My new Chasing Dragonflies phone case

Last summer, I ordered a mobile phone case for my gorgeous new Samsung Galaxy S5. Having previously dropped a phone and lost everything, I wanted something that was tough but that didn’t make my phone look clumpy. I also wanted a cover that I could personalise with a photo of Abi, so I could see her face anytime. It was a big ask as choice is actually pretty limited out there – either expensive but dull or cheap and flimsy. So I was pretty excited when I came across Getincased.com, an online company specialising in premium design mobile phone covers.

It was so easy to create my custom case and it arrived within a couple of days. The case was perfect in every sense. Really good quality, discreet and eye catching.

My gorgeous new phone case

My gorgeous Abi phone case

The owner of the company was so touched when he heard about Abi and our sad loss that he wanted to help. And so it was that Getincased.com started to donate proceeds from sales of their mobile phone cases to Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the official charity of Bristol Children’s Hospital where Abi was cared for at her death.

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A few months later, the design team had worked really hard and presented me with some beautiful designs focused on my blog, Chasing Dragonflies. Proceeds from sales of these would go straight to the charity.

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The company also nominated Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal as their business charity, meaning further funds in the pot and have also pledged a box of iPads to be sent to the hospital for the poorly children to use while they are there. In only nine months, they’ve donated an amazing £2,000!

We’ve built up a lovely rapport with a company that puts people before profit, that is using their business to do good things – for no other reason than because they are compassionate human beings who want to help.

I’ve always loved my Abi phone cover and, indeed, as I use my phone as a camera, every time I take a photo the picture of Abi is smiling at whoever I photograph. This has been particularly poignant with our rainbow baby who never knew his biggest sister but can now recognise her in photos.

However, with my recent feelings about the focus of my grief shifting slightly, I thought it a good idea to get a new phone cover. This was more with my children in mind than me, who I wondered might feel a little put out that Abi is the only child I have on my phone cover (sibling rivalry doesn’t stop with death!). But, I also really wanted to own one of the gorgeous Chasing Dragonflies designs so it’s a good reason to get a spare! And here it is…

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I’ve bought a number of different phone cases in the past but these are by far the best. I think they are worth every penny. My original case is still as good as new, and it’s survived a fair few knocks in the nine months I’ve had it!

If you’ve got an iPhone (4, 5, 6 or 6 Plus) or Samsung Galaxy S5, or are getting an upgrade to one of these models, and you want to make sure you get a phone cover that makes it look even better, please consider choosing from one of the designs at www.getincased.com

They have lots of on-trend designs to choose from and if you buy a cover from the Chasing Dragonflies collection your money will be doing good for the patients at Bristol Children’s Hospital, the main intensive care hospital for children covering the South West, UK.

And, if you do buy a case, please do share a photo of it with me on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/blogchasingdragonflies or Twitter @BlogDragonflies

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Dreams of moving on

I wrote a post last September about how hard I found it to declutter our home. We were having a car boot sale and kept coming across things that brought back bittersweet memories. Abi’s belongings were still everywhere – a forgotten hairclip, a school pen – and I found the thought of getting rid of things we had ‘when Abi was alive’ (a new marker in our family timeline) too hard to bear. But, a year on, I’ve arrived at a very different place.

In my life, I’m beginning to make changes. Changes that mean I’m starting to move on.

It’s actually taken me a long time to want to write that in a post. ‘Moving on’ is one of the hardest terms I know relating to grief. It makes me feel physically sick and mentally stressed. I have a number of books that all offer ways to help ‘people move on’ that I avoid picking up because to wish it is to want to erase the memory of her. But, it’s essential that I at least try to come to accept it.

This hasn’t come about the easiest way. I haven’t just woken up and thought right, time to ‘get a grip’. The past year has been a huge struggle and I think in large part owing to the fact that, as time moves away from my last day with Abi, I am desperately trying to claw it back. ‘Moving on’ is so very hard when your child is dead.

I was able to realise that I was sinking further and further into depression. I felt like I was standing in sinking sand but had managed to hold on to a branch to stop me being fully submerged. Now, I’ve built up enough energy to try to pull myself out.

I’m looking at my life from the outside in, rather than in the self-absorption of grief. I see a woman who is tired, stressed and lethargic. I see a marriage that is strained. I see a home that is stuck in a time warp, reminding us constantly that we are living with trauma. I see a family suffocated by the memories all around them, in every face they see, every step they take.

Yet, as I try to bring some new order to our home and the daily changes are feeling somewhat positive, and right, I can’t escape the torment that this brings.

At night I dream of Abi and my dreams are stressful. I wake up often with palpitations, my broken heart tearing me from my rest.

I dreamt that my hubby and I had decided that Abi’s ashes needed to be moved. They were buried in our local churchyard and her stone was constantly hidden by mud and dead leaves, so much so it was almost sinking into the earth. So we asked the vicar and some close family to hold another service where we exhumed her box of ashes in order to move it to a nice place.

It was evening. The box was brought out. I held it. It was slightly shabby where it had been buried, the light oak was dark and beginning to rot. I held my girl’s remains and choked back tears.

I remember looking at my hubby and wondering what we were going to do with her ashes; now questioning why we had dug them up in the first place! It was a bit awkward as we realised we had nowhere to put them. I thought that we could put them in a pot and have them at home. I felt a yearning to have Abi close by. But I didn’t voice my thoughts as I knew it wasn’t right. We both knew that, really, she belonged back in the ground.

This dream struck me as my conflicting feelings of wanting to let go (not of Abi but of my grief) yet cling onto Abi and keep her close. I suppose my subconscious was telling me that I can’t bring her back. That the Abi we knew isn’t on Earth anymore, even if her remains are. That I could dig her up and rebury her a thousand times but it wouldn’t change a thing.

I feel, with help, that I can move on in grief. That I can create new memories, as our family is so different to what it was two years ago. I have to let go of a lot of the past. Not of Abi. I will never get over losing her; her life and her death are engraved on my heart. It’s the material and sentimental aspects of grief I feel need to change.

I have to put aside the many photos and mementos, replacing them with simpler versions that enhance rather than dominate our home. We have decided to stay in our house so we will need to completely transform our home into a new space where new memories are made. I want to create a new nest shaped around the remains of what we have. I want to find new interests and ways to use my mind, to spend my time wisely.

I can see, clearly, how in the first two years of grief I have clung to the familiar. Our home and its contents hasn’t changed much. We haven’t travelled far. We’ve stuck to our routines. The familiarity was my comfort blanket. But now that familiarity threatens to draw me into a downward spiral. By keeping things the same, by always everything ‘Abi’, I struggle to find the breathing space I need to live, and that which will allow my other children to just be. And living is what I want to do. I want to treasure this life I have and to live it for Abi as well as for me.

So, while it’ll take time to sort through the clutter that is spilled all over our home, clutter that shows I’ve been clinging onto the loss, and it’ll take money to pay for new carpets and furniture, it’s a transition I feel ready to take, and that’s the most important part. Knowing this feels good and my hope is lifted. I know the journey will be fraught with the guilt and grief that I must feel. I just have to let it be.

In pursuit of happiness (in grief)

As I was waiting for my son, I stood next to another mum with a young boy. She laughed and smiled as she tickled her toddler’s tummy and said cheerfully to me, ‘Doesn’t this good weather make you feel so much better!?’ I gave one of my template smiles in response. She was a lovely woman, clearly enjoying life at the moment.

That was me, once.

I can’t smile blissfully and appreciate a sunny day as a reason to be happy. I won’t ever again think the weather makes me ‘feel better’ – sunny days are shrouded in a dull gloom.

As it happens, the sun does make the days easier to bear than the dull days, but they only mask what is always inside, briefly turning the darkness to light. Other people’s sudden joy has me running for cover.

Grief is like staying indoors on the sunniest day. Some days, you don’t care that it’s sunny outside, you keep your pyjamas on and bolt the door. Other days, you are desperate to get out and feel the warm sun on your face, but the door is stuck fast and no matter how hard you try you can’t get out, you’re trapped.

That’s grief.

At this point in my grief journey I have discovered how my anger and emotion has retreated inward. My mind and body feel at war, resulting in paranoia, fear, frustration and pain. Yet I’m trying to smile through it all, to experience happiness again. I want to be ‘healed’ of my sorrow more than anything, believe me, but grief is an incurable illness. I just have to learn somehow to live with it.

Happiness is something my family wish for me, too. My daughter made this badge for me a few months after Abi died, a simple gesture which expressed so much. I carry it in my purse as a reminder to see life through her childlike eyes rather than my weary, sorrowful ones.

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My children want a happy mum, and my hubby certainly wants his happy wife back. But ‘happy’ feels like a swear word to me. I wince at the very mention of it. I shy away from admitting a happy moment, wracked with guilt and feeling confused. But, in order to survive, I must find a kind of happiness or this grief will eat me away like a disease.

I do feel happy feelings. I smile when my baby laughs or does something clever. I can laugh and even crack jokes. I’m still the same me, only shattered into pieces that don’t quite fit like they used to. Love is my only glue.

But grief is a heartbreaker and a homewreaker.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my hubby more than ever but, boy, it’s hard to live on different levels of grief all the time, to see each other every day and be reminded of the pain, to be reminded of our first child’s life and sudden death, to have to parent our other children ‘normally’ through our deep sadness and anxieties.

I can understand why marriages fall apart with the strain, it seems almost inevitable. It’s so much harder to ‘move on’ while staying together, than to split up and start afresh. But we are, so far. We’ve been married 16 years next month, but it’s almost as though we started again the day Abi died. Things changed, our relationships changed. Family became fractured. It’s ‘us’ but not as we’ve always known it.

I conserve whatever happiness I can muster for my hubby and children, and them alone. I have nothing left for anyone else. There’s no one I need to please or give myself to but them, and God. That’s hard to live with though. I don’t care much now for surprising, gift buying, and putting others first. At the moment, grief wants me all to itself.

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Just like the recent solar eclipse, grief came like a shadow and covered my happiness, blocking it from those I love most. The difference is that my eclipse shadow isn’t moving across like it should. It moves a fraction to allow a glimmer of light through but won’t budge any further.

That sounds like depression… you know, the dark clouds and all that, but it’s not depression, it’s grief – the death of my eldest child that cast a permanent shadow over my life. While the clouds of depression pass over, grief itself is not a gloomy cloud that will simply blow away.

As unbelievable as it sounds, I’m not feeling self-pity, strangely. I’m ever considering that I’m not the only one in this world who is unhappy, who has lost somebody. I am actually very thankful for all that I have had and have today. I know too well I’m not alone. I don’t feel sorry for myself, despite my experiences. I cling to hope and to the promise of God’s unconditional love.

So, I will look for reasons to smile and be thankful no matter how heavy my heart is. With every smile or every laugh I know I am trying: trying to live, trying to make sense of the pain, trying to adjust, trying to somehow find happiness again.

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