15th October 2014. A date that was of no significance to me before. It now marks 6 months since I lost my darling boy and is also international infant and pregnancy loss awareness day. It is something that I would have been completely oblivious to in the past but today it unites me with all bereaved parents whether they lost their baby during pregnancy, at, during or after birth. We are all united by the same, albeit different, tragic loss of a child.
All across the world, we are asked to light a candle at 7pm in remembrance of all the beautiful babies that have died. And all I keep thinking is in 3 months time I should be lighting a candle to celebrate Eddie’s first birthday.
It is just so wrong and so unfair.
My mind is a troublesome place these days. Being a natural worrier, it used to be filled with apprehension and excitement for the future. Now it’s filled with doubt and uncertainty.
As the days roll on, I keep repeating the same question to myself and Chris. Will we ever be happy again? It seems like a futile question to ask. I know happiness is not an object and cannot be obtained. It is not something we can pursue or search for.
Maybe if I knew there was an end to this constant state of purgatory it would make life a bit more bearable. Yet sadly, there is no magic ball telling us what the future may hold.
As much as I want to, I can’t go back to my old life or predict what my new life will bring. I can’t re-wind the past or fast forward to the future.
What I do have is the here and now. This moment. And all I can do, is breathe.
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”
Wednesday was the opening night of designjunction and the curated exhibition for Teddy’s Wish, ‘A child’s dream’.
It was our first official big social outing since Eddie died. Socialising with strangers used to be so effortless. Now we have to wear a mask which is emotionally taxing.
But I was proud to speak to people I had never met before about Teddy’s Wish. The charity will not only help us with the ‘why’ questions, it allows us to parent Eddie. To make him proud and to keep his memory alive.
When we invited designers to take part in the charity project, they were asked to customise a product using the theme ‘a child’s dream’.In today’s post, I would like to pay homage to Tony Chambers, editor-in -chief of Wallpaper magazine, who kindly created a unique interpretation of the Anglepoise lamp for us:
“For a dreamy, ethereal feel, I sprayed the inside of the lampshade a pale sky-blue. Angel Blue was in fact the name on the can. I made a mask of the lamp’s elegantly designed ventilation holes, and spraying through this made a beautiful impression on the lamp’s base – just as Edward made a beautiful, lasting impression during his short stay here.”
When you lose a child, a part of the self is cut off. In his book, The Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents, Dennis Klass talks about the metaphors that parents use to describe how they are feeling. This extract really struck a chord with me:
Many parents find the metaphor of amputation useful. In a meeting, a father said, “It is like I lost my right arm, but I’m learning to live as a one-armed man”. Like amputation, parental bereavement is a permanent condition. The hopes, dreams, and expectations incarnate in the child are now gone…For the amputee, the raw bleeding stump heals and the physical pain does go away. But he lives with the pain in his heart knowing his limb will not grown back. He has to learn to live without it. He rebuilds his life around his loss…
We bereaved parents must do the same
Looking back at where we were a few months ago and where we are now, we are somehow taking small steps to rebuild our lives. And as I tap away at the keyboard, I wonder how we have got here.
How we view life has inevitably changed but how did we get here? I genuinely do not know. We’re very much living in the present. In the here and now. But it takes an awful lot of effort. Every day we wake up in the morning we have to face yet another day without our darling boy. Life carries on. The mundane tasks of daily life carry on. And it all takes effort. Chris says it feels like we’re wading through treacle whilst others appear to be gliding past.
But we battle on because we’re in the treacle together. We pull each other through, hand in hand. And we know that somewhere out there, Eddie is watching us. Spurring us on.
There is a feeling of guilt when days start to fill up with thoughts other than Eddie. Or if we do something enjoyable. People continue to tell us how important it is to try and enjoy life. But how are we expected do this when Eddie was robbed of his?
We are trying. And when we do, we take pleasure in the simple things that life has to offer. When something as tragic as this happens to you, everything gets stripped back. So we have purposely stripped back our lifestyle. A walk with Chris or cooking a meal for my family gives me more pleasure than it would have given me in my old life.
It may sound cliche but going through a life changing experience like this alters your whole perspective on life…
Sometimes its worse. Other times its better.
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.