Questions About Mummy in Heaven, Answered.

I thought I would feel lighter.

Instead I feel as though I am cradling the delicate emotions of our girls in raw hands. Not heavy, not light. Complex truth.

Mother’s Day morning (a strange yet appropriate coincidence) we gathered quietly first thing in the morning in the living room. I lit candles as our family trickled into their spots. The girls, instantly younger, hid behind pillows and blankies at the palpable awkwardness of the upcoming conversation.

They’ve been asking questions about their biological mum. They were wondering about a relationship that broke apart and ended in Mummy’s death. The details swam in a big black hole. This instilled fear in Clover, age 11: ‘if that marriage could fall apart then just as easily this one could too’. In her young way, she has been living in fear of her new Mummy (5 years in now) disappearing from her life. She is a worrier and a thinker.

She doesn’t yet know intellectually what it takes for two people to thrive with each other. And she wants to. I’m glad she has a great example right in front of her every day.

Belles, the youngest at 10 years old seemed mostly oblivious to the revelations that were coming. However, at 6 years old, right before falling asleep she said to me: “I don’t think Mummy died by accident.’ Her heart knew more than her head. On this day, she had no recollection of this feeling.

We started by letting them ask whatever they wanted and promised to answer completely honestly.

CLOVER: Why did you and mummy get divorced? You’ve been promising to tell me for months.

JayMac: Remember how I told you there was more to it than us just not getting along? Remember how I told you that it will never happen to Mummy and I because the circumstances were different? Your mum had something called BiPolar Disorder…

This led to details of her abusive home as a child, her schizophrenic mother, broken family, weeks of laying in bed crying, the progression of extreme behaviours, other people we know in our lives affected by mental illness and all the ways she tried to get better.


US: Do you guys remember how we told you she died?
CLOVER: Yes, she was really tired from 6 weeks in India, got in the car to go somewhere, didn’t open the garage door, turned on the car and fell asleep…
BELLES: (eyes peeking over a pillow)
US: That is partly true. She did die in the car but she did that on purpose. She killed herself. She committed suicide.


CLOVER: I thought she died because I told her she should go to yoga in India and she was so tired when she came back and died by accident.

The child blamed herself. Just like my mother said they would. My mother who called me to urge me not to tell them.

What could I say to a child who has been playing a blame track loop in her head for 5 years? I told her that there is no way that it was her fault, a person with bipolar does not have control of their brain like you and I, and that encouragement from a 6 year old is not what leads people to death.  I told her she was unburdened of that guilt. She no longer has to carry it around. There is an explanation and it has nothing to do with her. I did some voodoo energy work on her, sending good vibes, releasing her of this sack of shit she has been carrying around. We talked some more.

I asked why she had never voiced this guilt. She didn’t know. Who would?

Belles was confused by the mechanics and ultimately very sad. She wanted to tell her friends. Let it out.

We went to breakfast. It felt odd but leaning back into routine gave space for the words to settle. On the way back I found a four-leaf clover.

Questions trickled out over the next fews days.

CLOVER: Why didn’t you tell me sooner?
ME: We didn’t feel you were ready yet and we had to balance your needs with your sisters readiness to digest such adult concepts as mental illness and suicide.

CLOVER: Who else knows?
ME: All the important adults in your life including your friends’ moms and teachers.

CLOVER: Why didn’t you visit her more if she was so sad and lonely?
JayMac: She didn’t like me most of the time and blamed me for much of the crumbling of her life.

He went on to recount a time, close to her death, when she called him in dire straights. He went to her, sat with her for hours, comforting her. Soon after this night she sent me a card, on Valentines Day, welcoming me into the girls lives.


CLOVER: But she looked so happy in pictures and I don’t remember her ever being sad or angry…
ME: You were the light of her life and she kept up a good face for you. In actual fact though, you were with Daddy 80% of the time because your mum couldn’t handle full time mothering. it was hard for her to take care of her Self.

CLOVER: Why did you tell me? I used to remember her as such a good person and now I have heard how angry and depressed she was and it ruins my memory of her.
ME: Do you wish we didn’t tell you?
ME: You had a picture of who she was and now you have more information. You’ll understand this differently at every age and we are here to talk it out whenever you want. I’m sorry we changed the image you had in your head but we thought the truth was very important for you to know.

BELLES: If you had known she was sick earlier couldn’t you just have given her medicine to make her better?
Us: It doesn’t work like that. You can’t stop a mental illness from progressing just with medicine. Also, many people who are ill stop taking their meds when they feel better. No one can force them. Meds don’t always work either. It turns out that many people with bi-polar commit suicide. It’s one of the most talked about mental illnesses and can be very, very bad. Your mums case was very, very bad.

JayMac: Do you remember the Lemonade Stand we had after she died? We raised $4000 and that money went to help educate people about mental illness and help families affected by it. I went to talk to those people many times to learn about it and figure out a way to help her.

{Belles is super sensitive to everyone’s feelings. She knows how her words affect others.What unfolded for her was a guilt of missing her mum for fear of making me feel less than important. That was sweet but I quickly dispelled her of that notion then we booted it out with mutual laughter.}

So, the truth is out. I don’t feel heavier. I do feel like giving them cake, watching movies, cuddling in bed in the mornings, nagging with less force.

And now the conversation has changed. Everything does.

Lemonade Stand For Mommy In Heaven from brian mackenzie on Vimeo.


One thought on “Questions About Mummy in Heaven, Answered.

  1. Pingback: Poetry Delivered Graveside by Bicycle Messenger - from drunk to monk

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