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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

Column: Peaches and Paula – a mum without a mum and a photograph that spoke a thousand words.

Nothing prepared me for how the birth of my own children would mercilessly rip the scab off the wound that my mother’s death had left behind. In that way, I could relate to the late Peaches Geldof, writes Claire Micks.

Claire Micks

WHEN MY HUSBAND mentioned on Monday evening that Peaches Geldof had been found dead in her home, it did stop me in my tracks momentarily. It was shocking. Tragic. Hard to believe. But my mind moved on pretty quickly to more mundane matters, like what to feed the kids for dinner.

I didn’t follow her on Twitter. Didn’t read her articles. Knew vaguely about some ill-advised marriage in Vegas. But that was about it about her, the person. I did know the background though, as we all did. And later on that evening when I saw the picture she had posted shortly before her death, of herself and her mother when she was just two years old, it quite simply pierced a hole in my heart. The caption read simply ‘Me and my mum’, but there was something about the simplicity of that photograph that just got me. Stuck with me. I could relate.

The wound my mother’s death had left behind

Nothing prepared me for how the birth of my own children would mercilessly rip the scab off the wound that my mother’s death had left behind. How their arrival would shine an unavoidable light on the conspicuous absence of Granny Mary. At the time I struggled to understand how you could feel so simultaneously elated, yet unspeakably sad. I had these beautiful babies to call my own, and yet my own mother would never, ever feature within this new family. Sitting in the hospital surrounded by a plethora of other cooing mothers and daughters, I distinctly remember it hitting me like a tonne of bricks. Mum’s not here. Simple as that. Perhaps Peaches Geldof felt something similar.

In hindsight I should have realised that having my own children would bring it all back. How me becoming ‘mum’ would of course resonate on so many levels, both happy and sad. But I didn’t. I failed to twig that generations have looked to their own mums for guidance when faced with the enormous challenge that is motherhood. How ‘What to Expect’ doesn’t quite cover it, and how that aching gap acts as a daily reminder of the loss you thought you had long since accepted. Motherhood without mum can ignite a slow burning grief more acute than anything that went before.

Some parallels are too painful to bear

I don’t have a photo of my mother holding me when I was the age that my kids are now. Fewer photos were taken back in the day than in 1991. But if I did, I can’t imagine how looking at it would make me feel now. It would be like looking in an intergenerational mirror, where what is reflected back has a great big hole in it where my mother should be. In ways I’m glad I don’t possess such a photo. Perhaps some comparisons are better off never being made. Some parallels too painful to bear. Some echoes of happier times past best off not heard.

Nobody seems to know what happened that afternoon. And it may be many weeks before anybody does. But regardless, it is clear that she missed her own mum. As all of us who raise kids in the absence of our own parents can understand. And perhaps, if nothing else, her tragic death and that poignant photo which she was open enough to share, can allow those of us in a similar boat to recognise that we are doing a great job , but a difficult one, and that the road we travel is all the more challenging because we are, unfortunately, going solo.

Claire Micks is the mother of a (reasonably behaved) two year old girl and an (entirely spoilt) 14 month old boy. She survives by day and writes by night. Croaks rather than tweets, but despite that somehow manages to get her ramblings published on occasion.

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Read: Peaches Geldof post-mortem results ‘inconclusive’

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Claire Micks

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