Guest post: Saying goodbye had to be perfect (for you)

This personal and deeply moving guest post was kindly written for our blog by The Tangerine Owl Project. It recounts a grieving mother’s determination to plan a beautiful memorial for her baby daughter who lived for just 27 days. 
As I recall the days in the NICU and the loss of Delilah, I often wonder how I made it through in once piece.Usually I attribute this to my children and my husband. My husband was my partner who was also grieving and wasn’t afraid to talk about her or to let me feel however I was feeling without question or instruction. Our children were 3 and 4 at the time, and had come to see Delilah a few times at the hospital during hand-off between our parents and us. When we found that she was too sick to make it, we called everyone to the hospital and told them there that her condition was deteriorating and we were going to turn off the machines that afternoon.

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Things to do when your child dies

If you have just suffered the loss of your baby or child, or know someone who has, you will likely be given a wad of leaflets by the nursing team to help you begin to make funeral arrangements. It will feel so unreal that you are doing this but it’s important that you don’t feel hurried and go at the pace you can cope with. Asking a close friend or relative to help you make phone calls will make things easier for you to bear in the early days. Continue reading

Into eternal sleep… turning off life support

These words were hard to write (just a month after Abi died last year), and I expect are just as hard to read. But talking about dying matters to me.

I know there are other parents going through this every day – saying goodbye to their baby or child, whatever age, whether expected or not.

No matter what brings them to this day, at the very end, they will only die once and, as much as I am more likely now to remember the happier days with my daughter, her life, I feel her death was also a significant moment that should not be forgotten simply because it is too painful to remember. I share this experience knowing that, right now, a parent is going through the same heartache. I hope they find this and it brings them comfort knowing they’re not alone.

In my last post I talked about our decision to donate Abi’s organs. Having been informed by the consultant that recipients had been found we next spoke to the organ donation team. They updated us on the final things they needed to do.

It was around 6.30am. The staff were quiet and respectful. The consultant apologised when she told us that there would be a further delay of an hour as a baby had just been rushed into the theatre unexpectedly. But we were okay with this. It was still dark outside. We didn’t want Abi to pass away in the dark, she was a morning, sunny girl. So we said that about 8am would be our preference, when the sun was coming up and the dusky gloom had lifted…

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Organ donation: Abi’s parting gift

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As Dying Matters Week draws to a close, I wanted to share with you my personal experience of organ donation. It’s vital we feel able to talk about aspects of death like this. I have shared, in quite some detail, the process that is necessary in order to donate organs to another – a dilemma we were faced with when Abi died (so grab a coffee and a tissue!). If you are considering joining the organ donation register, you may find this post useful. It contains details of the steps involved and how complex the process is, which was something we certainly never realised until we were there.

Abi had collapsed into a coma following a sudden brain haemorrhage at home. The prognosis wasn’t good but the brilliant neuro surgeons at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol operated on her anyway the same night; she had just a 5% chance of survival at that point, but any percentage was enough to give us a slim hope.

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Press attention

At Abi’s first anniversary on 10th February, my contact at the local newspaper contacted me with an offer to run an update story on fundraising that had been done in Abi’s memory over the year. I was pleasantly surprised that he’d remembered and was happy to oblige. It would be good to once again recognise the work people had done to collectively raise over £22,000 for Bristol Children’s Hospital in her memory.

I mentioned this article to an acquaintance who gave me a concerned look and asked if I was okay with it (the Press involvement). I hadn’t really considered that view before but I could see that some people might wonder why we’d willingly ‘sell our story’, as usually the Press was only out for itself… digging up dirt to sell papers.

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The whirlpool of grief

A friend shared an insightful diagram with me called ‘The whirlpool of grief’, which I thought would be good to share here (see illustration far below).

As soon as I saw this, it made perfect sense to me. I recognised the many elements to the ‘process’ that were illustrated. I call it a ‘process’ because I see that there are various stages and emotions to work through before an adjustment is made through mourning and acceptance. The stages aren’t linear, however, and move in cycles.

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