For six months, I’ve been working with New Beginnings in the capacity of co facilitator. The Programme Director, Jadwiga Leigh, is the driving force behind the programme and she is also my supervisor. I appreciate and feel enormously privileged to have been welcomed onto the team and to work so closely with Jad and our social care colleagues in the way we do. My role on the programme is to work closely with Jad in the delivery of the trauma informed group sessions, facilitate the family activities, and provide support to the women and the families we work with.
I mentioned in the last blog 'Why don't you just leave him?' that we have been using narrative writing workshops during our New Beginnings sessions to explore the past, the present and the future with the women who are on the programme. Each week, as we cover different subjects, I ask the women a question that they begin to talk about together, then go home and think about a little more (sometimes with Leanne) and then write about. They can then bring their story in with them for the next session. If the women want to, they can share their story with the group but if they don't want to, they don't need to. It can remain private or stay with them until a later date. The point is, it is entirely up to them what they do with their story.
We have noticed that by doing it this way, the women are connecting their thoughts and feelings to words they often find difficult to express or articulate, but it is through this process that the women have been able to take the time to think through what they feel and what they want to say. The work they have produced and shared (or kept private) has made them feel not only great pride but that they have a voice and that voice can be powerful. In turn, I've observed the women move beyond writing just a few lines to now telling stories that they have perhaps not shared before, stories that answer questions that they have or which explore feelings they have not been able to express.
This happened a couple of weeks ago when one of the women brought in a poem she had written for her son who is not living with her at present. Although at court it was agreed that two of her children could live with her on a supervision order (now discharged), her eldest moved in with extended family on a special guardianship order. When this family began work with New Beginnings, regular contact was not in place between this parent and her child for various reasons. We are now at the stage where not only is contact now firmly in place but there are plans for the future. However, although we are moving in the right direction, I recognise that none of what is in place or is being planned can take away the pain a mother feels when she is not able to 'be' with her child when she wants to be...which in this case is always. It is because of these feelings that this mother has asked me to share her poem with you, in the hope that it can bring her closer to others in similar situations whilst at the same time help professionals understand what she, and other mothers, experience on a daily basis.
Each day as evening starts to set
The ache starts to build within my chest
I know that I must go to bed and try my best to get some rest
I hug my tearstained pillow as I cry for my boy to be back home
I've learnt to scream without a sound
My silent tears hit the ground
Others see me from day to day
Thinking that I'm doing ok
But when you're only left two
And I love and cherish three
My beautiful boy who is also a part of me
I cry for that boy and take your negativity and ask
'Why leave two, when I have three?'
So my silent tears fall endlessly
And everyday as evening sets
The demons enter my head
My silent tears with all these fears
Cannot be laid to rest
Time hasn't healed all these pains in my chest
Nor hushed my fears even with all I've addressed
With New Beginnings I've grown to love the girl in me
It's this that's helped me to survive
But tears still fall silently as when evening sets I just long for my boy by my side
My chest is still heavy
And my heart still aches
As I cry my silent tears
As Lisa Morriss (2018) has recently argued, state-ordered removal not only disrupts the expected future of children but their birth mothers also. And as the poem above reaffirms, this is a unique form of loss and trauma for the birth mother beacause her son has not died, he is just living elsewhere. Although the author of this poem is trying to live for 'an imagined future', this anticipated future, along with its fears, absorbs her present. She remains, therefore, haunted by the past, the present and the future.