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.
It’s 10 weeks today since we lost Eddie. We’re soon going to be grieving longer than when Eddie was alive and that’s a scary thought. I hate the fact that time moves forward even though it has stood still for us. And I hate the fact that every day and week that goes past, takes me further away from my baby boy. I have said this before, I still want to do things for Eddie, to feel like I can still be a mummy to him.
So I finally got round to writing to Glenda Jackson, MP for Camden today to complain about the way Eddie’s case was handled by the coroners office. Through Eddie’s loss, I hope we can help to make some positive change so other parents won’t have to go through the same ordeal that we have.
In better news, we have planted a tree for Eddie. It’s a Royal Star Magnolia kindly bought for us from my wonderful mother-in-law and it’s perfect. It will bloom around late March- April with showy, star shaped, fragrant white flowers symbolising Eddie’s purity. It will flourish and grow stronger each year and whilst Eddie is physically no longer with us, the life of the tree will keep his memory alive…
It will be his everlasting legacy.
This is the year of firsts. The first time we have to do something is inevitably the most difficult and each situation we find ourselves in brings its own unique triggers. The first time I go somewhere or do something that I used to do with Eddie hits me hard. Going to the park, a local cafe, or a friends house reminds me that Eddie’s not here and I’m not meant to be there without him.
Going out for dinner for the first time with friends throws up different emotions. Trying to have somewhat normal conversations and not allowing my mind to drift to Eddie is a toilsome chore. Sitting at a dinner table, speaking about things that I have absolutely no interest in, putting on a brave face and forcing a smile. Having to suffer my grief in silence. Bumping into people we know, meeting people we don’t know. Dealing with the awkward silences when I tell someone what has happened; I know it’s just as difficult for them as it is for me. And I have to brace myself that however strong I want to be, sometimes the tears just flow when you don’t want them to. Or when its least expected.
Silly as it sounds, the first time doing anything that resembles something normal, just serves to remind me that I am trying so hard to adapt to this new life we have been catapulted into. The day to day events we took for granted, that required no effort, have become a daily struggle. And it’s exhausting.
I hate days that exist because of commercial opportunism. Days that dictate how you should behave and feel because someone, somewhere, told you so. I have always hated valentines day for that reason. I hated it when I was single as it highlighted that I didn’t have a boyfriend and I hated it when I had a boyfriend as it felt fake and contrived. Why did we have to celebrate love on that particular day? It was an irritating excuse for restaurants and florists to unnecessarily hike up their prices. Bah humbug.
And now I hate mothers day and fathers day for those reasons. Why should one day honour parents? Every day was mothers day and fathers day for us. Every day was a celebration that we were parents to our darling boy, not one isolated day in the calendar year.
Just because it’s fathers day today doesn’t make our grief any worse, it’s just another reminder that Eddie should be here. Another reminder that Chris was the best daddy in the world. Ever.
My life has been divided into 3 parts. Life before Eddie, life with Eddie and life after Eddie.
Life before Eddie was filled with hopes, aspirations and dreams. Life with Eddie was when those hopes and dreams became a reality. Life after Eddie is a path into the dark unknown.
It’s amazing how my perspective on life and luck has altered. Life before Eddie, being unlucky meant Chris was made redundant just a few months before our wedding. Back then, we said life was not always an upward curve and it strengthened us a couple. Being unlucky was having torrential rain on our wedding day (unlucky, not ironic, Alanis Morissette). Being unlucky was having morning sickness in pregnancy, the occasional bleed and a long, induced labour. And when we were unlucky back then, boy did we moan and complain. I look at that person now and think how ungrateful I was because really, I had nothing to complain about at all. The Jen before Eddie was innocent to the darker side of life; tragedy would only ever happen to someone else. Not me, not us.
I have always thought there is something quite special about receiving hand written letters. Along with Eddie’s memories, we will always be grateful for the words of support given to us from family and friends. In a digital world of emails and texts, letters have permanence. And we will always cherish them.
A friend of ours wrote a letter which I have re-read time and time again. So I wanted to share a quote which has provided a source of comfort in our darkest hour.
“I’ve always thought of grief as love not knowing where to put itself, and that the process of it is locating their memories, those connections, those depths of your soul in which that love can sit most comfortably. As you must be feeling, Edward’s light has not been turned out, nor will it ever be. It glows within you and all those who loved him. Of course it now glows with some pain but in time, and with your will, it will be a glow of strength, of unity, of courage, even of joy”
Leaving Portugal yesterday was difficult. Not that it was an easy time away but we were in a bubble, it was just the four of us, and we didn’t have to speak to or see anyone else. It was a form of escapism even though we were still trapped in grief.
The plane journey on the way home was particularly difficult. Hearing a baby crying incessantly only served to remind us of our desperate longing for Eddie. I think the air hostess genuinely thought we were just upset to be coming home after our holiday when she asked us if there was anything she could do to help! Little did she know.
It’s good to be home as we have work to do. This morning I met with a friend who has kindly offered to help us with Teddys Wish. The charity is still in its early stages but has given me something positive to focus on. Those moments help me feel like I am doing something for Eddie; I can still be his mummy even though he’s not here.
This afternoon I met a friend who has gone through the same tragic loss as we have but under different circumstances. I don’t know if it’s fate, luck or coincidence that she lives only a few doors down from us but I’m grateful to have her in my life. Not only has she gone on to have 2 more children but she understands exactly what I’m going through. It shows me that she has survived, and with that survival, has found happiness again. I always leave feeling inspired. And even though it may not last long, it’s a moment of light.
Life wasn’t meant to be like this. We had everything perfectly planned from the moment we found out I was pregnant. We planned the house move, the family car, the car seat, the buggy, the nursery, the family holiday, and so on and so on. In fact, even before I was pregnant I was constantly making plans.
But life hasn’t worked out as we had planned. Life is terribly unfair.
We are now embarking on a new life, a new life without our darling baby boy. I’m not sure what this new life looks like but I’m certainly not making any grand plans. One thing’s for sure, I’m not the same person anymore. I’m sceptical of life, untrusting of what it may bring. I’m utterly heart broken. And I want my baby back.
But Eddie isn’t coming back. However hard I cry, however hard I pray, I have to accept that Eddie isn’t coming back in this life time. I have to accept that I will never know why his life was cut so short even if we are given a medical answer.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to believe that Eddie’s still with me; his soul is with me even if I can’t see him in the physical sense. I want to believe that he’s in heaven, that someone is looking after him, maybe he’s looking after me. And more importantly, I want to believe that one day, we’ll be together again.
I said to Chris today “I feel like we are existing but not living” Everything I lived for seems so insignificant now.
Life is just about getting through the minutes, the hours and getting through the days. Mornings are the worst. I wake up and for a split millisecond I feel ok before that sinking feeling returns with an almighty thump. You know that feeling when you wake up from a terrible nightmare? That feeling of relief that it was just a dream? Well, my nightmare is real. I am living my nightmare every. single. day.
Chris and I are in the process of setting up a charity called ‘Teddy’s Wish’. We are going to raise funds to help support other grieving families and further research into SIDS, neonatal death and stillbirth. Teddy’s Wish is giving me a reason to get through the day when I question how I’m going to get through it. It’s giving me something to do for Eddie. It’s keeping his memory alive.
My dad said I need to try and hold on to moments of light. Each time I experience even a flicker of light, I should write these down and hopefully, in time, those moments of light will get brighter. Teddy’s Wish and writing this blog are moments of light.
I’ve decided to play tennis again – another moment of light. I think it will be good for me. I used to play every weekend before I fell pregnant and it was part of my identity. Tennis is the only thing I can do at the moment that doesn’t have any association with me being a mum. Except of course when I try and squeeze in to my old tennis gear. But, I still think it will be good for me.
Chris and I went to buy a new tennis racquet this morning. He told me how excited he used to get when he was a young boy buying a new sports kit. He then broke down saying he would never be able to buy Eddie his first cricket bat. That’s not the only thing we’ll never get a chance to do. We’ll never buy his first rugby ball nor his first tennis racquet. We’ll never hear him say his first words and never see him take his first step. I’ll never hear him call me mummy…
But he will always be my son.