When somebody dies it can feel like there’s a whole in your heart; like a part of you has died too. Yet it’s such a common occurrence: some 150,000 people die every day on earth. We all know someone who has died; most of us have lost someone close in the family at some point. Grieving is never easy. People go through depression, counselling and even physical health deterioration in a period of grief. There have even been times when people with weak hearts have died from grief; when their heartbreak was too strong to cope with and their hearts failed. Still, most of us have to find a way to move on. You know that many people will die in your lifetime, and somehow you have to accept that. But the one thing you always expect to have in life is your children: the younger generations. So what do you do when you are left without your child?
I decided to write this piece because today marks one month since I lost my third born: Teddy. He was born at 16 weeks weighing a little less than 1oz: the size of your hand; just 19 months after his sister, Willow was stillborn at 32 weeks weighing 3lb 4oz. Their older brother, Oscar, knows about his younger siblings and misses them – but their losses have taught him an early understanding of life, death and the way the world works. I believe they have helped him in a way, to understand his own emotions. I write this in memory of my babies who aren’t here and the 6 other early pregnancies that I lost and never got to meet. I also write this in memory of every child who is gone, and in support of every parent who has ever lost a child.
After my first stillbirth, I didn’t think I would ever recover. It’s not a pain I can ever describe, except to perhaps consider that someone has stabbed you in the chest and is tearing your heart out. You cry your heart out, but you can’t find the air to breathe so your sobs are strangled and pitiful. It’s like someone has ripped a piece of you away. You scream, you swear, you weep and then finally you are silent. As you try and comprehend the future.
Now, I don’t write this as a self-help piece to teach anyone anything. I share my own story and experience in the hopes that others will not only like the piece: but some will find it helpful. Perhaps reading a story similar to your own is comforting. Maybe this will even help you move on.
The pain was worse than labour. I would rather have gone through labour 100 times over than felt the agony ripping through my chest. And so first of all, I shut it out. I was in denial. And then came the anger. I was so enraged and angry at myself. Was it my fault. Had I done this? Had I done something wrong? My thoughts went crazy: and I needed to concentrate on labour. I had to deliver my child. So, I switched off my emotions. An unhealthy choice, yes, but it stopped the crying and allowed me to rest. (From here began my awful stress migraines though).
After delivering my child I accepted she was gone, but could not let her go. I kept asking for just a little more time with her. We were lucky enough to have a special suite in hospital where we could deliver and spend time with our sleeping child: and hospital “cold cots” allowed her to stay with us. We spent three long days in her company before leaving her – the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. I just kept repeating, to no one in particular, “I’ll do anything.” I’d have done anything to bring her back. I’d have gone through torture, death, pain, misery just to see her for a moment. To feel her kicking again. To listen to her heart beat. But it wasn’t to be… so I kept my emotions shut off.
Every couple of days I would allow myself to cry again: grieve a little, release my emotions. But I was completely lost. I tried to lose myself more: forget everything else and work. From here I started to fund raise for charity and build my photography business further and I must admit that it helped to devote my attention to something else: to feel successful and useful and needed when I was not anymore. When the baby that should have been needing me to feed it, change it and hold it was not here. To do something else worthwhile with my time was the best medication I could have found.
Once I’d raised a good amount of money and donated it, I let myself rest. And I knew I was making myself ill by ignoring my feelings… So I let myself cry. Truly cry. I let myself feel. I slowed down, stopped everything and felt again. And the pain was no better – it never hurt any less. It never stopped or eased, I was miserable. The months that followed were agony to deal with, I contemplated ending my life to end the pain and be with her again. It hurt so much that I just wanted it all to stop. Once, I made a plan and nearly went through with it.
But I didn’t and I am here today. 19 months later and I have lost another child. This time, however, I let myself cry and grieve and hate and shout and hurt and do whatever I needed. I did not shut off, and I have been much healthier for it. Four weeks on and I am struggling, but at the acceptance that took me 19 months to reach after losing Willow. I now accept that I have lost my children and cannot get them back – as tormenting as that sentence is to write. I would still trade anything to have them back, go through any pain or suffering… but I accept that I cannot. I am finally on a steady track to happiness again: no, I am not happy. No, I am not where I want to be in life. But I’m certainly a hell of a lot better than where I was before, and that is a great accomplishment to me. All we can do is take steps, baby steps, and move on.