My blog posts for Still Standing Magazine

In 2018, I was selected as a contributory writer for the excellent grief resource, Still Standing Mag. Below is a list of links to the posts I had published on the site. Writing these each month was a great way to keep my writing going and also gave my words more exposure as they have a fantastic following of writers and readers. Simply click on a link below to read them.

Sept ’18 – How to avoid burnout when supporting grieving friends

Aug ’18 – Don’t hurry to ask me why my child died

July ’18 – Hypochondria, anxiety, and grief: what comes after loss

June ’18 – Overcoming grief sabotage

May ’18 – Why her, God? Why not me?

April ’18 – 5 tips for using social media when you’re grieving

March ’18 The strength of a grieving mother

Feb ’18 – Don’t be sorry that you’re not grieving

 

 

JustGiving’s Crowdfunder of the Year Award – vote for me

It takes me way out of my comfort zone to ask people to vote for me (even if I did ask them for their money), but having been nominated for the JustGiving Awards 2018, I have quite amazingly been shortlisted in the Crowdfunding category, so I suppose I’ll have to spare my blushes and just ask for a vote!

When I set up the crowdfunding page, I hoped it would bring in something to help pay for the design and print costs for The Dragonfly Story, which I published in April 2018. I had a wonderful illustrator in Helen Braid, and also a fantastic printer lined up; I didn’t want to cut corners. It was so important that this story was gently narrated, colourful and engaging, and that it had the quality of a book that could be read again and again… Why? Continue reading

Guard your grieving heart

For many bereaved parents – coping with the worst thing that could ever happen – the next most awful thing is thinking about other people who might be affected by a similar fate. It’s distressing to think that anyone else might have to experience what you have, especially if it could have been prevented.

It’s a good idea to consider the things that are supporting you through your grief, and what is adding to your grief. In my recent post on Still Standing Magazine, I suggested some healthy ways to use social media in grief. Social media is a lifeline for us, but it also makes the world a much smaller place. Now, it’s a matter of a few clicks to find hundreds of people who have lost ‘exactly’ like you have. It can be distressing as the realisation comes that life’s fragility is more certain than its longevity.

Superhuman grief strength makes for super humans!

Forget ultramarathons though, nothing can match a grieving mother’s mental and physical strength (dads too, of course). I liken the strength to that of a woman in labour. The moment of crowning when animal instincts take over and she finds power that she never knew she had, despite overwhelming exhaustion, to push the baby out.

Grief pains create a similar inner strength. Often this is channelled into something worthy… a legacy, a charity, a cause. This work saves lives. Brings hope. Comforts the brokenhearted.

It’s important to remember that almost every campaign, whether small like my book or large like MP Carolyn Harris’s recent victory to scrap children’s burial fees, is driven by the strength of grief. There is a parent who is the driving force of the work. There is a child no longer here because of the work that needed to be done.
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Sunday Notes: Is the Easter story too scary for children?

Having just celebrated Easter, I noticed a definite preference for bunnies and chocolate than the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ. Beliefs aside, I wonder if it’s because we feel death is too hard for our children to understand… bunnies are better… right?

I read a blog a few weeks ago where a mother complained about Christianity being taught in schools. That she didn’t want her child to be exposed to stories of torture, human cruelty and the horrific execution that is crucifixion. Especially as an atheist, she didn’t see why her children should learn this distressing aspect of a religion which is supposed to claim a loving creator God. (I’m not saying this mother’s opinion is wrong, I wouldn’t want my child doing yoga in school because it goes against my beliefs, she’s of course within her rights to say the same about what offends her unbelief. This is about what we should tell our children about the real events around Easter.)

I could understand her point, as a mother, I have wanted to protect my children from the death and evil in this world as much as anyone. To focus on the good is the most natural thing in the world. My four-year-old refers to Jesus as ‘baby Jesus’, so to explain to him that the man hanging on the cross is Jesus grown up wasn’t the easiest thing. But I explained it as simply as I could, and he grasped it. He said it was sad and in the same breath talked about Buzz Lightyear.

Watching the news with my 10-year-old son, my heart was broken to see tears roll down his cheeks at the fighting in Syria. The confusion on his face as he watched news story after news story about humans terrorising each other not just in far away countries but in his own county. The evil in this world shown on TV is far more distressing than the story of Jesus.
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5 ways to do self-care when you’re grieving

Self-care is a power hashtag. Women of all ages and stages of life, in particular, are proclaiming the importance of making time for themselves amidst the busyness of life. Self-care encompasses anything that helps us unwind or makes us feel good, even for a moment, from little things such as sipping a hot cup of coffee and reading a book to spa weekends and aerobic workouts. The point is to not forget about you while you’re busy spinning numerous plates, and particularly when life is going wrong or is throwing up more challenges than usual. Taking a moment to care for ourselves is one way to help us find hope and restoration when we are up against it.

Instagram is one place that people share the ‘self-care’ moments. A quick search calls up nearly 500,000 posts, the majority of which are are exercise, beauty or food related. It can be easy to compare how we ‘invest in ourselves’. The gorgeous picture of a beautifully designed latte froth or candles by the bath can all feel a little unrealistic, and also that having this moment somehow makes everything okay, the audience are reassured, we’ve admitted a struggle but don’t worry it’s not too messy…

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Sunday Sermon Notes – 11th March 2018

This year at my church we’ve been invited to bring our Bibles and notebooks to help us reflect on what we are studying. The notes I’ve made have been really interesting for me, and there is always something I can relate to, draw comfort from or feel encouraged by… and it’s not always the ‘easy’ side of Christianity either, there are some real challenges that have got me thinking. Sharing my notes in a blog post is a useful way for me to reflect on them later in the day.

Sermon 11th March 2018

Today is Mother’s Day. We listened to this passage from Exodus 2: 1-10 (CEV).

A man from the Levi tribe married a woman from the same tribe, 2 and she later had a baby boy. He was a beautiful child, and she kept him inside for three months. 3 But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s older sister stood off at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 About that time one of the king’s daughters came down to take a bath in the river, while her servant women walked along the river bank. She saw the basket in the tall grass and sent one of the young women to pull it out of the water. 6 When the king’s daughter opened the basket, she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”
7 At once the baby’s older sister came up and asked, “Do you want me to get a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby for you?”
8 “Yes,” the king’s daughter answered.
So the girl brought the baby’s mother, 9 and the king’s daughter told her, “Take care of this child, and I will pay you.”
The baby’s mother carried him home and took care of him. 10 And when he was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him. She named him Moses because she said, “I pulled him out of the water.”

Our vicar spoke about the emotions and struggles of a mother who felt she had no choice but to put her baby out onto the water, to let him go in the hope that somehow he would be okay. The Nile was a river of death, where the bodies of the Hebrew children had been discarded on Pharaoh’s orders. This mother, feeling the danger coming closer, made a reed basket and set her baby out on the water, releasing him to she didn’t know what but knowing that it was better than staying. Continue reading

Does it get any easier? Grief five years on

I somehow thought it would be easier to grieve as the years passed.

I feel I need a badge or something.

I’ve survived five years.

I’ve moved into the second stage grief club… that’s for the more experienced grief survivors. The ones who are asked and can give advice to the unfortunate newbies.

But at five years I’m still sad. I still miss her. The memories aren’t as fresh, but they are still there.

The other day, I sat with an elderly man, in his eighties, and we shared the usual small talk about ourselves and family. While pleasant enough, he was a man of few words. He didn’t often make eye contact and appeared to want to keep himself to himself. His answers brief and clipped.

As I gabbled on, to fill the awkward silences, as I tend to do, talking briskly about my children there came the inevitable time when I had to mention Abi. My daughter who died aged 12.

He looked right at me. He dropped his gaze again and ever so softly that I could barely hear revealed he too had a lost child. A child he hadn’t mentioned to that point. His child died around 35 years ago, aged just 17. The middle child.

My heart opened up to him then, my perspective changed, knowing he has lived not just five years but a lifetime of grieving. Continue reading

The baby nobody mentions

Dates are always important when you’re grieving and even though I try hard not to get on the anniversary train, it’s impossible not to think of ‘this time xx years ago’.

Abi died on 10th February 2013 aged 12 years old. I’ve posted before about the days leading up to us turning off her life support. We have four days of being reminded and also trying not to remember. But, in truth, this period of mourning starts much sooner than this. Of course, I think of Abi every day, but 26th January is a particular day that no one but me secretly remembers.

On that date, we celebrated as Abi finally graded for her black belt in kung-fu, something she loved and had worked hard for over four years.

On that date, I mourned the death of my baby… what would have been our fourth child. Continue reading

Opening up the wound – when the grieving parent withdraws

This time of year can be fraught with emotion and grief for those who have lost loved ones, particularly if that is a child. For those whose birthdays are also this side of Christmas, it can seem like a double grief. Memories of Christmas past, thoughts of Christmas present, and worries for Christmas future. It is hard to find any joy in the season at all.

What I want to write about here is for those of you supporting and loving a bereaved parent at Christmas. You will have seen them though their bleakest times, the aftermath of loss, the pain and heartache as their lives, and very selves, shift and change to accommodate their new grief. It may have already been many years…

While you know that this time of year will be hard, when you see your loved one crumble in grief after a long time since their child died, it can seem somewhat odd. They were – are – OK. They’ve adjusted. Their life is changed but they seem to have recovered.

Now it’s Christmas. Or now it’s their child’s birthday. Or now it’s the anniversary of the day their child died. Maybe it’s all those events at once. And they have become withdrawn, pale, grief-stricken. It’s been so long since you’ve seen them like this. It worries you. You don’t know how to be. You don’t know what to say.

But, I ask you not to fear this pain too much. It’s necessary you see. Grieving mothers and fathers need to open up the scar to let the pain out, a bit like blood-letting of the old days.

On the special days we need to release the pain, the love, the sorrow for that one child, whether they died last month or years ago. We often don’t expect it ourselves, it just happens. It’s our way of connecting with them again. It’s our way of being a ‘parent’ to them again. It’s our way of showing them that even though we have laughed and danced and acted relatively normally, we still miss them to our core.

There’s no real way to reach someone on days like this, and don’t worry that you can’t, they don’t need you to. But, they need your presence. They need that silent love that needs no words. They need the strength of another to carry them through the days until the wound slowly closes over again.

No books, no quotes, no signs of hope are needed right now. Whatever that person needs, they will take. Even if it’s just lying on the sofa staring into space, or sleeping, or watching daytime TV while everyone is out being sociable and ‘family’. And give it to them, with grace and love and no expectations of ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘cheering up’. The parent’s love-pain will soon travel from the wound in the pit of their stomach back up to the heart, and they will return to the present. But, right now, they just need to be with them again.

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Comforting colouring pages

Colouring is an effective meditative and calming activity. Sometimes, when you’re feeling particularly low there is simply nothing you can do. Your mind is fuzzy, you feel confused, deeply sad, and detached from those around you.

Keeping a colouring book handy is a good idea; however, for times when you need something ‘here and now’ I’ve created a set of colouring pages for you to download and print off. Some are simple, others a little more detailed, but nothing is too intricate as, let’s face it, it can be hard to see the lines though weary, tear-filled eyes.

Colour them anyway you like, and take some time to rest your mind. I will add to these pages so keep checking for more, and if there is something you have in mind, send me a message and I’ll see what I can do… Oh and don’t forget to share your finished pieces with me if you want to. Continue reading