Meanings of words and phrases in italics are at the end of this post.
For a while I had been thinking about learning to kōrero te reō Māori, both to improve my confidence in pronunciation and as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of te ao Māori. What I didn’t expect to get from it was a way into a better relationship with myself and a new tattoo.
A couple of parts of my life were falling apart, my mental health and self esteem were at the most fragile they had been for a long time. I was struggling through the days in an ongoing toxic work situation and my self belief was further shaken by the loss of what had seemed a promising intimate relationship. I had not been sleeping, relying on sleeping pills that left me fuzzy, was losing weight, and the voice of my inner critic, the one that tells me how useless I am, that it’s all my fault, that I am unlovable, had become louder, more insistent, and harder to change the record on.
Bereaved parents are a kind of reluctant tribe, the one that no-one wanted to join, and some of us have chosen to mark ourselves as such.
The reasons we do it vary and each mark has a different meaning for those who choose it, but many of our motivations and the symbols we use are similar.
I felt after my daughter Zoe’s cancer diagnosis at age three as if I had become become both transparent and luminescent, as if my interior life was so visible that my story could be read on the surface of my skin. I felt that when we left the house strangers would know our story at a glance, that we were visibly marked by cancer. Of course Zoe was visibly marked, though she seemed not too worried by her battle scars (she called the scar from her mic-key button her “other belly button”).
I felt the same after Zoe’s death at age six, that people would know I was a bereaved mother from the grief, pain, love and despair written on my skin. That the wound of having my child ripped from my life must have left a scar. And that felt right, that I should in fact be physically marked from surviving this. Continue reading
Zoe. One year since you left your poor, tired, cancer-ravaged body behind. We never wanted you to leave but we knew you needed to be released from this. I remember not being ready when they took your body away and feeling at peace when they brought you back home. In your woven willow casket, dressed in your favourite party dress and well worn sparkly shoes, surrounded by tokens for your journey you looked just as beautiful as ever to me; my sleeping beauty. Continue reading