The moment I found out that my baby had died, I
crossed over was flung without warning into a new world – A place where I would never be the same again, and a place where I would always have this awkward part of my life that never made sense, and that people would rarely know how to respond to. I have since grieved, not only for the loss of one of my children, but for the loss of me, my happiness, and my place in life!
I have as a result, spent these last 3.5 years trying to rebuild my life and myself, so that I can live some kind of a new normal and be happier within myself and in my life. I have pretty much accepted that in life I will never be who I was before that day, and that this life now hurts a whole lot more than it ever did before. But, with that there is also a realization that I can feel empathy and compassion now in ways I couldn’t before, and I suppose you could say that losing my child has created a level of emotional maturity that couldn’t exist without experiencing something so tragic and traumatic. Whilst I feel incredible sadness trying to navigate through hard feelings I never thought the human heart could feel (or survive), I can also see that I have the capacity to feel love and joy more so than I ever thought one could too. Like the passenger song says “Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low”, I have been so low that the highs are so much much bigger now, and vice versa. I find there is such a vastness and contrast in emotions, and yet both joys and sadnesses are so intertwined too!
This new me, I have discovered, is probably a little more high maintenance as a friend, as I talk a lot of loss and grief and thinks more deeply on things than the old me did. I guess that means that will all of that thinking I read into things and worry more too. The trauma of loss means that my memory is worse, and my concentration is bad too, and I am more emotional at times and generally less interested in the things I used to be. I am often disconnected in situations where I used to thrive and love. I pretend I am happy a lot, and I find that I spend a lot of time surviving things in order to protect my emotions and grief. With all of this “baggage” I seem to be harder for some people to accept and that is a hard barrier to overcome, but “This is ME!”.
Because of this process (or shift) from the life before to the life after loss, I have lost several treasured friends, or generally had people I love lose interest in me (or the desire to be there). I suppose that is inevitable as life goes on whilst we try to cling on and find ways to not have our children forgotten. Perhaps it sounds like a broken record as I ride the cycles of grief, saying the same things, being angry over the same points, and tripping over the same triggers. It’s not easy to support a person long term that has periods of sheer sadness and heartache, and has pain that can’t be solved, but I guess even with that I have always hoped I was worth the time and extra patience it took to be friend to me.
That aspect of life following loss has been incredibly hard, especially when I often yearn for the people that were there, the ones who met her, or who I trusted with my fragile heart because I thought they got it. I wanted them to be my side and care for her mother and mourn with me. But you cannot predict the future of life and consequently, losing friends as well as myself and a child, has caused increased grief and feelings of “why aren’t I good enough” or “Why don’t people care?!”.
But I am good enough. I am worth loving by others – and I can be something more.
I am learning that the people who truly love me, the people who want me in their lives, and want to be part of mine, let me know that by their actions. They don’t make me feel ashamed for what I am doing of how I am feeling, but are the ones who choose to embrace me in my loss and are okay with the array of emotions that that brings….even if they don’t always (or ever will) get it. They don’t try to move me on from my grief, or expect a time frame on it. They dont push their will on to me and tell me how they would respond if it was them, because they know it wasn’t them, and they respect me and what I have survived and how I choose to live with it! They will speak her name or ask me how I am, and then they will ask me again to see how I really am.
They remember those all important dates and know how much they mean, how special they are, and how hard they are for us to face, and there is compassion attached to that!
I want the friends who are interested in all aspects of my life, pleased for my successes and joys and then can catch me when I fall and hold my pain until it passes again.
I often wish my life was as carefree and fun as it used to be, and that I wasn’t so emotional or found so many days so hard. I wish I didn’t feel half of what I do half the time, but this is me now and I can never have that outlook back – I know too much of the other side of life. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is, and now my choice is to let it defeat me and wallow over losing friends and myself, or embrace it and realise that life is about making the most of what we are dealt (however awful and rubbish that may turn out to be), and despite the pain and the grief become more!
I choose daily that in spite of the pain I carry that has changed me, I am rebuilding me, and I am becoming more. I am discovering where my place is now, not where it once was!
Rediscovering me and discovering my place…
I was relieved to discover that when the dust settled, and the fog cleared, there were still elements of me there. I still found joy in the theatre and singing and dancing like a fool. I still liked funky clothes, mixing my hair up and wearing make up! I still loved going to places, and being in places that are rich in natural beauty and history, and I still enjoy watching films, eating out and making things. These things have kept my sanity, and as I have looked at rebuilding the next part of life they have massively influenced it.
I suppose my blog – the journal of all of this was a good place to start in seeing who I have become in all of this and where I might want to go now! My blog was started as a source of information and awareness, and a form of writing therapy… a place to share our family story and the highs and lows of life and motherhood following stillbirth. I felt like it was inspired, because it has not only kept me a float and provided our family with so many opportunities (that have in turn made our lives less heavy), but it has given me a voice at the most vulnerable and fragile part of my life. It has helped me tell her story and turn our tragedy into a tangible, inspirational and useful place for others to relate. It has helped me focus on the good despite the bad, and have family experiences to build memories in our grief. Blogging has given us feelings of gratitude in the most horrendous of times and has continuously turned my perspective and helped me to slowly move forward by having goals to work on and things to look forward to that I can photograph and write about.
But this is not all, on Monday I also had the opportunity to go to London and film for a channel 5 news programme on stillbirth, and will return on Tuesday to participate in the live discussion. I am again realising that I have a voice that is not afraid to share these things, and consequently what I can offer others through that.
I suppose I have always had a desire to help others, but It wasn’t until recently that I felt that I could be more and help more people through my experiences. For so long (it feels like) I have felt like I wasn’t enough, but then last Summer I couldn’t shake the thought that I was actually more than I could imagine, I just needed to believe it and work harder! I realised that from loss and speaking out about, I now had valuable insights and experiences that the world needed. I pondered a lot on this thought, and eventually it led to the choice to return to education NOW and begin studying to be a therapist!
I thought at the time that that meant that I would be on a path to be a counsellor and I have, since September, being going to college to do a diploma in Counselling skills (News flash), but I have since decided to take that and mesh it with my lifelong love of theatre and be a “Drama therapist” – for the first time in a long time this choice empowered me and helped me clearly see where my place could be. It takes my love of drama from the old me (I wanted to teach it when I was in 6th Form) and meshes it with the experiences and feelings of the new me, to create something exciting and beautiful!
I am not abandoning my family and becoming something else – I will always be a mother (A mother to 4 beautiful children), but there will come a time when I will not be a full time mother, and I have always been keen to better myself in education and skills. This now is where I am at – slowly moving in a direction, alongside mothering and blogging, where I am rebuilding more of me and creating more angles to the new normal life we live and want to enjoy.
It enables me to be more of me!
When I look back on my life I never imagined I would be on this path…writing and talking about loss and having a desire to help people who find themselves in tragedy. I imagined a whole host of other things, but I feel that God has helped me to see where my potential lies and has helped me find my strengths in weakness. He has shown me how I can make my tragedy into an inspiring story to share with others… He knows my heart, and subsequently has shown me how I can cling to my child who I cannot raise, and still create a legacy in her name. He has made me able to open my mouth and break the silence, even when i am grieving. He has and will continue to use my pain to help me empathise with others and guide them. This to me is what healing is. It isn’t getting over it or never feeling it, that will not happen when your child has died. But rather it is feeling it, and being aware of it, and then being okay with that as a part of life now. It is not being ashamed to feel, and using those emotions to make an even better me than I was before.
You may not believe the way I do and that’s okay, we are all different, but for me I feel grateful that I have found a place that whilst I live a lifetime without seeing my daughter grow up, and enduring the pain that that naturally brings to my soul, I can still be a success and she can live on through the work I do through my blog/media, and now hopefully a career in therapy around our family!
I am turning my loss in to a new life – One where she exists and is remembered.. and one where I am living a new normal and embraced for me (complete with emotions, scars and a crazy host of experiences). I am rediscovering me and my place and I am amazed at what I am finding!
You know where I am if you want to come along for the ride, and ride the waves together!