Last weekend we passed the 4th Anniversary and Birthday of our sleeping baby Poppy. It’s hard to believe that we would now have a newly turned 4 year old in the mix of madness that is our family, and that visually, and day to day we would be a family of 6! I find it hard still that I have had 4 kids but only get to raise 3 of them, and whilst I feel better than I have in a long while, I still very much wish on a daily basis that our child could have lived and we could have our family together here like others do.
With each passing year though, aside from this daily battle, I really struggle with the fact that I do not know my own child and it is always at her birthday (and christmas) that this feeling most dominant!
I don’t know if she would prefer Peppa pig or Paw Patrol, or if she would be shy or extrovert. I don’t know her eye colour, or whether she would be blonde or dark and what her favourite birthday tea would be. It is a peculiar feeling and one that makes me feel somewhat lost at this time of year, because things that are so natural for us as mothers, is so very far away for me!
In past Septembers the anniversary of losing our daughter, along with the day she was born, have been incredibly hard. Her birthday is always tarnished by the underlying emotions and memories that she was not born living, and therefore there is much grief intertwined with the desire to want to celebrate the precious life and birth of our baby girl. I have therefore in the past retreated to our home and spent days on end crying, anxious and struggling with these memories and the concept of having a baby but never bringing her home and seeing her grow. I dreaded September the 14th for the day we were told her heart had stopped, and I dreaded the 16th for a Birthday with no child here to spoil and celebrate. September has always filled me with anguish and It has always felt almost too much to even bare. I resonated greatly with Green Day’s “wake me up when September ends“, because it has certainly made me an emotional wreck each year!
I realised though over this Summer that things didn’t feel right, and I wasn’t bouncing back after these emotional periods, rather I seemed to be getting worse – Things everywhere were triggering my anxiety about our loss and about the “dreaded month of September”!! After a diagnosis of PTSD and further NLP therapy a few months ago, I have become a more empowered and happier person and I have felt a huge weight from our loss lifted – the weight of trauma! With that gone, this year felt different, it felt easier to face and easier to want to celebrate because I wasn’t battling trauma on top of grief – just my grief. I realised that the teary mornings and desire to take it easy were just normal grief and that once released I felt okay again. I noticed I felt stronger to face the day and more able to do what I wanted to for her without crippling emotion and anxiety. I didn’t feel crushed by it, but rather felt what I had heard (and wanted to feel myself) at so many SANDS meetings: “It was hard with them not here, but it was peaceful and nice to be able to celebrate”.
This year, if she had of lived then we would have being offering her the choice of a party (like with her siblings). This was important to me this year, as I do often look at the children in the village and in the family that are 4 and wonder who her best friends would be and who she would be inviting to that party and playing with. But unfortunately that isn’t our reality and is just a simple day dream! I was sure though that this year I wanted to make it feel like a little girls birthday party, and I wanted to do something that would just help me to feel semi normal as a mother to a 4 year old. And so on Saturday, aside from making a #4 flower arrangement for her grave, I went into town and bought princess bowls and napkins, lots of treats, and several balloons, and I invited family to gather in her remembrance to enjoy an “ice cream party” with cake!
The cake thankfully wasn’t my usual shambles and depression trigger, but rather it turned out tasty and mostly satisfactory (let’s call it “rustic”!).
Prior to getting the kids high on sugar and bellies full of ice cream, we met at my favourite place to reflect on her – Flamborough lighthouse. Here (despite much opposition about not being environmentally friendly) we released a few balloons with the family that could make it, up to heaven. It was such a beautiful Sunday evening and a lovely way to remember our little girl in heaven!
Something else I did this year that helped me significantly to feel better about it all, was that I arranged a date for Nathan and I to go to the theatre of Friday 14th. We saw a play all out depression and emotions and I loved it. We laughed together, and had time to reflect on emotional difficulty too. We both agreed that it was lovely to have some time away from the house to be able to talk together on such a poignant date – just us as her parents and as best friends – about how we feel, how far we’ve come, how much we struggle still and how much of that play we could relate to! We had a great date out and it was nice to laugh together on a day that has always been so heavy and unbearable.
I realise now upon reflection after 4 years without our daughter here, that it will never be fine or feel fine in September and I am okay with that. I have also realised that for 3 years I have been unwell too – my mind was injured by what I went through, and now with the right therapy I can see that despite it being a hard anniversary to go through each year, it can also be a peaceful one and reflective. It can be what the kids love most – a chance to celebrate a life that was so briefly lived and means so much to us. I realise that I can do things to feel more motherly and I can do things that mean a lot to us as her family and as a couple…things that are special and things that help us feel close at a tender time. I don’t have to hide away and be sad and lonely. Yes I naturally felt sadness for her not being here, but there was also peace and hope that there is more to all of this than I can comprehend and the thought of that makes me think I am stronger to face each year that lies ahead now. I know it will be a sad and reflective time of year, but we also know how to make it a special time between us to feel close and to feel heaven closer.
I do feel after all of this rushing and planning (and with her funeral anniversary approaching), that I do need to just have a good cry to let it out and maybe a big choc bar, but I can honestly say this year that I feel okay so soon after – it has been hard but manageable!
H A P P Y 4TH B I R T H D A Y P O P P Y – we love you fiercely and miss you greatly!
Next year we will try to be more environmentally friendly!