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Illustrations of kingfishers by Amanda Tan

L O S S   A D J U S T M E N T 

LINDA COLLINS

“The hearse’s engine is running. I am enfolded by drifting dampness. The rain is fitting. I am too numb to weep, but the heavens do it for me. Such is the sadness over your death, Victoria.”
 

Loss Adjustment is a mother’s recount of her

17-year-old daughter’s suicide.

In the wake of Victoria McLeod's passing, she left behind a remarkable journal in her laptop of the final four months of her life.

Linda Collins, her mother, has woven these into her memoir, which is at once cohesive, yet fragmented, reflecting a survivor's state of mind after devastating loss.

T I M E  T O  W A K E  U P 

I get up at 6.45am to prepare breakfast for my 17-year-old daughter, Victoria. All over this tropical yet urbanised island of Singapore, mothers are rising to get their children ready for the international schools that cater for transitory expatriates. For our family, it is the first day of the second term, of Victoria’s final year at her school, which follows an Australian curriculum. It is the day that exam results will be known...

With every pre-order copy purchased from now till

27 September, Ethos Books will be donating $1  to Samaritans of Singapore, in support of mental health advocacy and suicide prevention in Singapore.

Our bookstore partners listed below will also be donating $1 to SOS with every pre-order copy purchased through them.

 

GIVING BACK

 

MEDIA MENTIONS

Plumbing the depths of grief 

 –  The Straits Times

The Two Faces of Suicide” 

 – The New Yorker

A Very Human Ending: The Truth About Suicide 

The Guardian  

 Mother's book about teenage daughter’s suicide shows 'reality of suffering from a devastating loss' 

      – The New Paper 

Book Reporting: An Expat Mum In Singapore’s Heart-        Wrenching Tale Of Her Teen Daughter’s Suicide 

 –  The Finder

When A Loved One Commits Suicide, How Do You Move On?” 

 – A Magazine

 Grief, waste and 'Loss Adjustment': The journey of bereaved parent and author Linda Collins

      – Yahoo Singapore

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Collins is a copyeditor on the political desk of The Straits Times. She may be familiar to readers, having used to write a monthly contribution to The Expat Files in the Sunday Times from 2009­–2012. She has an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University, New Zealand, and her non-fiction and poetry have appeared in Turbine, Swamp Living, The Fib Review, The Cordite Poetry Review and The Freerange Journal. She was shortlisted for the Hachette Australia Trans-Tasman mentorship, longlisted for a NZ flash fiction award and received an Honourable Mention in a Glimmer Train contest.

 

Loss Adjustment was written three years after her daughter had died, and is a work of creative non-fiction.

 

BOOK PREVIEW

I get up at 6.45am to prepare breakfast for my 17-year-old daughter, Victoria. All over this tropical yet urbanised island of Singapore, mothers are rising to get their children ready for the international schools that cater for transitory expatriates. For our family, it is the first day of the second term, of Victoria’s final year at her school, which follows an Australian curriculum. It is the day that exam results will be known.

    The time, 6.45am, is when I always get up during term time, in order to get Victoria breakfasted, dressed in her school uniform, teeth brushed, and then off downstairs to the 7.32am school bus. The evening before, she had laid out her school clothes on the dressing table in her bedroom to save time in the morning. I’d panicked that evening, as I couldn’t find socks with the school logo on them. Vic was amused by my panic, and dug up two manky, dust-covered socks from under her bed, saying, “Mu-um. These’ll do.” My husband Malcolm hauled out shoe polish from the cupboard under the sink and buffed Vic’s brown lace-up school-shoes with a ton of spit and energy. It was how his late dad, Jack McLeod, taught him to do it. It seemed important for Malcolm to pass this bit of Jack on to his daughter.

     Malcolm had explained to Vic, “One day we won’t be around to do all this stuff, like polishing shoes. Here’s what you need to do.” She smirked and did the eye-roll. “Da-ad.” Later, doing the dishes the old-fashioned way—by hand—they had a tea-towel fight. Vic could flick a mean tea-towel. She giggled as she caught Mal a good one on his arm. But she’d been unusually pensive during the day. She had urged me to look at old photos of myself when I was young. I asked her, “Why would I want to look at those? I wasn’t so happy then.” And she said something about me being thin and pretty back then, which I took totally the wrong way as her saying I was fat and ugly now, and later I wondered, if only I had asked her why she had said that to me.

     Still, this morning I had woken up euphoric in the aftermath of a long dream in which Victoria was spinning in the universe and saying, “I’m free, free! I’m free. And you’re free!” The dream seemed to have gone on for a long time—maybe an hour or so. Vic was above the ground, her hair was long and golden, her clothes light-coloured, and the sky around her was the bright blue of a kingfisher’s wing. I was rising after her. She stretched out her hand to me. I was reaching for it, but already she was soaring away from me, looking upward, smiling. She was so happy. That is what made me, in turn, euphoric. For her, that she felt that way. I woke up, lying in the position that Victoria always slept in—on her back, with her arms crossed behind her head, facing the room. I always sleep on my side. I am generally semi-comatose and grumpy when I awake. To have woken in this position, with my daughter’s voice in my head telling me she is free, is disconcerting.

    Instead of getting up, I lie there, and recall the restless night I have spent. At one point I had woken to the TV still murmuring in the living room although it must have been about 2am. Malcolm, a night owl, was up watching tennis. I got up and burst into the living room. Malcolm and our cat Mittens, on the sofa beside him, both looked up indignantly. I said to him that it was school tomorrow, and it was already today, and that in a couple of hours I had to get up and get ready. He shrugged good-naturedly, and turned off the TV. Then I tiptoed into Vic’s room and she seemed to be sleeping, though unusually she had pulled the covers over her head. I listened to her steady breathing and said the mantra for good luck that I always whispered to her last thing: “Good night, darling. Love you.” Then I backed out quietly, shut the door which gave an irritating clunk on the last turn of the knob, and went to sleep.

 At 6.45am I recall all this, and crack on with the morning. I get up, put the toast in the toaster, get the coffee ready, and think, “That’s odd, Vic hasn’t got up yet. It’s nearly seven o’clock.”

     I go into her bedroom, calling, “Time to wake up now, Vic.” The curtains are still drawn, but sunlight through the gaps lets me see that the covers are folded back. Vic isn’t there. I feel that everything is wrong. I knock on the bathroom door; no reply. I open it, she isn’t there. I think that maybe she is playing a silly trick, and is hiding in the cupboard under the sink. I look, full of hope, but she isn’t there.

    Maybe she is in one of the other rooms. I run to them, she isn’t there. Maybe she is out on the balcony? She isn’t there. I go and wake Malcolm. I grab my phone and run downstairs. I start to run towards to the hill leading to other apartment blocks. Something stops me. It is more than not wanting to go further from home. It is a feeling that I mustn’t go there. I pull out my phone and text: “Please, Vic, where are you?” I run back to our apartment. As I run, I allow myself, fearfully, to wonder if Vic has headed off to the main road for some reason, to go to where there is a bridge over a canal. Why would she do that? Why do I think she might do that? In the apartment, Malcolm is pacing the rooms, bewildered. We hear the sound of a motorbike. We rush out, hoping for news. It is Mohan, the condominium’s security guard. The burly Indian with a carefully tended moustache and a devotion to his job has known Vic since she was a little girl. This familiar, kindly man in his blue uniform and polished black shoes, is sobbing.

    Mohan won’t tell us what is wrong. He is shaking, burying his head in his hands, telling us only, “Come. You must come. Over the hill, over the hill.” He has come to get us, to take us there.

 

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