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Letters To The Other Chair

To the sister who has recently become a mother…

In the early months after Miles was born I was given the opportunity to write a letter for @from_the_other_chair’s incredible blog. It could be to anyone, about anything; so I decided to write to my sister. So Sophie this is for you. 

Not a week goes past where someone doesn’t comment to me that it must be so hard being surrounded by so many babies. I don’t deny that sometimes it really is – they can ignite our grief, make our arms physically ache a little more than they already do, stir up all sorts of emotions and a kind of jealousy that feels very foreign to me. Why isn’t my baby here too? It just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel fair at all. 

But for me personally they provide a source of comfort, love and immense joy at the very same time. I have so much love to give and I feel so blessed that I have two perfect nieces in my life to be on the receiving end of this. With every encounter my heart grows a little bigger and a little stronger. 

I know from speaking to other bereaved parents that this isn’t always the case, with some losing family or friendships due to them finding it too difficult to be around new babies – and this I can completely empathise with. I read something today that stated ‘when a stimulus triggers extreme feelings of pain or anxiety this is in fact a result of trauma, NOT jealousy’ and the trauma caused by the death of your child can take years to overcome. I can completely see how the trauma and grief for your own baby can overpower every other emotion you would normally feel and make it impossible at times to be happy for anyone else.

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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear me…

If you could go back to the old you, what would you say?  What words of wisdom and compassion would you try to impart?  What snippet of the future would you dare to share?  With any loss, there is a ‘before’ you and an ‘after’ you. They are both the same and undeniably different.  There are secondary losses to navigate but with time you may learn to notice some gains. Some shards of light in the rubble. Old you may not believe this could be true.  But the seed of hope is a powerful one.

In this poignant letter to her past self, Emma Hartley shares the things she wishes she could have told herself when she received the devastating news of her daughter Eilys’ terminal diagnosis. You can find Emma on Instagram at @hashtag_emma

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Dear Me after we got our daughters terminal diagnosis,

I know that you feel like the weight of this diagnosis is going to crush you. I know that you have no idea how to begin to process the things that you have just heard. I know that you were expecting the worst but I also know that you really weren’t expecting the worst at all. The mind plays funny tricks on you in situations like this. 

I know that your brain will struggle to process a terminal diagnosis. How could it be true? Eilys is so full of life, so happy and so present. But then if you look a bit closer, you can see it. She stopped hitting milestones; she is 6 months old and she can’t support her head very well any more, she barely moves her legs and she has never sat up or rolled. The battle inside your head will keep striking painful blows but it will get easier. You will eventually come to terms with it. It will just take time. And don’t feel bad that you aren’t accepting things, you are just protecting yourself and that is fine. You will keep doing it. You won’t see her deteriorate because you will always try to put a positive spin on it. You will know deep down but at the same time you won’t allow yourself to dwell on it.

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Letters To The Other Chair

Dear time…

Time is so often revered as the healer of all things; ‘it takes time’; ‘all in good time’. Yet in life after loss it can be cruel and confusing.  We wish for it to turn back so that we can in some way re-write history.  We wish for it to stand still for fear that moving away from our loved ones will destroy the precious few memories we have.  We wish for it to speed forwards, to a time when we may smile spontaneously and sing out loud again.

In this letter to Time, Jess @the_maeve_effect perfectly captures the complexity of our relationship with the one thing in life we cannot change.

Jess became both a mother and a bereaved mother in April 2013, when her first baby, Maeve died during an induced labour. She has since survived two further pregnancies, both fraught with worries, but worth every anxious second to bring Maeve’s siblings home. Since losing Maeve, Jess has found solace in writing, and healing in the power of finding words to capture her struggles with life after loss. She hopes that by sharing her grief journey, she might be able to offer some comfort to other grieving souls, as she has found such great support within the inspiring community of warrior parents. Jess lives in Ayrshire, Scotland, where life is a beautifully chaotic and complicated ride of parenting all three of her children.

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Letters To The Other Chair

To the mum who is struggling to adjust…

The transition to motherhood is something that is difficult to put into words. It is greater than the shift in role and identity and shines a spotlight on every part of you that you thought you once knew. The feelings are intense and often contradictory. And even when you are surrounded by people, it can be a lonely and confusing time. But if you too are struggling with the adjustment to this new role and identity, you are not alone, and as Emma captures in her letter, there is help and there is hope.

Emma Cottam is owner of Isabella and Us., editor and creator of the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and mummy to Isabella. This letter is written from personal experience of the past year of becoming a mum, her struggles with the transition and diagnosis with PND.

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To the mum who is struggling to adjust,

I’ve been there. When my daughter Isabella was born last December, just 9 days before Christmas Day I struggled to adjust to my new ‘role’. I struggled on for 5 long months without asking for any help; I struggled alone with the thoughts racing around my mind. Thoughts that my daughter didn’t need me, thoughts that I wasn’t a good enough mother, thoughts that my husband no longer loved me because he now had my daughter and didn’t need me anymore. I was embarrassed for feeling like I didn’t want to be a mum anymore and feeling guilty for feeling that way after I had longed for a baby. I spent months just going through the motions, never feeling fully present, not enjoying anything. 

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Letters To The Other Chair

To those who go {un}noticed…

Loss can bring so many people into your lives; individuals you had no idea existed; professions that you had never needed before; whole networks that seek to make the worst days of your life that bit more manageable.  It may be part of their job to help the bereaved, but to the bereaved what they do is so much more than just a job.  And In this letter, Lindsey from @elsiesmoon captures her experience perfectly

“We are Elsie’s Mummy & Daddy, Lindsey & Chris.  Elsie was born on 3rd August 2018, with a super speedy, drama-queen entrance into the world. Much to Mummy & Daddy’s surprise, she had a full head of long fluffy, black hair – the ginger and bald genes were nowhere to be seen! Elsie fought hard for 17 hours, she did us so proud. Her short little life has made lasting memories for everyone who met her and made a huge impact on those who loved her already.

During the worst time of our lives, we had the honour of meeting some of the most incredible people. Our letter goes out to those who probably think they did nothing to help, but in fact are those who helped the most.”

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Dear those who go {un}noticed,

To the midwife on duty the night Elsie was born. Thank you for cleaning me and helping me get dressed. Thank you for finding us another room where we couldn’t hear babies crying. Thank you for making us endless amounts of tea and toast, and not being upset when they were left untouched.

To the friend that was awake at 4am when I needed someone more than ever. Thank you for reading to my messages that probably made no sense. Thank you for staying awake with me. 

To the neo natal consultant that took care of Elsie. Thank you for doing everything you could for her. Thank you for sitting with us and explaining everything so we could (try to) understand. Thank you for being so helpful, considerate and such a lovely person. We trusted you from the minute we met you and knew you’d do everything you could for Elsie.

To the hospital vicar. Thank you for blessing Elsie. Thank you for calling her a queen, and treating her just the same as any other baby. Thank you for making us smile through our tears at one of our darkest times.

To the funeral home ladies. Thank you for letting us cry. Thank you for looking after Elsie as if she was your own, for bathing and dressing her too. Thank you for listening to every detail of what we wanted for our daughter, and making the day no one should ever have to do so much easier than we could have hoped for.

To the church vicar. Thank you for making time for us, and always remembering Elsie. Thank you for the most beautiful of services for our little lady, we are so grateful for this day.

To Elsie’s ‘nearly birth’ midwife. Thank you for taking control and making us feel safe that night. Thank you for coming back the following day, meeting Elsie and being there for us. Thank you for taking us under your wing, for giving us information, for helping us through the tough times, for allowing us to moan and to cry, and for loving Elsie nearly as much as we do. Thank you for totally “getting it”. Thank you for being our rock.

To the neo natal consultant at Elsie’s inquest. Thank you for asking her name. Thank you for continuously checking we were ok. Thank you for remembering us and Elsie, and thank you for trusting us to share your story too. 

To those that are there for us. Thank you for not being scared of, and also just knowing what to say. Thank you for distracting us when needed, but also knowing this is a daily struggle of ours that will never go away. Thank you for listening to us cry, laughing with us, letting us rant, and continuously checking in on us. Thank you for bringing us food, walking the dogs with us and most of all, talking about Elsie.

You may all feel your actions were not noticed, your words were not heard or “you were just doing your job”. To us, it was so much more than that. 

You all made the hardest of times, just that little bit easier. You took away a fraction of the pain. You held us when we needed it. And for that, we are eternally grateful. 

Our hearts are full of so much love for you all. Keep being amazing humans, the world needs more people like you.

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