Whilst a huge Green Day fan, this post is not an appreciation of their music and lyrical choice, but rather one reflecting on what an awful month September has suddenly become in my life. I always used to love the month of September with the haul of new school wear and stationary, seeing friends again and the crispness of Autumns approach, but now? Well now my experience is that it is the month that takes my kids from me and that’s all a little too much…September seems like such a let down in comparison to the wonderful Summer we have enjoyed.

Whilst life has felt happy and blessed for us recently, especially over the last few weeks I have known in my mind that September has been fast approaching ready to bring with it Megan starting full time school and of course the anniversary of Poppy’s Passing, her birth and funeral.

I didn’t think that Megan going to school full time would bother me emotionally, in fact every time I have pondered on it I have felt far more excited for her than emotional about this next stage of life, because after all she has seemed so excited herself and ready for it, and I personally felt adjusted to school life with a year of it with Ethan. But more recently I have felt really emotional about loosing her to school and not having the fun, chats and adventures we have become accustom to. The nearer it gets I actually get a lump in my throat and that pit in my stomach, because when it is placed a week or so away from the date we lost her baby sister I suddenly get that urge to gather my little chicks in close to keep them safe and cannot bare the thought of her being away from home or not seeing that funny little lady all day. I really feel like I am going to miss her and have that same “where has the time gone, did we do enough?” feeling that I did as E was starting school. Wake me up when September ends, I can’t stand saying goodbye to the one who has been my littlest for so long…far longer than she was intended to be.

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I then see on the horizon as I am adjusting to this new stage with 2 kids in full time school, and whilst I have joked about it being amazing I actually feel a little sad about that and picture me the loner at home missing those little voices and things we used to do. Remembering I should have a toddler with me too. A handful of days later then and I will be plunged into a week of anniversaries that combined are easily the worst week of my life, and the closer it gets to those dates the more I feel the emotions rising and anxiety about reliving it all again surfacing. That pit in my stomach mixed with butterflies and all I can do is swallow, take a deep breath and fight back the tears. It reminds me again how fragile my heart became the day we lost Poppy and it feels a little more stingy again. It pains me so very much that in just a couple of weeks we should be having fun celebrating 2 years with another child but instead I am deliberating over how we will remember a life short lived 2 years on. The remembering hurts again and it reminds of me of that awful dark Sunday that they told us our daughter had no heartbeat and that 2 days later she would be stillborn. How painful that day was, how numb I felt, my worst nightmare became a living reality and I am yet to find words to truly convey that feeling to you. Wake me up when September ends because it hurts too much to remember that my daughter died before I could meet her.

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There are few things more painful than your child’s birthday without them. A day that was supposed to be beautiful and happy is remembered as painful and incredibly sad and there honestly isn’t a day that goes by that I do not think of Poppy, that I don’t notice in the shops the 2-3 clothes or little tots, and wonder what she would be wearing, doing, saying or what she would be like. Oh how our lives would be different. I think of how it would be going out with 4, how it would feel to be pushing Alice and Poppy in a double pushchair, how it would be like having Ethan and Megan all over again and how would we look as a family of 6! I wonder what we would be buying her for her birthday, who would be at her little party and of course thinking its only a couple more years and she too will be starting full time school like her big sister. But these are things I will never know, perhaps was never meant to know but never had the chance to as she was gone too soon. I don’t get to go birthday shopping for her or see her cards on the bookcase like the the other kids. I don’t get to spend the next few weeks hyping it up for her or making her her favourite breakfast. I will make a cake but she won’t be there to blow out her candles…Wake me up when September ends because there is nothing more painful than your child’s birthday without them here.

A week later we remember her funeral. The tiny casket. The flowers. The sad and feeling sorry for us faces. The songs that take me back when I hear them now and me and my husband carrying our daughter out of the church and upto her grave in a box. The moment he lowered her in was the darkest of my life, it broke me to know that was it and I would never hold her here again, see or touch her. That was it, her body was laid to rest within a week of it being born and all you can wonder is Why? What is the purpose in all of this? I couldn’t leave her but nor could I stay and stare into a hole in the ground. I feel broken when I remember that, burial is so final. Wake me up when September ends because no parent should have to bury their baby or remember it for the rest of their life.

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Grief has taught me that the anticipation of the anniversary is often far more difficult than the day itself.  Whilst the day is emotional and reflective, it also can be quite peaceful too. And so as we head towards those dates on the calendar and I begin to feel a little more fragile about it all, as I try my best to cope with all of the goodbyes of September and then settle on how I want to celebrate her at 2, I hope that it will be easier than how it now feels looking towards it. I expect I will have a couple of PJ days between now and then to feel it, and I am hoping I don’t cry too much for Megan starting school and that I will find enough to fill my time with just Alice so that I can enjoy our time together. I hope the anniversaries of Poppy’s Passing, birthday and funeral are kind days and can be made positive in someway. I just hope I can survive another September with out her here. Wake me up when September ends because part of me doesn’t want to wait and see, I just want to skip over it!

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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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What were you doing this time last year? Do you remember?…Do you remember where you were? who you were with? What you ate, wore or said? can you remember what the weather was doing on September 22nd 2014? If the answer is a big fat “NO”, then I don’t blame you, I can barely remember what I did last weekend or ate 2 days ago, let alone a whole year. But the 22nd of September is not a regular date to me anymore. Approaching it I knew It would be one I would never forget and here looking back its one I remember very vividly,

This time last year I buried my daughter. I had her inside of me for 9 months, held her briefly in my arms/looked at her for only 2 days and then we laid her to rest 5 days later. For many the build up has been all about remembering her birthday and the day we had found out she had passed…whilst these milestones have been anxiously anticipated too, and very hard to relive, they also held brief joyful moments we remember, (mainly being that I got to see what she looked like and hold her in my arms) and I wonder if many realise how terribly hard this anniversary is to face in comparison?

I have been dreading far more the day we had her funeral because it was the end of it all. It was the final day she was physically with all of our family. It was the only day the whole family were in her presence at the same time ever in her life. It was the day I knew I would never see her again in this life and I would never again have the opportunity to hold her or look at her. It was the day my heart properly broke as I watched her daddy, my husband, put that tiny casket into the ground. It was all so final and so that, not giving birth to a sleeping child, was in actual fact the hardest point of my life. So many have focused on the difficulty her birthday might have been, but this day is harder to remember and relive. I kissed her goodnight, Nath laid her down and tucked her in and then we put the lid on the casket late Wednesday night at the hospice and that was the last time we ever saw her.

So what did we plan for this day? What did we choose to do to celebrate and remember her and what did we do to mark the day we would never forget as our last with her? Well…
funeral headingFUNERAL HOME
As we knew she was going to die I had planned a lot of her funeral whilst I was still carrying her. We gave family various assignments and asked them to be involved in different things. It helped a lot to know they were busy doing lovely things for her and felt useful too.

The thing I failed to plan was a funeral home…I found out after that many do baby/infant funerals for FREE, but as we had all that in hand, all we needed was for them to baby sit until the funeral. It took a while and a lot of tears and frustrating phone calls, but my mum was able to arrange with the funeral home that cared for Grandma to have a little space for Poppy to stay till her funeral…they even added the legal plaque to her casket for us with her name and date and this service cost us nothing.

We drove over and picked her up the morning of the funeral in our car and I remember the day was very much how it is today; mild and sunny. I was wearing a black dress with pink polkadots and pink blazer I had borrowed from my mum-in-law. I thought I looked really cool…I didn’t, but I wouldn’t be told by my trendy sister in laws because I thought it was nice and colourful and appropriate and I certainly didn’t want an outfit from my wardrobe that I would always remember I had worn to bury my child.
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Being Mormons we held the service in the local LDS church in Beverly and it was packed – a symbol of the love we had around us from friends and family and a sign of all of the lives she had touched. It was a beautiful sight. All the music was a joint decision by Nathan and I and we spent a lot of time meticulously planning every point.

My dad carried her in to the church to Ellie Goulding “How long will I love you” which I know was very hard for him and a sight I hope none of us have to watch again. It was a great service to us though and one I will always be grateful for. We had a little table at the front with a white table cloth and there she sat for the service in her tiny white casket with painted poppies, made by her uncle.

I had a sty in my right eye from the stress of the previous week and being run down with it all, but it didn’t stop me.. I took the opportunity to say a few words as her mummy and Nath said some things too. Her grandma and one of her uncles read poems that I had chosen and we sang hymns that uplifted us and praised the Lord. I didn’t cry much surprisingly.. well not until Naths mum sang “All things bright and Beautiful” by John Rutter – then It got me!
funeral serviceWe played “A thousand years” by Christina Perri to leave to and Nathan and I stood up and picked up the coffin and carried it back to our car. This moment was like I was a fly on the wall watching it… it seemed so surreal.

GRAVESIDE/BURIAL
We chose a burial as it seemed right for us. We chose to bury her in Beverly also , near Nathan’s Grandparents and in a place that felt lovely for our family. The burial was family only and as I said, this was the hardest part – Nathan and I carried her from the car to the grave, and that act of love and duty as her parents together has become a deeply intimate part of our marriage. Once there, he said a prayer and then he lowered her in…everyone dropped roses on top and paused to say goodbye. Meanwhile his youngest sister played several hymns on the violin and whilst beautiful it was also all very harrowing.

The kids almost fell in at a few parts and enjoyed playing with the toys left on other graves. It was a reminder of their innocence and ability to accept that death is just a fact of life. As we left my eyes were drawn to a gorgeous butterfly flitting from flower to flower – it made me smile briefly and feel strength.

FOOD/PARTY 
After the Cemetery we returned to his family home for food and dessert and socialising with friends. It was important to me that it felt like a bit of a birthday party as she would never have one and also because I didn’t want a depressing afternoon.
10574337_10152538001045000_7504574307402757807_nWe had chosen to do Jacket potatoes which had been in the AGA all morning and my uncle made a HUGE pan of chilli to go with it. We then had provided and also asked people to bring desserts so had an immense amount of chocolate and cakes and general sugar overload…it was great and went well with the lovely drinks.
funeralThe day before we had made red tissue paper pom poms and hung them with a banner with her name on … I loved to see that and we kept it up at the house for a few days after. Also one of my besties had made a lovely Poppy seed Birthday cake for her – it was gorgeous and great thing she did for us.
1620609_10152538021970000_3693574221716563305_nIt was nice to see everyone talking and enjoying being with one another. It was nice to see friends and catch up, and it was touching to know how far some had travelled.
Afterwards Nath, his brothers and the kids played a bit of footy in the garden and life appeared to return to a normal scene.
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We just had a small coffin top made by my sister – we went to Morrisons and chose a variety of pinks, whites and colourful fun flowery things which she beautifully arranged and laughed at too as they didn’t really go together but as it was what I wanted she went with it.
We then had a vase of red poppies on the stand at church that Naths mum had ordered for us and that was all – it was enough, not too extravagant or costly, just beautiful and subtle.
WP_20150922_13_50_02_ProAnd that was it.. it was over. Her brief encounter with us had passed and there we were, all the formalities of loosing a baby were over and it was time to get on with it..with what exactly? I wondered…Life? but what did that mean now? what was I to do? How would I survive it?

“Get through the first year and then you’ll be okay” seemed to be people’s views..all the 1sts and then life will be easier, but will It? I have made a year now. I am here. I have a check next to every anniversary and I am still sane and in an okay place. I am still finding joy in life, but guess what? It still hurts. I am still very much aware of what I have lost and today everything I try to do just seems a little insignificant when I think of the magnitude of what I was doing last year. I cried this morning as I sat at Ethan’s Welcome assembly as I realised how time has flown by, how special he is and how much of this I will miss in 3 years time when I remember again her burial and funeral instead of celebrating her starting school and a new chapter. How proud of him I felt, how beautiful the whole occasion and how positive it was to counteract that of last years 22nd of September events. But also a reminder of how much we will continue to realise we are missing with her and how special days are often tarnished by the memories of difficulty and loss.

*Special thanks to Nathans wonderful Cousin and her husband for capturing the funeral whilst on holiday from the states…I never realised how much Id want pictures of this day x

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We visited the hospice today to give them a thank you gift; baby clothes we never used and donations that people have so generously given. They were all gratefully received and we gratefully received a listening ear and bereavement support!

I like going to the hospice now as I feel a little piece of Poppy there, that might sound strange but I feel indebted to them for giving to us the tender memories of our baby laid in a nursery, dressed in white and a scene of normality in all of this turmoil. Not only this but a good nights sleep when we needed it most.
On the way home I glanced through “The bereavement pack” supplied by SANDS and the phrases of ‘The bereaved parents/mother/father’ seemed to jump out at me – I suddenly realised that I now have a new identity among people I am ‘The Bereaved mother’!

I sometimes wonder how did I get here, how did life become so incredibly dark and sad, and how do I find the strength to keep going? Just 2 weeks ago I was an expectant mother of a third baby, full of hope and now here I am a bereaved mother craving for my new baby that came and left so soon. The time has gone quickly and the pain of it has intensified with each day. People seem to be easily getting on with life around us whilst for us it has stopped and we sit here stuck…clinging to the memories of our precious little baby, a baby I long to just hold again in my arms again. The baby I long to feel kick inside of me, the little girl I long to do anything normal with…How is it possible to move forward? I feel I am treading through treacle and wonder how to move on with life. It seems you can’t when you loose your child at whatever stage, I feel right now that when you become a bereaved parent it changes you forever and life will never be the same again, I will never be the same again. There is now a void in our hearts and a cloud we carry above us, our future is changed from what we had hoped and as we try each day to see the sunshine we carry the weight of pain from of our loss that seems to tarnish all that was that good.

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So how did we get here?

I think back to that Sunday night at the hospital when our hopes came crashing down with those few simple, yet incredibly powerful words of “Im sorry, there’s no heartbeat”! An awful silence filled the room and now, now I understand a little more about Still birth. In that moment life stops, it stands still and its almost as if the world grieves with you when the news is broken that your baby has died. Babies don’t die!

And there is such stillness present again when they are born! Absolute deafening silence.

We left the hospital that evening feeling so gutted, so broken and sad inside, and realising we never would meet our daughter alive. I just lay there pleading for it to be wrong…but it wasn’t, I was living every parents nightmare, and that meant of course that I had some anxiety about the birth – What would she look like? How would I feel? would it be like a normal delivery? etc.

When we arrived the next day for induction we were met by a lovely midwife “Eve” and taken to “The Rosemary suite”. This is a special room connected to delivery suite for parents like us that have experienced loss. It was nice and also meant Nathan could stay for the duration of our stay there. We chatted and asked all our questions and then around 6.30pm she broke my waters. Iv’e had my waters broken with all of my kids but this was especially painful and I was also shocked at the colour of them too, which when I asked was told it was a result of baby passing away and bowels opening, another reminder of the reality of what we were experiencing!!!

3.5hrs later the pains were intense and regularly close and so I asked for an Epidural, a decision I made prior as I didn’t want physical pain and emotional pain the closer it got. By this point I had a new midwife “Alex” and after it was all hooked up I was embarrassed to find out I was only 2cms still – she couldn’t believe how much I laughed my head off at this revelation. Thankfully only 2hrs later I was ready to push so it was definitely a blessing id opted for it so soon with how quick it all came! Poppy was born sleeping after only 2 pushes, my easiest delivery physically as no stitches or anything either. And then nothing. just quiet…so foreign to the sounds of the arrival of Ethan and Megan.

As Alex passed her to me an immense feeling of peace flooded my body, I had no tears, perhaps I was numb and in some kind of denial but all I could think of was how she looked so peaceful, and despite all of her problems I knew free of pain. For a few moments as I  held her little body I felt how special she was and knew we were all in God’s hands and his spirit rested in my heart! Of course we felt sad and of course we felt heartbroken, how can you not when there is such silence in a delivery room and no movement from your new baby? but the natural process of grief hadn’t yet hit me and the brains natural defence was soon to kick in, and deep down we knew this was just her body and not her, for she was back with her father in heaven!
Later that morning family visited and by dinner time we were at the hospice with her. When we arrived they had bathed her and tucked her into the cold crib, she looked so beautiful I could have sat and looked at her all night. For a few brief moments I expected her to wake but then I remembered shes not here! We said good night to her and slept amazingly well that night. I looked at her again the next morning before we had to return to the hospital for me to have a check up – such an inconvenience as Poppy’s skin had started to deteriorate and so unfortunately we couldn’t have any more time with her, that night the hospice dressed her in a special white dress made by her Aunt, I kissed her and placed her in her coffin (made by her uncle) and Nathan tucked her little white blanket around her (made by my mum) there she was wrapped in love in life and death. We then drove her together to the funeral home where they watched her for us until her funeral.
WEB002bwWEB003bwI was definitely on autopilot for the next few days, I had become a bereaved mother and there were 2 things that I needed
1. to grieve the loss and
2. to rest from the birth
I hardly did either, my grief manifested through a loss of appetite and disconnection and I couldn’t rest as I wanted her funeral to be perfect, it was all we could really do for her and I wanted to give it my all!

I was pleased with how the funeral went; the day was perfect despite the circumstances, the sun shone brightly and the peace of God was abundant. Both Nathan and I spoke, we shared our beliefs and feelings of everything, our faith and knowledge of a saviour that heals and brings hope of life after death. Nathans mum sang a beautiful piece by John Rutter ” All things bright and beautiful” which we both found emotional and we had some poems too. The burial was just family and Nathan and I carried her to the graveside, yes we were bereaved parents but to us it was a physical act of handing her back to God as he had briefly placed her in our care. At this point the emotion of everything hit me and I thought about how wrong it is that parents have to bury their child, even their new born! Here we were surrounded by our loved ones but at the same time feeling so alone and pained in what we were having to do – it all happened so fast and now I wouldnt hold her again in my arms in this life!

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So here I am today a bereaved mother and whilst I suffer with pain like no other I am incredibly grateful for the time we spent with her in the snowflake suite. I couldn’t imagine sending my baby to a mortuary and it was a comfort to leave the hospital know I would see her.

Its only been 2 weeks and yes I have a strong faith in Jesus Christ and my heavenly father, its that hope that has driven me forward to now and keeps me going but I am a human being and grief is a natural process and it feels like pure torture. So please don’t expect me to be able to just get on with a life that feels so foreign now when I hurt so much inside.  Don’t think its ok because I have or can have other children – its Poppy I want right now, she is the one I wish I could hold or have held a little longer. Don’t be afraid to talk about her – we want to keep her memory alive and don’t be afraid to talk to bereaved mothers – yes I may cry but I would’ve cried alone if you weren’t there! This journey does not end because Poppy passed away we now have to adjust to life without her, life with remembering her and life as bereaved parents, for whilst the pain will ease that title will always be with us!

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