Last week I did something I thought was a thing of the past, something I had moved on from and progressed with, something I felt I no longer needed on this journey but suddenly realised I did – I went to the hospice to meet with my councillor and for 90 mins I shared, cried, laughed and talked. I didn’t see it as a set back as I thought I might when I sent the text for an appointment, but rather it was something very much needed in my life right now as since Poppy’s birthday and other events in my life over the last month. I have found it increasingly difficult and my emotions have being that little bit more raw.
I have wanted to write this post for a while and illustrate the reality of life after the year mark, because we have both noticed since we had Poppy’s Birthday, that less and less people ask now how we are or consider me and how situations might affect my grief. I have seen a big shift in my support system and its not easy at all.
Perhaps I am wrong, but to me it seems like less people probably want to start yet another year of talking about the same sad things, same unanswered questions and the same “I’m missing my baby” convos. Not to mention that many people have joys in life they probably don’t want tarnished by my sadness or understandably I am no longer at the forefront of peoples minds as life for them moves on faster than it does for us.
Life is busy for us all, and as much as I wish others had time to think of me (or be there for me) the sad fact is they have their own stuff and own families to deal with. After all it has been a whole year now and we seem so strong!
How many baby loss posts do they really want to see on Facebook when life is going swimmingly? Again many who once supported, have stopped liking or commenting on the events that relate to baby loss, SANDS and/or my general sadness…I must be seen like a broken record player saying and talking about the same things over and over a year later, and so I guess that is pretty boring if you are now detached from it?
Some may see it as “dwelling on it”, I see it as awareness and a truth of the reality of losing a baby due to Stillbirth.
This lack of interest in where I am now; my emotions and grief combined with the seemingly lack of desire to support me 13 months on, or interest in my awareness strategies (despite asking sometimes too) demonstrates that they possibly believe that a year has been enough time to give me… I will often think (or even say to Nath) as I sit at home somewhat lonely and wondering why very few have asked me how I am, or where I am at this week and if I want to go out and talk or just for general fun, “I’m only a text or call away…I wish they would ask or let me know I’m not forgotten”! Instead when I am asked anything (if others think to even bring it up) its usually the question of “How do you feel like now its been a year?” or other references to this infamous year mark, and I cringe every time I hear it because It says to me so many things:
1. That there is a time limit
2. There has obviously (in their minds) being a goal to get me to
3. That a date can suddenly improve it and make it all better
4. My feelings must be different now because I survived the 1st year minus my daughter
5. Can we get the okay to move on from last years event and dramas?
6. Please tell me you not still dwelling on it?
7. Do you not think you’ve had enough of our time with your problems?
8. I’m testing the water to see if I can let you go or distance myself from having to experience this pain with you
9. Do you think its time to try again or focus energies elsewhere?
I never know quite what to say and wonder – Do you want to hear that its actually not really any different? Do you realise that its not a magical number that suddenly healed me? And oh how I wish you had have just asked “how are you doing today Mary?” with out adding a time frame!
I often feel like as people draw so much attention to this year mark that some are even believing that by passing over the one year threshold that you will be better, healed, stronger, not wanting to still dwell so much or talk about it all the time (and that list goes on).
But let me tell you something from my experience, and from numerous hours in the presence of bereaved people – The year mark is a fantasy…it does not exist and nor does it suddenly make you better. Your grief does not diminish, nor your need to talk and have love and support from friends and family. A year does not make it any less significant than it did the day before you hit the anniversary of the loss. All you have done is survive a year without your child!
And, as a reality check, my counsellor told me that some people do not even seek assistance until after the 1st year when they suddenly realise it hurts a lot still, and despite reaching that point in their journey it’s all still the same and hurts just as bad. Surprisingly they feel left alone to deal with it, and that a councillor is the only answer to have someone to still listen.
I believe a year means nothing other than a check list of dates to show you can survive the firsts. It is a period of 12 months where you suffer tsunamis of grief and stumble through life just trying to survive it – putting on a “brave face” as you face anxieties and pain – especially as you approach that date again on the calender where life was never to be the same again!
The year mark is far from kind and so leaves you feeling beat as you relive their passing and feel the emotions you felt that day (I saw few people that week when all I wanted was a friend to talk to, to invite me out, to tell me they’re still here), and then you wake up at the start of year 2 with a significant lack of support or further interest and people not seeming bothered at where you are at or how you are coping over a year later.
It is a major reality check of how lonely the battle of baby loss is and how quickly people can move on from such a life altering event for us.
It was with this sudden lack of contact from people and unsurety that they would want to still talk about the same pain that is still there, the same heartache triggered by the same things, the hard days when its all too much still, that I seemed to have no other choice but to turn to someone I knew would listen and not judge or place time restraints on my grief, so I turned to my councillor (how sad that its someone getting paid to listen). I went with a desire to just be heard and get the last few weeks off my chest whilst expressing a wish in my heart that people around me could still see my suppressed pain, fears and general desire to have strength. I wish I didn’t feel abandoned but that people wanted me in my current broken state to help heal my heart that bit more and be a solid mate! I wish people could spare the time and energy it takes to be friends with a bereaved mother and hang out and talk of highs and lows, because whilst I am fun, a joker, kind, caring, faithful and would do anything to help you, I am also sad, finding my new normal, anxious over tiny things and at times can be angry and feel overwhelmed. It was also helpful as I gained understanding of why I feel so much grief at this stage and what I really desire and fear in life right now – oh to be able to share those things and have help through it.
I say and share with you all of these things not to offend or get at anyone, but rather because I would like you to understand that loosing a baby is a life long loss, and our grief is triggered by innumerable things that are not bound by a 12 month time frame.
I grieve things now that are still firsts 13 months later because in the last year I never faced it, and also understand that its possible that I could encounter more firsts or awkward seconds in 18 months time and it still will knock me for 6. Yes I probably will have another baby, we talk about that often, just as we would have at a natural gap after poppy, but then I have never been pregnant after stillbirth and anticipate it will not be an easy road. I worry that I am to face all of those firsts and anxieties without people to support and listen to my fears until the birth because I had my 12 months allowance, or its too sad… or too much…. or too draining.
I wish I could have people understand and see that when your baby dies, it is not just the baby, the sleepless nights, feeding routines, nappies and teething we lost. It isn’t just that first year of things…its the first steps, the cheeky toddler, the preschool sass, the starting of school and high school and extracurricular activities. Its the drama of the teen years, a student, business owner, artist, traveller or whatever they would have been (we will always wonder). It is our potential bride or groom..its everything and every stage, its all of it – the nightmares, tooth loss, Christmases and every birthday, every time-out, adventure, sibling rivalry, snuggles, kisses, dress up and just everything we enjoy daily as parents (and struggle with) with our living kids.
We have LOST IT ALL and that is why every day we miss them and every day holds the potential to prick at your heart as you see something and realise you’ll never get it with them.
Every day you see stuff around you and it potentially and sometimes does, causes your tears to flow, or forces you to curl up in tears, broken hearted and say “I miss my child” and weep over what that means right then. That cannot be switched off after a year, or even 10 – it is a lifelong emotion I will live with and talk about. She is a member of our family that we will work hard to remember and include.
So If you are with me (and us), then I am afraid it is for the long haul, because there will be many up’s, fun days and lovely moments – There always are. But there will also be and still are, so many downs, anxieties and missing her days. These emotions are not recovered from in 365 days, they are deep and will take a lifetime… So please mourn with us and have some compassion until the sun shines again!