Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Lament for a Butterfly


If you ask my daughter to show you, she will extend her arm and reveal a small, delicate butterfly tattooed just above her wrist.  She loves Butterflies. I brought her a beautiful silk painting of one back from the Caribbean, and it rests its wings on her walls.

She wrote a song called Butterfly for her now defunct band. The words are now echoing in my mind.

“Butterflies have such a short life, I wish I was a Butterfly”

I saw my daughter before Christmas. As she came down the escalator towards me, I felt so happy to see her again. She looked well, and healthy, and as we talked she seemed to have found her equilibrium again. I had been very worried about her, she had cut loose from everything she’d known, her band, her music studies, her boyfriend of two years. She’d seemed lost.

Struggling to finish those last 8 months of university, the torpor was threatening to drag her under before the finish line. Then, Christmas, that wolf in sheep’s clothing, that dispenses pain and pleasure in equal measure, amplifying both with chilling equanimity arrived like an uninvited guest, bringing hurtful accusations from her hurting ex-boyfriend. He had his own demons to deal with, but I dont think he realised the pain he was causing her.

She confided to me that her Christmas day had been awful, and that she expected to spend New Year alone, and I told her she should not do that.  Miki and I received a message around 4.30 in the morning of New Years Day from her mother, it was cryptic and scary. It told me not to speak to my daughter before her Mother had spoken to the Doctor.

It transpired that my precious daughter had been harming herself. As I write this, words seem empty, useless, in conveying the depth of horror, sadness, anguish, incomprehension, and yes, revulsion at this revelation.  I have guilt. I defy any parent that has left a marriage involving children not to be marinated in deep, unresolvable guilt.  But my daughter was 16 when I left, and she knew it was better that we split. I don´t believe it was my fault she went down this path. But the simple undeniable fact stands in front of me, accusing, like a monolith while the arctic winds of indecision cut me to the bone. What can I do?

It is one of nature’s cruel tricks that the raising of children is like plate spinning…you get one spinning great, you leave it and move on to the other one, getting that one spinning beautifully, then, as you glance across, the one you first attended to is spinning wildly out of control.  If I was a psychologist, and I’m not, I would venture that my son has inherited a down to earth approach that will protect him in life. I thought my daughter had too. She has my stubbornness, but she is frail, thinks the world is against her, and has inherited her Mother’s hysteria. I try not to fall into the trap of measuring her life against mine (as my father did with me) but it´s difficult. She is now 22. I left home at 17, and was travelling the world as a professional musician by the age of 20. My son has a much more thoughful head on his shoulders, and is only 15. It could be argued that he had a far more traumatic time when I left than my daughter did. But what forces shape our destiny? I simply cannot comprehend what would drive a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her to do this to herself.  Whatever words of comfort come my way, I feel, profoundly, that I have failed her, and I wanted so much for her to have the world.

I will post a picture of her to accompany this post when I am able..we are still using the cybercafe so its a bit problematic.

Kev Moore


January 6, 2008 - Posted by | culture, family, health, life, love, Parents and Children, personal, women, writing | , , , , ,


  1. Kev, I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. I would venture to guess that all parents, divorced or otherwise, feel some guilt about all they cannot do to protect their children. No matter how much we do, it never seems to be enough.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | January 6, 2008

  2. Kevin I am sorry you are suffering and feeling the way you are. However one must remember that the best thing you can do is be the best person that you can be. This means doing right by yourself. Doing right by your family. Doing right by your friends. Doing right by your community and the world.

    In the absence of Clarity which parents cannot nor ever will have the only constant is being the best you can be. It may not become apparent to you now but in the arc of all lives the messages will get delivered when each individual is ready for them.

    In the case of your children they will come around and if not it is not your fault. Your children must not even be able to sense your guilt because this will make them feel the same too eventually.

    The message however subtle must be proactive. This means never feeling guilt nor any other negative feelings. This is difficult to do but it is necessary for being able to keep a invisible door open to our children so that they see it as a constant and as the truth. If this truth you show is one without any negative emotion then the likely hood of them successfully navigating their own life’s path will be much higher.

    Stand firm in your convictions and believe that you have done right by yourself and by them and they will find this feeling makes them feel attracted to you as opposed to repelled because they will see the only place to go when they find themselves lost is toward strength comfort and truth.

    Time always yields a gift and I hope this helps.

    Sorry if I sound like I am preaching but I do know this to be true as a result of the fallibility of human nature.

    Comment by Michael | January 6, 2008

  3. You already know, Kev, how I feel. Believe me when I say I can understand you. It’s agonising especially because most of the time we seem to be helpless to help… it’s simply fate and hasard and usually an active approach would do more harm than good… You have be be impossibly smart, impossibly wise or just impossibly lucky. All you can do is pray to an improbable god and hope she (or he) would find the inner strenght to get through…

    Comment by iondanu | January 7, 2008

  4. Thank you all, for your comments. I like to think I have been firm, and constant in the way I deal with my children, and I have made sure they know I love them. I was told a long time ago, when I was divorcing, that it was imperative to continue to show your love for your children. You cannot do it enough. They need to know its not their fault. I believed I’d succeeded in this; certainly my son, who was very angry at me at the time, has no problems now, and we are very close. My daughter just seems to have lost her way. I fear she has created an outer “shell” which isnt very pleasant, to deal with the world at large, and what I hope and believe is her true self, the kind girl inside, can’t deal with it, and thats where the problems start. Her brother sees this dichotomy clearly, he spent the other evening with her, til late in the night watching movies, and said she was a joy to be with. Sadly, he seesa different girl emerge when she is with her circle of friends. Danu, you are so right. I will pray to that improbable god. Indeed, it all comes down to one’s inner strength, and that’s a journey you take alone.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 7, 2008

  5. So well expressed though sad and painful.
    There is no way of knowing in advance the correct step to make in family relationships. She might have been better off or worse off if you stayed. All you can really do is make certain she knows you are there for her with unjudgemental love.

    Comment by wrjones | January 7, 2008

  6. I have no advise for you Kev, that has not already been so wisely given. Just an open heart to hear your pain and feel it with you. We can’t help but get so battered while being parents. I can almost remember the oath I made to myself that I would never “make mistakes” with my children as my parents did. Now I see that not only have I broken my oath, but I have even failed to understand which of my actions were “mistakes” and which were simply the unfolding of family life while I was just busy trying to do the best I could. Now I can see that my parents weren’t “making mistakes”. They were simply passing on their life experience in the way they knew it. So the guilt complex. . .nah, it doesn’t work (as Michael so eloquently explained)

    We can all remember, I hope, those times of existential despair while growing up. Trying to figure out who we were going to be. Your daughter will grow out of this crisis as we did ours (and still are!) Whew! I’m sure you’ll be reminding me of this soon with my own kids.

    Comment by Susan Cornelis | January 8, 2008

  7. Ah Kevin…I have so much to say…both as a mother and as a professional….Your pain strikes a deep chord in me as this has been a very, very difficult week.

    My 32 year old son is so depressed, and, we feared, suicidal, that my ex-husband and I did an intervention basically demanding that he see a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation, as well as get a physical (he’s lost 30 pounds in 3 months). The therapy part, which I of course deem most important, he will not comply with…kind of like the shoemaker’s children having no shoes, eh?

    I have been sick with helplessness and worry over his refusal to help himself for so many years…so bright…so gifted…so creative..working at a job far beneath his natural talents..

    And then, at the end of the week, my cousin died who i was very very close to….my childhood…my roots…..another lost soul….

    The divorce thing is a bitch as far as guilt goes…we all carry it no matter what the circumstances…because we know that even though we did what we had to do, it caused pain for the kids. Period. On the other hand, what I got to that helped me, was my value of personal authenticity. To live a fake life with their father didn’t seem to
    make any sense at all, and would be modeling a horrendous relationship for them to aspire to.

    So sometimes you get to a fork in the road where either direction will cause pain. To say stuck in present pain, which involves the whole family, seems a poor alternative to moving on and out of the pain. Some might call it selfish but I see it as one family member (the parent) getting healthy and strong and then being able to teach these skills to the others….in essence being the only one to grab a lifeboat from the sinking ship….

    Your daughter has two parents, not one. Her mother has equal responsibility for the break up of your relationship, as well as what your daughter has learned about maladaptive coping. Then there is also the culture, in which these days many girls cope with pain by hurting themselves. A book to understand this, if I’m understanding you correctly, is Women Who Cut Themselves by Dusty Miller. (It might be Women Who Hurt Themselves, I can remember exactly but you’re sure to find it on Amazon.)

    I do hope these thoughts help you, dear man.

    Comment by psychscribe | January 8, 2008

  8. Dear Kev,

    I will send you a message about this privately in a day or two. So sorry for what you are going through.

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | January 8, 2008

  9. Susan, Psych, MM, thank you all. Its incredible how sharing here helps. And how you all in turn bare your souls. It´s a comfort to know, we´ve all been there, to some degree, and I take strength from all your good wishes, indeed, I feel them through our site here. Psych, I will seek out that book, thank you so much for that.
    We´re still somewhat adrift in cyberspace, and, if Miki doesn´t explode in frustration, we´ll be back as soon as Spanish tradition allows. It could be manana….or the manana after that….

    Comment by kevmoore | January 9, 2008

  10. Oh man! I’ve read this blog entry like 10 times over and have attempted a comment several times, and will be perfectly honest. I cant seem to think of words that could console you as a parent, its a tough cookie.
    I have a brother who is in the same predicament, although he is in his late 20’s and his problems arose around his early 20’s and he seems a somewhat healed person now, his reasons were the pressure my dad used to put on him, it had an adverse affect and instead of pursuing an education and top-notch career, everything he did just wasnt good enough by my dads ‘military dictator’ standards. He slipped and turned towards drugs and non-stop partying, he went from a caring big brother to a beast, it was like 6 years of constant hell, which involved the police, rehab, and so much more. His bouts of extreme behaviour were painful to experience, but we stuck fast as a family, and we managed to bring him back round, he’s since found a nice girl (well he thinks so anyway) and is happily married and are expecting a baby, the scars are still there but less prominent and healing, putting that chapter behind us, is now only a matter of time.

    It’s all about endurance and consistency in support, he needed reassurance that we really were ”on his side”. In my brothers case he couldnt handle the pressure from my dad, (both my mum and dad are from families with a history of serving in the army, and they believe the tough love approach is the best way to bring up children, well out of us 5 kids, all of us were able to handle it and were submissive to our parents, but since my brothers ”incident” it made us review our systematic approach to life and become more ”human” which is incredibly selfish of us, but something good did come of it…

    Ermm.. I dont know if I’m even making sense.

    Anyway, about your daughter, there are ways of dealing with pressure, sometimes we feel strong enough to take it head on, strangle the mother…f…
    and there are times when we feel pressure is like a huge tidal wave which one is trying to run from, and feel that if you slow down any or stumble, that tidal wave will take you under, drowning you, and all control will be lost, and thats where no-one wants to be mentally, to surrender to pressure /grief maybe? and feel they have lost control over themselves.
    I want to add that its imperative she gets more support from family and dear ones rather than just medical support, medical support can even emphasise the negativity even more.. depending on the individual you are dealing with though.

    Really sorry to hear that about your daughter, hope you’r able to pinpoint her exact problems and isolate them from her life.

    Comment by supersizeme | January 10, 2008

  11. Supe, thanks for your comment. Im sorry to hear your brother went through that kind of hell. I do agree that medical support can, if you’re not careful reinforce the perception that one is really “ill” and whilst of course you need help, its a fine line. This is where I get a bit lost, because I really dont know what the hell Im doing. Psych has recommended a book which Im going to look for, and I hope it will give me an insight. I dont believe she’s ever done drugs. I think I taught her well there, decrying the musicians who ended up dead from it, praising the ones who came through it.. but she has a fragility…she hides it with an unpleasant outer shell, and I’m beginning not to recognise the daughter I knew. But she is loved, and I believe we will bring her back from this dark place somehow. Strangle the mother….now you’re talking sense! 🙂 Bill, sorry, I omitted to thank you for your comment earlier. There have been some wonderful turns of phrase generated in this thread, and “unjudgemental love” is one of them.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 10, 2008

  12. i want to thank you all here for the deep and kind words you have written to Kevin. I can assure you, you have helped him a lot, as he felt quite lost as he got that call in the new year night…
    Of course I have tried to help myself, I have spent hours discussing with him, trying to understand the real problem, but at the end I find it very difficult to give an advice. We have all, I think, harmed ourself as we were younger, in a physical or psychological sense -at least I did it a lot, and in both senses!- and I believe that one must be very careful with the advice one gives. The right advice depends so much on the personality of the person who harms herself, and on her relationship to the person who tries to help her!
    For my part, I don´t know Kevin´s daughter enough to dare giving him an advice. I can only try to help HIM in this situation, hoping this will, at the end, help HER too… But to be honest, I feel quite helpless, and this is awful…

    Comment by Miki | January 11, 2008

  13. For my part, sharing the burden, any burden with miki halves it, and automatically helps me deal with it. thank god I wasn’t alone. sometimes, just a sympathetic ear is like the broadest shoulders.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 11, 2008

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