Like everyone else around the UK, this week has been all about frantically getting uniforms, shoes and bags packed in preparation for going back to school. For Ethan and Megs that meant Years 2 & 3 and by some complete miracle (or fluke?) we have made it on time every single day! I cannot believe we are already back to school, but I am glad we are in somewhat of an organised state so far!

We have had a great week getting back into the flow of things, getting organised for the Autumn term and adjusting to the days of just Alice and I again – We have returned to toddler group and done some shopping!

Grateful For

This week I am grateful that school runs have been so much easier and that we have has a great first week back. I am grateful to know the kids have slotted in so easily to their new classrooms and teachers, and are happy in school. I am grateful for hot chocolate with Naths mum and Aunt on Wed and also grateful to have had a lovely lunch and chats with my friend on Thursday for her birthday (and that we both love pizza!).

I am thankful for a great weekend this weekend going to our Temple in Chorley and seeing my family today to celebrate my cousins baby blessing.

Succeeded At

I have to say it again, but this weeks biggest success has most definitely been that of getting to school every day ON TIME! I cannot say enough how great that is, and how good it is to be in time to walk with our friends!

Found Beauty In 

The most beautiful thing this week was seeing the kids in their crisp new uniforms with smiles on their faces. It was lovely to see them so excited to get back into school. It was also beautiful to see Alice trying on my shoes, and hearing her say “wellie Boots” over and over again, with such glee at her new unicorn wellies!

I wasn’t really sure how this week would go, and certainly felt somewhat worried that school might take some getting used to again, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I have loved all of the things Alice and I have been doing whilst Ethan and Megs have enjoyed seeing their friends and scoffing their packed lunches at school! I have a feeling this half term might not be so bad…

 

 

 

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I believe that healing from the loss of a child is a very slow, even life long process. I recognise that it is something I will feel in my soul probably for the rest of my life, and whilst that is a hard realisation, it also means that I can not be so hard on myself if I suddenly become emotional or have a terribly painful day, because to erase the pain completely would mean to loose the memory of my daughter, and I would never wish for that! And so we learn to live with the niggling pain as best we can, for healing is in controlling the pain and having the courage to live a full life despite it, not erasing the pain completely.

My healing has been in small portions, a rocky journey where I have done things which have required the courage to step out of my safety net and then in return I have had glimpses of hope that as time goes on and life brings us new things/experiences, that things will be easier, things will be less intense and more joy will be restored to us. But Yes, courage is the key…without torturing yourself or sending your progress backwards, often healing comes in the moments and events when you take a step of courage to do something you would otherwise avoid because of what it means and reminds you of!
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It took me a lot of courage to recently welcome a pals new baby girl into the world, and whilst I was so very happy for them, seeing her wasn’t something I was immediately able to do, and I recognise that that is because she is the 1st baby girl so close to us since loosing Poppy! I just needed a bit of time and I needed to muster a lot of courage, but that’s really okay…its a first and I have leant that firsts take time! Whilst I do feel very happy for her family, and excited for them that she is here safe and looking so lovely, that she has made my friend a mother again, I know more time will be needed to feel completely at ease with it all as I still have a lot of moments of intense awkwardness around her and an inability to know how to act around such a little baby girl (I often feel like an alien)!

But the courage needed for that, whilst a lot, wasn’t as major as the thing that required my courage to a greater degree just a month ago, when we read of the heartache and tragedy that a family friends baby had died during labour. Baby Faith was a healthy and beautiful little girl, but for some unknown reason was taken home before she was born…I remember the pain of this news when we had been somewhat prepared that it was a possibility, but to be expecting a healthy baby and to have them born sleeping is a complete tragedy!

This type of news is heartbreaking to anyone that hears of it, but when you have lived this nightmarish hell yourselves, you immediately return to the moment of silence and intense soul wrenching pain when you were told your own baby had no heart beat. To then hear of it happen to someone you know, and watch them weighed down by the all too familiar burden of baby loss, well the sadness is almost paralysing that someone else has had to hear those words too!

I wept for this mother, and whilst I barely knew her on a personal level like others in our family, I just wanted to be with her and help her, my heart understood and we had an instant connection! We messaged one another and in her pain and grief she also was a strength to me in my own stage of grief as we shared poems, pictures, quotes and understanding! I believe I was in some way a little guidance and comfort to her and was able to celebrate her gorgeous daughter despite the immense tragedy surrounding her birth, and whilst I hate the circumstances that created a friendship, I am grateful for her strength and words too as we stay connected on this difficult journey.

The following week, despite much anxiety, I felt the need to be at the funeral. A lot of people thought it was a bad idea, and others thought I was the key to what they needed? Either way it was what I wanted…I wanted to show that my support was not merely words and that she was not alone, that her feelings were indeed understood and that as I had been where she was a year ago, I knew too well how hard and unfair it all felt to be burying your baby only a week after their birth.

I was in awe of their courage to perform that service to their baby and for the duration of what was a lovely funeral (despite the circumstances) it was like being a spectator of our own funeral as I saw pink flowers, a white casket and the same music to bring her in to, but I was surprised that amidst it all I held it together, yes I shed tears but never sobbed as I watched. I think I have learn’t to suppress those intense emotions, until later and so I was able to support, to hug and then I left… I felt the weight of the day tremendously in the days following, but no where near as much as I know they would have. I recognised that though it was hard and felt so fresh for me too, I had come so far to be able offer some condolence to another bereaved mother. I was healing and to be able to do all of that meant I had made some progress in this seemingly never ending journey.
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Just 2 weeks later we found ourselves at the bedside of an elderly man from church that had recently passed away, and it surprised me how at ease I felt in that scenario. I felt strength to chat to his brother that wept, and to hold his hand. I then felt strength to help with funeral plans and I also felt strength to accept the invitation to sing at the funeral. I am not a great singer, but I do okay with hymns at church, and again I felt surprised by the peace I felt doing this not far from the coffin with some other ladies and then strangely found myself agreeing to a solo on one verse?!
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I know for a fact that even a few months ago a funeral of an adult, let alone a baby would have been way too hard, or to see a new baby girl or hold a baby boy, or buy baby gifts for friends and family would have all been too much. I still cry over these things at times as they trigger the pain of my loss, but that is natural and I am happy I am not bitter and do have the strength to be genuinely happy in person and celebrate others happiness and then to be a support in sadnesses too! But when I think or ever consider if I could stand near a coffin and sing ?? NO WAY that certainly would have always been out of the question!! But again I am grateful that with some time, with a change in my heart and with time on my side, I have found a strange ability to talk about it and be a strength to others in their moments of loss and not just to be able to celebrate with people their births and pregnancy’s which I thought would be the bigger challenge.

I have noticed that healing is evident by how you can share your story with less rawness, how you can support others that are at the start of this and how you can do things that perhaps a year ago (or even weeks ago) were just too hard. It is a step by step process where confidence in areas of life returns, anxieties over babies and baby things reduce, joy is restored and you begin to be courageous in areas that you once would have completely avoided. I for once, in a long time, have an increase of hope in the promise of sunshine after the storm, because I am gaining the courage to do things that heal!

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I thought I knew Ethan pretty well… until Friday, when I met up in Harrogate with a lovely girl that I have known a few years but not really hung out with properly. She has 3 boys who are 8, 6 & 2 and Ethan loved it (as did Megs and I).
WP_20150731_12_37_54_Pro Ethan is the oldest out of the kids on Nath’s side and also the 2nd oldest on mine. He loves to play with his cousins that are mostly boys and only a year or 2 younger. He often gets silly and a little wild, usually egging them on to be mischievous, but always acting the “older” cousin. I often notice when they are together that his voice goes all high and almost patronising as he speaks to them, and recently with the babies he drags them around picks them up and tries to carry them, but in many ways he seems like he is trying to be as responsible as he is able to at 4 yrs old as we remind him he is one of the oldest and needs to be an example. This is pretty much his social life as we mostly hang out with family/his cousins or his little girl pal who is a few weeks older than him that he has adored since he was 1! I like this set up as it means I see my sisters  or sister in law’s for a catch up and as one of them has  also been one of my besties for about the last 10 years its a mint flow that the 3 of us have going on in our social lives. We occasionally meet other friends too which is always fun, but as life gets busy and they’re not as close, its not as frequent as these friendships that they enjoy probably on a weekly basis.
11221469_10153417381548828_9119320816572681204_nI thought at just 4 years old that I could pretty much predict his behaviour now and his responses in certain situations, but on Friday when he was around the older boys I was taken by surprise when I saw a new side to him come out as he played with them in the woods and at the park. It made me so happy to see him playing in a different way with them, winding people up, being more of a joker than usual and oozing with confidence. I don’t know if he was trying to prove how cool he was because he found himself as the youngest in their crew or if he just let go and realised he could just be a cool big boy instead of the “older, more sensible boy”. He climbed trees, provoked a water fight with even older boys and just laughed his head off whilst being extremely mischievous and boyish! He seemed to, despite his age, be a bit of a ring leader and like me, the joker of the group! I realised how good it was for him to have older boys to play with, people to learn from and observe and an opportunity to let go and be a real little boy.
WP_20150731_12_48_39_ProWP_20150731_12_37_48_ProI loved to see him playing this way, but I also realised how much he has grown up recently and how quickly he is changing. It made me a little emotional to wonder if this was a first or something Ive just missed whilst he’s been at pre-school with his mates? I was aware it was a very ordinary moment in a boys life, probably behaviour we will see often now he is growing up, but the biggest emotion was joy to see him being himself and loving his life. I really loved that this Ordinary day out not only meant that I got to know a new friend better and have a lovely afternoon chatting and playing, but also that her invitation meant Ethan had big boy friends and new mates that he was in awe of and wanted to be like, whilst also being true to who he is! It was also nice to see Megsie enjoying the company of a non-cousin boy too…she thought he and his Star wars interest was mint, followed him for a chunk of the day or encouraged him to follow her, and has asked about watching Star wars several times over the weekend…this is an Ordinary moment that Mr Smith isn’t loving so much, but one that was happening all the same. They both can’t wait to break the norm and hang with the big boys again!
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When I first found out that Poppy had died I knew there would be pain and sorrow, but misunderstood the amount of pain  and sorrow that would come. I also naively thought that after a period of time that I would wake up one day and be healed…because of course time is a healer, right?

Wrong, healing isn’t a one time event, but rather I have come to see that it is a process. An accumulation of small experiences that over time become easier and less painful to do, but the more you do it the easier it becomes, and it comes in different ways, surprising ways and at strange times – Feeling the pain a little less when you see a baby, not feeling it as rawly so regularly, being able to talk or listen of babies and not hurt so deeply. Walking past a baby shop/clothes and not flinching…whatever ways you see it, it does come a little here and there…I am not sure if time is a healer  as in it takes away all pain from the loss, but rather that you learn and teach yourself to live with the sorrow under the surface and not let it consume you any more, because time has given you an opportunity to grow a secure new skin over the wound. Its still there just more securely held down.

One of my best friends and closest supporters through my loss and grief journey is also 6.5 months pregnant (ouch) and the real kick…with a girl – I know *gasp* and how awkward!
(Well it is and it isn’t) I have wanted to write about this since I found out as it has been a big part of my grief journey. I realised recently that in some ways it has helped me heal quicker in areas than I might not have if she wasn’t bringing pregnancy and birth into my life on a regular basis. I only have a couple of people in life that have repeatedly and actively shown me that they are there and want to help me make sense of it all, help me, love me, let me rant and always come to my rescue and so this news has been like having my arm ripped off at times as I’ve tried to figure out how it will affect this bond and support system she created in the beginning!
10414496_10154896994500601_2772734851401053815_nMy initial reaction though was happiness; I was so overjoyed and excited for them when I found out. Its been a long time coming and a huge blessing in their lives, it makes me happy that they have a new baby coming soon to complete their family and that their daughter gets to be a big sister, another wish come true for her little heart. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I also felt jealous, sad and uneasy – jealous that I no longer had my baby, sad because of my grief and pregnancy/baby stuff being a trigger, saddened and helpless that I couldn’t and cant always be the joyful, excited friend I wanted to be and uneasy at how it will affect my grief when she’s born a few weeks after Poppy would have been 1! I think I sometimes worry that I will be seen as less of a friend because im not always going nuts about it!

We talk about it a lot and whilst on some days her happiness and experiences are triggers for my grief, on other days we can sit like “normal” friends and talk about the usual baby stuff; pregnancy, plans and maternity wear. I find it hard to see other friends too all excited and gleeful, when that was me last year and now few people mention it ever happened, and I worry about how it will be when she is born, can I hold her, touch her? I haven’t held a baby so small and new since Poppy. Will I be a bad friend because I may not be able to offer what everyone else is? And then there are the anniversaries I am to face mid september; only a couple of weeks before her baby is due . How can she continue to support me in my grief when her life will be so busy with a newborn? I wouldn’t expect her to and have said this but this, for me, is the reality of this news from such a close friend. She always asks, never flinches. She lets me rant and get angry and never judges, she always answers when I call, always comes over with treats and we sit in our joggers and whine! I know that won’t change but it doesn’t stop me worrying. The difference will be I will drop in on her to whine instead of her me!
535590_10151370973836553_703584271_nWhilst it is hard (some days) and often causes me to realise what I am missing and have lost it also it has strangely brought me a step forward –  a major step forward and some healing. Initially I anticipated this to make the following 9 months awkward (what would I say? how would I behave?) but we have been honest about expectations (there are none) and I am surprised that on good days I can just be me; interested in my friends life, her pregnancy, her progress, her plans, her hopes, her maternity wardrobe. And then just last week I walked into GAP and bought not one, but 2 baby girl outfits and felt excited to do it not just for her and the baby but the whole experience of feeling gooey over teeny things again. To be able to pick up baby girls clothes and buy them is something surprised me A LOT (and Nath even more so) seeing these things do make me emotional but not so much as they used to, the pain isn’t the same and isn’t the dominant emotion for this scenario, I don’t flinch to see baby clothes, in fact its been quite the opposite, I have an urge to want to buy loads! Yes watch out pregnant buddie of mine with my quirky tastes, I like to buy baby clothes now, I just want to buy all of their cuteness and having no baby to dress in them means they’re coming your way – pahahahhaha!
WP_20150728_12_37_21_ProGrief does not have a time frame, it can last a life time but doesn’t have to control you for a life time. I have seen that as I continue to pray for help, for less pain and then practice and expose myself a little more to the things that cause me pain, I find them a little easier to experience or be around. I see that in small ways I am healing and learning to live with the sorrow left from loosing my daughter and a lifetime of memories with her. I think this hole she left will be there my entire life but healing is about using the pain to radiate love and compassion to others as oppose to anger and bitterness. I am most glad that this yet to be born baby has helped me to get over some stuff and find joy in them again. I may not hold her until shes 5 or cry my way through her naming and blessing ceremony, but without her impending arrival I would still be avoiding baby aisles and floors, cowering from pregnant women and being angry at strangers with their precious new born’s (pfffttt).   I am so glad that we talk openly and so never let this be a wedge, Instead my friend has opened a channel of communication to express the roller coaster of emotions inside from it and it has brought new levels to our relationship, we have days where it would be a normal friendship of baby topics, but we also have days when I sob that its all so hard. But what I will remember is that it has brought me some healing, it has covered certain wounds a little more securely and it has helped her to understand my grief a little deeper.

Best of Worst
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