Since returning from Amsterdam, I have been on an almighty low. The conference allowed us to focus solely on Eddie and on our grief. We were immersed in 4 days worth of conversations dedicated to research and supporting bereaved parents.
As ridiculous as this may sound, a part of me felt that the conference would help me search for answers and bring back Eddie. As if we could get Eddie back in return for attending. Yet here we are, back at home. And despite encouraging advances in medical research, we have still lost our baby boy. Our lives are still broken.
But since returning home, I have found some comfort in being outdoors. Without sounding like a tree hugging hippie, I have found it therapeutic to be outdoors, to take deep breaths and inhale the fresh air. On Monday, a friend of mine took me to a ‘pick your own farm’ in Surrey. It was rewarding to focus on the task in hand, to mindfully pick the apples from the tree and the potatoes from the ground. I also felt a little bit self-righteous that evening when cooking for my sister and brother-in-law.
In search of more country air, I drove to Marlow today to visit an old friend. I have written about connecting with other bereaved parents since Eddie died but I am also grateful for re-connecting with old friends and friends from my childhood. They remind me of my life before Eddie and stir up good feelings of nostalgia. It had been a while since we last saw each other but it was as if we had just spoken yesterday. It was a true testament to an old friendship.
A cup of tea, some food and a good ol’ catch up was just what I needed. That, and a breath of fresh country air.
I am writing this post from Amsterdam. Driven by a desperate need to search for answers, we are here for for the International Conference on SIDS, stillbirth and baby survival. The conference is a mixture of health professionals and bereaved parents. All are united by a passion to prevent stillbirth and infant loss. All are united to support bereaved parents who have gone through a similar tragic loss to ours.
We have felt honoured to meet leading professors who are utterly determined and dedicated to fight for baby survival. And privileged to meet others who are tragically in the same club as us.
It has been a tiring few days. We have consiously not exposed ourselves to too many sessions, especially those that are very medicalised. But we have been enveloped in support and it’s the most comfortable environment to openly speak about Eddie to people we have never met before.
In the time between sessions, we have taken long walks down the canals and taken the time to soak in the fresh air and sunshine. It has given us time to reflect. Time to think about Eddie. And importantly, precious time together.
I’d like to end this post on a quote taken from one of the sessions we attended earlier today: “Grief is like a shadow. It’s always there. You can’t see it in the dark but it is very visible in the bright sunshine”
Our charity, Teddy’s Wish, is in full swing at the moment. My sister’s show designjunction has partnered with top British designers Anglepoise and ercol, to curate an exhibition exclusively for the show. Nineteen top designers have been invited to customise one of their products in response to the title ‘A Childs Dream’ and all bespoke designs will be displayed at the show. All products will be sold by silent auction and funds raised will go directly to Teddy’s Wish. It’s all very exciting.
I’m normally pretty savvy with social media but I’m behind the times with twitter. I have had to learn pretty quickly how it all works. Now it’s all hashtags, @ and re-tweets. I’m in a social media frenzy and my head is in an emotional spin. But it’s all worth it. Every time we get a mention or a like on our Facebook page, I know that Eddie is being remembered. And that makes me feel good.
I know it’s a lot to take on in such a short amount of time, but the charity is allowing us to do something positive in Eddie’s name. We know it won’t bring Eddie back but it may help others. And that would be a fitting tribute to honour our darling baby boy.
(More on the charity project can be read here: http://thedesignjunction.co.uk/charity/)
I was speaking to a friend the other day about gratitude. My immediate reaction? Chris and I don’t have a lot to be grateful for these days.
But it got me thinking. We wouldn’t be here, still standing, if it wasn’t for the unrelenting support of our close friends and family. They have been our pillars of steel at a time when our world has come crashing down. They are at the epicentre of our long and arduous journey. Still here, still with us. With those friends it’s easier to have normal every day conversations as they effortlessly intertwine with the loss of Eddie.
I was told by other baby lost friends that your address book changes after you lose a baby. Some friends drift away, unable to cope with the tragedy that has beset our lives. We get it. We know how difficult it is to know what to say or do. But, we also know how fortunate we are, to have those one of a kind friends who display acts of kindness and courage by regularly keeping in touch. They are the friends who have not forgotten about us, or our grief, despite having their own busy lives to lead.
To those friends, we are and will always be, eternally grateful.
There is a problem with having spare time for yourself during the week. The only other people who seem to be around are those with children. Wherever I turn, wherever I go, I am accosted by mummies and buggies. Which is no surprise as we chose to move to an area that was family friendly. We wanted to be somewhere close to a park, close to local shops and cafes, and somewhere close to mummy and baby classes where I could take Eddie.
Now when I want to go for a walk and clear my head, I am faced with an obstacle of mothers with children and I desperately try to dodge them.
I learnt an important lesson this week whilst trying to avoid the aforementioned. I must not, under any circumstances, go to brent cross mid week or mid school holidays for that matter – it was an exercise in masochism.
Looking at the alternatives, apart from selling up and buying a flat in the city, my impending return to work has become a more attractive option…
Chris feels like he has had an almighty hangover since the bike ride. Before the ride, he felt a sense of purpose and we both got caught up in the emotional dizziness of it all.
We know there is more work to do with the charity but despite this, our lives continue to feel empty and void of purpose. It remains impossibly hard to think of a future when our future is without our darling boy.
The past weekend was particularly difficult. We felt at a loss and not quite sure what to do with ourselves. So we decided to go back to a place that we swore we would never go back to again after an almighty row, 4.5 years ago.
We returned to IKEA.
Every time I cry about the loss of my baby boy, I get equally upset for Eddie. And as much as I get upset, knowing that we will never get to see our son grow up, it also desperately saddens me to think that he has lost out too. Eddie has lost out on a life that was full of so much love, hope and promise. He has lost his future as much as we have lost ours.
My brother-in-law said that in his short life, Eddie was loved and only knew love. In his short existence, it was one that was pure and innocent; untouched by the horrors of life.
Grief in its essence, is love. Without love there is no grief and there will never be a day when I stop grieving for my baby boy.
Eddie was loved. Eddie is still loved. Eddie will always be loved x
There is an expectation by others that grief has some form of an expiry date. We should be moving on, getting on and embracing life. But how do you learn to enjoy life again without the most important person in it?
I have 2 masks. My mask of normalcy and the mask beneath the mask. My mask of normalcy can get up in the morning and function. We moved house 6 weeks after Eddie was born and there are rooms that are still unfinished, that were meant to stay unfinished as we were too busy juggling life with a new baby. Since we now have so much time on our hands, we have embarked on a new house project. Our weekends which were meant to be reserved for family outings have now been replaced with outings to furniture and kitchen stores.
My mask of normalcy allows me to speak to builders, research paints and colours and such. I can now hold normal conversations with people I know, and strangers, without immediately bursting into floods of tears. There are times that I can smile and even laugh. And in those moments, I catch glimpses of my old self.
But even though I have the ability to function, it does not lessen my grief and my sadness. It does not mean that I am enjoying life. It means I am functioning, coping and existing. There is a mask beneath the mask that is the new me. The person who questions whether they will ever experience happiness again and who desperately wants her old life back. A life which was full of hope and optimism. A life where I held my baby boy in my arms and not just in my heart.
And in an instant, our lives were changed forever. It was as if someone had decided to press the reset button.
I have come to realise that no days are good, but some are more tolerable than others. There are the moments of light, of hope for a future where one day, we will experience happiness again. Then without warning, the bricks and mortar we are using to re-build our life, are pulled apart and come crashing down.
But I know that even in those moments of light, our life will never be the same again. Our grief will be like a thread, woven into the fabric of our daily life. And one day, it will be richer because of it. I know today I am stronger, more resilient to what life throws at us – and for that, I am grateful.
In other news, I have been let off not one, but two contested parking tickets. I clearly have too much time on my hands. Thank goodness for small mercies.