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.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the work that has been borne out of a loss which, unlike a normal job, can’t be resigned from easily. Once you start offering support, or to lead a campaign, or fundraising, or write a self-help book, whatever it might be, where does it end? Do you now feel obligated to help heal the world indefinitely? Maybe so, it’s no bad thing, but only so long as it is beneficial for you also…

If that person, that project, that campaign could be handled well by anyone else tomorrow, how would you feel? If the answer is ‘free’, ‘relieved’, ‘better able to cope with your own life’, then it might be worth considering delegating some of your work, stepping back for a period or even completely.

Look after you, so you can look after them

Early on, I felt surrounded by grieving mothers, having never identified with one (not openly anyway) previously. The loss upon loss was heartbreaking. Each story had its own trauma, shock and anger. It’s not just the taking on of other’s emotions but also the sudden awareness that early death and trauma happens to so many people, every single day. The despair sets in and pushes hope out.

It’s important to find some kind of balance. Always check in with yourself. If the person or thing lifts you up, or you look forward to seeing them/doing it, that’s a sign to do more of it. If it drains you or brings you into a depressive or anxious state, step away even for a short time and pursue something more healing and restorative for as long as you need.

I’m not suggesting you stop helping others, or that what you have worked for isn’t worth the stress on you, some people have to be the driving force because there is simply nobody else. The world needs people that care about each other. I’m saying, with as much love as I can, that it is not your responsibility to help everyone, even if they are experiencing exactly what you have.

So, guard your heart. Be aware of your own physical and mental health. Take a step back regularly, reassess what you’re doing and why. Check in to see if there is anything that could be done differently. Healing is a lifetime process that comes in the most unexpected ways, and in its own time. Running from that is unlikely to do you any good, but walking slowly with it is the kindest thing you can do, for you.

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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.

Grand Appeal
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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Fundraising … far more than charity

A few days after Abi died, we were already thinking about how we could somehow give something back to the people who helped her, and as a way to remember her life.

It’s hard to explain why, while sat in a hospital waiting room with my daughter still with us, I had this urge to do something charitable. It wasn’t too strong at that point, I had a lot on my mind with Abi, but I recall ‘holding that thought’ as I felt it would be something we could do when it was over, whatever the outcome.

Having seen the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal promotional material at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, it seemed an appropriate cause and we’d decided the best place for any donations.

Grand Appeal

Abi died from a rare brain hemorrhage that only a CT scan would have picked up, and even still, it was in an inoperable location so she could never have been saved from her fate. The only reason the doctors agreed to operate on her was because she was a child – doctors are parents too – if she had been an adult, we later discovered, they would not have intervened at all. A heartbreaking prospect.

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