Remembering Abi on her 16th birthday 

Having just seen Abi’s 16th birthday come and go, I realised it never gets easier. This is her fourth birthday in heaven.

Abi’s 13th birthday was ten months after she died, in 2013. It felt unbearable. She was so looking forward to becoming a teenager, she’d already been thinking about what she might do.

We had a diamond paperweight engraved with her age and placed it on her memorial, along with balloons and flowers. We felt helpless as we should be celebrating, not mourning.

Then her 14th and 15th birthdays came and went. We always seem to get hit by seasonal bugs about this time of year, so I remember last year passed without too much stress as we were all ill.

Each time it is hard as I’m reminded of everything from the pregnancy, the birth, the love, the joy, the sorrow… and watching her youngest brother playing is a reminder of the innocence of those early years with her.

Then turning sixteen. Sixteen! Her friends have changed, they are growing up, as they should. Abi should be giving us grief of a very different kind!

So what to do. As ever I began to withdraw as the day approached. Not knowing which way to turn. It’s hard to buy cards and gifts with no place for them to go…

A lovely blogging friend suggested marking the day by giving the children a present each. At Christmas, we give each other gifts as a way to remember the love of Jesus, so why not do something similar?

Our older children sensed gloom, I felt hopeless, but I needed a thing to do. So on the morning of Abi’s birthday I snuck off to the shops and bought them all a gift. With people Christmas shopping in their droves now it was the first weekend of advent, I was focusing on buying flowers and gifts for my dead child. I pretended otherwise to the cashier who chatted away about Christmas.

I bought something for me and Dad too and some beautiful bright yellow flowers for Abi. I bought some wrapping paper with cupcakes on it and that afternoon when the children were all a bit bored and tetchy we opened them together.

wp-1480432074903.jpgWe also had a cake. We sang happy birthday next to Abi’s picture, our toddler knowing exactly who Abi was and happy with singing to her picture (and his eyes closely on the cake!). The baby enjoyed her first taste of cake too.

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Abi’s birthday always seems to offer us pink, purple and blue sunsets

The gift sharing went really well and I think is a positive tradition that Abi would approve of and that could give us a consistent way to mark her birthday.

Do you do something similar to mark your angel child’s birthday?

A letter to you on your sixteenth birthday 

Abi

I pause before even writing a word as the thought of you turning 16 in heaven breaks my heart all over again.

I’m sorry sweetheart. I know you are safe, I feel that, but I feel so lost without you near me. You’re the one who is safe, I’m the one running scared.

My mind and body are a bit stressed out. All the love you should have had, all the time, the energy I should have spent on you is bundled up inside me because it’s had nowhere to go.

I wanted you to meet your new baby brother and sister. Your baby brother is so much like you I wonder if God just gave us the same soul. The baby, too, is happiness itself. It’s as though we’ve been given these extra joyful souls to help us live with the sadness of you being gone. And we feel it every day. We laugh, we have fun, but underneath it all we are missing you.

Your sister misses you, deep down, she just hasn’t worked out how to express it. I can imagine that the pain is so great that it’s far too complicated to face. There have been so many times when she’s needed you, for company, advice, support. Growing up is hard and I know you would have been a great big sister to her. Sharing your clothes and makeup, teaching her hairstyles, sticking up for her at school…

Your brother talks of you often and I know he thinks about you more. It’s too painful sometimes for him. The realisation of what grief means, how that makes his eyes instantly water and puts a lump in his throat. He loves you still and believes Jesus is looking after you.

Me and Dad are doing OK. At times it feels we’ve clung on to our family by our fingernails, but as long as there’s something to cling to it is worth it. We are complete worrywarts now, but that’s understandable given you left us so suddenly.

Your friends are all grown up now too, all seeing their 16th birthday this coming year. It hurts a little to see them getting on and growing up without you but I know you are never far from their thoughts.

We just all miss you so much. I can still hear you. I try to imagine what you would say or do. Would you be a second degree black belt by now? Would you know what career you wanted? What experiences would you have had?

What I do know is that you would have planned your 16th birthday the moment you turned 15! I expect it would be a slap up meal or a party of some kind. there’d be a big cake, lots of friends, music and laughter.

But it’s not to be.

On your birthday, we will probably carry on like every other day. There’s no need to buy in food or balloons and decorations. There’s no need to do anything other than visit the place where we laid your ashes. There aren’t many days where I wouldn’t quite happily join you, yet I somehow strive on. This life can be so very hard but there is so much to live for, I’m not entirely sure what yet but I feel it must go on.

So keep your light shining through us, and through everyone who knew you. We love you so much darling.

Happy birthday.

Mum

XxxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

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I should be organising your 16th birthday party

I’m at a loss. How do you ‘celebrate’ your child’s birthday when they are dead?

I should be chasing around here and there, buying balloons, presents, sorting things out, baking an amazing cake.

Instead I sit here and can only do these things in my head, while my stomach churns with longing and my eyes sting with tears.

You, my darling girl, will be 16 tomorrow. It’s such a special age to be, a milestone, yet one we cannot do anything about.

I want to throw a party anyway, invite everyone she ever knew, pull out all the stops regardless of the fact she’s not able to go herself. I know she’d want a party.

But this isn’t a celebration. It’s an awkward, messy, unhappy time. I wish I could be one of those mums who puts on a brave face and arranges a get-together to celebrate … but I can’t. The thought of Abi not here chokes me up just thinking about it.

Abi

 

I’m not allowed to cry tomorrow; the children are nervous, wondering if it’ll be a gloomy day. It won’t, but it means my heart will beat even slower than normal as I keep my emotions locked away.

I just have to get through it. I’m sorry darling. We haven’t forgotten you, we just don’t know what to do. To do something feels like losing you all over again, to do nothing feels just as bad.

Release a balloon, light a bloody candle, make a wish upon a star… it means nothing. She is in me and I’m in her always, but I know she is safe and happy where she is. I can see her at sixteen, she has grown up in heaven. I know there will be many more birthdays and milestones without her to endure.

No matter how many children I have, she is always my first, my Abi. The one who started all the love.

Dear Lord, It is only because you created such a wonderful child that our hearts hurt so much in grief. I pray that you keep especially close to us tomorrow. Ease the pain in our hearts by your comfort and give us strength to face the day. Thank you for your countless blessings on us, and for keeping our girl safe. Amen.

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Take me home – a pop song prayer

When trying to rebuild a life that’s been broken – it can feel like you’re grappling in the darkness, utterly alone, tired, afraid. Even the simplest routines go out of sync, the pace of life seems five steps faster than what we can manage. We’re barely breathing.

Fear, grief, faith, hope all mingle into a mess that leaves us feeling lost, numb. How can we go on…? And where do we go on too…?

Whenever I hear this song I can never hold back the tears. It strikes at the heart of the prayers of the weary me, the me that just can’t do it all anymore, the me that’s fed up with the burden I carry, the me that wants answers, that needs reassurance, to feel safe. I suppose, the vulnerable child within.

Songs can bring so much comfort to the grieving, and while I’m in a fairly clear place right now, sometimes I need to pray songs like this – to get me through, and that’s okay because it helps. I’m sharing this for those readers who need to feel a bit of release, who need to allow the tears to fall, to possibly help them move to a clearer mind.

If you need to hear this, watch Take me home, by Jess Glyne

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Wrapped up, so consumed by all this hurt
If you ask me, don’t know where to start
Anger, love, confusion
Roads that go nowhere
I know that somewhere better
‘Cause you always take me there

Came to you with a broken faith
Gave me more than a hand to hold
Caught before I hit the ground
Tell me I’m safe, you’ve got me now

Would you take the wheel
If I lose control?
If I’m lying here
Will you take me home?

Could you take care of a broken soul?
Will you hold me now?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?

Hold the gun to my head, count 1, 2, 3
If it helps me walk away then it’s what I need
Every minute gets easier
The more you talk to me
You rationalize my darkest thoughts
Yeah, you set them free

Came to you with a broken faith
Gave me more than a hand to hold
Caught before I hit the ground
Tell me I’m safe, you’ve got me now

Would you take the wheel
If I lose control?
If I’m lying here
Will you take me home?

Could you take care of a broken soul?
Oh, will you hold me now?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?

[3x]
You say space will make it better
And time will make it heal
I won’t be lost forever
And soon I wouldn’t feel
Like I’m haunted, oh, falling

Would you take the wheel
If I lose control?
If I’m lying here
Will you take me home?

Could you take care of a broken soul?
Oh, will you hold me now?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home, home?
Oh, will you take me home?
Oh, will you take me home?

A picture of health

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This is a picture of Abi and me on holiday in about 2011. I love the health and happiness radiating from BOTH of us in this picture. Of course, there was never any sign that Abi would have a brain haemorrhage two years later but what struck me when I saw this was not Abi particularly, but me. This is how I remember Abi, but it’s not what I think of when I see me.

While I was never overweight, I had worked hard to get myself fit after having three children. I was caring about myself for the first time and it shows. I felt confident, happy in my own skin, mentally calm…

Since Abi died, I feel like a bleak shadow of that former me. My skin appears greyer, my eyes tired, my fingernails are chewed and sore, my body unfit and neglected…

I stopped exercising as it brought on palpations when my anxiety took over. I didn’t see the point in loving myself anymore. I failed my daughter, why should I care about myself?

I am now tied into a pattern of compulsive eating, because food is my only comfort. I’ve gained weight (obviously being pregnant twice in 3 years has something to do with that!). I’m not one to worry about my weight but I know my pattern of behaviour is not healthy, physically or mentally. It’s almost self-destructive. It’s a common trait of the bereaved.

I posted on my faith blog, By His Light, yesterday about how I mourn so much harder when life is tough. When there is illness, overwork, stress and anxiety. When parenting challenges me to my core and being fair or consistent goes out of the window. I feel more tearful as the pressures mount and miss Abi terribly.

I withdraw at times like this… because I need the solace. I want to build a wall around myself where I can just hide under a duvet and wallow… for a while, until it passes. I don’t want others to see this vulnerable me, I want them to see only the me I know… and like.

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Of course, I can’t do that. I have three children to look after, a home and business to run. A husband who needs his wife to keep it together. A baby growing inside me who needs to be nurtured.

So I turn to food as my pick-me-up, several times a day. It helps for the briefest moment so I’m back again in an hour or so. I feel excited by food. Yet I’m starting to feel the discomfort of the weight (not least the baby pressing on my lungs)… I suppose it represents, physically, the emotional weight of grief.

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Before and after our grief

My husband’s car is on its last legs. We need to start thinking about replacing it before we spend too much more on it. He’s put it off for far too long and spent too much money keeping it going, but I know he loves the car mostly because of the times he spent with Abi in it.

The chats they’d had on the way home from a club, the trips they took together. It’s hardly been cleaned since she died (and it’s grim inside!), but I don’t push it. I know the sweet wrappers are hers. I know the hair clips are hers. I know he doesn’t want to lose even the dust that might be hers. It’s his space so I leave it to him (like a man shed on wheels!). We’ve changed my car and transformed our home. Abi hasn’t been erased by any means, and I’m always finding her hair clips around even now, but I know his car is the last big reminder.

When talking about replacing it, we were trying to remember when we bought it. Our marker… how long before Abi died.

You see, we’ve reached a point in our grief journey where life has become about ‘before’ and ‘after’ Abi. Continue reading

A new way to mark the anniversary of our daughter’s death

Another year has rolled around since Abi was last here… on 6th February we were forced to remember the day she collapsed. On 10th February, we thought of the moment we sat by her bedside as the doctor turned off her life support and said goodbye. But mostly, we were reminded of the time when she was ‘ripped’ from our lives.

Three years since we last saw her, heard her, held her, smelt her, laughed with her, kissed her…

Each anniversary has been quite different.

The first was maddening, filled with panic and desperation to cling onto every single moment of grieving her. But then the hope of a new baby was just weeks away to distract us from our misery. Our rainbow baby arrived just two weeks later.

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And then our world fell apart

It is already the second anniversary of this horrible day. Two years of trying to live a new life without Abi with us, yet she still feels so close. I wanted to reshare this as it sums up the day our world fell apart.

Chasing dragonflies

It is exactly a year ago today that Abi came downstairs looking pale and complained she felt really ill. Exactly a year since our world was turned upside down and inside out.

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I never really imagined what this day would be like, despite people telling me ‘all the anniversaries will be hard’.

Anniversaries? Anniversaries are a time to celebrate or commemorate something. A time to think of only that person or event, which you can forget about the rest of the year.

It’s not an anniversary of a year without Abi, it’s an anniversary of the day our entire world was shattered by something so totally unpredictable and traumatic.

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The final prognosis

On the morning of Saturday, 9th February, we were allowed into PICU while the doctors did their formal assessment of Abi’s condition. We knew these were ‘last chance’ tests.

Abi had been in a coma for over 48 hours. She’d shown very little response since her collapse other than coughing a couple of times and some slight reactions in her pupils to light. Whenever the nurses had to do anything to Abi – such as put her on manual ventilation to change her feeding tube or move her in the bed so she didn’t get sore – we usually left, as it was very hard to watch. But this morning we stayed a bit longer. Continue reading