Since losing Isobel, I’ve struggled with how much to share on Facebook about my experience of loss and my grief over time. The old me used to update my FB status quite regularly, but I tended to keep it lighthearted, funny or things I thought were interesting. I used to ridicule those I felt ‘over shared’ about their personal lives, mental health or whatever drama was currently happening. I thought it was attention seeking and a bit embarrassing to be honest. So I’ve been conflicted. Part of me wants to share frequently thoughts or feelings about Isobel because she is usually what is on my mind! But I haven’t wanted others to judge me the way I may have judged people in the past.
What usually sways me to post something is a reminder of how people just don’t understand the loss of a baby. I consider myself reasonably emotionally literate and unlike some other people I do think I can use words to express some of how I am feeling. Because of this, I think maybe sharing my feelings, in moderation, can help people to understand what I’m going through. This helps them to support me. But also hopefully to support others in their lives who are facing the same challenges but who maybe don’t or can’t speak out.
Looking at my Facebook page I can see it’s clear that I had a child who died but she’s not all I post about. I hope that I’ve managed an acceptable balance and that when I do write about Isobel people aren’t thinking “oh for gods sake here she goes again!”
I shared the following thoughts on Christmas yesterday and was really touched by the public and private messages I received which made me feel like my vulnerability was a good thing.
Somewhere inside, I remember that Christmas is a lovely time of year but it doesn’t feel that way to me this year. It’s the first Christmas in my privileged life where no amount of money could buy me the only thing I want.
Family time is a painful reminder that there is a six month old baby missing from our family. Celebrations should be about a first Christmas as our own family, the first of many to come. Instead nothing feels worth celebrating. Our Christmas tree should have ‘First Christmas in 2015’ ornaments instead of those in memory of a baby who is gone. Santa should be coming to our house for the first time, instead we have donated the cutest baby girl present to charity. We will be putting a wreath on our child’s grave on Christmas Eve instead of reading The Night Before Christmas to a sleepy baba. My Facebook page will be filled with little ones dressed in their gorgeous Christmas outfits, pictures and moments that we will never get to experience with our first born. Isobel’s first ever half birthday on Boxing Day will be a heartbreaking day of absence. The sixth 26th without her, my worst day of each month.
This Christmas, I will give and receive presents, eat my body weight in chocolate and watch cheesy TV in the company of those I love, but it will be done with a fractured and aching heart that doesn’t want to be there. It will be done with a mind that is thinking of Isobel in every second and of all the other babies who should be in the midst of happy families this Christmas. Isabella, Daire, Eden, Luke, Max, all the SANDS and Feileacain babies I have come to know, as well as the little lives who passed unnamed but just as mourned. Christmas will be done with a body that is completely exhausted from six gruelling months where every little thing I do is so so hard.
Remembering Isobel this Christmas is heavy and painful. The only thing I can imagine being worse, is that others will not remember her, that people will ignore that I had my first child in 2015, that she changed my life and that she is forever part of my family. Her absence means I need her existence to be acknowledged even more than if she were here. I always worry about seeming attention seeking but I hope this and similar Facebook posts are taken in the spirit of a grieving mother needing reassurance that her precious baby will not be forgotten. Words or gestures that remind us that Isobel is present in the minds of others mean everything to us.
To those with their babies or children safely with them, I hope that reflections on the loss of a child are not too anxiety provoking and rather act as a reminder of how fortunate you are, even as your little ones are challenging or demanding! To those who are walking the path of child loss, I am with you, I am remembering, I will never forget.