*** Contains images of baby loss that some may find distressing***

Baby loss awareness week is so important because it is a time to remember all of the babies gone too soon. I wanted to remember these special babies this week and allow their stories to be told.

I think in the moment, you know, that moment when people find out that their friend or family members baby has died, most people can understand how hard and absolutely horrific it must be. They can imagine the nightmare those parents are having to live. But, with the passing of time, and as the bereaved parents adjust to a new normal, I believe we are not always so acutely aware of the long term effects that baby loss has on individuals and families.

This post came about as I wanted to highlight that for you all, during this years Baby loss awareness week. It is called “My loss Then & Now” and I have decided to try something new – I wanted to share with you some of my friends stories and loss experiences who I know from the baby loss community, and allow them to share with you how their loss/grief was back then, compared to how it is now so you can see and be aware of the long term.

The Loss of a Baby…

Loss, and its subsequent grief affects us all in different ways. Men and women grieve differently, and different personalities grieve differently. Loss affects people so differently, and where for some It can enable and motivate them to change the world,  for others it can disable them in all the try to do. Grief can be triggered by lots of things and then triggered by nothing. For some it can come in waves and for others they can feel like they are constantly drowning. Some remember with fondness where others see only pain and sadness.

There is no right or wrong way –  no time scale – baby loss is personal and people respond to it in their own personal ways.

The loss of baby is such a foreign thing for those who face it though – it is a living nightmare and it goes against the grain and what we know to be the circle of life! With the death of a baby, death comes before life has even been experienced and as such it is a unique loss in comparison to others. That joy of a new baby and parenthood isn’t just lost and tarnished, but a whole life time or hopes and dreams are gone. I think that wherever we  are at in life, and however we grieve this loss, we cannot deny that those who have been touched by the loss of a baby are never the same again. And yet whilst we are changed, we also evolve, and with that so does our grief. We are not forever stuck in that debilitating rawness forever (though at the time it may feel so), as grief changes over the years, so do we in how we carry it.

I have been thinking about the shift in grief over time and our ability to evolve and learn how to carry it. It was all of this that made me decide to highlight the effects of baby loss through others stories, because I know from years of attending SANDS and my own experiences, that grief does change and we do gain the strength to carry our loss in a more confident way, but does it ever really leave us?

I know that Some would believe so as I often hear the old favourite of “time is a healer” which often falls so easily from peoples lips, but is it really?Or does time only enable you to carry your loss in a less awkward and upsetting way?

Is it always going to be there and do we just know how to handle and live with it better through the years?

Please read on and meet some of my lovely baby loss friends and hear for yourself their honest and raw experiences as they illustrate this. We hope that if you are going through loss it will be a support and bring hope in some way, and if you havent, that you will gain a little more insight into the long term effects of losing a baby.

This year I wanted some  awareness of how much baby loss really affects us. I want you to be aware that whilst grief shifts, and people seem to be doing well; the pain, memories and longings for your child as a result of losing a baby will never really leave you. You are changed forever, and a part of them is always going to be with you. These stories are evidence of that…evidence that however good life seems, it’s like there is always something (or someone) missing – and that hurts!

My Loss Then & Now 

Chris Binnie – Henry’s Dad  

Our son Henry was stillborn at 38 weeks on Friday 2nd May, 2014 at 9:05pm. He had a full head of hair and very big feet. He was small, at 4lb 13.5oz, but perfectly formed. In the early days, weeks, and months, our grief was very raw. I had some really dark days – days where I didn’t think we could survive, and days where I didn’t want to survive any longer. As a bereaved dad, I especially wrestled with the sense that so many people overlooked my grief, thinking that as a man I’d be strong and just ‘get over it’. You don’t ever ‘get over’ the loss of your child though. Over time, while our grief has never gone away, we’ve learnt to live with it as a part of our lives every day. One thing I’ve realised over the years is that grief is not a straight-line progression. The whole thing is an absolute rollercoaster, and it’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay not to be okay. If you have days where all you do is survive, that’s okay too. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day that whispers “I will come again tomorrow”.

This journey is your journey and yours alone. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to live this. You just do whatever you need to do to survive. For me, it’s been charity work and trying to support others through it, or better still, improve care so that less families walk this path in the first place. Find what works for you. You’ve got this. Remember one thing though: however isolated you feel, you don’t have to walk this path alone. I will walk it with you.

Chris works for the Yorkshire charity “Our Angels” and speaks at many trainings and events to help improve care. He also blogs about he and his wife Briony’s loss journey at pinecones and study days and has recently been nominated for “Inspirational father” at this years butterfly awards

Emma – Charlie’s Mum 

Our precious boy was born on the 19th April 2008 at 4.15pm, a moment in time that changed my life forever. He was our much wanted 3rd child but for reasons unbeknown to us he didn’t get to stay here and grow up as part of our family.

Losing our boy is the single most painful moment in my life and in the early days I was not sure I would ever smile or laugh again. I’m glad to say I was wrong. Slowly, life began to take on a “new normal “ – a life I never expected but one that I had to learn to survive. I live everyday carrying around my grief. I think of my grief as a huge, heavy, invisible backpack. I wear it on my back every single day and even though no one can see it, I feel it’s heavy burden. Over time this backpack has not got any smaller or lighter, my grief is still all there but what has changed is me. I have become stronger, I have learned how best to carry my grief so although I still carry it everyday it doesn’t seem so heavy now and I am used to carrying this load.

The loss I feel at living everyday without my son has not lessened but I know that I am strong enough to carry it with me and in some ways I now find comfort in this. Charlie is with me every step of my life, he lives in my heart, my constant companion and the reason I am who I am today.

Emma set up “Our Angels” charity in January 2009 – a support group for those affected by the loss of a baby in Harrogate and surrounding areas. In 2012 Our Angels won the nhs Best improvement in patient experience and in October 2015  and Emma won the Harrogate and district volunteer of the year – this award then lead to her getting an invite to the Queens garden party at Buckingham palace in May 2016 – all in Charlie’s memory. 

Claire – Alexandra’s Mum 

Then:

Alexandra was my first pregnancy. My first baby. My first daughter. She was the first grandchild to my parents and my in-laws. She was everything we had hoped and planned for however; our plans went somewhat awry.

My pregnancy lasted 42 weeks. We’ve since found out that my first midwife hadn’t followed the up-to-date guidelines regarding induction and had miscounted the days and booked me over the limit by a day. Not that that day mattered to our outcome. At some point in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy my placenta had stopped working properly and I didn’t know. No-one would’ve known really. The only tangible reason (that was still a maybe in our report) was VUE (villitis of unknown etymology). Had Alexandra been born at 38 weeks; odds on she would’ve been ok.

I’ve written about my pregnancy and what happened during her short life before (https://afteralexandra.co.uk/2018/05/25/the-story-of-alexandra/) however I’ve never really compare my then (when we lost her) to now: a family of 4 but without our 1.

I was utterly shell-shocked. Some days I couldn’t believe I’d woken up each morning. I honestly thought my heart would stop. I was broken. Bringing home my baby should’ve been the easiest thing to do – after all I was low risk and my pregnancy had basically been fine. I was astounded that this should happen to me. I was even more compounded that we didn’t have a definitive reason. I was terrified of having a post-mortem in case that they could prove it was my fault. I truly believed it was my fault even though I had followed all the advice to the letter.

When we left hospital the Indian summer was in full swing. I was waiting at the entrance for Andrew to bring the car round to pick me up and I was angry that the sun shining; surely it should be raining and thundering and lightning. Pathetic fallacy right? I felt pathetic; empty and as if I would fall off the earth at any moment. How dare the world carry on and look so beautiful?

As the days turned to weeks it was just survival. Get through an hour; a day; a week. The second half of 2015 was truly awful as I lost my Grandma then my baby girl and then my Grandad in the space of 3 months. It was ludicrous that so much heartache was deluged on me at once. I’m still amazed that somehow my body didn’t give out.

Our counselling in the community from Martin House Children’s Hospice was a major factor in keeping us afloat.

And Now?

We have another little girl called Ophelia who is about to turn 2. We talk about Alexandra regularly. I’ve been like a “normal” Mum and got their names mixed up sometimes. I’m practised at answering the small talk questions. I go to SANDs meetings when I need to and sometimes when I don’t because I may unknowingly need that top up a week down the line. I follow a lot of bloggers and have recently started my own. I read a lot about baby loss and realised that I wasn’t bonkers; others felt the same way.

The dark clouds have parted but it took a long time to do so. The shell-shock returned when not only was Ophelia born fine despite some jaundice but she actually came home. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified of getting too close too quickly in case we had to go into crisis mode of deciding treatment levels, when to turn off machines etc. She looked so much like in Alexandra on her profile that sometimes I couldn’t bear to look at her. Other times I couldn’t put her down as the last baby I put down in a cot was for Alexandra when I had to leave her behind.

Again it was a case of time. No new Mum really knows what they’re doing and we all have to learn on the job. I just had another layer of fear. We survived that first year with Ophelia.

I’m better at recognising when the Black Dog is coming to town and acknowledging the visit and taking better care of myself. I’ve set ground rules for myself. If something is going to be too hard for me; then I will politely decline.

I’m not afraid of talking about Alexandra; I’m better at judging who deserves to hear about her. In some ways I’ve got thicker skin in the sense that things that used to bother me just don’t know. There are other things that will really upset me now; the assumption that I’m somehow fixed because we’ve had another baby. Or someone getting the glazed look when I talk about Alexandra. Or people not remembering Alexandra’s birthday or acknowledging her existence. Or someone not interacting with Ophelia when she’s a pretty awesome; happy; cheeky and fun kid to be around.

What I do find frustrating now is when I try to explain that something might still be challenging for me the  response is “oh well it’s better now.” I may be “better” in terms of not sobbing day after day; night after night; but I’ve never going to be fully healed: my baby still died in my arms. I still had to organise her funeral and I still have a child missing out on all that life has to offer. That child will always be missing from her cohort. I see the group that she should’ve been hanging out with and I see the gaping whole.

How is life different? I’m better at making decisions in terms of what I’ll put up with. I know how to remove myself from situations that will be upsetting (for the most part!) and this experience has probably made Andrew and I more honest with each other.

Alexandra made me a Mum. I’m Ophelia’s Mum too. I have to be their Mummy in very different ways but always being their biggest ally and biggest fan.

Claire is involved with Leeds Sands and writes about her journey at After Alexander

Jess – Leo’s Mum 

Leo died at 37+1, and was our first son. He had a head full of fair hair and really big feet. He should be here, with us now. But he isn’t. And that will always hurt.

I guess I would say that the acuteness of grief has softened but the confusion around it all absolutely comes in waves and still baffles me to this day. As he “gets older” I’m more longing to know what he would have been like, and can’t really relate the Leo that should be to the Leo that we knew – I think that makes me miss him more. The trauma of it all has absolutely been a particular challenge this year, and I think the distance allows me to not explain away or “Make okay” things that I did in the early days, and I am left questioning and repeating it all so much more.

Jess blogs at The Legacy of Leo and runs a twitter chat every Tuesday 8pm til 9pm via the #Babylosshour 

Shayen’s Mum

At the beginning, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get to the next day. I didn’t see how life could carry on. Feeling suffocated by grief was an awful feeling. It doesn’t just go away. Like one day you don’t just wake up and feel better… it’s with you all the time. You just learn how to cope with it. People say that you become a different person and I think this it true. The person I was before Shayen has gone. I’m a new me because you cannot just get on with life in the sane way after a loss like this. Everything changes.

And finding ways to cope was key for me. Meditation, Reiki, aromatherapy, yoga… all of these things became my coping mechanism.

Shayen’s parents recently featured with me on Channel 5’s “Stillbirth – Still a taboo”    

 

*Thank you so much to all of these brave parents for sharing their beautiful babies, their personal stories and emotions, and for their continued efforts to make a change for the future! I am so grateful for each of you and incredibly humbled by your journeys and part in ours! 

If you are affected by anything in this post please contact do me or your local Sands / Sands.co.uk – there are many sources of help and support from people who know how you feel following the loss of a baby.

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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! 

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When we initially found out that Poppy had died I went into a state of shock and detachment. I felt numb and at times it was like I was just going through the motions but not 100% there. There are times even now that this is how I survive day to day and get through things in my life, but I have come to find out that this is not a way to live – only to exist.

During the period that followed our loss, I reached out to several people I knew who had also had their babies die. They told me that grief came in waves and that when it hits in the beginning it would be like a Tsunami – powerful and all consuming. With time those waves might ease, but even if they still have force behind them, I can be assured that they will become less frequent. I came to understand that grief is hard, but over time you learn to wear it more comfortably.

I have clung to this analogy and sought out many people since who have lost babies and children to find out if what I was STILL experiencing year on year was normal – I needed reassurance that I wasn’t losing it. I knew that grief was a lifelong thing, or rather living without one of my children would always feel a little sad, but my “grief” didn’t seem to be changing. Not just that but these cycles and waves of pain were actually becoming more and more frequent – the more I filled my time to distract from them, and the more I tried to “get on with it”, the more emotional and exhausted I was becoming. Each day has been a fight to stay afloat, and I have struggled over the last 3.5 years to be able to deal with anything that triggers my memories of Poppy – her pregnancy, birth, anniversaries etc. I am constantly tense, anxious and on guard at fear something may happen to my kids or Nathan, or simply that I will see a baby I wasn’t prepared for, and these situations and memories cause me a heck of a lot of distress.

We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors – but I am going to open mine to you now. For the last 3.5 years I have painted on a smile whilst often inside I am struggling. I have forced myself day after day to “get on with it” on the faith that in time it would become easier. I have sat and wept – clutching my head in pain as the thoughts and memories hurt me so much. I have yelled, shouted, thrown things in rage and become awful to my family and Nathan. I have struggled to get out of my bed and face the world and I have struggled to exist. I have been angry that I have needed help and understanding but I didn’t know why I needed it or how to get it. The more friends distanced themselves, or even seemed to just be getting on with life, the more stuck in the past I felt and the lower and less self confident I felt.

I will stress at this point that this isn’t all of the time and not every day – but it has been incredibly frequent and enough that it has negatively affected our family and my ability to fully enjoy our lives together and be a good mum. It has been enough that my husband and I both have felt for a while that there could be something wrong with me.

I struggle with disciplining my kids because I am so numb and at my limit every day. I often just burst into tears at the smallest of stresses and will often be heard saying “I can’t cope!” – Because that is all that I feel.

But then I learnt about PTSD (post Traumatic stress disorder) whilst studying my recent counselling course and quickly realised it was me on a page. It kind of made complete sense to me – Those points and symptoms – they were me and my life since I lost Poppy. I was STILL angry (even to the point of rage sometimes) and I feel guilty no matter how hard I try. I have heightened senses and am easily startled by noise and situations. I am unable to fall asleep most nights and have regular nightmares or the memories playing so vivid on repeat. I have stress and always feel at my limit, and often I just feel numb!

I detach from life and people because I feel they don’t get me, or I feel isolated even when around people. I find it hard to know how to be in some situations and all of these are things I never struggled with prior to her passing and seeing her dead.

I read on and on and all I could see was my life and my brain/behaviour since Poppy had died. It all kind of fitted.

Why were the dates, the season changes and general days when I saw a little baby so painful? Why did they make me not just sad, but anxious and tense? Why do things unrelated cause me to spiral into such dark places? It wasn’t simply because it was when she died, because I wasn’t “just sad”, it was also because the change of Summer to Autumn, and the sight of a baby, the dates and the announcements of more babies and pregnancies, the joy of baby talk and hearing of people dying, all flung me back into reliving the trauma I experienced in September of 2016!

I haven’t just had the waves of grief hitting me for the last 3.5 years, I have been consumed by the event of giving birth to my dead child and then burying her over and over, and over again. It plays out in my mind on several occasions pretty much daily, and I am bombarded with reminders of what it was like and how awful it was. I have nightmares regularly of seeing and holding dead babies and members of our family (or even random babies).

Second to that I realised I was really good at avoiding things that reminded me of Poppy and her death, and that in situations where I couldn’t avoid it, I would just disconnect!

I realised when people talk of babes and death that I freeze up and become tense. When I see a documentary or read about kids dying I obsess and panic. Even a couple of weeks ago when I saw a dead baby bird on my drive, I became anxious and emotional at how its mother must have felt (yes really!). And then when people or myself are talking I zone out. I noticed this huge change in the last couple of years that I can no longer focus or remember things like I once prided on myself on being able to do and it has been incredibly frustrating and scary! I have had moments where I go in to a shop and suddenly realise I am stood there –  numb, and unable to remember what I went in for!

The memories of losing Poppy haven’t spaced out or become any easier like I assumed they would at this stage, but rather it is all consuming and it drags me down over and over again. Sometimes I fight and sometimes I conquer. Sometimes I want to talk about her and have her remembered because it’s all I can think about. But recently I just do not have the energy anymore. I have reached a point where I have shoved so much in the cupboard of my brain and tried to get on that it has flung open and it’s time to deal with it.

When someone has suffered trauma, getting on without professional help is quite possibly the worst thing to do, as it only becomes harder to live with and all consuming. When you have PTSD your brain struggles to file away the traumatic memories and associations into the back of your mind, and constantly brings them to the front.

One thing I know now is that my grief triggers are actually trauma triggers. The hearing of birth announcements make me sad yes, but many of them cause real panic. My heart races and palms sweat and then it’s the same when I see or know I am going to see tiny babies, go past the cemetery or hospital, have her anniversaries or hear of a passing!  They make me feel allsorts – but mostly its anxiety. And it’s not always because of what I have lost, but a lot also to do with the panic of thinking “what if they lose their baby too?” or “how will they cope”!

I feel as soon as things feel good, and as soon as I am feeling joyful – another reminder, trigger or intrusive thought hits and I go right back down to how I was in the beginning. One minute I am up and without warning I am spiralling – free falling and unable to stop it. I come down with a bang and then I can’t cope. All I feel is pain, anger, despair and fear. Day to day I fight the thoughts of losing my other kids and my husband, and then in these moments I have pure anxiety for days about all sorts and I am disconnected from life, only going through the motions.

For so long it hasn’t made sense. It has been a pattern of confusion on repeat, because I am happy…but then i’m not. And the pictures I share of capturing my positive and blessed moments are all real – but they are just that – moments! And now, after more weeks of hiding indoors and only facing the world for school runs, and for all of those days of painting on a smile followed by talking lots and lots so I seem like I’m okay, I finally went with Nathan to see a Dr who referred me to the Mental health team.

I felt scared.

I felt anxious.

I felt like I had failed.

I felt as though I wasn’t enough.

But then I felt so much relief too – relief that I had finally accessed the help I needed.

For 3.5 years as I have sat in despair and mostly alone whilst these triggers have pushed me down, and as I have said in great despair and in anger and frustration, the words “I.NEED.HELP” over and over again – I finally got it. I was told after an initial assessment (and previously by my counsellor friend too) “Mary, I think you have PTSD!”.

I think I already knew that from my counselling course, but to hear those words suddenly gave me hope that if I have something wrong, that means I can be better. I can be more consistently happy, I can grieve in a more healthy way and I can be more confident and more free. I can be a better wife and mother.. a better friend and I can be well again.

The thing about PTSD that they made a point of telling me about during this consultation was that other than the anxiety attached to the trauma, we are otherwise mentally well. This explains why sometimes in life I am well and happy and having a laugh, and why at other times I am depressed, anxious and in despair!

Next week I will see a private psychotherapist and begin therapy to help me overcome the negative trauma of losing my baby girl at term. I will learn techniques to help me remember and focus on the positives of her life and presence in our family, and how to preserve her legacy without it damaging me day to day. I will be able to see life in a positive light as opposed to one of despair and fear, and consequently I will rewire my thought patterns to help me have less of these debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

To have this diagnosis makes so much sense. It means I am not losing my mind or unable to heal and let go. It means I am ill and I am living with the consequences of having trauma in my life. When Nathan and I have discussed it, it kind of all makes sense – How could I find out my baby had died, carry a dead baby inside of me for 2 days and then birth her. How could I look at one of my children dead – see her and be told I could no longer have her with me, send her to a funeral home and then bury her in the ground and return home empty, and not suffer some serious issues to my brain?

How could I think that continuing a normal life when I have experienced something so painfully life changing and awful the following weeks and months be possible?

I have suffered something horrendous that most will not in life, so please don’t tell me to get on with it or be happy for what I have when I am exhibiting symptoms associated with trauma. Please don’t pacify me with comparing others trials – These are unrelated. My blessings cannot compensate for the mental disruption the trauma of stillbirth has caused. Of course I love my family and they bring me great joy. Of course we have many things to be happy about – I am incredibly blessed – but I am also fighting a psychological disorder caused by seeing one of my children dead and that is a bit of a mess some days! It blocks me from being able to see the joy in all things and whilst on occasion I do, some days and weeks it consumes me.

I am grateful for those in my life that have consistently shown me compassion and understanding. For those who always ask how I am and take thought in announcing things they know will cause me pain. I am grateful for the friends that accept me on a daily basis wherever I am mentally and emotionally! Thank you for giving me the space to be honest and share how hard this is!

Perhaps people will read this blog and decide to be more patient and understanding – perhaps they will just continue with their life and leave me to mine – because it wasn’t them and they still don’t get it. Either way I feel hopeful now that I can find relief from my anguish and suffering. That I can reach a more healthy place to remember my daughter without the crushing pain and emotions of remembering her death, birth and burial. I hope I can remember her with fondness instead of seeing the traumatic events that followed that night when I was told “there was no heartbeat”! I hope I can have more meaningful relationships without the wedge of loss and I hope I can see in more clarity and less tarnish!

*If you can relate to things I have spoken about in this post, and have suffered a traumatic event in your life, please, please, please contact your GP or local mental health team. The longer you live with PTSD the harder it is for your brain to function and find happiness! 

 

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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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