Posted by: Louise | August 11, 2011


I watched Beginners recently. I was drawn to it before I ever watched it after reading an interview with the director Mike Mills in the paper. I really liked the film (and it wasn’t the whole Ewan McGregor thing). Liked? It resonated. It has stayed with me. There is an honesty and a realness in it – even with the talking dog. It is complicated and human.

“Our good fortune allowed us to feel a sadness our parents never had time for.” Beginners

Is feeling sadness a luxury?

It made me wonder about my parents when my sister died. My father doesn’t talk about her. When Laura died, my mother received phone calls from friends offering their sympathy for the loss of her granddaughter, and apologising for not having acknowledged her daughter, my sister Rachel, openly when she had died shortly after birth all those years earlier. Were they trying to protect her from her sadness. “A sadness our parents were not allowed time for.”

It made me curious about what I looked like back then? Back then when we were protected from our sadness. Did my sadness show through on my face anyway? My parents had been told to hide their grief from us. We were too young to understand. Protect the children. And so they hid inside with their tears after they told us our sister had died and came across me hours later, crying all alone on the garden bench. I was six.

This is what we looked like back then a few weeks after my sister died.

This is what I looked like two years later shortly after I had been molested by someone close to our family. Did my fear and confusion and sadness show on my face then?

When Astro Boy was two and we were in a clamour of showering and dressing and shaving (that would be K) and general morning rushing, he fell against the toilet and split his lip. He didn’t pick the best day. I was meant to be interviewing all day. Hospitals weren’t on the agenda. K was up to something too. I rang the hospital for advice. They said at his age, he would need a general anaesthetic if they were to stitch him. Should we leave him with the possibility of scarring or subject him to such heavy medication? If we chose scarring, was that just because his accident didn’t fit in with our plans. There was anxiety in the home air.

I walked into the kitchen and found the Giraffe Princess, barely four, reaching into the fridge to prepare her own lunch for playschool, all “don’t mind me, I won’t make any demands on you, just sorting my lunch so you don’t have to think about that too.”

AB has a small scar. GP maintains a level of maturity beyond her years.

I didn’t tell anyone I had been molested, protected them all from it, until I was in my teens. By then it was seeping out of me, not in words, but in other ways. When you are consumed with guarding yourself against one person, it becomes a way of life and who you are guarding yourself against gets lost – you are just guarded. Full stop. Guarded and guilty. Capable, independent and headstrong, depending on your view point.

No one ever did anything when I told them what had happened.

In Ireland we have big issues with the church and abuse. Last month our head of state stood up and challenged the church on it publicly and everyone said, “Hurray.” The church has become a real focus for the problem with abuse. And I wonder…

It is so easy to be angry with an institution, to rail against them. They knew and kept it silent, moved the problem on to a different parish, protected us from the truth. The problem isn’t the church though. It is the silence, the compulsion to protect. I am protecting – still – who from who though?

It is a struggle. It is my struggle. I don’t want to protect. I want someone to protect me.

Giraffe Princess showed such independence that morning. I lifted her and held her. That wasn’t a role she should have to play.

And these days I protect people from the reality of daughter death. I am on guard lest they get upset, less guarded than before, but still guarded. I’ll try to make my pain easy for you to bear. Don’t mind me. I’ll be fine. See, I’m smiling.



  1. What a fucking perfect, gorgeous post. You always manage to tap into something I am wrestling with, trying to make sense of. And I am just so sorry too, of what you endured alone. Sending you love, as always. xo

  2. I can’t say it better than Angie already has. This is my third read and I still can’t summon up the words. I’m sorry, I’m sorry that nobody afforded you the protection that you have extended to others.

    Your description of your little girl, getting on with her lunch preparations, just made my heart ache.

  3. Oh the looks on your faces are just exactly the ones on my girls faces when they are grouped around Freddie in SCBU. Thinking it could be made to be okay if they gritted their teeth and smiled.

    And your poor mum. Poor all of you.

    And ps, thanks you xxx

  4. Feeling all your love and care.
    Thank you

  5. I am so sorry that you endured something that no one protected you from. And I am sorry that when they were told they still remained silent. That is one of life’s biggest atrocities.. silence amidst atrocity.

    When I look at the pictures I see something in both of them.. but especially in the second. Pain is ever apparent when we look closely isn’t it?
    Sending you love and support.. and wishing I could shout injustice to the world if only it could bring consolation. But even I know that consolation is something that cannot always be attained. Life just is.

  6. Have not been able to get this post out of my mind for days, not that I want to.

    I’m thinking about how people will say, “She’s fine,” by which they mean, “She looks fine.” As if the outsides always spill the insides.

    That second picture of you as a young girl cut me right to the heart. My brother and I were molested at that same age by someone who repeatedly came to our house. Did it show? Not then, but boy, has it shown over the years. The relationships in our family are still snarled because of it. And when we “told” after years of silence, the response was the same as yours. Nobody did anything. I don’t understand why they didn’t for you. For us, the answer was, “It’s been too long. We don’t want to make a big deal about it now.”

    If, God forbid, something like this ever happens to my kids… I am not planning to be calm and quiet and “nice” about it.

    Your words dig deep. I’m so sorry that you were betrayed – on more than one level.

    Thank you for writing about it. It can’t be easy.

    Cathy in Missouri

  7. And I did not say, but wanted to: tears for your sister, your mother, your Laura, you, are all tangled in my eyes. I hate death.


  8. No resolution, but I am glad I wrote this post. I have never felt so exposed as when I pressed “publish” so I want to thank you all for your love and support.

    Cathy, I am so sorry you know what I write about and I am sorry that your courage to tell was not met with similar courage. I think for my family it was “in the past” too. Sadly, only for them….

    I hope I will mother my children like a she-wolf.

  9. Hey Louise

    I haven’t been reading many blog posts in quite some time and I had keep some to the side as must-read-when-time…
    I’m stunned by your post in so many ways, abuse is such a deep hurt and the desire to fix the wrong that can’t be fixed, and the silence… It’s such complex social strategy… and I can only say, yes, it makes sense. With your post a bit of my past and present makes more sense and for that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


    • Love to you Ines.
      “the desire to fix the wrong that can’t’ be fixed”
      These words ring true.

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