It’s my grief and I’ll cry if I want to…

I have a thing about crying. I find it hard to do. Always have.

Before Abi died, I wasn’t really one for crying at sad films or soppy love stories, although having children certainly made me more likely to have a little cry if it was about them (school plays, dance shows etc). But in general, I usually only cry when my anxiety has built to a point where I can no longer contain my emotions, particularly surrounding my grief. I have waves, huge tsunami-type waves, of grief emotion inside yet I can’t let it surface.

I do let go sometimes, I’m not saying I never cry, but considering that my daughter died last year and I’m a breastfeeding new mum again, I’ve probably only cried a handful of times in the last few months. I find this odd. A bit like someone worrying about worrying, I worry that I’m not grieving properly! That I’ve built such a strong wall up while I was pregnant that it’s now become a permanent fixture!

I cried a lot when Abi died. For weeks the tears drained me. I cried more than I ever have in my entire life. But gradually the episodes of crying decreased. I realised I didn’t feel quite so tired, my eyes weren’t quite so puffy. I began wearing mascara again, albeit waterproof.

Capturing my grief

My tears don’t equate to my love

I wish I could cry more easily. If I could just let the tears fall when they needed to, I wouldn’t carry around this heavy stone in my chest all the time. I know how important expressing emotion is for mental and physical well-being, but I also know my reaction is not unusual. I’ve heard stories of bereavement councillors who struggle when grief hits them and they block out the advice they’ve been handing out, unable to work out a way to react.

I’ve always had this tough side to me that protects me from hurt, from crumbling, and it’s stood me in good stead over the years. I’m a dust-yourself-off kind of girl, but you can’t ‘dust off’ the loss of your child. Now it means I’m forever trapped between having to carry on for everyone else’s sake and wanting to breakdown. I don’t think I can do an in between.

Crying because I’m feeling hormonal offers a brief release. Crying with grief is an entirely different thing. It’s painful for a start as my heart aches and stomach cramps at the same time. It’s also exhausting. It seems any strength I’ve been holding onto comes out in the tears of grief. I feel utterly drained after a grief cry and that’s why I try to avoid it. I don’t have the time or head space. I have children to care for, a business to run, I can’t start being in a fuzz because of crying.

In April last year, just three months after Abi died, I had an appointment with the consultant at the hospital who dealt with my case when I lost a baby. After losing Bella at 14.5 weeks on 26th January 2013, due to defects, and having lost a baby at seven weeks immediately before falling pregnant with her, we were resigned to the fact our dream of having a fourth child was out of the question. I was convinced these losses were my body’s way of telling me I’d run out of chances and should be thankful for the healthy children I had. I found the whole experience so deeply traumatic and had nowhere to turn. I kept it a secret, as women feel compelled to do with a pregnancy (why?!), and that made it almost impossible to bear. I pushed away my husband and stayed indoors; I pretty much went a bit crazy. Feeling the first flutterings of a new life yet knowing it wasn’t going to last was beyond upsetting. It’s no wonder so many women struggle with their grief when a pregnancy ends.

Bella, never forgotten

Bella, never forgotten

I remember the day after I lost Bella, Abi was grading for her black belt in Kung Fu. A momentous day she’d worked so hard for. I was on bedrest but nothing was going to stop me sharing the moment with her. I was bleeding heavily and sore, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, but I put my brave face on and got through it. She was nonethewiser (or so I thought until reading her diary after her death, which showed she guessed I was pregnant but that something was up. She’d even listed a few names down, hence why we later used Bella).

One of our proudest moments tinged with sadness

One of our proudest moments tinged with sadness

So, with Bella gone, my abdomen feeling strangely empty, I had to quickly get over this loss, the Sands leaflets on counselling still in my handbag for a suitable time…

…11 days later, Abi collapsed and died.

I was snowballed from one level of grief to another, this of course being unimaginably terrible and so unexpected. As I sat in the ward waiting with Abi I felt the blood loss still from baby Bella. I even had to scrounge a sanitary towel as I was so unprepared following the dash from one hospital to another. My world was crashing around me like a horror film.

Yet three months after Abi’s funeral, I dragged myself, alone, nervously to that meeting with the consultant. All of a sudden I needed to know if I could try again. If the doors really were closed to us. It wasn’t that we wanted to replace any of our lost children, not at all, but more needing know that we had hope of more.

The consultant already knew of my loss of Abi before I arrived. I found that slightly unnerving, as though we were being talked about, yet also glad I didn’t need to explain it to him. He was a supportive man who gave me time and privacy. He couldn’t believe my misfortune, yet my heart was lifted when he said there was no reason why I couldn’t try again, if I wanted to. Bella’s case was an isolated incident and the chances of it happening again were minimal. I didn’t cry during our meeting, I wobbled a few times from the stress of the situation but I kept the tears back. I didn’t want to take up his time with my crying as I felt once I started I wouldn’t stop! A couple of weeks later, I received a copy of a letter from him to my GP, confirming that it was OK for me to get pregnant again and that he would happily see me in the early weeks to keep an eye on things.

But the thing that has always stayed with me was his comment in the letter about my grief:

‘The consultation was obviously difficult in the light of these events but Kelly was remarkably stoic (even though I sensed that this was an extremely hard appointment for her to attend).’

This bothered me. Should I have been on my knees in floods of tears? Was my reaction or persona wrong or just plain weird? Did he think I was secretly unhinged? Does that mean that I simply didn’t care enough, that I was emotionally retarded?

When I talk about Abi, I don’t cry. When I think about her, I want to cry but don’t. If I do cry then it’s a big deal as I’m letting it out. So I’m seeking other ways to release the grief.

I can feel the tension in my body, the tension that’s held me up all this time. I’m even too scared to go for a massage in case they soften some of the hard stuff that’s keeping me upright. I believe the grief tension is partly to blame for my constant problems with breastfeeding (mastitis and low flow), my body simply doesn’t want to give anything more away. But I had an amazing gentle cranial osteopath treatment last week which helped enormously (which deserves its own post).

Most of all, I’m so grateful I persevered with my blog; it’s been a source of therapy for me and it forces me at times to really consider my feelings and how they are affecting me and my family. It stops me suppressing my emotions entirely – I’m much more comfortable writing about it. I know that now I’m a grieving mum, the tears will always come, when I let them. And in time I will start the therapy that’s waiting for me but had to be put aside until after my baby was born. It’s been such an emotionally challenging year but I’m not ready to go there just yet. To be honest, I don’t know where to start!

Sometimes I realise I have to give in to tears. I cry when there are no words, when there is nothing I can write or say that will ease the pain. The other day I cleaned Abi’s memorial. It was hot, tiring work and the baby wasn’t happy. When I sat on a nearby bench to feed him, I began to pray but started to cry – I had no words. But even in the isolation of the cemetery I was still self-conscious. I wouldn’t want to make another mourner who turned up feel awkward. It is a frustrating trait!

The tears will still come, when I allow them and when something unexpected sets me off. I’ll always have need of waterproof mascara and large sunglasses, but that’s part of keeping Abi with me and whether I cry or not, my love for her is no less now than it was when she was alive and with me.


20 thoughts on “It’s my grief and I’ll cry if I want to…

  1. How insightful of Abi to guess that you were pregnant and to realise something wasn’t right. How lovely that she thought of a name for Bella. I bet you are so grateful that you were able to drag yourself up to see her get that black belt.
    I am one of life’s criers. I probably well up every day of my life – at something my kids do, at something I seen on TV or something I read. I don’t think I’ve yet read anything you’ve written without crying, but I quite like crying, strange as it sounds. But I totally get that it’s not possible to cry non-stop, as you would feel like doing in your situation. ‘Stoic’ is an interesting word, but I’m sure it’s the way you have to be. You will never forget Abi for even one second, but you have to function for your other children (and for yourself) and when you feel the need to let go and release all that tension, a damn good cry is as good as anything. x

    • Thanks Sarah. Can’t help but feel a bit envious of easy criers, but we’re all different and I think so long as I remember that and am aware of my tendency to bottle it up, I should be OK x

  2. I do wonder sometimes why we are conditioned into thinking that tears are necessary when we feel sad. I just think that they are most people’s way of expressing emotion but not all of us. I know that I very rarely cry, once a year at most and people would definitely describe me as you mention above – a dust yourself off kind of person. Perhaps writing is a way of ‘release’ for you and therefore tears aren’t needed. From what I understand, everyone grieves in different ways and that doesn’t mean everyone has to cry real tears. That said, a jolly good cry (in private if necessary) can be very releasing at times but I’m not one to do that in public and perhaps neither are you. I am certain no one doubts your pain though. Just be you and do what comes naturally. Wow to Abi being a black belt in Kung Fu! x x

    • Thank you Suzanne. I expected a bit of a telling off for not grieving properly so it’s a comfort and a relief to feel reassured I’m not alone. She was very proud of her black belt, it went to heaven with her xxx

  3. I am a crier. But privately. I cannot comfortably cry in front of people, or if I think people will see me. I find that this grief is private, and unless I have invited you into it, I will not cry in front of anyone. Even my Love. I hate losing control of my emotions. Kelly, you are not the only one. 🙂 Thank you for expressing this.

  4. I cry in the shower, I find that I get a huge headache and if I can let go in the shower, I do feel somewhat better afterwards.
    I also think the Consultant used the word stoic in the meaning of being calm and almost without emotion. I think he was pretty impressed by how you were able to even get to the appointment, let alone sit through it! I don’t think he was suggesting that you were odd in any way!
    I don’t think anybody in a cemetary would think the worse of somebody who was crying, I certainly wouldn’t. I would possibly hesitate to go over and see if I could be of support, after all grief is individual, but some-one with a baby? Yes, in hindsight, I think I would. Even if I was told to go away, I would go and enquire.
    We all experience grief in different ways. I don’t grieve for my losses (not a child like Abi) by crying any more. If I am feeling sad or angry, I take it out on something else like the ironing.
    Having said all of that, I can cry easily at other things like the Chelsea Pensioners and the Last Post being played! I guess I will never understand my own emotions. You seem to have yours pretty well sussed! We all just have to keep on keeping on!

    • Thank you so much for the lovely, insightful comment! I write out how I feel, share it and am amazed by the wonderful scope of advice and experience out there. I wish I’d started blogging years ago! I too cry in the shower, and I think in there too, only free time I get sometimes. Perhaps having children with me pretty much all the time forces me to keep a lid on things. A good cry really does help release the tension. You know, sometimes I will laugh at something I find hilarious and that laughter will turn into huge sobs. It’s very weird! x

      • ahh, but years ago the internet didn’t exist!! We just talked to our neighbours instead!! 🙂 You are so right, it is very weird!! I think you are right, having children with you all the time does change things. Mine have grown and almost left home completely now, and I find I cry because I miss them. It is so much easier when I am on my own!

      • Life is very different now. I can still remember life before mobile phones and things seemed less distracting! But then I’ve been able to share my writing with interested and interesting people which is great! I expect I’ll follow in your footsteps when my children leave home and will let go of some of the tears I’ve had to hold onto. xx

  5. Dear Kelly, I think you’re an amazing mum let me say firstly..! Then I think your an amazing woman! You’ve been through such a lot of emotions to lose a baby calling her Bella was enough for most folk! I obviously did not know this but i cannot imagine that it was easy at all! Then for you all to lose dearest Abbi is just to much to imagine..? I think your body and your mental capacity takes it on board and you do become stronger maybe because you have to! Because you loved so desperately….. Abbi and Bella. Maybe the grief hasn’t yet come out.. I also think you become stronger for your family..Not to show this grief. It isn’t that we cant sometimes we have it inside waiting till the time is right..Also as you say it totally drains you and your emotional state.So maybe our bodies do try to protect us! You are such an star honestly you love your family so much I as a mum and hopefully a friend salute you. You make me feel inferior at times because you are soo strong!
    I can cry at most things these days. But i can also be very strong when necessary as i have jumped a few hurdles in my time.
    God bless and enjoy your emotions what ever! xxx

  6. Beautiful blog. Since losing Hugo, I have days when I cry a lot. On other days, I feel very numb, but I can feel the tension building and have to seek a way to release it all. Grief is so personal and how you feel can change hour by hour, and day by day. Not crying doesn’t mean you feel any less sad about Abi and Bella xxx

    • Thank you so much Leigh. I think grief is ever-changing so it’s important to keep talking, it certainly helps me to try stay on top of things x

  7. This is such an emotionally powerful post Kelly, and I hope it felt really cathartic to write it all down and get it out. I can empathise with what you’ve said about blog writing being therapeutic, and have said it myself too.

    I well up over lots of things (posts like this for example) but I don’t do breaking down sobbing cries. I don’t see them as wholly necessary, as long as you aren’t bottling up your grief and pretending it doesn’t exist – which of course you aren’t. You are writing the most beautifully worded blog, about the saddest of subjects.

    As you said it’s YOUR grief, and you should be allowed to grieve however you want to xx

    • Wow! Thank you so much. It’s so good to feel supported in this. I feel somehow that if I’m not seen to be crying then I’m fine – and people think that I’m fine when I’m not. Tears should not be the measure of emotion. x

  8. Hi Kelly,
    Seems we both write about not being ‘criers’. I’m so sorry for your loss, I find so much of your writing relatable. Especially when you say ‘I worry that I’m not grieving properly’, I had the same thoughts after my husband passed. Society dictates that we should be bumbling sooks if we are in mourning, but we don’t all work that way. And as for being called ‘stoic’ I almost find that an insult to you grief, I’m sorry you went through that. Some people are so insensitive!

  9. Hi Kelly, seems we are both non ‘criers’, I’m sorry for your loss, I find so much of your writing relatable. Especially when you say ‘worry that I’m not grieving properly’ I felt the same way following my husbands death. Society says we should be a crying mess to be grieving! Also being called ‘stoic’ sounds almost like an insult to your grief, I’m sorry you had to see that, people can be so insensitive!

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