I’ve lost so many people to the cult my family was involved with that I sometimes feel very alone even in terms of the common human experience of grieving. The loss that’s kept me up many nights, though, is one that only a few people know about even among those closest to me. I’m not sure why it has been treated as somewhat taboo. Maybe it’s the nature of the loss. Maybe it’s the circumstances surrounding it. In any event, it’s really quite simple, and once it’s stated, it needs no further explanation.
When I left London almost eight years ago, I left behind my two-year-old son Andy and his father. That was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, but it was the only way to keep him safe. By that time, the cult had taken what I’ll euphemistically call a renewed interest in my mother and me, and there was no way I was going to subject my son to that environment. Eight years later, though, I still feel incredibly guilty about my decision to leave him behind.
In what turned out to be a really bizarre chain of events, Andy was killed two years ago in an accident related to cult activity. I’d have to go into quite a bit of detail about lineages and cult structures to explain that fully, but that isn’t the point of my post. Andy had never been involved in anything remotely related to the cult until then. He never even knew things like that existed. I guess that’s irrelevant in some ways, though, as my family’s involvement with the cult still led to his death in the end. I feel responsible for that, but I did what I could to keep him safe.
Even though Andy and I lived far away from each other, I still feel like the bottom of the world fell out when he died, and I’m still trying to put it back together again. Whether you keep in touch through another part of yourself, through telephone conversations and emails, or through any other means of communication, your child remains a major part of your life. That’s something I truly wish I could make understood. Parents become parents the minute they find out a baby’s on its way, and regardless of the circumstances, they remain parents for the rest of their lives.
I’m very fortunate to have photographs, letters, and even a few colouring book pictures that Andy sent to me over the years, and I’m even more fortunate to have the baby ring his father and I bought the day we brought him home from hospital. I wear it on a chain around my neck. The chain broke recently, which shook me more than I thought it would, but now that I’ve replaced it, it’s the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I take off at night. Maybe it’s only psychological, but I feel like he’s with me when I’m wearing that ring. It helps me remember things like his father and I cleaning up the wreck that was our first attempt to feed him oatmeal cereal, bathing him and wrapping him up in his little yellow baby towel with the rubber duck hood that always made him laugh when we pulled it over his head. I think of the first time he pulled himself up to stand, bracing his shaky little legs using the low table in our living room. We were chatting and laughing, but the room got silent then as we all watched him. I’ll never forget how proud I felt at that moment. Children are wonders, and they bring so much love and joy to your life.
Anyone who knows me can attest to my ability to remain composed through just about anything, but this is one subject that gets me every time I talk about it. My best friend in London got me through the funeral and the absolutely excruciating hours just after that. My best friend here largely managed my life until I got somewhat stable again. He was there when the numbness wore off, and he still sits with me now when my grief feels raw and new again. When I’m really struggling to accept this situation, he quietly reminds me that I’ll always be Andy’s mother. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I could never put into words how much he means to me.
So to those close to me who didn’t know about this part of my life and to those of you who’ve never even met me, I’m happy to make my son’s memory known. He was such a lovely child, and he’ll always have a part of me, just as I’ll always keep a part of him. That kind of bond is unbreakable.
For anyone who might need them, I’ve posted links for some organisations that have been incredibly helpful to me. My thoughts, best wishes, and healing energy go out to you and those close to you.
‘What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.’ — Helen Keller