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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear NHS…

Dear NHS,

It’s not you, it’s me. Or at least I thought it was for a long time. The inability to get everything done within the working week; constantly worrying about the never shrinking to do list. I thought it was all about me and my failings – and given my vulnerability to feeling this way, I just worked harder. And harder. Until things changed. 

Major life events have a way of doing this to you. They tip everything on its head and force you re-evaluate. Becoming a parent, losing a child and parenting so soon after loss – they all made my skin paper thin. They left me feeling all the things that overworking had locked away. They helped me to see what I could and could not do. And more importantly they showed me that my well-being mattered too.

I love my career. It is something that defines me as a person.  In fact, I’ve dedicated so much of my life to training and working in psychology, that I don’t know who I am without it. The NHS has played the biggest part of this: almost fifteen and a half years, seven Mental Health Trusts, twelve placements / jobs all over the country and many, many clients. I’ve worked with adults, with children, in secure forensic wards and prison, in the community and in people’s homes. I started before the major salary restructures, before the recent years of austerity and I have seen services cut, cut and cut again, with staff being asked to do more and more with less. Or, worse still, learning to say no and close the doors to those who need it most.

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Letters To The Other Chair

To my boys…

I often wonder how I would have coped if I had needed to parent other children when Orla died.  How would I have managed my own grief alongside theirs?  How would I have explained what had happened to their sibling? Although it may sound strange, I sometimes feel lucky that I had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in those early weeks and months; with no one else depending on me, I had the freedom to just be with my grief.  Yet so many bereaved parents have other children to protect and support at a time when they too need the same.

 

In this letter to her sons, Lucie articulates her experiences beautifully.  I am sure that the intensity of love and protection in parenting after loss will resonate with many.

 

“I’m Lucie a nearly 40 year old mum of five.  Beau was our fourth child, our fourth boy and he was stillborn in June 2016. I pine for him every day and I don’t think that will ever change.
We had our rainbow, Seraphina Hope, our only daughter in August 2017. We call her our little heart healer as she’s helping to heal us all.

 

I’m married to my soulmate and we live a happy, simple but boring life surrounded by our family and friends.
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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear jealousy…

Jealousy is one of those things that we don’t want to admit to – not in it’s true sense anyway.  “So jealous!” might be something we exclaim in response to someone’s good fortune or exciting news, but how comfortable are we in really connecting with the real felt experience of jealousy?  Society encourages us to say that we are not a ‘jealous person’.  In many ways, it is demonised.  And yet jealousy is a normal emotion.  It is how we respond to and interact with that emotion that counts.

 

In this letter, Anna is compassionate towards her own experience of this emotion, but empowered to take back the control.  She says:

 

“I wrote this letter because jealousy has a horrible habit of creeping into the parts of life which should be the most joyful (baby announcements, family events, and holidays, to name a few). It’s not often spoken about, and is considered deeply unattractive, yet we all experience it and often suffer the effects in silence. 19 months after the death of my daughter, I needed to redress the balance.”

 

Anna is mummy of Amelia (in our hearts) and Beatrice (in our arms) and can be found on Instagram @love_from_mummy

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Dear Jealousy,

 

A wise man once said:

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy” [Theodore Roosevelt]
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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear Vilomah (you are not alone)…

When Orla died, I became aware of this quote that has been associated with Ronald Reagan who himself lost a child:

 

“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”

 

As a lover of words, and as someone who devotes their life to finding ways to which to understand and describe things, this quote stuck with me.  We have so many words in the English language and yet not one that captures what it is to be a bereaved parent.  ‘Maybe it’s because it is so rare’ some may say.  Yet it is not.  There are thousands upon thousands of parents who are left questioning their identity in the wake of child loss.  Who feel invisible to the rest of the world.  And Nicole is someone who refuses to allow this to continue.

 

Nicole is the founder of Our Missing Peace, a charity that aims to spread awareness of pregnancy, baby and child loss and to help bereaved parents know that they are not alone.  Through Nicole, I have become aware of the term Vilomah, which is Sanskrit for ‘against the natural order’.  Because that is what baby and child loss is; it is against the natural order of life.  Nicole is campaigning to make this word more widely used and to give all parents who have experienced loss a clear identity.
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Letters To The Other Chair

To the parent whose baby has died (from the doctor who cared for you)…

I will never forget the doctor who told me that Orla had died. I cannot bring her face to mind, bit when I saw her coming out of a hospital room some months later, I knew instantly who she was.  I remember her gentle tentativeness, her hand touching my leg, the sound of ‘I’m so sorry’. I remember her administering the pessary to induce labour and her willingness to sit and talk through the procedure.  She was young, probably quite early in her career.  But she was kind.  I can’t say the same for every person I came into contact with, and I know that so many parents have had very varied experiences.  However, I am grateful to have had someone who was able to show compassion at the time that I needed it most.

As someone who provides consultation and supervision to a range of professionals, I know full well how little emotional support is available to many medical staff.  But reading This is Going to Hurt (Adam Kay’s book) sucker punched me with it even more. Every single day, the staff that we so value in the NHS are dealing with life and death.  New life and death.  Death before life begins.  And yet they are often given little space to process or debrief. Continue Reading