Abi’s 21st birthday – heartache and heaven

It’s been three years since I’ve shared anything on here, and it’s over eight years now since Abi died, and the pain of loss is always there. Perhaps not so obviously now, but it lives in the restless nights, the stomach aches, the sudden pangs of sorrow or angry outburst.

Her 21st birthday is around the corner, so much time lost, so many what ifs…

The past two years have been incredibly triggering; seeing intensive care and death up close every time I turn on the TV or look at social media (from which I’ve had to switch off many times). No escape was allowed by seeing friends and family. In the midst of constant lockdowns, home schooling and collective public fear, there was no head space to reflect.

The perpetual public anxiety in COVID, no matter what your opinion is of it, is like reliving a nightmare for the already grieving…

We already know that no amount of money or medicine can stop death. We are still processing the shock and stress of suddenly finding ourselves in ICU all those years ago and it feels as if the entire world is living in that fearful place.

Like many others, our home became our fortress against the world. Sometimes I think I’d live life in lockdown forever if it meant Abi could be alive too. I get angry at the complainers. I doubt our leaders. I resent that so many get to live longer lives while our bright sunshine girl died just 12. And I hate having those thoughts because I know absolutely everyone needs compassion as they navigate their own troubles. Grief can make life ugly, especially when, if you believe the world, there is no hope.

But hope is what I have, thank God. I hold fast to my faith that Abi is in her eternal home with Jesus, who has travelled every step of this journey with us. She rests where there is no fear, pain or suffering. She is with love. It’s not a place of mourning or sullen faces, it’s a place of pure peace and joy! It’s almost impossible to imagine given what we’ve become used to!

While knowing this is yes of course an immense comfort, it doesn’t mean I don’t still grieve. That I don’t get anxious or angry about the whys and what ifs… but I strive to live in hope for the days ahead with my family, who every day show me glimpses of what heaven on earth will be like, and I look forward to that time when we will all be home, together.

As Abi’s birthday rolls around again, I’m once more mentally coasting through the month not knowing what to do; feeling that everything I do is more inadequate with each passing year.

I seek only to remember Abi, as she was, as she might have been, in my day to day, and pray that I may never have to know this pain again…

Abi on her primary school graduation, 2012

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.
Continue reading