Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: The Year of Aneurin

“You must be so pleased to see the back of this year.” 
"2016 can be a fresh start for you."
"A new year will help you move on." 

My 9 most liked photos on Instagram in 2015. Why would I want to move on from this?

2015 has been the best year of my life with the worst ending. It is the year I saw two pink lines for the first time, the year I truly understood the meaning of unconditional love, the year I became a mum. The year my heart grew a thousand times bigger and shattered a thousand times more than I had ever thought possible.

On 9th January 2015 I wandered into our living room in a complete daze and tried to convince my husband the word ‘not’ probably flashed up a few minutes after the word ‘pregnant’ on the magical piece of plastic clutched in my hand only to discover it didn’t. Four (cheaper, because those wordy ones are expensive…) tests later and the disbelief made way for sheer, never felt before, joy. The rapid swing between disbelief and joy didn't stop there. It carried on in different ways and for different reasons with a mass of other contrasting emotions throw in for good measure. 

In the first few weeks after Aneurin was born I wanted desperately to fast forward the grieving process. I wanted to heal and put myself back together. Now though, I want to sit with my grief for a bit longer. I want to feel that deep sadness that bores its way into my soul. I want to feel the scary, vastness of a life without Aneurin. I want to sob and wail until I can't breathe because it means he's still important. It means he is present and still the biggest part of my life. Putting myself back together and healing is scary. Far scarier than Aneurin not being here with us. 

I know he will never be gone. He is always with us, every step of the way. We keep him alive by talking about him, by remembering him and by honouring him. Our lives might develop and take new meaning but Aneurin was and will always be our first child. 

Today is the last day of this year. It is also five months to the day our big footed, soft cheeked boy was born. Five endings and five beginnings. Aneurin was in each and every one of those and I know he will be in the thousands more to come. 

I don’t want to move into 2016 without our son. I don’t want to have to say ‘last year’, I want to be able to say ‘this year'. I don’t want Aneurin to be my past, I want him to be my present and my future. I want to relive this year, including all the heartbreak and pain, a million times over. However, as always with grief, there is another facet. The one that brings hope. The hope that we might see the word ‘pregnant’ or two pink lines again next year. The hope that the love for our beautiful boy will start to overpower the pain of his loss. The hope that we find meaning in why he isn't here with us.

2015 was all about Aneurin and I'm not ready for that to be over. I need five more minutes. I will always need five more minutes. And so tonight, I won't be celebrating the year to come, I'll be celebrating the wonderful year that has passed.

Wishing you all a peaceful 2016,

Love,
Mrs D x
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To All My Fellow Bereaved Parents At Christmas

This is a hard week. It's a week we all had so many plans for. We had images of giggling babies mesmerised by twinkling lights, naughty toddlers poking holes in wrapped presents, excited children begging to stay up late to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas. We had dreams of quiet days at home with our precious little families or warm, noisy get togethers with four generations. Instead we have Christmas morning visits to the cemetary, an empty place at the dinner table and irrational fears the cat will knock our most special bauble off the tree. 

It's okay to pretend it isn't happening. 

It's okay to ignore invitations. 

It's okay to put every card you receive in the bin.

It's okay to stay in bed if you need to.

It's okay to leave an event half way through because it's too difficult. 

It's okay to do whatever you need to do in order to get through this time.

We are having a very quiet day. We'll be going out for lunch with both families as we didn't want either to be on their own. The place we're having lunch at have given us a private room away from the main restaurant so we won't have to see other families. In the afternoon my husband and I will go for a walk to the lakes we spent a lot of time at during my pregnancy to release a balloon and dedicate some time to Aneurin. We're then going to spend a few days at my parent's house being fed and looked after. 

This is not the Christmas we had hoped for. Nor is it the Christmas we're used to. It's just another day to get through and tick off the calendar. 

Support

Sands (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) telephone lines are open and emails will be checked regularly over the festive period to provide support for bereaved parents. They've been working on a Christmas appeal with Rakhee Thakrar (the Eastenders actor whose character, Shabnam Masood, recently experienced a stillbirth) over the last few weeks in order to fund the extra support. You can donate to the appeal by texting "Star31 £5" to 70070. Alongside this they are doing a campaign encouraging you to share a photograph of how you remember your baby at Christmas or download their image to share. More details on 'Star On Our Tree' here. 

Sands Helpline: 0207 436 5881 


Sands also have a forum where you can connect with other bereaved parents. It can be incredibly helpful to speak to someone with a shared experience so if you don't feel able to talk to someone on the phone it's worth giving the forum a try. Sands Forum.

Cruse Bereavement Care offer telephone, individual and group support to people who have suffered a bereavement of any kind. Their telephone line is also open over Christmas and their emails are monitored. Calls to Cruse cost 7p per minute but if cost is an issue, give them a quick ring or send them an email and they will arrange to call you back. There is also a helpful page on their website of ways to cope with grief over Christmas. 

Cruse Bereavement Helpline: 0844 477 9400



Be kind to yourselves. Practise self care. Take some time out to sit with your grief and remember your child in whatever way you can. There is no pressure to do anything you don't want to do or are not capable of doing. If anyone puts that pressure on you I hope you feel able to tell them it's not helpful. 

Whatever you are feeling please remember, it is normal and you are not alone.

Sending you all so much love, 
Mrs D x



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Monday, 14 December 2015

10 Christmas Decorations To Remember Your Baby

Christmas is a time for family. We spend a whole month trying to find the perfect gift for someone, planning what food we're going to feed our loved ones and seeing people we've neglected a little bit over the year. For me, Christmas has always been about the people I love.

Navigating our way through our first one without Aneurin is proving to be incredibly difficult. Harder than I anticipated in some ways. Every time I write 'Love Elena and Haydn' in a card or on a gift tag I do it with tears in my eyes because I should be adding 'and Aneurin'. No matter how many non-baby-related activities I do, there is still a huge Aneurin shaped hole. I shouldn't have time to watch all six Star Wars films back to back or be able to drink my body weight in Baileys. This isn't what we were expecting this Christmas to be like and it's hard to accept that this what it is.

We're taking Christmas at our own pace and not forcing ourselves to do anything just for the sake of 'making an effort' or jollying ourselves along. With that in mind we haven't decorated our house in the usual over the top manner that we (well, I!) do. Instead, I bought a small snowy pre-lit twig tree to decorate with special ornaments for Aneurin. We've decided it will be his tree for us to decorate every year. In order to do that we needed some ornaments fit for our precious boy. There are lots out there, some traditional, some unique but all quite special.


1. Egg clasp bauble - Write a letter to your baby on Christmas Eve and pop it in the egg. When it's time to take the tree down put your letter in your memory box to read in years to come. You can also choose to have your baby's initial strung round the ribbon.

2. Christmas in heaven angel - This sweet poem is engraved on a wooden angel and can also have your own small message put on the other side.


3. Personalised glass angel bauble - An angel for your angel. A little glass angel is encased in this handcrafted bauble that can be personalised with three lines of text.

4. Penguin family - Perfect if you have living children too so you can show them and anyone else who enters your home that your lost baby is very much an important part of your family. You can have up to six penguins, either with names or without.


5. Laser cut penguin family bauble - Another cute penguin family but this time a little more modern on a flat acrylic disc. This also goes up to a maximum of six penguins so perfect if you have a lovely big family.

6. White feather bauble - White feathers are seen as a sign from your lost loved one, especially in the baby loss community so it's no wonder that this bauble is a popular one. Your baby's name can be printed on the feather which sits inside a glass bauble. Simple but meaningful.


7. Bespoke handprint decoration - All you have to do is message the seller an image of your baby's handprint and they'll engrave it onto either a frosted acrylic bauble or a solid bamboo one. Completely unique to your precious little one.

8. Personalised glitter star decoration - This wooden star can be covered with gold or silver glitter on one side or left plain. You can choose any wording you like so it doesn't have to just be your baby's name, it could be something very discreet. It's also a budget friendly option at only £3.50.


9. Personalised gingerbread man - A traditional clay gingerbread man ready for your baby's name to be 'iced' on. Sweet and simple.

10. Engraved reindeer decoration - Choose from a standing or jumping reindeer complete with bell round his neck to be engraved with either your baby's name or a short message.

Love,
Mrs D x
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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Homemade Christmas Food Gift Guide



For the last few years I've been making food gifts to give to family and friends for Christmas. I love baking and cooking and as I don't have a regular 9-5 job I have plenty of time to spend cooking up a storm during the festive period. Part of my plan to get through this Christmas as best I can is to continue with this tradition for a few reasons. Partly because it keeps me busy and gives me something to do and also because as I've mentioned before I find creating and making things very healing. There's something really enriching about providing people with good, homemade food. I've always loved it and it feels extra special at Christmas.

I'd like to say that giving homemade gifts saves me tonnes of money but the reality is that making homemade food gifts can be quite costly. However, with a little forethought and preparation you can save a few pennies.


1. Collect containers throughout the year. Buying empty jars and bottle can get very pricey at around 50p each so every time you finish a jar of jam or one of those tasty little GU desserts (don't pretend you don't know the ones I mean...), pop them in the dishwasher and stash them away.
2. Get creative! Don't waste money on those albeit beautiful but overpriced packs of pretty material covers and labels for jam jars. Make your own covers with scraps of fabric and pinking shears and print off your own labels. I've listed five of my favourite free printable Christmas labels below.
3. Never throw away gift bags and boxes you're given at Christmas. As lovely as it is to give food gifts in beautiful wicker hampers those can be really expensive and a nice gift bag or box looks just as lovely. I pop some festive tissue paper in the bottom and keep my printed labels themed so everything matches.
4. Buy in bulk. If you're going to be making something like 10 jars of tomato and chilli jam you're going to need a LOT of tomatoes. Try negotiating a deal with a local farm shop or buy from a cash and carry.
5. If you do need to buy jars, bottles, gift bags etc. have a look in bargain type shops. Some of my favourite gift bags and boxes have come from Wilko over the last few years (they also do some fab cheapy decorations!). Other places to check out are B&M Stores, Homesense and Home Bargains.


Marmalade (I like to put a big glug of whiskey in mine!)
Oaty cheese biscuits (these are delicious on their own with a little swipe of butter)
Cherry and coconut florentines (my mama's favourite!)





Do you make any Christmas gifts? Would you ever consider it? 

Love,
Mrs D x
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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Festive Hair Accessories

I've always had a thing for adorning my hair with flowers, bows and pretty accessories. It's something I never really grew out of. I remember a cruel comment from a girl at college when I was about 16 about a rather cute polkadot hairband that really upset me and I stopped dressing my hair up for a while. I soon learned though that I didn't care much for what people thought of me and I became known for my hair bows.

Accessorising definitely isn't important to me at the minute but my wonderful best friend reminded me today that one of the ways to learn to like your appearance is to look after it which made me think about the things I used to like about myself. Shoving ridiculous crap in my hair was definitely one of them! With the festive season upon us I thought I'd put together a little collection of Christmas hair accessories. Some are subtle, some are not but they're all fabulous!

Hover over the image to see info and click to take you through to the website!


Would you wear any of these? I've bought myself the glittery holly clip to don on Christmas Day!

Love,
Mrs D x

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The C Word

I never realised just how saturated the world becomes with Christmas once December rolls around. It is literally everywhere; adverts and festive films on the television, Christmas songs on the radio, every shop dressed up the nines, twinkling lights on streets, in shop windows and homes. It is inescapable and it hurts. A lot. 

Christmas has always given me such a deep, unparallelled joy. All the things that now make my heart ache used to fill it with happiness. One of my favourite things to do was walk round town in the evening in December when it's dark, Christmas lights twinkling, Christmas music merging together from every shop, hot chocolate in hand, watching people buying presents for loved ones. All the festiveness makes me so emotional. Now, the idea of doing that makes me want to crawl in a cupboard and never come out. 

We should be bringing him home from the hospital this week, panicking about being solely in charge and responsible for our three month old. We should be making treats and writing cards for the neonatal nurses and Aneurin's consultant, knowing nothing will ever thank them enough. We should be opening and closing Aneurin's bedroom door thinking of last minute things he might need. We should be putting our Christmas tree up and watching Aneurin mesmerised by the dancing lights. I should be nursing our boy to sleep whilst watching The Muppet's Christmas Carol. Mr D should be rolling his eyes at me as another Christmas present gets delivered. We should be preparing for our first Christmas as a beautiful, happy little family.


There should be another name on this list. Right at the top with more blank space than anyone else to fill with toys, books and sweet little Winter clothes. 

Phrases like 'silence can be deafening' used to make me roll my eyes but now I get it. The absence of something can be overwhelming. Wherever we go, whatever we're doing there is someone missing and that will never go away. We could have ten more children and reignite our Christmas joy but Aneurin will always be missing. 

We decided we need to do something completely new and different this year, something we'll probably never do again. Our first instinct was to just stay at home on our own but we didn't want any of our family to be alone so that wasn't an option. Instead, we've decided to all go out for Christmas dinner. Fortunately, as there'll be eight of us we have our own private dining room so we won't have to watch families with small children which would be incredibly painful. 

I'm trying my hardest to keep doing the things I would normally do like send cards and decorate the house but I'm not sure yet if forcing myself to do those things will only make the pain deeper. Every year I make food gifts and put together little hampers which is one thing I do want to still do. Cooking and creating is healing so I think that's something positive I can do. With that in mind I'm going to do something else I find healing which is blogging. I'm going to feature a few festive themed posts, some baby-loss related like ideas on how to honour your child over the holidays and some generic Christmas themed. 

I think I have to be prepared though for all good intentions to go out the window and just go with the flow of my emotions. Our reactions to things are so unpredictable and I actually have no idea how we'll feel as everything around us gets more and more festive and family orientated. Every day more photos of children standing by dressed trees appear on my social media and everything feels like a reminder of what we should have but we will get through it. We got through those first impossible weeks and we're getting through now. We will get through this. 

Love,
Mrs D x
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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Photo Albums & Baby Books For Angel Babies



When I was pregnant I took up Project Life. It's a fun scrapbooking system with beautiful folders and themed note cards designed to allow you to document life creatively and beautifully. I spent many hours putting together a project of our wedding complete with proposal, engagement and hen/stag party photos. I spent hours immersed in the magic of our first steps into marriage whilst our lovely little boy kicked up a storm in my tummy. Those memories are so precious to me.


I bought a beautiful green and yellow folder and baby boy notecards with the intention of documenting my pregnancy and then our journey into parenthood with Aneurin but when he passed away I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's a big project and I knew I would never have enough memories to fill it. Instead, I started looking for a smaller but equally as precious photo album or baby book to document his short but beautiful life. 

Most baby books are structured with milestones, favourites and things we will sadly never know or be able to fill in. Finding a baby book or photo album suitable for a stillbirth or neonatal death is really difficult and I very nearly gave up hope of finding one. Fortunately though my stubbornness determination is strong and over the last couple of months I've found some truly beautiful books, some of which can be personalised. 

Photo book for stillborn babies

Winnie the Pooh Baby Book £18 Winnie the Pooh quotes have always been quite poignant to me but the one that adorns this cute album is completely perfect; "My favouite part of the day is the part I spent with you". This holds 80 6x4" photographs. 

Anker Baby Elephant Photo Album £20 - This album holds 200 6x4" photos so perfect if you have lots of photos of your precious angel. Although it's a slip-in album there is space next to photos to write a few lines if you wish. The colourful front is lovely with a little elephant, duck and buttons. 

My Beautiful Baby Photo Album £52.99 - Made with genuine leather, this cream album is printed with 'My Beautiful Baby' and a sweet little bear face in silver foil. There are 50 thick card pages in here for getting creative with your photos and memories. You can opt to have a brass plate added to the front engraved with a message or your baby's name. 

Our Little Angel Photo Album £32.99 - This sweet album is decorated with a pink leather border and can have a brass name plate added engraved with your baby's name, birth date and message. There are 50 plain card pages that fit 2 6x4" photos on. This is only available in pink at the minute.

Baby book for angel babies

Personalised Map Duck Baby Book £28 - On the front of this A5 sized book is a wooden duck printed with a vintage map, the location of which you can choose. Perfect for your baby's birth or resting place. You can also have two lines of text printed below. There are 35 blank pages for sticking photos and keepsakes in. 

Anker Little Star Baby Photo Album £20-£24 - There are two other different sizes in this range here and here, all with a little star on the front and other sweet embellishments. The pages are self adhesive so you have a little more freedom with how you can organise your keepsakes.

Personalised Twinkle Twinkle Album £25 - Sometimes nursery rhymes or phrases can be upsetting to hear when you've lost a baby but some can hold great meaning. "Twinkle twinkle little star, do you know how loved you are" is definitely one that holds meaning. As this is a personalised book you can add your loved little star's name and birth date on the front. It also comes in blue

Personalised Baby 'Brag' Book £26-£80 - This simple and understated book comes in lilac, baby pink or baby blue. It comes in two sizes and holds either 20 or 40 6x4" photographs. You can also have up to 50 characters over two lines so you can have your baby's name and birth date printed on it to make it extra special. There are two larger versions here and here with different colour options.

Photo albums for angel babies


Bambino Twinkle Twinkle Photo Album £16 - The same meaningful phrase as one above but in a very different style. This star themed album has a silver pram embellished on the front and secures with a pretty ribbon. It holds 80 6x4" photos. 

John Lewis Baby Photo Album £16 - This sweet suede album is adorned with pram, teddy and rocking horse motifs on the front and closes with a pale blue ribbon. It holds 100 6x4" photos. It also comes in pink

Deva Washing Line Baby Album £29 - I have this one and love it. The cover is a pretty pearlescent cream colour with a little motif of a babygrow, bib and booties on a washing line. It holds 120 6x4" photos. The pages are plain which means you can write little notes and stick in other treasures like scan photos. It comes in pink and blue.

John Lewis Bear & Rabbit 'Boasting Book' £6.95 - This is perfect if you don't have many treasures or photos of your baby as it only has space for 24 6x4" photos. Again, the pages are plain so perfect for notes and keepsakes. 

Another way of displaying and documenting your angel baby's life is by creating your own photobook. You can make little pocket sized books to take with you wherever you go or larger coffee table style books. There are lots of companies that offer this service but personally, I use Photobox for all my prints and am in the process of putting together one of their little photobooks for Aneurin's Grandma and Nanna. 

Having a photo album filled with Aneurin's life, from the photo of the positive pregnancy test, my growing bump, his arrival, right through to the beautiful posy of sweet peas we put on his coffin, has given me so much comfort. Putting it together was a very healing process. It was difficult to look at for a while but now it only brings me joy. I felt sad at having empty pages at the back but I've decided to fill those up with the things we do in his honour. For example I took a beautiful photo of the candles we lit in honour of loved ones at the All Saints/Souls Day service we went to which I'll put in there and every time we write his name in the sand or find something meaningful we'll document it and add it to his album. I'm starting to realise that that is how we keep him alive, by carrying him with us wherever we go and whatever we do. 

I want to do more like this with resources of all sorts for bereaved parents so I hope this has been helpful. If you've seen a photo album or baby book suitable for baby who passed away before, during or after birth, leave a link below in the comments. 

Love,
Mrs D x
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Friday, 27 November 2015

Capture Your Grief 2015 Days 26-31

Days 16-20
Days 21-25


Day 26. Gratitude - I am grateful for my kind hearted, silly husband who never asks for more than what I'm capable of. I am grateful for my mum who loves me unconditionally and who taught me what it means to be a mother. I am grateful for my friends who say Aneurin's name and want to know everything no matter how difficult it is to hear. I am grateful for the incredible love and support we've received from people whatever form it's come in.
I am most grateful though for my beautiful big footed baby boy and the time we had with him even though it will never be enough. I'm grateful for his existence and all he taught us. We are different people because of him. We might be broken right now but we're also richer and filled with a love and joy we might never have known without him. No matter how much hurt we've experienced I would still choose him a thousand times over.


Day 27. Self portrait - This is who I am today. Broken, exhausted, desperate and scared. But also hopeful, grateful, compassionate and loving. I am changed, Aneurin changed me, grief has changed me but deep down I am still the person who will chase cats down the street and make them be my friends, who would rather stick my head in a bag of eels than clean the bathroom and who finds unbridled joy in new slippers. I am a new version of myself and I need to remember that that isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Day 28. Reach out - I wanted to use today's prompt to mention Still Loved, a feature documentary on stillbirth. It follows families trying to rebuild their lives after loss. The filmmakers are currently asking for donations via Just Giving to enable the film to be shown on television and in cinemas.
I am reaching out today by donating to them and to ask you to do the same, especially if you're in the UK. Very few people are aware of stillbirth; not just that occurs but what actually happens and what life is like afterwards. Whilst there has already been one stillbirth storyline in a soap this year and another happening soon, these are dramatised for entertainment. The reality of life after infant loss is something only bereaved parents truly understand and sadly the general public aren't always so compassionate or empathetic. Hopefully this film can help to change that.
There's a trailer for the documentary and more information including the link to donate at www.stilllovedfilm.com.


Day 29. What Heals You - I think the key to recovering after any trauma is self care and a huge part of that is finding what heals you. So many people lose themselves when they lose their child and don't know who they are or where they fit anymore. I want to believe that finding the things that heal me will help me find myself again.
Being surrounded by nature and beauty fills me with peace, especially if it involves a body of water. I love going fishing with my husband and just sitting by the lake with a book. Sometimes it's hard because my husband especially was so looking forward to teaching Aneurin to fish and I imagined learning about birds and nature with him but it also makes us feel close to him.
When I think about it there are so many things that heal me in my life; long Lush baths, my attentive kitties, the people around me, crafting things and being creative (in my own limited way!). I want to focus on taking time every day to appreciate these and indulge in them a bit more.
Whilst I was pregnant I started making a wedding book using Project Life but haven't touched it since we lost Aneurin. I think finishing it would be incredibly healing as it serves as a reminder of the best parts of my life and that without our marriage our beautiful boy wouldn't have existed.



Day 31. Sunset Today marks three months since our beautiful boy was born. It feels both so long ago and like it was only yesterday. Three months have passed and three months we have survived. We are still putting one foot in front of the other and for that I feel pretty proud of ourselves.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month might be over but I plan on continuing to be open with my grief. Although it feels as though we get further away from Aneurin and the time we spent with him with each day that passes I know we will carry him with us forever. Rather nicely our November will start with an All Souls Day ceremony at the church we got married in with the vicar who led Aneurin's service. His name will be spoken and we'll light a candle for him; our precious baby boy.
Thank you to everyone for your responses of love, support and solidarity this month. And an enormous thank you to Carly Marie Dudley for creating this project and for being a beacon of light in the darkness.

Love,
Mrs D x
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Capture Your Grief 2015 Days 21-25



Days 16-20




Day 21. Sacred space - Penarth Pier is a very special place to me. We've been there at least twice a year every year since we met, always sitting on our favourite bench looking out to sea. Three years to the day we first kissed my husband proposed to me whilst we sat on our bench. He had planned to do it during a fancy dinner later in the day but said it just felt more special to do it then and it really was.
There are little memorial plaques that go up the pier and on our first wedding anniversary we bought ourselves one. We are planning to get another one in memory of Aneurin.
Being there makes me feel so peaceful and content and we had beautiful visions of Aneurin running up and down the pier, begging us for ice cream, standing on his tiptoes peering into the sea. We visited twice whilst I was pregnant and I'm so, so glad he got to feel the peace that I feel being there.


Day 22. Dreams & Rituals - I've woken up a few times over the last couple of months with this really strong sense of having dreamt about Aneurin and with it comes such peace. They're not clear dreams that I remember but just a feeling of having been connected with him. We don't really have any rituals but I do have a photo of him by my bed and we look at it most nights and give it a kiss.
Dreams are all we have now and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We imagine and day dream about Aneurin at least once a day. We talk about the things we know about him and make up the things we don't. He'll never be naughty (although definitely a bit of a monkey!), he'll never feel pain, we'll never be frustrated with him or get cross with him. He is completely free and that is a beautiful thing to dream about. ps. My sleepy Opie-kitten looking all dreamy seemed like a lovely addition to this post.



Day 23. Love letter - To my wonderful hairy husband,
I am so sorry this has happened to us. I wish so very much that I could take your pain away. As painful as this is for me, I would feel it twice as hard if it meant you didn't have to.
9 years ago I fell in love with you so quickly and it just kept coming. I truly thought our wedding day would be the peak of my love for you but it was only the beginning. The same scary love I feel for our son, I feel for you too. Knowing we made a whole new human together made up of both us is a feeling like no other and seeing you gaze at our beautiful, sweet boy with equal parts pride, awe and heartbreak is something I will never forget.
I was so fearful of what losing Aneurin would mean for us but I continue to be amazed at our strength and unity. I look at you sometimes and feel so overwhelmed with what I feel for you. Love just doesn't cover it. Our souls are bound together in a way I will never fully comprehend and I know we will get through this and anything else life throws at us. As long as I have you by my side to fast forward the bits when animals eat eachother in nature programs and hold one of the cats in my face when I'm sad I know I'll be just fine.


 Day 24. Choose Your Breath - Today's prompt is inspired by the Choose Your Breath workshop to think about whether grief and healing can co-exist.
My life hasn't always been easy due to my mental health but despite that I am a very hopeful and optimistic person. I don't want to be a passenger in my own life, I want to enjoy it and make it meaningful. It's not always possible to do that because depression especially can make it so difficult to get a grasp of things and sometimes you're incapable of doing anything but breathing but when I can, I do.
A lot of the skills I've learnt over the years to manage my mental health I've applied to my grief. I find myself practising mindfulness a lot, especially at night when I'm often plagued with thoughts surrounding the trauma of losing Aneurin. My brain goes to a horrible place and the only way I can control it is by focussing myself on the here and now.
To me grief is all about healing. I've become the sort of person that talks about ~journeys and paths~ because that is what grief is. It's a long, complex process and for the most part we are in control of it. I say for the most part because there are times when grief completely takes the wheel and there's nothing to do but ride it out.
I feel like I have a responsibility to heal myself. To honour my son's life by making the most of mine, doing things I think he would be proud of and finding meaning in my life. If I don't and I use his death as an excuse to give in to the part of me that is susceptible to scary ideas and deep depression that is disrespectful to his little life and I can't do that.
We are very hopeful that part of our healing will be becoming parents a second time which is a terrifying prospect but hope is carrying me through. I will never stop grieving because I will never stop loving Aneurin but I will also never stop trying to find ways to heal both myself and my husband. For now our grief is in control but I hope that one day we can control it.



Day 25. Earth Remembrance - It was important to us that Aneurin was cremated rather than buried but as a result of that we don't have a physical place to visit him which is hard. I know his physical body isn't really him anymore and I can feel him with us wherever we are but I do wish we had a specific place to go to to feel close to him.
We are toying with the idea of planting a tree in a green burial site but we're planning on moving away from the area in the next year so don't know where to do it. I love the idea of new life being created in honour of his and we both find being amongst nature very healing. I love going fishing with my husband and just listening to the birds and the water, I love being near the sea and writing his name in the sand and I love looking for messages from him in the Earth.
We do have a plant though that is very special to us. It was given to us by my dear friend, Kerry, who didn't realise at the time that it was the same flower my wedding bouquet was made up of and the exact same shade. That little bit of serendipity make it all the more special. We've put it in a pot so when we move we can take it with us. Whenever I look at it (even when it's out of flower like it is now) I think of the two most wonderful parts of my life; my marriage and my son.

Love,
Mrs D x
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Friday, 20 November 2015

Capture Your Grief 2015 Days 16-20





Day 16. Creative Grief - When you lose a baby, especially one you didn't get to keep for very long, you don't have many memories or tangible things to hold onto so you have to make your own. We don't have anything Aneurin wore and the things we had at home for him didn't quite feel like his yet. I do have a little hat we took to the hospital which he didn't end up wearing that I found in the bag a few weeks ago and now keep in my bedside table. It sounds odd but just knowing it was in the same room as him physically makes it more special than any other hat we had ready for him.
We've had to get creative in ways to feel close to him. I have some lovely jewellery and artwork and once I'm 6 months post birth I'll be getting a tattoo with him in mind. I think I'd like some sweet peas (we put a bunch from my mother in law's garden on his casket) but I'm not 100% sure yet.
For a while I was a bit concerned about being in danger of almost creating a shrine for him. Doing that always seemed a bit unhealthy to me but now I completely understand why it happens. At the moment I have a huge sense of wanting a physical place to feel close to Aneurin but because he was cremated we don't have a grave to visit. We don't have the luxury of having bits of his spread across the house like we would if he was here and we don't have as much as we'd like so having his memory box, photo album and little bits and bobs in one place is lovely. Sometimes it can feel a bit like all we want to do is immerse ourselves in it and grasp at what little we have of him and for the time being this is what we need to do. We need to write his name in the sand and doodle it on bits of paper. We need to be able to touch a piece of jewellery and feel like it connects us to him. We need to do whatever we can to get five more minutes with our lovely little Pea. One thing I'm learning about grief is that there's no right or wrong and you have to do whatever you need to do to go through it.


 Day 17. Secondary Losses - I have lost so much more than my son. I've lost the future we had planned for, the innocence I had surrounding pregnancy, my naivety in being a decent person and so much more. I know things I don't want to; babies get sick, they die and there's nothing anyone can do about it. I know that nobody is immune to tragedy no matter how much of a good person you are or what you've already been through. Anything can happen and you can't control it.
The biggest secondary loss though is myself. I don't know who I am or where I fit anymore. I was pregnant me for 8 wonderful months and was so excited and ready to be mummy me. Becoming a parent even if you lose your child changes you on a soul level. I cannot go back to the person I was before Aneurin but I don't know who I am without him. Navigating your way through life after such a loss is so tough because you're forced to create an entirely new version of normal for yourself. I very much feel as if I'm just wandering at the minute with no direction at all and it's terrifying.


Day 18. Seasons and Symbols - Summer will always remind me of Aneurin. I think I spent most of June and July on the sofa in my knickers with fans pointed at me! I always said I'd never want to be heavily pregnant in the middle of summer but such is life!
This time of year weighs heavy on my mind because I was so looking forward to going for crunchy leafed Autumn walks and conker picking in years to come. We had also put so much focus on Christmas because we knew Aneurin would be out of neonatal care and home by then so the next couple of months are going to be tough.
As for symbols there are a few things that I associate with our little Pea. Marmite because I had such a strong craving when I was pregnant and it's all I ate for weeks! Sweet peas because he was our sweet little pea. White feathers because they're meant to symbolise little angel wings. As I said in my creative grief post you find meaning and comfort in anything you can when you lose your child and that's fine. It opens you up to a whole new world of meaning.


Day 19. Music - The most significant bit of music I associate with Aneurin is Made Up Love Song #43 by Guillemots. I was at a daycare appointment one day listening to my iPod when it came on and he would not stop dancing around in my belly. If I stopped playing it he stopped and as soon as I hit play he would start moving again! It was so wonderful, especially when I listened to the words. It opens with 'I love you through sparks and shining dragons I do' and there's a line in it that says 'the best things come from nowhere' and it made me well up because we didn't expect Aneurin but he was truly the greatest thing that ever happened to us. After he was born Haydn got in bed with me whilst I was holding him and we played it and wept. It was such a beautiful but bittersweet moment.
For days after the words ran round my head and I would wake up knowing I had dreamt about the song. We haven't been able to listen to it since but I hope I can one day because it's really lovely and plinky plinky.


 Day 20. Forgiveness & Humanity - We've been quite lucky in that few people have said inappropriate or insensitive things to us in regards to losing Aneurin. I try my very hardest to forgive people who say upsetting things because it's impossible to know what to say when someone's child has died and I know people don't meant to be malicious.
What I am struggling to forgive though is people who have completely turned their backs on us, especially family because Aneurin was their family too. Like I said, I know it's difficult to know what to say but I would much rather someone said to me 'I wanted to say something to you but I don't know what' than they just ignored me. Peoples reaction of wanting to brush something difficult or unpleasant under the carpet and pretend it isn't happening is one of the worst parts of humanity for me. It alienates people and causes such deep emotional damage. We are all human, we all feel and those feelings can be both beautiful and hideous but we need to be allowed to feel them.
Aneurin is and will always be our first child. There's no brushing that under the carpet.

Love,
Mrs D x
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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Capture Your Grief 2015 Days 11-15



Day 11. Glow in the woods - People keep praising for my strength and grace lately which is wonderful but I don't feel like I can take all the credit. Most of it is down to these four people. The people who pick me up and carry me when I can't go on, who really and truly have been there for the most difficult parts and who have seen me stripped back at my very worst and did nothing but love me.
These aren't just the most important people in my life but in Aneurin's too, by both our sides from day one until the very end. They were all with me during my labour (albeit two of them in different countries at the time!) and never faltered in their support. I could not have gotten through that without their love. They are strong for me when I can't be and they let me be exactly what I need to be even when it's hard on them.
If there is any good to have come from this, it's my relationship with my mum, my husband and my best friends. We are all closer and stronger than I could ever have imagined. They are my beacons of light and I can never thank them enough.



Day 12. Normalising grief - Using my blog and this here Instagram has been so therapeutic for me. It's allowed me to work through my grief in a way that makes me feel in control and like I'm doing something positive with it. I realise not everyone will want to follow me on this ~journey~ but this is what I need to do.
I've had a huge number of messages from women who have suffered losses at various stages who don't feel they can talk about it. Some recent and some years and years ago. Grief isn't something people talk about because it's uncomfortable, especially when it relates to the loss of an infant. Bereaved parents need to know it’s okay to acknowledge their pain and go through the grief process in whatever way they need to. I really want to take our experience and do something positive with it and I hope that by being open it will help someone else.


Day 13. Regrets and triggers - In the early days after losing Aneurin I was riddled with guilt. I felt as though I had failed. My one job as a mother was to protect my son and I couldn't do it. I feel like I should have noticed something earlier so I could have gone to the hospital earlier. But, deep down I know I did everything right, Aneurin was poorly and his heart just couldn't sustain him.
So really, I don't think I have any regrets. Despite being very sick and in a lot of pelvic pain during my pregnancy I loved my time with him. That's not to say it wasn't hard and there were times I couldn't wait to be not pregnant but I cherished every second with him.
I do however have a lot of triggers. Seeing a couple or a parent with a young baby is the most difficult. It breaks my heart to look at people and think 'that should be us'. We should be pushing our son in a pram beaming with pride at strangers hoping they'll notice and comment on our beautiful baby. I can't bring myself to look at babies. I avoid pregnant women in the street. I focus on the floor or stare straight ahead praying they'll move away quickly.
One of the biggest triggers for me happened a couple of weeks after Aneurin was born. I woke up one morning to the sound of a young baby crying and for a split second I thought it was him. The pain of realising it wasn't and it never would be was horrific. I still find a baby's cry piercing. It makes me want to run away and hide.
3 months in and there are so many triggers. A pregnancy announcement, a birth announcement, a baby's giggles, the tender voice a parent uses towards their child all feel like salt in the wound. But, I know it will get easier. It has to.


Day 14. Express your heart - Today my heart feels peaceful. I don't know whether it's because our appointment with the consultant yesterday answered most of our questions and gave us a positive outcome in terms of the future or whether that's just what will happen sometimes but it's comforting.
Today we've talked about Aneurin happily, fondly and freely. We've laughed about him having his mummy's big feet and his daddy's nose, we've dreamt up his personality and imagined him in all his freedom. I've been moved to tears by words and gestures but in a wonderful way.
Today my heart is not heavy with trauma and grief but light with gratitude and love. I know it won't last and the next wave could come crashing down around me at any moment but for now, I feel peaceful and these are the moments I live for.



Day 15. Wave Of Light - For my sweet Aneurin I miss you so much my heart aches. And for all the babies who couldn't stay.

Love,
Mrs D x
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