To Learn of Domestic Abuse: A Conversation With My Mother

To Learn of Domestic Abuse: A Conversation With My Mother

Content Warning: description of domestic abuse

At a certain age you are no longer a child but something more. Far from adulthood, caught in a nebulous space of puberty and mental development. But the weight of responsibility is ever so slightly pressed upon you. To be trusted with a conversation about the past is one such responsibility.

I remember being 16 years-old and my mother telling me the story of what happened between her and my father. The violence and the abuse. The way it stole her self belief and confidence. Of course, she didn’t need to do anything wrong, simply existing within the same space as him was enough to attract his ire. Didn’t cook his meal exactly the way he wanted it? He would destroy whatever was in front of him, and steal another piece of her being. A cut here, a bruise there. It was a slow, unrelenting build-up of trauma.

She once said: “I never knew which way was up, and that’s how he liked to keep it. Though, afterwards, he’d always return to that whimpering, apologetic mess…”

She told me that my birth was the catalyst to finally leave him. But you could see the scars, more mental than physical, that he had left on her. Yet she would still say she loved him and refused to put him down for the sake of it. She had the choice to not put him on my birth certificate but she did anyway. That would be the closest he ever got to being a “father”. Her reasoning for making such a choice was that one day, as I came of age, I may independent from her try to seek him out (this didn’t happen). Regardless of the suffering he had inflicted upon her.

I think that strength, her complete selflessness is one of the things I never quite understood about mum until later in my own life. She took on the weight of responsibility to her child and the uncertain future that lay ahead. A single parent who with the help of her own parents gave me a life free of the violence she had so often faced.

I wish I could have thanked her more. Last week was 2 years since she passed away. Everyday I try to emulate her strength and move forward. And I undoubtedly know that without her I would never had made it this far.

I’ve listed a couple of resources for anyone affected by domestic violence in the U.K. for the rest of the world please visit a more comprehensive list on Wikipedia.

Refuge/National Domestic Abuse Helpline

Their helpline offers advice and support to women experiencing domestic violence.

Refuge also provide safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refuges throughout the UK, including culturally-specific services for women from minority ethnic communities and cultures.

Their website also includes some information for men who are either being abused or who are abusers.

You can call, for free and in confidence, 24-hours a day.

0808 2000 247

You can call, for free and in confidence, 24-hours a day.


Respect – Men’s Advice Line

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice, and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.

Tel: 0808 8010327




National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline

Galop provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.

Tel: 0800 999 5428

Monday to Friday

10:00am – 5:00pm

Wednesday to Thursday

10:00am – 8:00pm


Ritchie Secures $80,000 to Help Victims Of Domestic Violence | NY State  Senate

Bereavement: six months or one hundred and eighty-two days later

20140123_155516Today marks six months since my mother passed away from cancer. A thick fog is only now lifting. Both my physical and mental health have suffered. But I’ve found solace in writing and this has been a cathartic exercise. Today is the culmination of a journey years in the making and one where I’ve yet to take the first step. This story contains references to death, cancer, mental health, self-harm, and suicide. I’ll post a second and third part on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

“I’m sorry, she’s gone.”

I already knew. It had been five minutes since she took her final breath. I mirrored her—motionless, cold, empty. That was now my mother. A stark contrast to the hour before. All the reading, preparation, and conversations can never truly prepare you for what happens when a loved one passes. So I kissed her forehead and uttered the words:

“I love you, Mum. I’ll be with you soon. I promise.”

I never saw her body again. Though this was a choice.

What lay before me was little more than a container that had its contents spirited away. My attachment was to the person, not the body.

I spent the following twenty minutes speaking to—being consoled by—a nurse, though little registered. Everything from time to sight and sound just bled into each other. I remember being on the train back home, watching people as they go about their business thinking; do you see me? Am I sad? I knew I wasn’t crying but a wave of anxiety rushed over me. How was I being perceived by the outside world? I had expected a tsunami of emotion but anxiety, that was it? I wondered why now of all times when it was perfectly reasonable for me to cry; I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Later I would vividly remember not crying at her bedside because I felt it rude to do so. An ICU is full of people close to death, each with their own story of suffering, the last thing they needed was to hear my cries. On reflection, not a normal thought process but one I imagine protected me. At least until I got home. Alone, I cried and I wouldn’t stop for days but I guess to understand what had just occurred I’d have to go back.

This was the second time someone had given her the diagnosis. The first time was on Good Friday back in 2008. Osteosarcoma of the right tibia. In 2015 there were just 551 new cases of Bone sarcoma in the U.K., making up less than 1% of all cancers and Osteosarcoma makes up 30% of all bone sarcomas. So it accounts for just 0.003% of cancer cases. Osteosarcoma is most common and in teenagers and young adults. So as she said:

“Even with this, I am a rarity.”

A wry smile and a joke. That was how she approached her illness.

She had christened it ‘Frank’.

Her prize for adopting Frank was six rounds of chemotherapy and a brand new titanium tibia. Did she have any questions for the doctor?

“Will the scanner buzz me at airport security?”


“If I’m short of cash can I sell the leg?”


Ten years and many side effects later—she was facing down a second diagnosis. She didn’t name it this time, but I called it ‘The Bastard’ for posterity. The Bastard, for all intents and purposes, was an enemy in an unwinnable war. She received the test results in June 2018 with the news that cancer had taken hold in her spine. Having metastasized, it had a shopping list of organs:

  • Stomach

  • Lungs

  • Breast

  • Brain

That last one? Yeah. That was a real fuck you to someone who had already lost her ability to walk outdoors without the aid of a wheelchair. Someone who had lost feeling in her extremities because of Peripheral Neuropathy. To have dealt with all that for ten years and now have her brain consumed by this was heartbreaking. It was only a matter of time before she would lose all motor function. But something unexpected happened. After receiving a high dose of steroids her motor function returned. It had only been a week, but the difference was night and day. She could raise her arms, sit-up unassisted and could even take a few steps. The sense of pride I felt at seeing this woman, who against all odds was once again back on her feet was immense.

It was enough for the doctors to allow her home but even with this progress, the path only went in one direction and had one end. Now there was an invisible clock hanging over her head. No one knew how much time she’d have left, it’s not an exact science. Though with this improvement and some chemotherapy the doctors estimated six-nine months. Best-case scenario? Up to two years.

It was late July, summer was in full swing. England was marching on in the World Cup and though we marked her 54th birthday in the hospital, we could now have time at home. Planning how best to spend the time she had left.

And in my deepest desperation, I did something that most people end up doing at least once in their life. I prayed to a God I had never believed in. I prayed she would be around for my 32nd birthday and that we’d get one more Christmas together.

In the eerie silence of the chapel, if I really listened—I heard a ticking clock I couldn’t see.