Browsing Tag


Mental health and wellbeing

Making sense of the reactions of others: The magical mystery of mentalizing

Something that has really struck me the most since losing Orla is the huge impact that the reactions of others can have on you and your grieving journey.  I am grateful to say that this has been predominantly positive; but I have also been surprised by how some words and actions have been painful in ways that I had never before imagined.  In fact, the responses of others can be utterly devastating at a time when you are feeling at your most vulnerable.  As humans, we always seek to understand why someone responds in a certain way: what are their intentions and what do they hope to achieve?  We want to make sense, to put their actions into a box, so that we in turn can know how we should react both in terms of how we feel and what we do.

Yet this is actually a hell of a lot more difficult than it sounds.  Once our own emotions are triggered and our buttons are pressed, our ability to hold an open mind in understanding others is diminished.  We lose our own ability to mentalize. Mentalization is the one psychological model that I think has helped me the most in navigating life whilst grieving.  It hasn’t fixed things or taken away the pain, but it has enabled me to (sometimes, not always) take a position of curiosity rather than being completely overwhelmed by hurt and anger.
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The complexities of announcing a pregnancy after loss

After losing Orla, there was initially an overwhelming innate need to be pregnant again, to grow a baby that we would bring home and pour our overflowing love into.  However, it also felt terrifying – the thought of starting again, knowing what we know now.  That not all babies make it.  Then came the fear that stopped us from actually trying as well as the shock and numbness that meant that days and weeks passed without us really understanding how.  As medically advised, we duly waited a few months and I did what I could to get myself physically and mentally ready.  Whatever that actually means, since I think that no one can ever by fully prepared for pregnancy after loss.
When the positive test was actually in front of us, I think we were in complete shock and disbelief.  I didn’t anticipate how many confusing and conflicting emotions would come with pregnancy after loss: the renewed waves of grief, the guilt, the isolation, the extreme anxiety.  The sudden reality that another baby was beginning its own journey in the place that Orla had grown only months before bought both comfort and sadness.  I wondered if this was more significant when you lose your first child – this sense of a sacred space that has only been known by you and your firstborn.  I felt an increased sense of guilt that I hadn’t been able to keep Orla alive and that I was now hoping that I would be able to do so with her younger sibling.  And then an overwhelming fear that my body would fail and we would lose yet another baby. Continue Reading


I didn’t know that I was allowed to feel sad

I am aware that I haven’t ever written about my first loss, yet I have found my mind contemplating this a lot over the last few weeks.  Long days of driving alone have allowed my mind to meander through a number of events and as it is Baby Loss Awareness Week, it felt right to write something now.  I’m also aware that I haven’t read many accounts of ectopic pregnancies before, which is interesting seeing as this is the outcome for 1/100 pregnancies.  Not all end in the way that mind did, as some are caught earlier and can be managed less invasively.  But for me, I was suddenly made aware of the many dangers, some life threatening, that women can face on their journey to motherhood.
It was a Monday morning when I started bleeding.  We had been trying for a baby for four months and I had just finished my period the week before; no baby this month.  I called the GP in a bit of a panic as I was feeling unwell and shocked by the heavy unexpected flow.  She was blunt and to the point – ‘the last time someone described these symptoms to me, they were pregnant’.  I responded by asking if this meant that I would be miscarrying and she curtly replied that this was ‘a possible theory’ and that I should come in and see her that evening. Continue Reading

Mental health and wellbeing

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints

“The real essence of your distinctive footprints may least be felt in your presence and much more in your absence”
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Andy and I like to travel, although I’m more of a novice.  Andy has visited over 80 countries and taken on many weird and wonderful adventures.  A year after we met, changes in work circumstances meant that we both left our jobs and travelled for 7 months through Africa and South America together.  Andy pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I could – and although at the time I often cursed him for it, I was always grateful afterwards.

We have found a shared love of seeing animals in their own habitats; mountain gorillas in Uganda, The Big Five in the Serengeti, sharks in South Africa.  We have stargazed in the Atacama desert and walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  We have visited witch doctors in remote African villages.  And when we found out that we were pregnant, we started to dream of taking our child to these places.  To give them the opportunity to see the beauty of the world through an unfiltered lens.  We discussed our desire for them to see animals in the wild rather than at the zoo and for them to learn to understand and appreciate diversity and other cultures.
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Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother

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Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother
Your happy birth or pregnancy news or beautiful family photos may be a painful reminder of everything she has lost.  Her response may be sadness or overwhelming pain.  It may be intense anxiety or possibly even panic; a fear of how she will be able to cope as your belly swells, or your baby grows.  A need to run and hide.
It can trigger a renewed sense of grief and be a stark reminder of everything she has lost.  She may feel guilt and shame that she was not able to bring her baby home.  She may again question herself, her abilities and whether she did something wrong.  Did she miss a sign or eat the wrong food?  She may wonder if she has done something to deserve her fate when others are able to avoid such suffering.  If she is a bad person.  Or worse – a bad mother.
It may be hard for her to say how she feels, through fear of being judged as bitter or selfish.  This only adds to the guilt and shame she may feel.  She may congratulate you with enthusiasm or glassed over eyes, attend baby showers and birthdays, like your photos; but know that her fragile heart is potentially shattered that bit more each time.  She may instead avoid, make excuses not to attend but find it hard to put into words why.  Please don’t take this personally or criticise, but instead recognise and name for her that you understand that this might be difficult.  Spare her of this additional burden. Continue Reading