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I was born in the Caribbean and joined my parents in England in July 1970. I am the eldest of six children.
Age 4 or 5 years, I was left in the Caribbean, in the care of maternal grandparents whom I called “Mother” and “Daddy.”
I remember clearly the love and affection my grandparents showed me. Home was always lively with a happy atmosphere, despite strict discipline and good manners being a huge priority in my learning, development and nurturing. This experience has undoubtedly made me the stable and conscientious adult that I am today. After 9 years of separation, my sister, brother and I rejoined our parents in England. Despite regular contact via letters and photographs, I struggled to recognise my mother and father as “my parents”.
Upon arrival in England I discovered a much younger brother and sister for whom my other sister and I started providing childcare after school. I left home at 19 and moved a long way from home and still do not live close to my mother. I do not feel emotionally close to her. Our relationship is quite strained at times. We do not seem to understand each another. She remains critical of me and seems unable to acknowledge my achievements.
My father died 8 years ago. He was strict. His word was the law. No negotiation or compromise was permitted. Separation issues were seldom discussed in my parents’ home, but I understand and even accept their decision to leave my siblings and me in the Caribbean. Yet, it has had a profound impact on my ability to form lasting relationships.
As an adult I have found it difficult to sustain relationships with men. I feel strongly that this is a result of the childhood separation and loss I experienced. I am fearful of having to deal with loss or rejection in a relationship. For example, if someone is getting too close or if I am becoming too attached, I tend to distance myself or withdraw from the relationship. I do not like others being dependent upon me, and enjoy my own space.
I can honestly reflect on my childhood experience as being very fulfilling and rewarding, despite my separation, reunion and loss. This experience has undoubtedly made me a very strong, determined, sensible and stable person in life’s journey and I continue to grow and develop life’s skills and experiences all the time.
That is my story, what’s yours?”
(Name & address supplied)
Leaving behind my mother and grandmother, I arrived in England from the Caribbean in my teens in 1962, to live with my father and his new wife. The separation from my primary carers and from the vibrant Caribbean culture, where my extended family and neighbours all participated as primary care-givers, and my arrival into a British environment deprived me of the secure attachments which had supported me and upon which I depended, even as a teenager.
Unsure of my new relationships and environment, I became so unhappy that I stopped laughing. Initially, I cried and complained often. My father in particular grew impatient with me. I then experienced feelings of anxiety and despair, grieving and mourning the loss of close family ties and the support left abroad. Unsupported by ‘parents’ too busy to listen to me, I became distrustful of them and others, and resentful towards my mother, who seemed unable or unwilling to listen or relate to my experience. Matters were complicated by her perception that I was labelling her a ‘bad mother’.
However, I gave the appearance of making the best of my situation by ‘going through the motions’ of daily life. When I met and fell in love with my husband I believed that these feelings would disappear, but with the onset of problems in the relationship these emotions resurfaced. Without my extended family’s support, I felt empty and isolated. At this time, my husband was also experiencing similar feelings, having left his family in the Caribbean in his teens in order to join the Air Force.
Three years ago, whilst undertaking a counselling course, I was introduced to the ‘Separation and Attachment Theory’. It clarified my understanding of my childhood experiences, of the trauma that separation and lost attachments had on my personal life, and heightened my self-awareness, helping me explore various issues in therapy and facilitating my mourning. I benefited from the self-examination, felt encouraged, empowered, loved and cared for. My mother and I have since resolved our differences. The therapeutic benefit and life enhancement resulting from the exploration of these issues cannot be overstated.
(Name & address supplied)