. But that doesn’t help my son either. My ability to accept what IS doesn’t change his suffering. Accepting his suffering feels like the ultimate NO. But what else can be done? Seriously?

Intellectually my mind starts making a story out of this. It has to be happening for a reason. The way life turned out. The way my son is. The way my ex is. I want to create some meaning and purpose out of all of it because it’s so devastating and unbearable and not in the least bit fair. How can I make it okay somehow? The answer is I can’t. It truly is awful….and no spiritual explanation will change that, whether or not there really IS a purpose to it (which I believe there is, on some level).

I really am back to acceptance. It’s all I have. But how does one accept the unacceptable – that my child suffers at the hands of a narcissist father and that life will continue to be painful for all of us? Indeed, how does anyone accept suffering? The Ukrainians are no doubt asking the same thing. People who have lost children through war and murder and suicide. Those who have suffered in other unspeakable ways. How do we find the will to accept and move forward?

It is said that love is the only answer. I don’t love the situation of course. Not at all. But I love my son and I hope on some level that will help him. Even if doesn’t, it may help me connect to the fabric of the Universe and see the reality, which is that the Universe is bigger than all this suffering. The Divine is in the midst of it – in me, in my son, even in my ex – and thus the journey will always return us to love, and none of us are alone in what we face.

Mother’s Day for the unacknowledged

It’s Mother’s Day today in the UK. As many of you know, my son has severe autism and is non-verbal apart from the occasional word. He is now 20 so for many years I have come to terms with the fact he will never say ‘I love you’ or ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ or even have any concept of the latter. Today is all about acknowledging mothers…which makes it incredibly painful when your child does not give much back. It is the ultimate journey towards unconditional love because loving a profoundly learning disabled child is not a two way street in the conventional sense. On rare and brief occasions my son has shown love towards me, such as putting his hands on my face, but not for many years. I have no idea whether I have done right by him but try to trust that like any well intended parent I did the best I could, even though the fruits of those intentions are not obvious in ways they might be for others.

I’m not going to deny that today is very hard. But I know it’s hard for many people for a whole host of reasons. I am thinking of all the mothers who don’t experience the joy of being acknowledged on Mother’s Day….and sometimes any other day. Those whose child/ren are sick, profoundly disabled, mentally unwell, estranged, or have passed away. Mothers who can’t have children. Mothers who might have been. Children who have lost mothers. Mothers who have lost children. There are many ways to feel loss on Mother’s Day in particular. I am holding everyone who struggles in my heart today ❤️

The unconditional love in my grief

I seem to be shedding bucket loads of grief at the moment. I’m in a kind of transition period where I’m integrating my past with my present and acknowledging where I have been stuck and releasing those old energies. That said, I’m not sure the grief will ever fully leave me. I suspect I will reach a point where I can accept my son for the way he is and not feel so sad and angry for how life could have been for both of us. However, I’m not sure I will completely stop looking at other people’s children with envy and disappointment. Maybe I’m selling myself short though. It’s possible I will one day truly take in the knowledge that I was never meant to have a typical child or be a typical parent. And my child was never meant to be anyone other than who he is. I thought I’d accepted those things years ago but although I understood them logically and thought okay Universe, this is my lot, I never took them in and felt them in my heart. That’s not unusual for me because I was very dissociated from my emotions as a child. I’m also highly likely on the autistic spectrum myself, a fact that seems even more likely the more I think about how I was back then and how I am now.

I visited my son at his assisted living accommodation yesterday, not for the first time, but the visit went badly again. He didn’t want me there. He started off very calm and I felt massively relieved, but very quickly he started telling me to go with the word ‘bye’. He repeated it over and over while I tried to tell him I wasn’t going yet, that I was there to spend time with him. He became so distressed that in the end I had to leave, even though it was half an hour before I was due to be picked up, since I don’t drive. I realised that although it was difficult for me practically and emotionally, this was about my son and he clearly didn’t want me to visit. I had to accept that. It’s probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do. The staff at the home gave me a card and some flowers for Mother’s Day from my son, which was incredibly kind, and it was hard holding back the tears enough for them to think I was absolutely fine about my son not wanting me there, that I was only thinking of him.

I went to lunch with a friend straight afterwards which with hindsight wasn’t the best idea, either physically or emotionally. I was shattered. I’d spent every bit of energy I had on the half an hour visit with my son. My friend isn’t the the empathetic sort and hasn’t seen my son in many years. He doesn’t even know how severely autistic he is now. I wanted to get home and cry, which I eventually did. I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to get a bottle of something – maybe for comfort, dissociation, I don’t know – but I didn’t in the end. I kept reminding myself how crap I would feel the following day, how anxious and depressed I’d be, feelings that I’m struggling with anyway, never mind with alcohol in my bloodstream. There is a better way and that is knowing grief is beyond awful, but it doesn’t last forever. The light will come and illuminate my path and understanding that this was meant to be exactly as it is. But in the meantime it’s excruciating.

On a practical level, I’ve decided to keep my son’s visits very short and as much to a regular schedule as possible so he knows when to expect me. I’ll make clear when I arrive that I’m not going to stay long but want to see him to make sure he’s okay, and to let him know that I’m always here for him. Beyond that, if he wants me to go, I will go. The focus has to be on him and his needs. Then in time if he wants me to stay, I will. I have to tap into my unconditional love for him that expects nothing but gives the best I have.

Last night I had a very deep dream that I was climbing along a thin bridge made of rope on my hands and knees. There was only a small barrier on the right side and nothing at all on my left. I was terrified of falling off and disappearing into the abyss, but I kept going. I felt I was travelling upward and it was really tough but I was determined to keep going. At some point the bridge disappeared entirely and I found myself floating in a beautiful blue ocean in complete peace. I had no worries anymore – I was light and free. Such dreams give me hope that I’m heading in the right direction and my struggle doesn’t mean I’ve gone wrong – life was never meant to be easy for anyone. I don’t understand why and never will. But like Matt Kahn once said ‘in a world of questions, love is the only answer.’ So love it is. Love for my son and -I hope- love for me too.

From confusion/judgement to love and compassion

I’ve been feeling quite confused and preoccupied lately following my son’s move into assisted living and my own up and down experience with the emotions of dating. I haven’t reached any real conclusions about the latter, only that I find it hard to trust my emotions, maybe because I’m aware that emotions are temporary and not truly who I am. Even so, I wish they would provide me with some consistency and less like I’m completely insane. I went to bed last night feeling very low and genuinely wondering if there was something wrong with me. Yep – it always seems to boil down to that. Maybe because the root of all this pain is feeling disconnected from my soul and from God/the Universe. I thought my dating experience was a way to share my soul and give love but maybe subconsciously I HAVE been trying to fill a gap that historically I’ve filled with spiritual practices such as meditation. Maybe none of this will ever make sense until I make connecting with my soul a priority again. I haven’t stopped meditating but my energy has been elsewhere, seeking experiences that will never make me whole.

I don’t know how relevant this is but it FEELS so. Last night I had a dream that I was adopting an African child of about five years old. She was absolutely beautiful – very long, wiry, black hair. I was aware she was called Shia. I carried her on my hip. Then I went to see her biological parents who were giving her up for adoption. I referred to them as ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ for Shia’s benefit. Then I looked at the parents with love and compassion and said ‘I know you don’t want her but there’s no judgement. I completely understand.’ My thoughts turned to my own son and my struggles to raise him, and I truly did.

The dream felt very comforting on my waking and I wanted to explore it further. I feel it relates to my feeling very bad about myself last night, that there’s something inherently wrong with me and my emotions. This may have been projected onto the parents in the dream who felt wrong for giving up their little girl. Maybe I need my own love and compassion and assurance that no one is judging me. My ego feels judged. That is a powerful thought. Judged by whom? Or maybe it is guilt at feeling disconnected from my own light. Interestingly, the little girl may represent my wounded inner child who is looking for safety and love and acceptance – again from my own being. No one else can give that to her, at least, not in a way that assures permanence. The parents rejected her, representing those part of myself that are rejecting my innocence, as well as the literal context of feeling guilty about my autistic son. Finally, I looked up the name Shia and it means ‘God is salvation.’ This reinforces the whole meaning of the dream – and I use the word ‘whole’ with intent – as it’s all about listening to my soul, loving the aspects of myself that are wounded and scared, and bringing it all to the light of awareness and compassion to become whole. This is our salvation.

Someone once said to me – a Jehovah’s Witness no less, but then I don’t discount anyone’s beliefs if they resonate with me on a deeper level – ‘Put God first, then everything else will fall into place.’ I’ve never forgotten it because I recognise the truth in it. Humans have human experiences and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s what we’re here to do. But losing contact with our soul is a recipe for suffering and leads to a dish of emptiness and misery. I know now that I feel judged when I have lost my connection with my inner being. No one is judging me; I’m doing that to myself, only turning it into guilt and shame. This is as old as time. It’s the fall of Adam and Eve. The way forward is to recognise it and pour our compassion on it. In my dream I even used the words ‘there is no judgement.’ What a relief to hear! We judge ourselves because we know deep down we’re not embracing the perfect, beautiful, holy beings that we truly are.

While I’m not in that place yet, I believe that bringing myself back to a place of deep spiritual connection will bring some clarity to the situations I’m struggling with. I won’t be throwing myself into dating longing for it to bring me answers, or for my emotions to suddenly make some kind of sense. I will know intuitively what I need to do and what is right for us both. And likewise, seeing my son from a place of connection and wholeness will mean not desperately seeking something from him that can never be and feeling upset when he can’t give it. I need to get out of my own way. I need space to find myself again.

A journey through raw grief to a kind of acceptance

Today was exceptionally painful for me. I wondered whether to even write about it but then I thought, well, it’s real life. Maybe someone will relate directly or even indirectly on some level because fundamentally we are all struggling with similar things – life’s choices, painful emotions, finding peace and acceptance in the muddiest and some of the least talked about issues to grapple with.

My adult son has severe autism and learning difficulties and has recently moved into an assisted living unit where he has support from carers 24/7. I visited him today and it did not go well. He hasn’t lived with me for a few years due to my own declining health and lack of ability to manage him but I have always visited even when it has been hard. He had lived with his father and stepmother but due to various issues they felt he was better placed in a structured environment where he could be given the support he needs. And indeed, he seems to be happy and thriving so far.

My pain is, and has always been, personal. When I got there my son smiled and seemed happy to see me, but soon became very stressed, and I was faced with the familiar challenge of feeling unable to connect with him. I forgot to bring his ipod for him to watch Thomas Tank videos on, and while I said he could use my phone, he was upset by this. He spent most of my visit biting his hands in anger, picking hairs off his clothes, not knowing where he wanted to be. I suggested we sit in the summerhouse, and he organised the trains that I’d brought for him, but he was soon bored by this and wanted to go back inside. I tried to talk to him, show him photos and videos, tell him things, connect with him – he just wasn’t interested. This scenario is far from new but today felt much more raw and painful as it was the first time I’d visited him in his new home and I hadn’t seen him for longer than normal. I had expectations of the visit. I felt good about going to see him as I’d heard good reports from the staff and his paternal grandmother. I wanted to feel he was pleased to see me. I wanted him to enjoy my visit. Instead, I felt like I was making him more stressed and unhappy. He didn’t seem to want me there. I left after an hour feeling deeply sad.

I’m recovering from a bad virus (the second in as many weeks) so I went to bed and sobbed. I felt so useless as a parent. I felt like I’d offered nothing of value. I longed for a connection with my only child and felt none. This struggle has been there for so many years. While many parents of autistic people find ways to reach their children, I never have. It’s not through lack of trying although in all honesty I’ve wanted him to enter my world rather than vice versa. The pain of bringing him games or dressing up clothes that he didn’t want has never gone away. As a small child he was happier playing with the bathroom taps or light switches. Not ideal. I tried to reach him but I had so little energy myself dealing with a chronic illness which eventually led to hospitalisation. He eventually lived with his ADHD father and life was easier but there’s always this sorrow that I don’t know will ever leave me.

I talk about acceptance a lot and I know that the ultimate acceptance is love – loving someone for who they are. This means accepting the child he wasn’t and the adult he isn’t and loving him for who he is no matter what. Even when he was a young child I knew this, at least in theory, and tried hard to do so. Of course I have always loved him as he is my child, but putting acceptance into practice has felt a whole different ball game. My son arrived tied up in my hopes and dreams of being the mother I never had and the need to experience a kind of childhood through my son which never materialised. Grief is multi-faceted and complex; it isn’t just one thing, but a whole kaleidoscope of emotions.

My son doesn’t exist to satisfy my need to feel loved or valued or connected. I have had to find those things elsewhere, including within myself. He could never give me the acknowledgement or validation that I craved. He couldn’t show me I was doing okay. In fact, he brought me to my knees many times, believing that I had messed everything up, got it all wrong, failed so utterly and completely. That has been my journey. It continues to be. I have no idea whether this was all meant to happen, was planned in some way, or whether it just randomly happened that evening in 2000 when I took his father back despite my better judgement. Life has a funny way of turning out. All I can do is surrender to it, trust it somehow, and believe in the perfection in this moment. And indeed, love is thinking about what my son needs now in this moment and being present to him, even when it’s different to how I wish it was.

While I was crying earlier the New World Symphony (Largo) theme suddenly started playing in my head, which many will know in the UK as the music from the Hovis bread advert. I have taken comfort in the lyrics which were created to fit the beautiful and haunting melody. My son is now in his new home and this is about me finding my journey home to myself, which ultimately, of course, is all we can ever do.

Going home, going home
I am going home
Quiet like, some still day
I am going home

It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Never fear no more

Mother's there expecting me
Father's waiting too
Lots of faces gathered there
All the friends I knew

I'm just going home

No more fear, no more pain
No more stumbling by the way
No more longing for the day
Going to run no more

Morning star light the way
Restless dreams all gone
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun

There's no break, there's no end
Just living on
Wide awake, with a smile
Going on and on, going on and on

Going home, going home
I am going home
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun

I'm just going home