As I have found myself in a better place than I have ever been since our own loss (both emotionally and mentally). And as I embark on another year of counselling training, I have realised 3 things in my life and writings:

1. I have missed writing about grief and loss from an informative angle. And I enjoy being able to open up the channels of communication for others to more easily talk about this subject in their everyday life, through my writing.

2. I have a lot left to say on this topic – many ideas for blogs and from so many other angles!

3. Writing about things related to grief, sadness and emotions is a very fulfilling thing when you know that it helps people (not to mention it is something that hugely interests me).

Bereavement is a heavy subject, and it has been just that for me, and hard for over these last few years. But it is also an area that greatly interests me. I realise that whilst my desire to talk in depth about my own loss on a regular basis has come to the end of its chapter, my desire to talk about loss and grief in order to help others has not.

I have wondered how I can get that balance right – of being able to write and discuss it, whilst also still maintaining my own well being, and I suppose it is similar to how I do that as a therapist – for when once I thought to work with the bereaved would be too painful for me, I now see how I can help them navigate life after loss without it hindering my own grief… and that is a great prospect.

The facts are that I care about those who are bereaved and struggle in life. I care about how they are treated in their loss and despair and my goal to be a therapist stems from the desire to lift up the heavy hands of those around me. If I can, through my writing and talking, enable others to also do this for them, then to me that is a gift that is truly priceless. I still (on a weekly basis) get questions on loss and grief, and how to help others facing unimaginable pain. I get messages about how much the person is struggling in an all too familiar way, and I realise that I possess experience and useful insights and perspectives that others want to read and hear of. And whilst it’s not for everyone, I feel it is important to talk and to help.

Our society isn’t very good at talking emotions, and we as Brits are especially good at keeping a stiff upper lip (in public at least). But one thing I am very passionate about sharing is the fact that grief and loss are so normal – They are as normal as birth is to life, and yet we aren’t very good at talking about those who have died. We squirm when people want to acknowledge the dead and, instead of celebrating a life once lived (however long or brief) we instead banish people and our silent responses shame them for expressing feelings of grief or taking about their loss. We still very much take a Victorian “doom and gloom” approach to death, and “just get on with it”! Instead of looking to other cultures who celebrate life and support one another in their loss. We do not always  recognise that life is forever changed after a loss and many need a rest from the sheer exhaustion of grief, and time to adjust to a new normal.

This has become very apparent in both my observations and recent learning – My studies on grief and loss have highlighted this time and time again, and these insights and desire to change it (combined with still receiving so many messages about loss and how to support others) has lead me to wonder if I should still be writing about bereavement, loss and grief in a way of supporting? I’ve wondered if, as I learn more about helping others generally if I should be sharing this with you?

And then I read something on Instagram that very much resonated with me and completely hit home – It was what spurred me in the end to write this post. It said:

“The scars we share become lighthouses to other people headed to the same rocks you hit”. 

How true is that? Just think for a moment – How many people have helped you in your loss, or your trials because they have been where you are now (or at least were back then?).

Just imagine life if we were all a little more open and a little more sensitive to the struggles, losses and grief of others.

It made me realise how important it is to talk, and how important it is to reach out to others in their pain and losses.

And so with that in mind, I will periodically be talking about loss and grief (and perhaps other insights that resonate about emotional well being) because we need to speak about them. We need to acknowledge the storms of life, and help others through them. Because, in so doing our struggles and lessons learnt take on perspective, and our new strengths and confidence in embracing our losses and pains as part of who we are, shine together to become the light house to help others navigate their journey as they head to those same rocks in life.

So now that I don’t feel as emotionally weak and vulnerable as I have done, I  suppose I will continue to share more insights about loss and grief … just not necessarily mine (And not at that same personal depth I shared before)!

Of course I may touch on some of my experiences – this is inevitable when writing about something I have such deep connections with. But that isn’t why I want to continue to write about these topics now; I write about them more to help others to find their way through the storms of loss, as opposed to helping me make sense of my storms and touching others in the process. I want to share these type of blogs not for me, but to offer a little glimmer of light and help. and whether that comes through my words or through others that choose to act as a result of them, I feel it is worthwhile.

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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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At 2 months old Alice is smiling, silent laughing with the odd squeal coming out and engaging anyone who makes eye contact. She has a flirty persona (which most babies do and I love) and is very tolerant of older siblings in her face. I love how she moves her little mouth and all of her expressions to try and chat back when you talk to her. I love seeing her wriggle with glee when people pop their heads into her pram, she is so happy to be alive and it is contagious! Yes overall I can say that she is an absolute delight… She brightens every day, is never short of cuddles and kisses and we each can’t help but grin when we see her looking at us. It’s safe to say that whilst she has slotted in so well, she still is very much a novelty here in our home.

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I have been using Gina Fords sleeping/feeding routines as recommended by both my sister in laws and a couple of friends and it has changed my life! A routine at this stage is certainly a new one for me and I must have been mad to not do it before because it has been AMAZING! It doesn’t work every day, on some she tries to sneak an extra feed or sleeps less that we hope but it’s good and was most definitely necessary with going back to school looming and having to be so on it with school runs. It has enabled me generally to just be able to function and get everything done to keep the family and home ticking over. But yes, so well she has fallen in to it great and things are going well, she seems very content and I am mostly in control… 2 little humans to 3 is manageable especially when this one is so easy!

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The last week or so has been, as anticipated a bit of a struggle with having Poppy’s birthday and some other difficult dates, and I have never been more grateful that Alice is still so tiny. It has been easier to slow down and do very little whilst the kids were at school and just ponder really on everything. I sometimes feel like it was all an awful nightmare and as I have said before that to really think about it takes energy with the emotions it stirs. It was good for me to sit with a sleeping baby, eat some chocolate and watch bake off on catch up!

Whilst Alice is a blessing (oh what a blessing she is to us), and boy does brighten everyone’s lives, she doesn’t completely heal us from this loss and so whilst she is a delight and life is so much more lovely with her in it, there still has been the pain of loss around certain dates. I found on one day as I was winding her and another as I was being silly to make her laugh, I just filled up and burst into tears. In that moment I felt so much love for her and felt so blessed she was here, but I felt so sad that I had missed this (and more) with her sister… the look on her face was a curious one and I guess it doesn’t help still having so many crazy hormones!!!

As few would be able to get these mixed feelings, and sometimes even the guilt for being sad when I have such a lovely child in my arms (because they thankfully haven’t had to experience it), I was drawn back to Sands on Monday to see the people that unfortunately do. I found it so helpful and such a great comfort to talk openly again about the mixed emotions I was feeling following Poppy’s 2nd birthday and having a newborn now too and all of these various dates. What a relief to be assured it was normal. What a relief to know its not ungrateful to feel this still. And how amazing these friends at SANDS are… It will always be a hard thing somewhere inside that our baby died and however many children we have or go on to have following, it will be there. I want to remember though, and share with you a saying that one of my Sands friends said to me, it may help you understand a little more what parenting after loss is like as it sums it up perfectly and I love it:

“The other kids do a great job at papering over the cracks, but the cracks are still there”.

Parenting after loss as I am finding can be a very sensitive affair with many 1sts still to encounter. Never before on this road have those highs been so high but then we still have those lows, granted never as low and dark as in the beginning but certainly lower than your average hard day. I have chilled out on some behaviours but do some things differently to when I had Megan and Ethan. I do often wonder, like many parents in our position; would we still be doing this or that if we hadn’t lost a baby?

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Run Jump Scrap!
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If you don’t know me by now, then let me point out that I have a passion for bargain hunting, saving money and finding and getting a good deal on things! It is just an ordinary part of me and my life that I have an innate desire to grab a bargain on whatever it is at the time I am purchasing. I think it is inherited from my grandma and Mum, but for as long as I can remember I have enjoyed thrifting, car boot sales, charity shops and now Ebay and Gumtree. I love it when you find amazing deals on things that are nearly new, never used and can’t say enough that I strongly believe that one mans rubbish is certainly treasure to another.

This last week I grabbed an amazing bargain via Gumtree, when I picked up a Saplings Katie crib for £25!!! It is beautiful, fresh and well looked after, and of course in immaculate condition! This crib is not only a steal, a result of my ordinary thrifty activities, but it is a milestone too and a a huge step in my journey after loss.

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For many expectant parents the crib, Moses basket, whatever they go for, is a natural and exciting purchase, but to me it really was a milestone and a symbol of so many things. Some days I wondered if this day would ever come, if I would get to the stage in this pregnancy where we would be buying “big things”. Hand me down clothes can easily be bagged up and sent on if anything happened, but real baby equipment, little baby beds, these things can sit there and remind you of not having anyone to put into, they are harder to part with, harder to hide from. I have every hope that this baby will be fine, that she will grace our home with light and love and that we will have many wonderful experiences with her, but having lost her sister and never having the opportunity to buy her anything knowing she wouldn’t live has been incredibly hard to not try and protect myself and avoid these things “just in case”.  But at 33+6 last week, we made a purchase for our expectant arrival, we bought “the babies crib” and I love it and love the strength it has given me to proceed.

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This crib is far from anything that I had imagined for Poppy, and I delibratly spent hours googling things in a hope that I would find something that didn’t hold reminders. Therefore it is an invitation into a new chapter for a new child with out associations or items to trigger the already expected grief of holding her and adjusting to life with a new living baby.

This crib is a reminder of something I missed out on last time, an opportunity to let myself breath and do ordinary pregnancy things.

This crib is an ultimate bargain and a sign I continue to find joy in the small things despite fear and worry.

This crib is just beautiful, it is like a little manger and makes me happy to look at because its such a lovely thing to have for my precious child.

But mostly This crib is a sign of hope…the hope that we will bring a baby home this time to sleep in it, to be in our room disturbing our sleep. To rest next to me to soak up her perfection, her coos…to pick her up to feed from it, to cuddle and to love…a healthy baby girl to brighten our lives. This baby crib means far more than just the ordinary process of choosing one and buying it as the next thing “To Do” in pregnancy. It is a symbol of new life, hope and progress in life after loss.

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