Capture Your Grief: Day 30 – Reflection

  

I have put off writing today because I’m tired and emotional (actually tired and emotional not code for drunk!) and not feeling very reflective but I don’t want to fall at the (second) last hurdle. I’ve found the #captureyourgrief project to be positive as well as challenging. It has been helpful to have a focus for each day, a little channel to run my grief through. I have almost compulsively read other people’s posts, looking for glimpses of myself and my experience in their story. I have so appreciated anyone who has read my ramblings, liked them or taken the time to comment. 

It has been painful too. I have such an emotional valence at the minute and I am touched deeply by the pain of others. It has been terrifying also, to read of so much loss at all stages of pregnancy and wonder how it ever comes to be that a baby is born healthy and if I will be telling a story of multiple losses in years to come. Some days after spending hours on Instagram reading stories I have wondered if I am doing myself harm or good. I can’t help but wonder who I will be in October next year, how my grief will look when it is captured then. I know although this project is over my quest for what heals me is only really beginning.

Capture Your Grief: Day 29 – What Heals You  

  
These are some of the things that have helped me get through the past four months. I did want to have some chocolate cake and pizza in there but layout wouldn’t let me pick any more pictures! 

Overall, I am proud of how Simon and I have coped. There have been few days where we haven’t done something productive whether it’s getting outside, exercising or socialising. We talk about Isobel and have made her memory part of our home. I am trying so hard not to avoid things, from little steps like watching Teen Mom to giant steps like visiting my friend and her little girl who is just two weeks older than Isobel should be or monumental steps like going back to the maternity hospital for psychology appointments. I try to accept how I’m feeling and often write about my experiences on my blog – express rather than suppress. 

I feel though like I am just surviving at the minute. If healing is happening, it is not yet making a dent in the chasm of hurt that exists within. When my sister’s kids were little and hurt, she used to tell them the little helpers in their body were on their way to fix what was hurting them. I hope that every positive thing I do is sending the helpers to heal what is hurting, that they are working away unbeknownst to me and someday their progress will amaze me. 

Capture Your Grief: Day 28 – Reach Out

  
Capture Your Grief Project 

Today I saw an opportunity to be interviewed for a local NI magazine article about stillbirth. Although there were things I was passionate about before Isobel was stillborn, I would never have put myself or my opinions in the public eye. However Simon and I both now feel strongly motivated to raise awareness of stillbirth, Isobel has given us a new passion that we are willing to shout about. So I reached out; I contacted the journalist and shared some of my blog with her and it seems like the magazine article might actually happen! Simon and I both come from a different perspective on the topic of stillbirth. Simon is much more interested in the medical aspects of research and prevention, I am more interested in the psychological experience, available support, and healing process. So I think we are a good combination to contribute to the article. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen but the idea of speaking about our experience in the hopes of helping people to understand and subsequently helping others in the same position feels very hopeful for us and fitting with today’s prompt of reaching out. 

The picture today is one from the Fantastic Earth Instagram page that a friend tagged me in this morning, knowing our Isobel and Elephant association. I love it so much and made it my phone screensaver. Thank you Susanne for reaching out to me today. 

Capture Your Grief: Day 27 – Self-Portrait  

  
Photos: 36 weeks pregnant, 3 days post-delivery and almost four months later. Of course I would give anything to be the person on the far left. What may seem stranger is that I would also welcome being the person in the middle picture. Yes she was traumatised from her baby’s death and delivery but at least she could see and touch and hold her baby. She could only imagine how hard real life was going to be after her baby’s funeral. I feel that I’ve written enough about the person on the right for the Day 17 ‘Secondary Losses’ prompt. It’s so depressing and I don’t want to revisit that today, I’m way too tired.

Capture Your Grief: Day 26 – Gratitude 

  

Capture Your Grief Project

I completely appreciate the purpose of this prompt, as a psychologist I encourage people to practice gratitude and am aware of the links between appreciating what we have and wellbeing. That being said, I am feeling like a contrary brat today.  

I am well aware that even now, at the worst time in my life, I have things to be grateful for, things that many other people in the world would wish for. Having a lit and heated home, clothing, enough food to eat, a job I love, the opportunity to indulge in interests, a supportive family, good friends and a loving husband are all things I could put on my gratitude list. Even today in my brat mood it’s not that I’m not grateful for all these things, it’s just that I feel like I deserve them – they are my right. I’ve studied, I work hard, I’m generally a good and loyal friend and family member, I’m a decent enough wife. I deserve everything I have and more. I deserve everything I have *and* my baby. I am grateful that my sweet husband got me this Mother’s Day balloon card from ‘the bump’ but I am angry that this will be my only Mother’s Day card from Isobel, I deserved a lifetime of them. 

We don’t have to look far in this world to see that people generally do not get what they deserve. Rewards and punishments are not doled out in a fair fashion in response to good or bad deeds. I can see why some people want to believe in an afterlife where justice is finally implemented, but honestly, if it’s the same ‘god’ overseeing the afterlife,I have no idea how people are confident it will be any more fairly run than this world. For me, this short, imperfect random yet beautiful life is all we have. I suppose I should stop thinking about what I ‘deserve’, and practice a little more gratitude. Maybe tomorrow. 

Capture Your Grief: Day 25 – Earth Remembrance 

  Capture Your Grief Project

Unless you know that they are good with plants, please don’t give a bereaved person one as a gift! I can never keep anything alive but really tried hard with this Orchid that someone got us after Isobel was born, it seemed symbolic somehow. I always checked the soil and never forgot to water it but still the petals fell off as I knew they would.*
Honestly it was like Isobel had died all over again. No. More. Plants. Flowers are fine! Artificial plants are amazing! Just please don’t give me something else that I will kill. 
*Someone on Instagram pointed out that the Orchid may be salvageable yay! 

Capture Your Grief: Day 24 – Choose Your Breath 

  
Capture Your Grief Project

I’m a day late on this one because yesterday I chose to use my breath chatting with friends, laughing, cheering on Arsenal, and debating various subjects like gender identity, abortion and the legalisation of drugs. It was a good day. 

I have taken millions of breaths since 4:26am on 26th June 2015 when Isobel failed to take her first. Some have been desperately sad breaths, snatched between sobs with my chest convulsing. Some have been angry breaths, violently exhaled in a stream of rage. Some have been terrified anxious breaths, seemingly never deep enough to calm my pounding heart. Regardless of the emotion, the breath continues – not by my choice, but driven by a reflex from a body that still wants to live.   

It’s too soon to say where this defiantly living body and my breath will take me; how this experience of grieving will evolve or even how I would like it to. I’m still at the stage where I haven’t fully accepted that this is something I have to do at all. I have been told I need to have patience as well as strength but I am not a patient person. I have never been one for the slow slog toward the distant reward. My style has always been more about instant gratification. I can’t imagine that this is a style that will work for grieving. Part of me wants to be the model bereaved mother, to do everything ‘right’, progress neatly though all the stages and emerge beautifully transformed on the other side. Another part of me can’t be bothered with any of it, and just wants to hibernate and remain authentically gnarled and utterly broken. What will actually happen? My chest will rise, my chest will fall and we will see. 

Capture Your Grief: Day 23 – Love Letter

  
Capture Your Grief Project

I can’t bring myself to write a love letter to Isobel. How could I write in a letter all the things I was supposed to have a lifetime to convey? There are many feelings I can try to put in to words but I don’t think the words exist to express to Isobel how wanted she was, how happy she made us, how we loved her, and how we are now lost. 

“A white blank page and a swelling rage” From White Blank Page – Mumford and Sons. 

Capture Your Grief: Day 22 – Dreams and Rituals 

  Capture Your Grief Project 

I suffered from insomnia in the last months of pregnancy with Isobel, so even though I knew sleep wouldn’t be abundant with a newborn, I was looking forward to being able to sleep again. Little did I know that after my baby was born, my few hours of sleep would be filled with the most intricate and terrifying nightmares I have ever experienced. I had constant nightmares for about three months. Nightmares not about Isobel specifically, but about threat, danger and always death. I had a recurrent nightmare where I was slowly drowning. I think this was my brain trying to process my thoughts about what it felt like for Isobel to be starved of oxygen. Did she feel like she was drowning? It seemed only fair that I should have to experience what my body put her through, even if only in my imagination. 

Now, four months on, I have started to have some normal dreams again and the nightmares are not every night. If I could choose my dreams I would love to have dreams of Isobel, alive – to have a brief holiday from reality, even though it would make waking up even harder. If my subconscious can create the most complex of horror plots surely it could bring a little girl back to life. So far it has not been compliant. 

Neither can rituals bring Isobel back to life, but maybe as time goes on we will develop rituals to help us honour her memory. We intend to always celebrate her birthday, there will be no birthday girl but there will be a family, love, and cake. Instead of presents there will be fundraising and charity donations. There might not be party games but there could be random acts of kindness, little good deeds done in her name. It’s definitely not what I had planned or wanted, but it’s something. 

(Genuine sleeping photo taken by my creepy husband!) 

Capture Your Grief: Day 21 – Sacred Space

  Capture Your Grief Project
This marriage is my sacred space. This love that created a whole new human being. Only within this space can I breathe. It is the most important thing in my life and what I am most scared of losing. It gives me comfort in the worst of times and hope for better times to come.