As many of you will know, I have been struggling a lot with grief and survivor’s guilt for a while now. In a lot of ways I find both these emotions the hardest to cope with, because I feel very alone with them. Nobody around me can understand what it is like to have spent so many years waiting to be the next one to fall, watching children around me lose the fight, and then losing babies of my own amongst all the horror. It’s a complex and harrowing place, mentally, to have survived when others didn’t. Of course others survived too, but even so, the level of guilt placed upon me right from being a child is intense. I wouldn’t expect anyone close to me to understand and nor would I want them to try, but it nonetheless does mean I’m fairly alone with the emotions, and they are incredibly painful.
I have for a long time been trying to think of something I can do, something concrete but also done as a process, as a memorial for them. I tried writing songs but it didn’t really help, and I thought about letting balloons off by the sea but somehow this didn’t feel right for them. It felt too quick; I want to do something slow and gently, so I can spend the time reflecting on each of them and pay them the attention they deserve. Throwing some balloons in the air honestly felt like discarding them, and in any case polluting the world with their memorial. It defied everything they stood for. The only comfort I’ve had is that they live in the stars, which is what we all used to tell each other; that one day we’d meet the man in the moon. I was moved to tears one night in South Africa, when I went outside in the dead of night, and saw the most beautiful night sky – full of stars, and I felt like I was staring at them all. I wish I could pocket the night-sky. The grief and guilt is unresolved, and I know I need to do something.
Yesterday I saw my therapist for the first time since July, with being away in August. It was a productive session but hard work, and I was tearful a lot. About half the session was spent with me talking through memories that apparently needed to be talked about, and the other half was talking about where I’m at emotionally. I’m in several places emotionally – on an almost ‘normal’ level, I’m missing friends in South Africa, I’m already fed up with the grey clouds, I’m nervous about a hectic term which lies ahead, and I’m also excited to start the term. But on a deeper level, there is the constant ache of grief and guilt. I feel stuck with these emotions, like I can’t give enough emotional attention to anything else in my recovery work, because so much of my energy is going round and round grief and guilt. I have talked with my therapist often about the grief and guilt, and have found her to be very helpful.
As we talked, we explored ideas. As is often the case when I’m emotional but also able to engage in a constructive discussion, I began to think about what I could do as a memorial for them. I wanted it to be something I could keep with me, wherever I am, but also something special and done with thought and care. I wanted it to represent each of them as individuals, whilst keeping the idea of them being a group – because what an incredible team of brave children we all were. This is why songwriting hadn’t helped; I couldn’t easily capture their individuality simultaneously with our group.
And somewhere between thinking of this and thinking about being away in South Africa, an idea hit me, and has grown on me today. One of my friends in South Africa does beautiful mosaics, and since returning I have decided I want to start doing mosaics too. I am not crafty-handed by nature so it’s bound to be an hilarious series of utter glass and ceramic disasters to begin with, but the idea of breaking bits up (smashing if necessary) and then putting the broken bits all together again to form something pretty sounded very therapeutic to me. I had no idea what kind of mosaic I would like to do though, so had already reached a brick wall.
But whilst thinking and talking in the therapy session, and being subconsciously reminded of my desire to mosaic, the idea of creating a memorial mosaic, or a mosaic of remembrance, sprung in my mind. The more I imagined it, the more it sounded perfect. Firstly I’d have the therapeutic benefits of smashing bits and putting them together again, as mentioned, but crucially the mosaic would capture the idea of individual pieces forming part of something whole. (A bit like DID, come to think of it!) I would feel happy, able to pay each child close and individual attention in their respective tile/glass, and put them with other parts of the mosaic to create art. They enjoyed playing and making things, so it captures that part of them too. It would require some degree of strategy to create it perfectly, which captures the strategy we had as a group. It’s turning broken neglected bits, as were the children, into a colourful and beautiful group, as I believe we were. It is the perfect way to remember them by, and will take me a while so will a journey of proccessing guilt and grief for me, will allow me to hold each piece of the mosaic and feel like I’m holding their hands again, and eventually will create a mosaic of remembrance. Something beautiful, personal, and able to hold them all together.
It will be painful, there will be tears, and lots of emotions. But it will be tremendously healing for me on several counts, and despite however much swearing which will happen whilst I get used to it/stick myself together with superglue, it will hold the children and my babies all in one place again…
Now to think of a design….