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Baby loss

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 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

 

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Dear Jealousy,

 

A wise man once said:

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy” [Theodore Roosevelt]
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