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A different journey into motherhood

In this blog, Michaela reflects on her journey into motherhood and describes the unrivalled love she feels; which she now uses to help others.

Two lines on the pregnancy stick

On Monday 21st January 2019 I was overjoyed as I found out that I had been blessed with a child. Staring down at two lines on the pregnancy stick, I cradled my still flat stomach in disbelief. I waited all day for my husband to get home from work so that I could surprise him with the most beautiful news.

A few weeks had gone by and we were basking in the anticipation of impending parenthood. We sat and dreamed on about what our little one would look like, what their name would be, and how we would paint the nursery. It’s completely true that when you find out you have already planned a lifetime!

Around this time, I suffered some complications and found myself in a clinical room with a sonographer looking at my baby in black and white on the screen. Thankfully, our little life was just that and as we looked on in astonishment, the dreams began to further unfold. That wasn’t the end of the pregnancy complications; I spent weeks with bleeding and pain. I had many scans in that time and each one showed that our little baby was healthy, until he was not.

‘Something was wrong’

Later down the line we found ourselves in a familiar scanning room, lights lowered, gel brushed across my stomach and we stared at the screen in expectation. We started to laugh and giggle at his little hands waving around and then silence filled the room. I looked across at the sonographer and her whole demeanour had changed, we knew instantly that something was wrong.

We implored and begged to be given any kind of information and finally she let the words slip out of her mouth ‘There is a problem with your baby’s brain’. What followed were long minutes sat frozen on hard plastic waiting room chairs. We watched families walk past with the all too recognisable black balloons filled with pink and blue confetti and heard the mumbles of heartbeats under the door.

Somehow, we made it back to the car and my husband drove through a sea of tears to our friends’ house. We were met with cups of tea, hugs, listening ears, and prayers and I truly think that saved us. After we’d made our way home, we sat and waited to be called by the hospital. The next day, we met with a consultant and our gravest fears were confirmed, our baby most likely had a life-limiting condition.

Waiting for the call

We waited for four agonizing days to receive a phone call that we lived on tenterhooks for, yet never wanted to come. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I timidly answered the call. I was met with words that have been buried deep into the depths of my being ‘I am so sorry, but your baby is incompatible with life’. In the matter of a week we had gone from thinking about colours for the nursery to facing a future childless in the natural. More shocking news came as we were told that there was also danger to me carrying our baby.

I stumbled through the front door of my house and into my husband’s arms as I tried to explain all of the information I had to interpret on my own. In summary, our baby was going to die, and I may too. In essence, that day we had to decide to save my own life and no mother wants to put themselves before their child.

‘We felt love that we never knew to be possible’

Just two days later, our son was born, and we stared into his tiny eyes and admired his features. That day was most certainly the worst day of my life as I laboured for hours to hold my stillborn child in my arms, but it was also the best day ever. It was the day we truly became parents and the day that we felt love that we never knew to be possible.

The days following have been anything short of easy, but they have been filled with so much overwhelming love for the son I loved, lost, and carry with me every day. I have learned so much about what it looks like to have hope and joy in every season and how it is oh so possible.

As we look to the future, we know that we are better equipped to help other parents who will walk through this unthinkable pain and instead of thinking ‘Why us?’ we think ‘What can we do?’ and we strive forward to make the tiny steps to help bereaved parents and families.

Michaela Taylor

You can connect with Michaela through her Instagram account here.

Creating new Christmas traditions

In this blog, Llinos reflects on Christmases past, present, and future, and describes the new traditions she has developed to enjoy Christmas again.

A few weeks ago we got our Christmas tree out of its box and began discussing how we would decorate it. My husband enthusiastically wrapped the branches with lights, while I nervously watched our cat for signs that she was about to attack the tree.  A thought crystallised in my mind, that my mum would never see this tree, as this year is the first time we’ve used it, and she died in June 2018.

Christmases past…

My parents gave me a series of idyllic Christmases, as I grew up in North Wales in the 1990s. We were a close-knit family, just the three of us and my paternal grandparents. Our Christmases were perfect, as far as I was concerned. From the tree, to the dinner, to the company, it didn’t get any better than this. Even as a little girl, I knew that most of this was orchestrated by my mum (with a helping hand from Santa, of course).

Things naturally changed as I grew up. My grandparents died, and we gained a new dinner guest in my husband, or we would spend Christmas with his family. If my parents spent Christmas alone together, they would send us photos of themselves in their Christmas jumpers, the tree from my childhood as their backdrop. As solid as the tree itself, my mum kept her childlike glee which had her racing to rip wrapping paper off the presents before any of us.

Even during her final Christmas, when she was in pain and struggling to walk, she never stopped smiling and couldn’t hand us presents quickly enough.

New traditions

This year, we’re spending Christmas just the two of us (plus cat) in our own home. It’s the first time we’ve ever done this, so it feels like it’s the perfect time to make our own, new traditions. Christmas and its rituals can be sacred to some. Indeed, in my mum’s death I feel I am grieving not just her but the Christmases we shared. Yet by creating new rituals, I feel I’m able to honour hers.

There’s going to be no card from my mum, her loopy handwriting forming a loving message from her and my dad. There won’t be a present wrapped in her trademark metallic paper. There won’t be the tinkle of her laugh as we read cracker jokes, or whispers over which chocolate to choose from the box as we watch the queen’s speech.

There have been moments when I wanted to shout “Screw you, Christmas!” when a festive advert comes on TV, or pledge not to celebrate Christmas at all in protest of my mum’s premature death, when she should have been celebrating Christmas for another two decades.

“Screw you, Christmas!”

Instead, we’ll play a game for the first time; a tradition that will be ‘ours’ from then onwards. We might even add a new vegetable onto the menu! Rather than settle down to watch a film, we’ll wrap up warm and take a long stroll through the park. The options are endless.

Christmas is the perfect time to remember the past, enjoy the present, and look to the future. If the rest of the year and build-up to Christmas is busy, Christmas Day itself is encouraged to be a time of relaxation. By creating new traditions, with an eye on yesterday, we’ll be grieving for my mum but also making a path through that grief.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Llinos Owen

Got a story to share? Talking about loss is a powerful, brave thing and helps us all feel less alone in our grief. If you want to tell your story, email us at blog@letstalkaboutloss.org.

Christmas may not be the same, but…

Heather discusses Christmas traditions old and new in this blog, and trying to find happiness and joy at this time of year, whilst grieving for loved ones.

A time of festive wonder and joy. Of spending time with family and loved ones. Great food, presents and parties galore, but what if you’ve been bereaved?

“A double whammy”

This year marks the second Christmas without my dad and the first without my sister. A double whammy. Two people are missing from our family and at a time when family is so important, this hurts on many levels.

The memories of opening presents with them and cooking Christmas dinner. The laughter that was always present in our house is going to be missed terribly.

Christmas was my Dad’s favourite time of year. He enjoyed everything about it and so did my sister. It’s hard knowing that they won’t be here to enjoy another one with us. It stings sometimes when I see a shop advertising Christmas gifts and playing Christmas songs because it doesn’t feel the same for me anymore.

When I think of this time of year though, I think back to my childhood. Memories of watching the Star Wars trilogy and everyone falling asleep. I think of playing monopoly and Dad always winning, and I think of last year, wrapping presents with my sister and mum. These memories make me happy so I hold onto them fiercely.

I know that Christmas day is going to be filled with sadness and watching families walk around the Christmas markets, smiling and talking. It is difficult when there are holes in your own family – but there is also happiness.

New traditions

I had the pleasure of knowing my dad for 28 years. He gave me my sense of humour, my stubbornness and my love of cheese boards. I also had my sister for 28 wonderful years; she was my best friend and I shared a bond with her like no other.

At a time when family is the centre of the occasion, I feel grateful that I knew them. The sad times remembering them are also matched with so much love for the people they were and still are to me.

I still love Christmas. It may not be the same and in some ways, I grieve for that as much as I grieve for my dad and sister, but I’m beyond lucky to have the memories I do have. It will never feel the way it used to and I will always feel like they are missing but I want to smile for them and try as much as I can to still feel some Christmas spirit because I know that is what they would want.

A new tradition for us will be lighting a candle in their memory and sharing stories of them. This is a new kind of Christmas but one that will still be filled with love.

Although we are used to Christmas being happy and joyful. You can cry, shout, or scream if you need to. Sit with the feelings, then let them pass, and most importantly; be kind to yourself. Talk to someone about your loved one(s) and Christmases past. Include them in what you do as much as you can because I truly believe that the ones we lose never really leave us.

Heather Coldwell

Would you like to share something on the blog? Email blog@letstalkaboutloss.org and we’d love to share your story.

Me and Dad: Reflecting on a Decade of Grief

In this blog, Beth talks about her art work based on her father. Three years on from the exhibition, and ten years on from the death of her father, she reflects on her father’s life and how it has shaped the person she has become.

Ten years ago on 12th December, my father Geraint Morris, passed away. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year before he died. This happened at a very strange time for me. I was 16. That year still feels like a blur when I try to remember anything about it.

After school I decided to study art and I started to work through my feelings on his death. After graduation, I began to feel strong enough to analyse it.

Copy of 09

In 2016, I created an installation using ephemera relating to him. I wrote notes on how I felt about his life before and after becoming a Dad. Even though this installation only took place 3 years ago, my feelings towards what I wrote have changed.

His early life

Throughout this project, I researched as much as possible about my Dad’s life before my birth, in particular what he would have done at my age. My parents met kind of late, so finding out what my Dad was like as a teenager/young adult was difficult. I had to rely on my Mum and any photographs we could find. I regret not asking him enough about his life before he met my Mum.

Copy of 06

My Dad was confident and talkative. However, while in school, he suffered with a stammer which lead to him leaving before sixth form. I am a very anxious person and I find it really difficult to talk to people and be confident in myself. Whether my anxiety is related to my loss, I am not sure.

Growing up in the Welsh Valleys, my whole family had a love of music. My Dad was in a Male Voice Choir and my Mum played piano for another choir; that’s how they met. I always felt like he didn’t respect my love of art, but the older I get, the more I think he regretted not truly pursuing his love of music as a career.

I think he didn’t want me to be disappointed if I didn’t get anywhere. Even three years ago, I still had a chip on my shoulder about his lack of understanding of my art. I just really hate how I missed out on knowing him as an adult.

Copy of 04

Discovering that his own father had died while he was quite young (28) was shocking to me, slightly mirroring my own experience. I never got to meet his parents, but I always remember how hard he found it to talk about them. Going to see their graves together were some of the only times that I saw him cry.

I don’t want that to be me.

Ten years on

I thought I would be fine talking about him, but there’s no rhyme or reason in grief. One minute I could talk about him without a problem, the next I am barely able to hold back the tears. One of the most surprising things is how raw it can still feel. The more time you have to reflect on something, the more heartbreaking it can become.

Deciding to make an installation about my Dad felt difficult at the time but it really helped me to work though my deeper feelings of grief. I received many lovely comments about my work and the meaning behind it. It resonated with so many people, which made me realise that talking about death is so normal and that I shouldn’t be scared to bring it up. Having time to reflect on everything is incredibly important and giving myself the opportunity to learn and understand him more made me feel closer to him.

Thank you

I’m so grateful for how he shaped me as a person. From my love of music of all kinds to my love of film, in particular Indiana Jones and Monty Python, as well as a love of classic cars (he owned a Daimler and we went to a lot of rallies).

But most of all, I’m so thankful for the love he had for our family and just how caring he was. I don’t remember much about the funeral and the year that followed his death, but I do remember the huge crowd of people attending it and the reception. Everyone had such lovely stories to tell. If I can even be 10% as loving, caring and friendly as he was, I’ll be happy.

dad

Beth Morris

You can follow Beth on Instagram or find her full exhibition here: http://www.bethmorrisartist.com/my-father

In anticipation of Christmas mourning…

In this blog, Loraine reflects on her experience of grief at Christmas and how she tries to balance the good with the bad, and the pain with the hope at this time of year.

As I gaze out of my window here in sunny California, I don’t see snow, or even clouds today. They do come and go, as does the rain, but on this particular day, the sun has conquered, and streams of sunlight flood my living room.

Holding onto Summer

It is two days into December and I am blasting Bob Marley instead of my favourite Christmas songs, and contemplating replacing the Douglas Fur with a planted palm tree. I am holding onto summer. This is mostly an internal power-struggle, as I could never disappoint three wide-eyed children begging to decorate a Christmas tree. Still, the sun has been my best friend of late. For now, I evade the inevitable feelings of loss that await me. It is my first Christmas without my Mom.

I know that I’m not the only one balancing joy and grief this Christmas. In fact, it seems like nearly everyone I know is missing someone this year. So, in pondering this new way of celebrating a season marked by joy and gladness, I can’t help but ask the question…

How?

I never claimed it was a deep question. Still, it begs for a complex answer; one that I’m not qualified to give. I can, however, share my own experience with loss.

I’m 32 years old and I’ve lost both of my parents in a period of four short years. Grief upon grief, I’ve found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted more days than not. Within those same four years, however, I also recall countless beautiful days filled with laughter, adventure, and love. How is it that I can remember the same few years as being joy-filled and grief-filled?

This is the concept upon which I’ve built my method of surviving this “year of firsts” following my mom’s death. As one well-acquainted with grief, I know what stands before me as the days begin to grow shorter and shorter.

After my father’s death, I spent many December nights sipping wine with a sleeping infant on my shoulder. I would drive my kids around to look at Christmas lights because they couldn’t see me crying while strapped into their car seats. I embraced grief so tightly, I missed out on the blessings that were still with me that year.

I could resolve to do that again, and perhaps it would be justified. But maybe I could approach the holidays in a less agonizing manner – one in which I am able to be a grieving, broken-hearted daughter AND a fun, loving mother, just as my history is marked with both pain AND gladness.

“A beautiful mosaic of memories”

“How?” Well, I still don’t have an answer, but I know that there are definitely some God-given gifts that can weave themselves together with our own grief to create a beautiful mosaic of memories to cherish, if we let them… even during a painful holiday season.

I believe peace is there, seeping through the cracks of our hearts as we experience holiday traditions without our loved ones for the first time. Gratitude is definitely a part of it, gliding between precious moments, as we take time to acknowledge them.

Grace, a lot of grace, especially for ourselves as we set tasks aside to shed tears of pain and remembrance. And lastly joy, which, if we allow it to, infiltrates every part of our being and enables us to, one day, reflect upon this season with gladness.

This year I am mourning great losses, and that is ok, but that’s not all. This year, I will also rejoice, because there is still adventure, there is still laughter, there is still life. Truthfully, Christmas is about the birth of hope, and that hope is something worth holding onto.

Loraine Meek

Loraine regularly posts on her family adventure blog. You can connect with Loraine and read more of her writing here: https://www.blessedarethemeeks.com