When you eat mostly chocolate as your daily food intake, and wallow around sobbing and feeling anxious and gaining pounds by the second, you know you’ve hit rock bottom and are pretty miserable! And yes, this is a scene that frequently plays out in my life. You see, sadness or grief is something I experience frequently, and I suppose it is all part of my “new normal” package I received when my child died!

Sometimes I know what will trigger these emotions, and whilst they are difficult, I have learnt that I can be on my guard, and this often in the short term avoids me spiralling into the depths of misery and negativity. I know for example, that entering certain situations or doing certain things, will ultimately hold sadness for me, and this has been okay to bear (mostly) and I can cope. Whilst I may get tired from fighting it, ultimately it isn’t so bad as the days when I am caught off guard.

For me it is in the moments I am least prepared for it that the sadness grabs me and pulls me down – it’s on these days it strikes the hardest – with low mood, constant crying, some anxiety, and a desire to hide away from it all! I know for some it is easy to label it as depression, and I assure you I have gone through every type of mental health problem with these symptoms that I can think of. I have asked time and time again “What is wrong with me?”! “Am I depressed? Am I Bipolar (because I was on one yesterday)? Is it hormonal?”! And right now I do not know the answer to that. I do not know if it is simply the messy and very natural occurrence of grief since stillbirth, or if it is the effects of trauma and I have an element of PTSD? I don’t know if there are underlying and deeper mental health problems that I may need to explore. All I do know is that whilst we all get sad from time to time, (frustrated and stressed about things too), for me it is different to normal. For me it has become, and is, a very real and regular occurance in my life that makes me feel often at my limit and searching for joy.

I have had depression before (PND), and whilst some emotions and behaviors are similar, with this I can cleary pinpoint it back to 2014 – when my world came crashing down and I endured the trauma of having a stillbirth, and burying my baby. It went against all that is natural and now I am frequently sad and brain doesn’t work how it used to!

It is an almost daily battle to lift up my pain, grief and loss and try to wear it comfortably!

In the last 3.5 years I have grown in confidence with this and have come to the conclusions that those who judge me in how I respond to my grief, or choose to wear it, are obviously completely oblivious to my pain and need to mourn. You see, when I am sad I am also very fragile, and sadness isn’t all that comes in the package. The sadness is only the start because it also leads to feeling rather discouraged about every aspect of my life, momentary anger and stress and a general feeling of inferiority and longing for more joy.

I begin to think I am failing at everything.

That I am not very good at anything. 

I am not myself – But I am always sad.

I am emotional.

And I am fighting hard to survive!

But how do you get out of that? How do you stop it from making you go insane? Stop it from drowning you and consuming your life?

Yes I think it’s completely fine to be sad, to have things move us to tears, and to mourn losses – sadness is natural. But to stay there long term is not. And so here are the steps I take, and the things I do that help me embrace the grief, but also then help me to move through it and be better at the other side! I guess they are my steps to self care to cope with it all!

My steps to moving forward in Sadness! 

1.Let it out / feel it

This is a vital step to being able to move forward. For too long in the beginning I tried to suppress my sadness thinking that being strong meant I shouldn’t cry, and that to cry meant I was weak. This only made it worse and, meant the periods of grief lasted for longer. Now when I feel it I cry, I sob, I whine, I mourn, and I feel every raw emotion that at other times I keep a lid on. In these moments I remember what it felt like to be told my daughter had died, and to then give birth and how hard it all was. I look at how different life looks and feels because of it, and It is a sad thing that still makes me sad…and that’s okay.

I feel it… I acknowledge it, and I remember it’s okay to not always be okay!

Letting it out, and riding the waves of sadness and grief are so important in finding calmness at the otherside and coping with the stresses of life after loss!

2.Talk

Some people are very private when going through struggles and deep grief, and won’t talk or mention it to others. But I am not one of those people. I am a talker, and a wear my heart on my sleeve type – I find it both therapeutic and strengthening to be able to talk to a friend, counsellor, family member, or SANDS group about how I am feeling, all of the thoughts racing through my mind and how sad I am at that point in my life.These days that friend is usually Nathan or my older sister, because I have found that both allow me the freedom to go over and over the same old points I need to in order to try and make sense of them. They allow me to talk nonsense, or to bring up things that to others are uncomfortable.

With Nathan I find he holds me, my pain, and lets me speak. He seems to get now that for me, talking about how I am feeling is so important to feeling Okay again.

3.Veg!

Being that sad, anxious about things, and generally emotional completely wipes me out. I often feel exhausted, drained and unable to function and complete my usual daily tasks. I remember how in the first year of loss, it left me feeling everyday like I had the flu because my whole body was literally trying to carry that burden and it was tough. Only on occasion do I now get that sad, but when I do I feel it all over – headaches, pain and tiredness.I have discovered that as the heart is the life of the body, when it is broken, it’s effects are felt through pain and aching in your entire body – heartbreak is all consuming.

The way for me to feel better in these moments is to veg. I do like to go for nature walks and do things that lift my spirits on days I feel a little “meh”, or in need of a rest to my soul, But on the days I hit rock bottom, I just veg! I drink Pepsi Max, eat rubbish and I don’t get dressed/do my make up. I take time out from the day to day things, and binge on treats, have a diet of chocolate for 24hrs and just snuggle in my bed or on the sofa. I stay at home and I’ll watch films to take my mind off things and give me emotions a rest. And i’ll sleep more than usual, because I am more tired than usual! The house work and laundry will still be there tomorrow, and whist I always manage to feed the kids and get them to school (success), I have learnt that sometimes looking after our emotional and mental needs has to be prioritised over those day to day menial things!

Vegging is not lazy when your emotions are wrought – it is necessary, and an important step in rebuilding yourself from a point of pure sadness!

4.Write about it!

I found writing to be a great therapy for me early on in all of this. Once I have let it out and rested from the day to day demands, I will pick up a pen and write down what I have been feeling and thinking in my journal. Some of that I will filter out on to my blog, to help others, but often the deeper things I keep private.

Writing to me is an essential step that not only helps me process what has just happened, and how hard it was… what my thoughts and feelings were and what caused it, but finally gets it all out of me and then I can close the book on that period of grief and sadness and pick myself back up again!

5.Read things that will motivate and strengthen me

Initially I don’t particularly enjoy hearing positive quotes or uplifting messages, they irritate me, because in my mind none of it means much and I already know it all – I’ve heard it before! At that point of sadness I am purely lead by my heart and the emotions of sadness from the broken, empty part left by poppy. When I am sad, I want to be sad. I want to cry, I want to talk about it all and I want to veg. I do not want positive stories and quotes until I am ready to process them, and only after the processes of steps 1 -5 do I find I want to be inspired and motivated to get up, put one step in front of the other and start walking through life again!At that point I will scroll through pinterest, I will read positive thinking books or talks from leaders in our church, and I will turn the pages of my scriptures to look for things that will build me. From here I set a couple of goals to apply those things and then head into reminding myself that…

6.Remember that there is no time limit

This quite possibly is the most important step. However sad you feel, and for however long you have felt that way…however you chose to deal with it, it is so important to remember grief has no time limit and will hit in the most unlikely situations. There will always be the expected dates and places that make you feel sad, and sometimes only briefly, but if sadness hits, months or years down the line it’s okay.
It isn’t a race, and there is no particular time you need to aim for to be able to broadcast to the world “Hey remember me whose baby died – yeah I’m all fixed and better now!”… you know, the hard reality is that I don’t believe you ever will be all better. I believe you can live a full life, but there will always be an element of sadness attached to some things, and it’s remembering with that to say “There is nothing wrong with me. It is not a lack in my faith or inability to heal. It is simply a fact of life…an act of love and the natural effects on ones heart from suffering a major loss”.

Sadness and grief have no time limit, and having a plan in place to get through it, bare it and come out of it again is something I find essential to carrying this, and living a joyful life in the easier moments despite that aching!

Always Remember…

Sadness and low mood from grief makes you feel less – you are not!

Vegging doesn’t mean you are a bad person or parent – a day of TV is fine and your kids will not suffer as result or be any less intelligent, it is self care for you and an essential step in being able to cope with the burden of sadness. 

Being sad doesn’t mean you are a failure or inferior to anyone else – it means you are normal and feeling the effects of losing someone or something you deeply love.

It’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend. family member or counsellor – Choose people you know will respect you and hold you, not tell you to move on, get over it or make you feel less for being sad!

Success and happiness can still result from a life where grief is a recurring scene! At times this may not seem true and it may feel like a balancing act, but you soon begin to realise that as you feel deeper pain, you are also able to feel deeper joy in contrast – and that is a strange, and yet very beautiful thing! 

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A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox from one of the channel 5 producers asking me if I would be interested in sharing our story (or rather Poppy’s story) with them for an additional News piece they wanted to do on Stillbirth! I’ll be honest, despite feelings of anxiety at the prospect of being on TV, I was mostly jumping for joy and over the moon at such a privilege. All I have ever wanted to do since giving birth to Poppy, was to raise awareness of her life, our life after loss, and the impact of Stillbirth on individuals and families.

And yet despite this, I always find that sharing our story is such a hard task and takes so much energy – it can wipe me out for a couple of days after as I deal with what I now refer to as “Grief Hangover” (Thanks Antonia!).

My desire to Raise Awareness

The easiest (or maybe most convenient) way I have found to raise awareness of what it is like to go through Stillbirth and how it feels after, is to write it here in my blog or to talk about it with people; both in person and at seminars hosted by SANDS and other loss groups! My blog has for me being the thing that has kept me afloat. To write about the things I cannot speak is incredibly cathartic to me, and whilst I know at times this has been difficult for friends to hear me say “I am okay”, and then read from me things that are far from “Okay”, it has been the only way I have been able to get out, formulate the right words, and make some kind of sense of all of the pain that continually beats upon me from losing my daughter before she was born.

I find my motherhood very difficult (and this is beyond the everyday mundane that we all struggle with) because it is two fold – on the one hand I am mothering 3 living children, but on the other I am also mother to a daughter in heaven. But this is difficult for both my mind and body to make sense of, and often in the early days my body would literally crave a baby and yet my mind couldn’t bear to be around new babies – the torture within has been incredibly hard, and motherhood such a daily battle. Nowadays the battle is more emotional and mental, but it has always been a battle to parent my living children whilst grieving and navigating the loss and who I am as a mother to Poppy.

I want to (and the key is that I can) encourage my living children to be successful in whatever path they choose and I want them to be happy. I want them to write interesting stories and leave an imprint in some small (or big) way. I want them to find people that will make them happy, and who they can hopefully have a family with too. And whilst being a parent is hard day to day, these things are so natural and in some ways the easier part of motherhood to do for them.

With Poppy however, she cannot write her story because her life never really had a chance. Her whole life went against what is natural in the order of things – her death came before her birth, and life was never lived. Her presence was known briefly by many, but quickly forgotten. Her parents buried her in infancy instead of holding her close and raising her with her siblings. And I know now that many believe I should let that all go, accept what happened when it did, and focus on my own life and happiness, but when I held her in my arms in the silence of the delivery room, I looked upon that sad situation we were in and was determined I would make something of her small life and presence in this world. She would/will always be a member of our family, spoken of in our home and remembered between us each birthday. But as a mother of a child who did not live, I cannot just let that go and I cannot just let that be what her life was.

To me her life would have been wasted, however brief it was, if something was not to be written and created in her memory.

And so I write – I write her story and I write about her tiny life. I write about how it broke us and how it has at the same time helped us to find inner strength and courage we would never have known any other way. I write about the hard stuff – the taboos, and the ongoing effects her life and departure has had on our family. And I write about our life now – how we still have joyful enriching moments, how we still see goodness and beauty, and how our joys are all so intertwined with the sadness she will never experience them with us.

And I talk – I talk about Trisomy 18, about CHD, Stillbirth and SANDS, to anyone interested. And I talk about her birth story and pregnancy at SANDS trainings. I talk about the hospice, and then I walked a ridiculous amount of miles and nearly died on a mountain side all in the name or raising awareness – awareness of our daughter and awareness of her life and how it ended, and what that now means for us.

I became a befriender, and I am becoming a therapist of some description because I want her life and the pain of her departure to have purpose – I want her imprint to be left in the hearts of others, and I want to channel my pain and grief into something meaningful. I can make breakfast, read with, play with, wash their clothes, cook dinners, talk with and go on adventures with my other kids… I can teach and discipline them, hug and kiss them, laugh and cry with them; my motherhood to them is my daily life and very apparent in how we live life together. But for Poppy it isn’t ever obvious unless I make the ongoing decisions to write, speak and find various ways to have her remembered and her life purposes created.

So raising awareness through all of these mediums, and working in a field supporting others in hardships, are my way of finding a way to let my motherhood of her show in this world.

So when a TV station email me, or when I speak on a radio station (see here), or if a newspaper or magazine were to contact me, I would always say “Yes”!

Yes to raising awareness.

Yes to helping others through our experiences.

And Yes to being able to be a mother, and helping my child’s story to be written and leave an impact on the world.

It is because of this that I was so absolutely gutted and fed up, to be stranded on a train, and I couldn’t just let it go. I was so nervous to speak on camera in the first place and all I wanted was it to be right. I wanted the message to get out of course, but I so very much wanted to be one of those speaking it as I had envisioned and had looked forward to doing.

I loved the opportunity to be acknowledged as Poppy’s mum and to share Poppy with so many people. I loved the chance to be able to speak the words so many don’t want to listen to. And I felt it an honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with 8 other brave women who too just want to mother their sweet babies.

I am grateful that 4 weeks ago I was invited to go to ITN studios and be a part of the “Stillbirth: Still a Taboo” panel. What they discussed and created was incredible and a huge step in helping families affected by stillbirth. For me It was an incredibly exciting moment in my life, and whilst it was a scary one too, ultimately it was a complete privilege to have a chance to raise awareness and exercise my motherhood for Poppy!

If you would like to see the programme then you can here 

 

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I found myself using the analogy of a magnifying glass this week to try and help a friend see how Mother’s day felt for me since losing our daughter Poppy at term in 2014. I used to think as each date passed that it would feel like an accomplishment, that it would suddenly enable me to more easily face the next one, and one after that, and so on. But instead I find that the passage of time just magnifies the loss more and brings home to me the ripples of our loss for the remainder of our lives.

It is always the time of year where I am constantly reminded by other’s to “look at how blessed I am with my other children”, to which I want to just scream! Such a comment implies that because I grieve for my 3rd child on such occasions (and every day) that I am somewhow ungrateful for my living children? It’s such a ridiculous thing to say! It’s as if Ethan, Megan and Alice make up for the fact Poppy died… or that my love for Poppy isn’t valid and would be best shared amongst each of my living kids instead!!

The truth is that yes I am a mother to 3 living kids – I know that, because it is my life! I birthed them, adore them, and I am a stay at home mum to them. Each of my children is unique and special just as every child in the world is. But neither can replace or make up for the other because they are individuals, each with their own unique character and interests, each with their own place in my heart and in our family. And so Mother’s day isn’t a failure to see what is right in front of me, it is rather a magnification of what I have and have also lost.

This day, just as Poppy’s birthday and other significant dates, are bitter-sweet, and will forever be hard for me – not because I don’t see what I have, but because that doesn’t make up for what I have lost.

Mother’s day brings lovely moments where I sit sleepy eyed on the bed with my now 3 tiny gorgeous faces glaring at me in sheer delight. Handmade gifts, cards, flowers, chocolate and pictures; all eagerly handed over and each one excited to see my joy for all they have given me. I am showered in loved, but I am fighting and battling with the soul wrenching pain that another year has passed without knowing, raising and holding one of my precious little babies. I miss the cards from her, the pictures she might have drawn, the scribble of her 3.5 year old signature!

In short Mother’s day magnifies our blessings. But it equally magnifies our loss, and that is something no-one should be shamed over!

Magnified Blessings

Mother’s day is a great day to stand up and be proud that I am a mother! To relish in my motherhood and feel so immensely proud that I have 4 beautiful children. I am 33 and I have 4 kids – it’s nuts, but its brilliant too.

I love that Mother’s day is a great time to reflect on the excitement and anticipation we felt leading up to their arrival – the days we decided it was time to grow our family and how each one is such a lovely blessing in our lives. I love that I am their mother, and I love that I know them. I am forever changed for the better because of that. And so I love that on this day, out of all of the others, we get to be high-fived for our efforts and made to feel so special!

I love to think of how blessed we are with our own mothers and grandmothers and the amazingly strong women in generations before that too (that somehow impact me now as a mother), and I love to think of their sacrifices and examples to me of faith, courage, and strength.

Being able to be a mother, and know such great mothers is such a wonderful blessing in life, and I love how this day enlarges that reality and blessing. I love how I have time to be grateful in the fact that raising my kids, whilst challenging, is also a lot of fun!

Mother’s day is certainly a day to magnify our blessings and feel proud in what we do!

Magnified Loss 

But I am also a mother to a child that isn’t alive and that concept is something I can never get used to. I miss her everyday, and whilst some of those days are more gentle and I am able to function and feel great happiness and sunshine, on other days the storms rage and I can’t see for the fog!

I always find that Mothers day rolls around and magnifies these foggy feelings and our loss – It’s approach brings a lot of anxiety and sadness, and I find as it is a day that celebrates Mothers and Motherhood, what is to celebrate when the child isn’t here? When the world only chooses to see who is here and now, and not who has died and is missing from all of these moments, I find myself closing up and wondering how I make my motherhood to her a tangible and living thing still.

In a nutshell Mother’s day magnifies my loss because it suddenly reminds me of my own motherhood, and my inability to mother my 3rd child because she has passed away. It’s a day where it suddenly feels more intense, and the hole in my heart feels wider and bigger, the gap in our family is enlarged, and as I see pictures of other mother’s, with all of their children and celebrating their day, and my smiles are turned to stinging tears because my loss suddenly feels so huge and obvious again.

I become frustrated that I haven’t got those pictures of me grinning with my 4 beautiful kids, and I never will.

I haven’t nursed her, taught her, played with her or had the adventures and snuggles like I have with her siblings. I left  the hospital that Sunday night numb and heartbroken that she had gone before we could meet her, and I left that same hospital on her birthday empty handed and never to be the same again! I have carried that pain ever since, and no matter what I do it’s always there hovering beneath the surface.

And so now I look at Mother’s day, and whilst my blessings of 4 wonderful children are very apparent, and my love for them and hard work is acknowledged, I sit and wonder how the heck do I validate myself as her Mother when she isn’t here and few people even knew of her?

I want more than anything on these days for everyone to know I have had 4 kids, and that my amazing body made, carried and birthed each of my precious babies. I want them to see and know that even though there seems to be 3, there are in fact 4. But somehow stillbirth still creates an awkward barrier to that truth, and I back away and feel like I am weird or something. That feeling then feels like a scream that I want to shout out and tell the world that I am a mother to 4, proud of each one. I want to shout out and say that whilst I grieve I am strong, because life is incredibly hard to live without one of your kids. And yes, even though the others make it a happy and fun journey, full of wonderful and blessed moments – it is hard to have number 3 missing from them. And it’s hard to always fight for them all to be remembered, and for me to be validated as a mother of 4!

So how do I feel about my 4th Mother’s day after loss? Well I welcome the day to feel treasured by my little family, and look upon my blessing to hold the title of “Mother”, but I also dread the day because it hurts and enlarges all I have lost in our precious Poppy – another reminder of the ripples of loss!

There are mother’s all over the world that will be reading this and know exactly what I am saying. But there are also the mothers who unlike me, don’t have other kids to celebrate their motherhood with on this day. They don’t have the “other kids” to bring smiles and soften the blow of a painful reminder of loss. These Mothers need the acknowledgement more than ever – the chocolate, the flowers, the “thinking of you” momentos to say “YOU ARE A MOTHER TOO”!! But more so what they need, and what we all need, is some acknowledgement – Acknowledgement of our missing child. It is one of the greatest gifts one can receive and they need that often because they are mothers, and their children are real. They now have so much love and longing that can never leave, and it will always hurt. Yet despite that, they/we are still standing strong and surviving every single day without our beautiful babies here!

So “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” to all of you Mothers – may the day be gentle and kind!

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I wasn’t planning on a post today – or tonight even. I was yesterday, about something completely different, but I was far too busy to do anything about that. And so, here we are tonight.. alone in the kitchen with my thoughts, and making a sneaky snack whilst the house is silent (there’s a first!). And so of course I’ve reached for the laptop to blog, and well… basically brain dump to you all!

I don’t really know where I am going with this, other than to share with you all that I have felt troubled for the last few days. Yes troubled and weighed down (and a little heavy too). I have felt overwhelmed with all I am doing and are responsible for, and just generally in need of a mega rest. Subsequently I have spent many moments questioning what my priorities need to be and if I need to cut something out? or of it will even make a difference?

I still don’t know the answer to that, or if it really is the solution to what I feel. You see I think I know why I am so melancholy and irritable. It’s the same reason it always is – the fact that I feel this way comes down to, and always seems to come back to, the fact that I carry a burden daily of loss. Yes some days I carry that better than others (with ease really) but still it is a daily thing and some day’s it’s far from easy!

I feel at the moment that I am in a place where I wonder where the peace is? Where did the ease go that I felt a few weeks ago with this? and why do I feel this torture more so some days? why can’t I get a grip or rather just a break from it all?

I do not get how you heal when a part of you is missing? It just doesn’t make sense, and as much as I try, and seem to make progress, something happens and I am right back to “poor old me” and feeling the strain and unfairness of it all again.

I don’t want to get over “it” and move on, because to me it means we move on from her and that isn’t really an option! You cannot possibly move on in life from someone you love. But I do want to feel lighter, and I don’t want to keep feeling weak, and feeling like a missing part in life. I don’t want to keep pretending on days I feel rotten, and I am tired of feeling vulnerable and tender on a regular basis because we are bombarded with one trigger or reminder after another.

Some days I feel great and life feels almost normal to me, and then on others I feel so tender, delicate and generally overwhelmed so easily by the things I once bore with ease.

I want to remember her – our 3rd little girl. But I don’t want to accept this, by putting on a headstone to see for reals that in there is my daughters body. The body I grew and fought so hard to save, but that I failed at! The body I only held briefly and never kissed enough. I don’t want to see the name we never get to speak without awkwardness, but then I want to acknowledge her existence and reality to us!

I don’t want to acknowledge it, but then I do.

I want to talk about her and remember her, and I want to forget the trauma of it all.

I want to remember she existed and what she brought to our life and family. But I want to forget how she never took a breath, and how I had to birth her body with no life.

I want to remember how she looked so similar to Megan, and yet I want to forget that I will never know if she would have the same characteristics.

I want to remember her every day, but I want to forget the pain that that brings.

I want to remember the facts of her life, her illness and condition. And of course I want to forget how poorly we were treated and how she was never given a chance!

But I cannot forget any of it. Because I want to remember. And this – every painful part, is her story, and therefore our story. It is what makes me me now. I have hard days. I have overwhelming days. And days I cannot bear to remember what I saw and went through. And whilst I may never be able to accept and be okay with the fact my daughter died, I love her and so I live each day, as best as I can with that missing part. I have hope there is a purpose in it. I hope there will be far more days of Joy and peace to come to us and return as they have done, to give us a rest. But mostly I hope we never forget, because I want there to be purpose in the pain and I want to remember that I birthed an Angel!

I want to remember, but for the sheer overwhelming feelings of pain and grief that that brings, some days I just want to forget!

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