One of my students was crying at assembly today. I don’t know why she was crying. They were singing the National Anthem and I was spacing out and I looked down suddenly and I could see was she was very sad and then she began to blink away tears. She is in class 3—I have mentioned her before. Lonely Child. She has come alive quite a bit. I draw names from a sack to get them to answer questions every day, and I never draw her name. The last three days she has raised her hand and said, “I am every day unlucky.” Which is pretty impressive as an English sentence.
Anyway, it reminded me of C, because in November and December of last year, she would sometimes cry at assembly. I guess I was thinking about C anyway, because she was online last night and this morning. I told C that the teachers here at the lower school remember her and ask me how she is doing, which is true. Yesterday, I was walking to school with one of the teachers, and she did ask about C. There are a few of them that do. However, I said it with a motive. I said it because I want her to know she still exists for people even when they are not in front of her. She can be loved and missed and remembered, just as she misses and remembers other people.
Maybe it was on her mind to start with, or maybe it was because of what I said, but it seems she is really missing the old places and the old people from when she was younger. I think maybe that happens sometimes. Life evolves, and part of growing up is this grief for what once was—your younger self and everything that went with it. There is a deep grief that goes with having mentally ill parents, but there is also this other, quite normal grief of life moving on. You get a new teacher every year. At certain points, you change schools. Maybe your family moves to a new house and a new neighbourhood and you make new friends. You might be perfectly happy with the new things, but there is also going to be this longing for the old things, the old relationships and the old places. In a family where there is empathy and an understanding of feelings, this will be shared and you will get support through it. In a family like mine, there is none of that, because feelings cannot be tolerated. No one really knows how to have them or what to do about them, and something like missing your old school or your neighbours—as C does—is not going to be heard or understood. You will lose the feeling of connection to others if you talk about it, because the other person will say something invalidating—like you need to move on, or change is a part of life, or you ought to be happy and grateful for how things are. You will never get the idea that this actually happens to everyone. All of us miss the old things when life changes, even when we like the new things.
But in a family like mine, it would have been like I am a space alien for feeling these things. I am a total weirdo, and that makes things worse. The invalidation means the feelings get exiled, and they don’t get regulated. They form impulses rather than an integrated part of one’s experience. The losses I experienced were severe, but even normal losses were not accepted. That has probably happened with C also.