Sharing stories of grief

I’m often so aware of my grief that I feel like I’m going out of my tiny mind!

Each day, I live and breathe the heartache of knowing the pain that is to be a grieving mother.

I’ll be doing something ordinary… ironing, preparing a meal, reading to one of my children, shopping in town… and my inner voice will be screaming at me ‘But she’s not here! Why isn’t she here!’ over and over. I almost laugh as my brain tries to comprehend my going about my ‘normal business’ with the painful thought that, yes, it’s real, my daughter did die, so how am I even functioning let alone doing these trivial things?

I’m sharing my loss and thoughts on this blog and I’m concerned it might seem like I’m obsessed by it, as, even though it’s changing, it’s certainly not going away! But then I meet someone or hear something that makes me know I’m not alone, that I’m far from obsessed and that I’m okay where I am.

The thing is, we all know of someone who hasn’t ‘moved on’ enough or who hasn’t ‘opened up’ enough about their grief, in our opinion. Society makes it impossible for us to get the balance right, if there is such a thing!

I watched TV the other day, This Morning, a call-in where the topic was the loss of a child. A bereaved mother, whose son had died in his early twenties having been in a car accident, called in to the show. Her voice was weak with exhaustion and lack of motivation; she had lived and breathed his loss every minute of every day since. She couldn’t sleep and dreaded bedtime, then she dreaded waking up and worried about how to face the day without him. This was nearly four years later, still very early days in the acceptance of a loss, but surely, I thought, time enough to get past the initial feeling of deep hurt and confusion. She was lost in an endless cycle of depression and I was ashamed that I was thankful I was not in her shoes. Her grief consumed her life entirely, and I realised that while my grief is a constant emotion, it’s not, in reality, all-consuming every day, even if it feels that way!

The advice was yes, this pain won’t ever go away, but your child would not want you to live the rest of your days feeling like this. Sometimes you just need to hear someone say words like this without telling you that you need to ‘get over it’. It was sound advice and true empathy from a woman (Denise) who’s been there and lives with loss herself. Here is a link to the item on the show.

But as hard as it was to hear the sad stories on the call-in, and to hear how each parent was still deeply mourning the loss of their child years later knowing that I, too, joined them, I also took comfort from it. I also follow a number of other mothers and fathers who blog about their losses.

I need to read others’ painful stories, need to see how someone else is coping with it…Β  Some can’t face the world, some (try to) carry on regardless, some make a new life elsewhere, some campaign for change, others blog and raise awareness… but one thing binds us, we all need to find a way that will help us cope with living each day in this world without the person we’ve loved so much and lost.


Child Benefit… a sore subject for the bereaved parent!

Oh the irony. Having just had a baby, I’ve finally got round to filling out the claim form for child benefit, the same day we receive our first correctly adjusted and reduced payment (for two children instead of three) following Abi’s death 14 months ago.

Dealing with the Child Benefit department at HM Revenue and Customs has perhaps been one of the most upsetting things we’ve had to do since Abi died.

Having received her death certificate (oh how hard that was!), there were a number of practical admin type things we had to change: direct debits to clubs, savings accounts… and child benefit.

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A blob of gum

We cleaned our cars at the weekend, not a common occurrence I’m ashamed to admit especially with a newborn keeping our tired arms occupied enough, but after the recent sandy rain we couldn’t put it off any longer.

However, there’s one spot in my car (the family estate) which I’ll never clean… the boot side window. The reason? An old blob of bubblegum.

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Double grief

Living with grief means that I often sit outside of myself and reflect on my troubled mind. I’ve recognised that my thoughts surrounding my grief are two-fold: I need to deal with the trauma, the post-traumatic stress, from both mine and Abi’s perspective.

First there are my ‘selfish’ thoughts about what happened to ME, a mother suddenly losing her 12-year-old daughter, and then I need to try to comprehend what has happened to HER, the physical pain and reality of the life leaving her body, separating her from all she has ever known.

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Mixed blessings at Easter

Just like all big occasions, Easter isn’t the same without Abi here. The girl who loved chocolate, egg hunts and holidays.

This is our second Easter without Abi, and while we’re keeping it low key again, this year I didn’t cry when I contemplated which chocolates to buy my other children so I suppose that would be considered ‘progress’. Only a flat feeling remains.

I feel low at this time in the Church calendar, as now I tend to focus on the gloom of the days leading up to Jesus’ death rather than the joy of his resurrection… I’m reminded of the painful days when we lost Abi.


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Do you want to build a snowman?

I recently sat down with my son and daughter to watch Frozen. I realise we’re rather late as it was a Christmas movie, but at the time we weren’t keen to see it (going to the cinema was just not fun anymore). So I put it on as an afternoon distraction for us on a rainy day, not expecting too much.

I often relate songs or TV shows to Abi that bring back a specific memory of her, so I wasn’t expecting this new film to have much of an impact on me, only that it’s another thing that Abi has missed out on. The children loved it of course, but as soon as it started I felt my grief surface and had a bit of an ‘oh dear’ moment as I wondered if this was going to upset me too much to watch or if I could bite my lip and get through it.

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Guest blog: Collective emotion

[This article was written by my good friend Sali Green, reproduced with Sali’s kind permission]

An unexplainable sadness hit a great many people on hearing of the death of Peaches Geldof. But is it unexplainable? Some feel surprised and uncomfortable that they become part of a collective grief over someone they never met. Others show annoyance that such a fuss could be made about one person when there are so many people suffering in the world. Both reactions are natural, as are the vast spectrum of feelings around and in between them.

Emotions can be intensified because of sad news – the fragility of life; reminding us of our own losses; love and appreciation for those around us strengthened. New life lessons are learned and our young people educated.

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Spring blossoms

Abi's blossom

Ever since I can remember, the sight of the first spring blossoms was something that always filled me with joy.

I’m sure I’m not alone as it is one of those simple signs that winter is gone and lovely summer days are waiting for us, enabling us to open windows, and get outdoors.

Of everything that symbolises spring – lambs, chicks, daffodils and bunnies, blossoms are always the thing that most lifts me. I think it’s because when I was a child, I would walk everywhere, being without a car in the family, so I was used to walking across Cheltenham to get to school or college. It would be like walking in a magical land when the blossoms came out, making the often dull journey more cheerful and interesting.

Last year, Abi had just died and as spring was springing, my head remained in the dark place of my grief. I wasn’t surprised by this at all. So the blossoms passed me by and the sunlight hurt my eyes. But it’s this year that I realised the lifelong pleasure I took from seeing the spring blossoms has gone for good.

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Shared article: We should not be isolated in mourning

To those who are grieving (and those trying to understand grief) please read this incredibly insightful article. I found myself saying yes throughout reading it. It speaks for so many.

‘…the first year is supposed to be the worst. It’s all still raw. …in some ways, the second year is harder. That’s when you realise they really aren’t coming back. It’s a horrible epiphany that can coincide with everyone else imagining you’re over the worst. But as someone once said: β€œGrief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving.’

New life, new grief

And so, our new baby son was safely born six weeks ago. It’s taken this long for me to have the will to write again, although I’ve jotted thoughts down as they arose and have again found many things surprising.

It was the perfect home birth. Four hours in labour and out he popped, small and perfect. Then a few cups of tea and a doze on the sofa before our other children came down to meet him. I know all too well the importance of a positive birth experience in the emotional recovery of the mother. I’ve experienced the bad side of this myself, but this time it was even more important that I had a good experience. Not just for my well-being but for my husband’s and children’s. We’d all seen enough trauma already.

So we were naturally delighted to meet the little boy whose purpose, it seems, is to give our family new hope. Friends and family have shared our joy and relief that things went well.

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