Staying connected while grieving

grieving

I’ve been there , I’m still there , I choose joy.

It’s almost 6 years since my beautiful first daughter Rosie was stillborn.
In an instant I felt as though I was about to fall off the edge of the universe. My screams echoed around me , but not from me. No God – Take me! Outside looking in at Simon holding me as I screamed – was I already dead?
I willed my body silent , couldn’t she close those eyes and just go now?
Instead I watched her sit , I watched her borrow the midwifes phone to ring home , I watched her gaze un-moving at the phone in her hand , ‘is that your son? – he’s beautiful’. Still gentle , still polite , still Helen.
The birth was harder than I ever could have imagined . The pain we so graciously endure in anticipation of the joy to follow ,would not be my experience – this time.
As I sat on the hospital bed with my still, lifeless baby in my arms , faced with the heartbreaking task of dressing her in the only babygro she would ever wear , I glanced up and saw my beautiful 2 year old son sat on the floor with a box of pringles.
In an instant , my attachment parented nursling felt miles away and the disconnect began.
Overtaken by grief , I drifted off. Spending most days searching the Internet for someone who understood. It was 2011 , a time before facebook groups, but I did find a few blogs by women as grief-stricken as I. Some were 2 , 3 or even 10 years on, writing they’d never recovered , and that a grief like ours forever changes you.The thought scared me. I already felt a distance forming between Kevin and I , could this really be our story now?
Here’s what I learned , and wish I could have found online back then.If I can help even 1 grieving mother see the light , this post will have been worth the vulnerability of writing it.

Dear grieving mother,

I’ve been there , I’m still there , I choose joy.

Please remember that you have not failed and this is not your fault.

I was afraid to even allow myself to think it – but it was there in the back of my mind , the guilt . I’d failed to deliver our baby and it hurt so bad to see my husbands pain and grief.It wasn’t my fault , it probably wasn’t anyone’s fault . While I could blame my midwife or Dr for not forcing induction when I reached 42 weeks , or not picking up on a problem during my daily check-ups , or even for not checking on me often enough during early labour that day , how would that serve me? And , it wont serve you either. Practice forgiveness , forgive yourself , forgive everyone else involved , and set yourself free.

 

You will wonder how the hell you will ever survive this pain.

But you will. And the person that you will become will be even more whole than the person you knew before.When the joy you exude has long since been your identity it can be scary to feel such a depth of sadness. When you look in the mirror and see you have lost all sparkle from your eyes and your smile looks fake no matter how much heart you try to put into it , you feel like a shell of the person you once were -you’re at a cross road and its up to you to choose which direction you’ll take.You can let grief overtake you forever more , you can sit in a darkened room and no one would blame you.

Or ,

you can choose joy. You and only you , can choose the direction of the energy you put out into this world.

You will love as intensely as you hurt.

 

You will still question ‘why us?’  These thoughts and emotions are all valid , but remember that they are transient and you will not be consumed by them.

Relationships will change.

Some friends won’t be able to cope with your pain.  This is not your responsibility. Let them Go. Other friends will show the amazing capacity of their heart. They will know how to hold you , as you need held , as you fluctuate from grief to joy to grief again allow them to help you and thank them. Seeking and accepting help doesn’t mean you’re not coping. It doesn’t mean you’re not choosing joy , you are on the road to joy. The beautiful winding road. Choose to enjoy the journey.Express your gratitude.

You will be a different person, which is hard, But the core you is still in there. And you will grow into someone new, someone stronger, someone with more compassion and with a bigger heart.

The contrast of your intense pain will become a new barometer in your life , increasing the intensity of your joy  and will give you back the sparkle in your eyes and the fire and determination in your belly.

Know that your baby will always be with you.Wherever you go and whatever you do.Never born into her body she has a freedom most of us have forgotten. She will be forever with you , spurring you on and giving you strength.An angel on your shoulder.

You couldn’t go then , no matter how much you longed to , for you still have so much , and thanks to this experience , even more , to give the world.This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

From my heart to yours

With love and in joy

Helen

 

In the days and weeks that followed my decision to choose joy , I concentrated on restrengthening the connection between Kevin and I.

  • The constant stream of Thomas the tank engine programs was turned off.
  • We spent a lot of quiet time (since that was what I needed) reading or playing play doh together.
  • We took nature walks , looking for Roses or white butterflies
  • My sadness hadn’t escaped him – on his 3rd birthday , 4 months later, I took him to the toy shop to choose a gift, he insisted he wanted a baby doll, and as soon as he left the shop he handed it to me “a baby for you Mummy – are you happy?” ,I thanked him (it’s now Lili’s favourite doll!), and I’m reminded every time I see it of what a kind and thoughtful boy he is.
  • We chatted lots , he tells me lots of stories , and I always stay mindful to listen intently.
  • I spent a lot of time just gazing adoringly at the little miracle he is.

And our connection grew. Perhaps we became even closer than we were before.

Rosie is still an important member of our family. We speak freely about her , and feel strongly about allowing her spirit to be free . I’m so grateful she came into our lives for those 42 weeks and amplified the love , connection and joy in my life.

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