Bereavement and a New Normal

Sometimes I wonder when life will just give us a period of simplicity. I yearn for simple but it often alludes us. I have joked many times that when I came to earth for this lifetime I came on a higher learning programme and am fitting as many big learning experiences into one lifetime as possible. If we didn’t joke about life sometimes I do wonder whether the enormity of some of the experiences would just become too much. I’ve been struggling to find the words to write about the past few months but haven’t been able to partly because it’s all just been so much I’ve not had any emotional capacity to reflect much. Buffy the Vampire fans will know what I mean when I say”Fire bad, tree pretty” to describe how I’m feeling currently. Basically I need to keep it simple because it’s all just too much otherwise. 

In June TCM, my husband and the children’s father, passed away suddenly. Whilst we separated a few years ago we had remained very close and spoke daily. Our lives were very intertwined and we had stayed married whilst we tried to understand and work out a way forward for us as a family. His passing is such a huge loss and so complex I don’t have the words to describe it.

Life, and how we respond to all the trauma we are entrenched in within adoption affects us all intensely and can make marriages struggle. It’s hard to explain to people outside of this life experience at times but many of us will understand how emotionally triggering it can feel as we navigate our way through parenting and advocating for our children. The pressures this places on all our relationships can be huge. TCM and I always tried to stay as a unit but the impact of our current lives and how that often triggered past events and our own healing needs came at a price. 

Since June I have been knee deep in the obvious things like arranging his funeral, probate, managing his house etc but mostly trying to deal with the emotional impact on the children and myself. The real impact is only just hitting us now I think as we shift from shock to the reality of life. The month after TCM died was spent organising his funeral whilst also battling with school’s rules around Pip needing time off. I contacted the head of our local Children’s Services to seek clarification over the coding used for bereavement after Pip’s school said they would only code the day of the funeral as bereavement. That has taken us off on a journey with Inclusion that is still ongoing. I spoke to the GP who agreed to write a letter to confirm his attendance might be more intermittent than normal. I agreed that keeping his routine might be the best way forward but wanted the reassurance that time off if he was too stressed could be accommodated. The response from school was that they couldn’t authorise his leave without GP intervention. The GP was outraged at the pressure we felt under, as was I. It was highly damaging for us at a time of huge shock and stress. 

Pip made it to the school gates most days until the days drew closer to the funeral and that was all he could manage. We went away for a few days after the funeral which led us into the summer break. The situation caused me so much stress at a time when I was trying to arrange the funeral, work out what was going to happen with money and try and hold everything together for the children. On the top of that I had lost the person I’ve spent 32 years of my life with. The reality of that is only just starting to sink in three months later.

We organised a beautiful funeral. I was very clear that I wanted to make it a celebration of his life so we could make the process as emotionally accessible for the children as possible. Every detail was thought through with the children in mind. We had over 100 people attend which was phenomenal and a testament to the esteem TCM was held in. It was overwhelming however but I was lucky I had chosen a celebrant who is a friend and who held me through the process. The children managed the day amazingly well and laughed along with the rest of the congregation at all my jokes at Daddy’s expense. There were tears at the parts that were slower. It was agonising to watch them go through that. They both chose to sit slightly away from me and had support from family and friends. Pip said to me he knew I had a job to do and wanted to help me do that. I read the first poem but mostly spent the service worrying about how they were. 

The children and I have talked and talked about Daddy, or Dadre, as they call him. We’ve shared memories and he is included in as many conversations as possible. The children have found ways of joking about things that means we can explore things in a lighthearted way. I’ve tried as much as I can to ensure we have an open policy of expressing thoughts and feelings when they arise. His urn is at the house until we decide where he will stay permanently and we joke about him a lot. There’s an acceptance that he is here with us until we are ready for the next stage. I’m thinking we might have a bench at the crematorium where we had the funeral ceremony so that the children  have a place they can visit through their lives if they feel the need to. Ironically I have inherited Nana and Pops (TCM’s parents) too so a family resting place might be nice. The children want jewellery made first though and I really need to sort that out. It’s tough though.

We got through the summer holidays fairly easily all things considered. We had some days out and mostly relaxed and chilled. I bought a swimming pool and Pip spent a lot of time out there. We kept life simple and enjoyed the sunshine. We took our first day trip to London to celebrate TCM’s birthday which was a lovely day. Katie managed so well and was able to articulate when she was feeling overwhelmed. We took a cruise along the Thames, had a little lunch in Greenwich and visited Covent Garden. TCM and I had been thinking about taking the children to London so it seemed fitting. Pip thoroughly enjoyed himself. Only one meltdown which was good. 

The end of the summer holidays and start of a new school year has been really challenging for us. Katie was due to start a new specialist school, after years of fighting for support for her. She managed two mornings and then fell into freeze/collapse. She’s taken to her bed as anxiety has taken hold. I’m working with the school to find other ways for her to attend outside of the school day. The switch from mainstream to specialist after such a long break from education has been a lot for her to take on board, especially after such a huge loss. Being in a classroom, albeit a small one, is tough. Other students there also have a variety of diagnosis and are also triggered so the sounds are too much for Katie to manage. Her self identity, being in a school for students with learning challenges, has been challenged and she feels confused about what this means about her. 

Pip became noticeably more hyper and bouncy as the summer holidays ended and school approached. He doesn’t know which was is up and which way is down. He doesn’t want to be away from me and starting back at school has been a disaster for him. He’s definitely in fight/flight. I tried finding a tutor to help with his dyslexia but after he had a meltdown there because she didn’t want me to stay inside the house she decided that she couldn’t manage his needs either. At the end of the school week last week I said to the school SENCO that I think we need to stop with school for a while and look at other options. Pip has had no formal education for 2 years now. We’ve been focussing on trying to help him attend school. His EHCP provides funding but not the specialist emotional help he needs. We were planning an early review anyway of his EHCP, and it’s clear his current school can’t meet his needs, even with. 1:1. At the moment I’m not sure any school would work because he feels too traumatised to go into school. I’ll speak to the GP and get him signed off and see if we can arrange some home tutoring. 

All this is playing out as the visual of grief. Katie’s school have been incredibly understanding. Her new Head has articulated the emotions at play very well and I feel like she will do all she can to help. She’s putting together a multi-agency meeting to coordinate the professionals in our lives to take some pressure off me. Pip’s school have been more understanding than they have felt in the past. There are trust issues between us all though. I have tried hard not to apportion blame for the situation with Pip although, like with many of our traumatised, adopted children with underlying SEN, it can take a long time before the needs can be fully understood and responded to. Often by the time the understanding is in place, it’s too late for the child. Covid has exacerbated so many issues for our children. So many children can no longer manage in school and schools cannot manage the high level on needs placed upon them with little funding. My experience is it’s easier to then blame the parents than for us all to sit in honesty and vulnerability together and accept an answer and solution isn’t easy. New guidelines produced by the UK government around attendance appears to focus hard on financial penalties to parents whose children aren’t attending school rather than acknowledge the damage lockdown policies have caused and put in funding to adequately support schools and pupils. Cost of living challenges are placing additional worries financially on schools so I wonder what the impact will be.

Taking all this on is tough at the best of times with the strongest parents but, let’s be honest, by the time we reach this point most parents feel exhausted and bewildered and anxious. Trying to do all this, take on the system and help the children, whilst managing the death of their father is so challenging. We’d had a few tough years before he passed as well so mostly I dream of buying a house on a beach and us just allowing the sound of the waves to nurture us for the foreseeable future. Sadly whilst I can sense the longing for a feeling of nurturing we need, relocating away from support isn’t the answer. We need familiarity just as much. I have been blessed to have been held by my closest friends and my cousin to the best of their ability. It will never be enough of course because grief opens you up like a chest cutter on an operating table. It leaves you in free fall, clutching at anything you can hold onto. Trying to support two already traumatised children through the process I’m also going through is so tough. My instinct has been to allow them to respond how they need to and not interfere with that too much. I’m here most of the time to try and catch them and help them feel as safe as I can manage. We’ve booked a little holiday for half term break to just spend some time away from responsibilities and relax a bit. Our summer holiday was too charged with various emotions and dynamics that didn’t work due to space. Hopefully this break will be a little better. I’ve said to the children we can just chill, cycle and swim and keep it simple. I’m hoping Katie will feel ok with being away from home for a few days and a holiday that involves us being more surrounded by nature and a little more active might help us shift the energy in our bodies. If it doesn’t work we will come home. 

As we enter this next chapter in our lives I wonder what it will bring. There are some elements that might be a little more settled for us but others will mean that we again walking into the unknown. The known isn’t always the answer and sometimes being guided by feeling rather than logic is the only answer. The only problem can be justifying to others why you feel something is necessary and, when it comes to education, cold, hard logic is often the only language spoken. We need time really to just be for a while. Until I can get all TCM’s affairs in order though I’m not afforded that ability. We will trudge along as best we can and I will try and make decisions that I feel are right for us. That’s all we can do. I have learned to trust my instincts over the years through my own spiritual journey. Life rarely gives us all the answers in one go but prefers to throw breadcrumbs to follow along the path. We can’t go on as we are and something needs to change. I’ve learned through the psychological input we’re currently having for Pip that the only time I feel deskilled with my ability to parent is when I’m dealing with education. What does that tell me? I’ll explore that as we go along. For now I’m focussing on what we can manage at home with education. It’s not a situation I wanted to be in but the only emoji that is fitting really is….🤷🏼‍♀️


  1. Oh my goodness what a lot to be dealing with, for anyone, let alone as you say children who are already dealing with trauma. I’m so sorry for your loss and I hope the next few months are as gentle as they can be on you all x

    1. Thank you for your kind words. As adopters I think we get used to living with a certain level of stress due to constantly fighting for support. When something like this comes along the retraumatising impact is huge. We keep plodding along though. X

  2. Just wanted to send love as someone who regularly reads your blog. What a shock for you all, I’m so sorry. ♥️

    1. Thank you. I really appreciate your message. Xx

  3. I catch up with your blog a few times a year and only just saw this post. I am so sorry for your loss and hope you and the children are doing okay. Sending love and straight. Laura x

    1. Hi Laura, thank you for your lovely comment.I really appreciate it. Sending much love. Gem x


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