A THOUGHT FOR THOSE ON INTERNATIONAL BEREAVED MOTHER’S DAY >
Sunday 6th May 2018
“WE DO NOT RETURN TO WHO WE ONCE WERE AFTER THE LOSS OF A CHILD, WE BEGIN A SECOND LIFE”…
There’s definitely been many, many times over the last fifteen months where I’ve described my ‘current self’ as a shadow of my ‘former self’. To be completely honest though, I don’t even remember the ‘old SJ’. I’m positive this is my brain’s way of protecting me – it’s definitely my heart’s way. Experiencing such a traumatising loss is paralysing, IN EVERY RESPECT. The world seems to go on as though nothing happened, and you’re stuck in a fog of the most extreme pain and grief. The anger, the confusion, the envy, the bitterness – it’s crippling. I’m sure any bereaved mother will tell you the hardest part is actually the LOVE. The LOVE we are unable to physically give to our child. It wasn’t until Charlotte’s one year anniversary on January 10th 2018, I really began this ‘second life’. I FINALLY found MY NEW NORMAL.
I still suffer severe PTSD with all and any pelvic scans, as I am instantly taken back to the worst moment of my life. For the most part though, I am happy and proud of who I have become, and how much I’ve grown. Traumas like this do NOT make you stronger. They force you into a SURVIVAL MODE that requires the deepest, and darkest level of strength and persistence there is – I believe. ANYWAY… Today’s post is not to dredge-up how shit this is, but to honour all the bereaved mothers out there, as International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day approach. Below I’ve shared my own tips for speaking with a bereaved mother, and I know from my friends on @thelanguageofloss, I am not alone with these suggestions. I’ve learnt it’s also incredibly hard for friends and family to process a loss like this, and to know what is the ‘right thing to say’, so I hope this small insight helps.
To ALL the women who have reached out to me over the last fifteen months and understand this pain, THANK YOU. I don’t know how I would have survived those initial months without you, and your stories. May this Sunday and the next be gentle, and embrace whatever feels arise – there is no right or wrong way to feel. SJ x
TIPS & SUGGESTIONS ON WHAT YOU CAN SAY TO HONOUR A BEREAVED MOTHER:
Bereaved mothers (fathers and siblings) are everywhere. They have suffered through miscarriages, stillbirths, neonatal deaths, or they may have lost children to accidents or illness. The further heartbreak of these stories, is that most are lived in silence. While we all grieve in our own ways, WE GRIEVE BECAUSE WE LOVE.
I found myself getting SO ANGRY at some of the comments I received in those initial months. I was so broken and full of rage, that any little thing would set me off. It was an opportunity to deflect some pain and blame, as I was unable to do this for Charlotte. There was no one to blame – LIFE CHOSE US. Fifteen months down the track, I am definitely able to let certain comments slide now. Even if I feel they are insensitive or rude, 99.9% of the time, they are coming from a good place.
SAY SOMETHING & MAKE CONTACT:
We do get it… It’s hard to know what to say, but child-loss isn’t contagious. If you think it’s tough for you, imagine what it’s like for us. Suck it up and reach out when you hear the news. Please. Even if it’s as simple as: “I am so sorry for your loss” – it’s a start. For me, acknowledgement of Charlotte’s existence meant EVERYTHING. It was not about the fact that she had died, it was that SHE HAD LIVED.
DO NOT SAY: “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON”:
IT. DOES. NOT. The end.
SAY THEIR NAME:
I couldn’t have made it more clear to those around me that I NEEDED to hear Charlotte’s name, and have her existence acknowledged. I guess many felt awkward saying her name, I don’t know. I have a few friends who to this day will always bring over some fresh roses, a rose candle or a rose perfume – in honour of her memory, and to remind ME they have NOT forgotten about Charlotte Rose. I cannot tell you how much that means to me… Please, please, SAY THEIR NAME.
“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you are afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died – you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is, that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift” – Elizabeth Edwards.
SHOW & OFFER SUPPORT:
This could be as simple as a text message every week, every month, just checking-in. A message that does not necessarily require an answer, but just letting them know you are thinking of them – these were the ones that warmed my heart (and still do). For a good six months, I was unable to return most calls and text messages. I didn’t want to see anyone and I barely left the house. Everything was a trigger and I was too fragile. You could offer simple things you used to do together: eg. getting your nails done, a blowave, a dinner, anything! They might not want to, but the invite is what counts. My friends were fantastic at trying to include me in social things, even though I never went to anything – they didn’t alienate me. It’s also important to know, our silence is not a reflection of how we feel towards you, our friendship or the love we have for you – we’re just too busy SURVIVING. It’s fkn exhausting…
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR DETAILS:
Obviously every mother and the relationship you have with them is different, but don’t be afraid to ask. I know I was so grateful for those who did actually ask what happened to Charlotte, those who asked to see photos of her and those who asked if I wanted to talk about it – YES, YES, YES. This was the acknowledgment I craved from those around me. As that beautiful quote says above: you are not reminding us of our loss, we haven’t forgotten. You are acknowledging that they lived, and also OUR PREGNANCY (stillbirths & miscarriages specifically). For me I grieved both and still do. My baby girl was taken from me, as was my pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to ask what the boundaries are – many women might not want to share, but more will want to.
Of course every situation and mother is different, but with regards to what I said earlier about ‘the old SJ’ – this is a big one. When your child dies, part of you also dies. That is the honest truth. You do change as a person from that moment, and part of the grief is losing your LIFE BEFORE THE LOSS. I grieve that too… I miss her, but it is what it is. Remind your loved one of funny memories, jokes/memes you used to laugh at. I promise you, even if they can’t physically give you a smile, their heart is smiling at the effort you are making. Approach it carefully with your wording, but try and keep THEIR MEMORY and YOUR MEMORIES TOGETHER, alive.
THINGS TO AVOID SAYING…
“Everything happens for a reason”, “some babies are just not meant to be”, “your child is in a better place”, “at least you have (Mia Grace)”, “be grateful for your other children”, “at least it happened early”, “everything will be ok”, “it will make you stronger”, “but at least you got to meet her”… Just to name a few. If you are struggling with what to say, ASK. Ask your loved one what THEY NEED – they will tell you, and be ready for it to change on a daily basis – along with our moods.
REMEMBER, REMEMBER, REMEMBER:
Of course any child’s birthday and/or milestones are important, but particularly for bereaved mothers who survive each day without their child – they need it most. Remember their due dates, their birthdays and any other important dates (for me it was Jan 4th 2017 – her 20 week scan… The worst fkn day of my life). Send them a message, give them a little present, just let them know YOU REMEMBER.
In our home, Charlotte’s name is said on a daily basis. For some reason MG calls every single one of her dolls “Baby Charlotte”, or “Charlotte”. They have tea parties together, she reads to her and her wild imagination takes them on so many gorgeous adventures together. THIS IS WHAT HEALS MY HEART. We have photos of Charlotte around the house, and on many occasions I’ve seen MG reading stories to her. THIS KEEPS HER MEMORY ALIVE. So please, do the same.
Like all topics I discuss on my blog, THIS IS MY JOURNEY, and mine alone. My way is not the right way, it’s MY WAY. I couldn’t be more about supporting the sisterhood and embracing the philosophy of EACH TO THEIR OWN. There is so much hate and negativity online, it sickens me. I’m here only to share my story in the hope it will help others know they are not alone, and also give everyone else a small insight into my world. If it’s not for you? No problem. Just remember those around you might be fighting a battle you know nothing about. Please reach out to anyone you know who has experienced the loss of a child or pregnancy this Sunday 6th May, please.
WE ALL HAVE A STORY, AND THIS IS MINE.
To my little rose petal… You have never left. You are part of me and this family – forever. I think about you every waking second, and one day I have faith we will be together again. Love always, mummy x