Overall, I liked taking part in this project, and it has been a goal to get to October and re-evaluate how we are doing in our grief at this point. October was a full on month, with a lot of focus on Baby Loss. This is a good thing ultimately, but equally can be quite exhausting emotionally. That said, I’ve enjoyed capturing something everyday and gathering my thoughts. I haven’t delved into other peoples that much, just a few here and there.
I’ll look forward, in anticipation, to next years project. I am also keen to see Carly Marie’s Self Care project for the festive season as I’m feeling that this is going to be needed!
DAY 21 : RELATIONSHIPS
How have your relationships changed? Did you lose any? Have you made new friendships?
I’ve talked about this aspect of grief quite a bit, and it really is one of the hardest life shifts for me to understand and settle in my mind, outside the loss of Leo.
We’ve been bitter, angry, upset, dismissive. I soon learnt that it wasn’t just us. Others experienced it too and ultimately it’s a side effect of grief. Not a very nice one to come to peace with, but an inevitable side effect of grief and stillbirth.
I decided one day that I wasn’t going to put the effort into either saving relationships or worrying about the ones I couldn’t save any longer. We have a limited amount of energy – even now, and we must make sure we balance it’s expenditure appropriately. I decided that our energy for others would go where we gain something back. We chose to work as best we can at the relationships with the people who decided to come in, or decided not to leave.
We will always remember who those people are, whatever may shift in the future. Those people have saved us from staying in the black whole. They have taught us that we can laugh, enjoy, relax. They have given us confidence, encouraged our bravery, or just listened. They’ve shown us love, and importantly shown Leo love. They haven’t expected anything of us in return, although we will always worry that we aren’t capable of giving back the same level of friendship and support that they have shown us.
I’ll never be able to thank those people enough. Family and friends who have featured this year – that’s a shift in our lives that I’m more than happy with.
DAY 22 : PEARLS OF WISDOM
Do you have any words of wisdom to share that you have found helpful? It could be from a writer, speaker, philosopher, maybe even a friend. Feel free to share quotes, poetry, song lyrics or just ideas. I invite you to share a message of hope for all the newly bereaved parents and loved ones out there.
I don’t like to think that I have learnt all the lessons in grief yet, 9 months is such a relative short space of time. What I would say is there a things that we remind ourselves of now and then, that I think are really important things to remember to help us adapt to this life.
The first would be to just go with the emotions, don’t fight them, feel them, give them space, be kind to yourself, go gentle and sleep. Sleep works wonders sometimes. Waking up with a new sunrise can often be all you need to get your mojo back – it isn’t a cure, it’s just that some days work, and others don’t.
The second would be that the fear is worse that the reality nearly all the time. The fear of labour, of his funeral, of seeing people, of events, of trying again, or going outside, of it all. The fear is always worse. And if you can survive the fear, then you’ll be fine. It doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, but you will survive.
And my third, we all did what we could at the time. We didn’t choose this life. We were handed it, brutally. We made decisions at that time based on our mindset at that moment – we couldn’t do anymore than that. We have to be okay with those decisions, and not live with guilt or regret, because we did the best we could at the time. Whatever those decisions were, you did the best. What I would say though, is that if someone is making tough decisions today – the fear is worse than reality.
DAY 23 : SOUNDS, SCENTS AND SEASONS
There are reminders of our children everywhere. We find them in songs, in scents and different seasons. Share the things that bring you closer to your children. Feel free to share a song that reminds you of them.
I think this is a good prompt, because it’s all the little things around us, that can catch us announced and remind us of Leo.
Sounds : we have a Leo Phoenix playlist, with songs that remind us of him – Stand By Me will always be his, and then there’s some others from his funeral – Nimrod and Grow Old with Me by Tom Odell. And others like Beiber’s Love Yourself (random I know!) which was number one when he was born and still going strong on the radio. And a few others than have resonated with us since, such as Good Grief by Bastille. It’s a good playlist to listen to when we want to cry but also a good one when we want to feel his love – it works both ways, depending on our mood!
Scents : We will never be able to change clothes washing products. Because Leo’s clothes were all freshly washed when he died, that scent will always remind The Wife of Leo and the clothes that he wore whenever we wash the clothes now. She’s always catching it, and asking me if it smells like Leo.
Seasons : This picture was taken not long after Leo died. The weather around that time was pure winter crispness with blue skies – what we now refer to as a “Leo Day”. It was quite a comfort at the beginning – my favourite type of weather. I’m not sure that the first Leo Day of the season his time will be welcomed, I don’t know. I guess it’ll depend on how we are feeling and when it appears.
DAY 24 : CONSCIOUSLY BECOMING
So many of us split our lives into a timeline of before and after our children died. Who were you before your children died? Who are you now? Who are you now in this present moment? What are you feeling? Have you been irrevocably changed by the death of your children? How are you different now? Do you love anything about the new you? Do you want and old part of you back? Who are you becoming?
This prompt seems apt, as I returned to work today and stepped into the environment that I would associate mostly with the “Pre-Leo” version of me. I left work for Maternity Leave 10 months and 1 day ago – the picture on the left is my last day at work. The other two pictures are Christmas Day and New Years Eve. Just weeks before Leo died.
Today, my surroundings felt so familiar, “as if I’d never left” as people say. The sounds, the conversations, the tasks – so very familiar. Yet, me? I am not familiar. I can see by seeing myself at work the small little ways that I have changed. The jury is out as to whether those changes are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – I guess there’s little value in classing them in that way, because they are just changes. Changes because I’m a parent. Changes because I’m a parent to a child who died. Changes because I, along with my wife, have gone through experiences that very few people would be left unchanged by.
I often feel a bit like a robot. I can physically do everything required of me. But there’s this small part of my brain that isn’t connected, that is elsewhere, at all times. I can’t just melt or relax into the emotions anymore. I can feel them, but they don’t consume me in the way that they once did. Leo is always there. I can’t switch that off – even if I wanted too.
I struggle to really know how to describe the type of person I am now. Anxious? Nervous? Quiet? I don’t know. I can’t really remember what it felt like to me the Pre-Leo me either as a comparison.
If we go back to a work context as a comparison, my CV describes me as “Approaching all situations with confidence and enthusiasm, I enjoy tackling new and challenging areas in my career. I am a determined, diligent and driven individual; constantly analysing performance as I strive to stretch and improve on previous successes”. I think this is still valid, its just the direction and topic has changed. That drive is in parenting Leo, in surviving, in tackling the new challenge of grief, and diligently breaking the silence around Baby Loss.
DAY 25 : I AM
Finish these 5 sentences; I wish; I remember; I could not believe; If only; I am
I wish I had the opportunity to save you, I wish I heard the warnings, I wish I could have done something, I wish I could change this, I wish this wasn’t how life is, I wish we weren’t 1 in whatever, I wish you were here, keeping us up at night, teething, weaning, crawling, sofa surfing walking, babbling… breathing.
I remember how safe I felt when you arrived, and with us, not breathing, but with us. I remember the fear, the unknown of what was ahead of us after we found out that you had died. I remember sitting, waiting in the waiting room. I remember leaving the hospital in a daze, into a new world and a new life with no clue how to operate. I remember the adrenaline that kept us going.
I could not believe (and still can’t) how common this is, how many people survive Baby Loss. I could not believe (and still can’t) that this happened to us, that this is our reality, that time means you are forever gone. Forever.
If only there was a sign, if only this was temporary, that we could walk through that magical door one day and enter the parallel life I dream about. If only you breathed, even for a moment. If only you breathed, for a life time.
I am defined by you. I am defined by your death, and your birth. I am a survivor. A warrior. I am me. I am your mother.
DAY 26 : #WHATHEALSYOU
Turning the WHY into What Heals You? has been one of my greatest healers. Whenever I found myself asking “why did this have to happen. Why me? Why him?” etc etc I started asking myself what heals me? I revisited passions of mine and spent a little bit of time each day giving those passions my attention. Before too long, my life started becoming beautiful again. Share about what heals you and if you are not sure, have a think about what it is you ar passionate about. What heals you if often hidden there.
Leo heals me. I think it’s one of the biggest bittersweet aspects of grief and baby loss. His absence pains me. But every other thing about him heals me. If he’s acknowledged. If his name is spoken. When he’s remembered. Doing something in his name. For him. The lessons that he has taught us. The people that he has enabled us to know. His existence.
Leo heals me.
DAY 27 : FAMILY IS FOREVER
Your child is a part of your family forever. There will never come a day when you are no longer their parent. Until the end of time, you are family. Share about your family today. Who would be in your family portrait? Remembering that family does not have to be blood relatives.
Leo will always be our first child, and his life and death will always bond us together. What the future looks like for our family is so unknown, but Leo will always be there in some way. He will be there in pictures like this. I often think about strangers, passers by, new people and how they are unable to see Leo in our family and what that will feel like in the future, if and when we have a child that stays breathing. I want people to be able to see him, but have no idea how to make that happen without becoming a complete crazy lady always going on about her dead baby in years to come. If we have a child, and they go to school for example, how will Leo be seen in our family from an outsider? Many people say that in the future you choose to share them with those special enough to hear their names – but if he lived, it wouldn’t be a choice. He’d just be there, seen, heard, known. It’s a balancing act that I hope to be able to work through when our family appears as one from the outside, but from the inside, we already are a picture of three.
DAY 28 : SELF COMPASSION
Self Compassion is integral to healing your broken heart. You can start to practice more self compassion by showing yourself a little more love and care. Do you have any self-care practices? What are your thoughts on taking care of yourself.
I’ve taken this prompt as a way to reevaluate how well I am looking after myself. I feel like I tackled grief in the beginning really well, simply doing #100DaysOfWellbeing made me actively look for things to do to look after myself, physically and mentally. When we did our last cycle, and then miscarried, I just lost it and don’t feel like I’ve got it back yet. By it, I mean that focus and determination, the care or inclination. I look after myself mentally by writing, counselling, learning my grief and not overloading ourselves. But physically, I don’t think I have the same type compassion or focus.
I have tried to stay healthy, I know what to do, but doing it just doesn’t last. I was the healthiest I’ve been in a long time when I got pregnant with Leo, and since he died, whilst I haven’t gained weight (or lost any either!) I know I can be healthier with the right focus.
That said, when Leo died, I decided I didn’t want to spend my whole life constantly analysing my weight. It’s like a broken record for everyone from being a teenager and it isn’t the be all and end all – especially when your baby dies! But I do want to feel healthy, in control and with good habits.
So I’m going to use this prompt as an opportunity to reevaluate some bad habits that grief has given me and try and not just snap out of them for a week, but for long enough to make it noticeable. I’m going to try and hold myself accountable, but with an appropriate amount of pressure. Being physically healthy helps mental health, and that’s what I want to gain – a good balance in both mental and physical health supporting each other. I’m not after a summer body, but just after of confidence and maybe fitting it to some of my old clothes too.
DAY 29 : GIVE AWAY YOUR LOVE
One of my greatest healers when it comes to mending my own broken heart has been sharing kindness with strangers. Today you are invited to perform an act of kindness. Spread kindness wherever you go today. In all your interactions, be an example of love and compassion and see if it helps your heart. You are welcome to share what you did or you can keep it private and just share how it made you feel. It is completely up to you.
Throughout years of fertility treatment, mostly private, we quickly gained a sense of “you never know what battle someone is fighting” and that has only strengthened this year. I think it’s very easy in your day to day to be dismissive of others, to judge, to tut, to get irritated by the small things people might do. Yet, no one is actually out to get you whilst they are walking down the road – mostly anyway! There is always a journey being fought, and people don’t go about their day with the bullet pointed highlights on their clothes to allow you to excuse their behaviour, or feel compelled to smile and say hello.
Sometimes, when I’m out and about, and not having a good day, the sunnies will go on, I don’t crack a smile and I’m probably pretty ignorant of everything that is happening around me. Yet, no one knows the struggle that has led to that bad day and probably judges me for it, wishing I’d just smile.
It doesn’t take much to say hello, smile or importantly take kindness with someone regardless of what you make think of their behaviour – positive or negative. I try to give people (strangers) the benefit of the doubt, and spread a little bit of kindness where I can. You never know how long it’s been since someone has had a reason to briefly smile.
DAY 30 : MY PROMISE TO YOU
I made a promise to my son a few years ago to live my life to the fullest in honour of him. I have succeeded and failed at that promise many times but what matters most is that it has helped me to hold onto love when there is only darkness and to always try my best to make him proud of me. What promise would you like to make to your child?
Leo Phoenix, I promise you we will fight. You won’t be forgotten. You will always be loved. We will keep fighting. You will always be a part of our family. We will do our best for you. We will share your love and your story wide and far. You. You are loved.
DAY 31 : SUNSET REFLECTION
On this last day, take some time out to watch the sunset from wherever you are in the world and reflect on this last month. How do you feel? What have you learned? What did you dislike? What did you like?
This is the sunset from Leo’s grave the other day. We’d never seen the sunset from there before and it was rather pretty! This month has been big, for so many reasons, and I’m looking forward to having a few weeks of relaxation and self-care. I enjoy having a focus in my grief, and evaluating our thoughts on certain aspects without the cloud of trying to work out our new normal of work and whatnot whilst battling grief. So much has happened for Baby Loss Month and I’m so pleased we have an opportunity to all share our voice, despite it being difficult to tackle. I hope that it serves to help others by sharing and talking, just as I hope it helps throughout the whole year. I’m proud of us this month, we have achieved many things and that deserves some small celebration – mostly just a knowing smile of doing some good and an early night! The seasons changing has been hard for many reasons and the festive season is going to take its toll mentally. We have some ideas how to help, but no doubt a tough few months is ahead of us now.