Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. After a flying start, churning out several posts in the weeks after my daughter’s death, I ground to a shuddering halt as I began to fully process my grief. As I write this, it is approaching two years since Romy passed, in July 2014. I am committed to writing about my experience for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, as I sat and held my daughter’s hand in PICU that hot July day, I promised her that she would be remembered, and I promised her that I would write about her to make sure of that. I knew that this promise would save my sanity and bring me back to some kind of purpose in what at that time, seemed a near pointless existence.
As I have navigated the bleak darkness of what they call child bereavement, I have found much support, but have also encountered an incredibly lonely process. Other grieving parents I have met along my way have experienced the unutterable heartbreak of losing a child during pregnancy or at birth. Others have lost young children to cancer; still others, teenagers in car accidents. We are all members of the club that nobody wants to belong to; we have all, from time to time, borne witness to what one writer hilariously termed, ‘The Grief Olympics’. We have all probably wanted to take our own lives at one point or another. We all Know. My husband and I have sought support for those of us who lost a very young child or baby unexpectedly. That is not to say that the support we have had has been lacking in any way, because it hasn’t; we’ve just had to search for it, and at a time when we haven’t had the energy or the wherewithal to do anything other than just exist from one moment to another. So one reason for my writing is to reach out to those with our specific experience.
I have loved to write since I was a child, and through all the counselling I have done over the past twenty months or so it is the written word that has helped me the most. I have started to heal myself simply by writing down what my mind cannot bear to process; all the thoughts, images and feelings which lead to my being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As I write about these aspects of my experience, I hope to help others with this diagnosis and also those of you who are walking alongside bereaved and traumatised family or friends. I hope that an insight into my experience may help others in supporting the grieving in their lives.
Lastly, before I had children I had a somewhat unconventional spiritual practice. I sat in a development circle and practised mediumship. I read Tarot cards and did sittings for friends and neighbours and I regularly visited a Spiritualist church. This is a part of my life that very few people outside my immediate family and circle know about me. Until now. If this sounds like total jiggery pokery to you, please click away now; I understand. However, in the months since I watched my daughter die I have returned to this practice as some parts of it have helped me to understand and to process. Just to be clear about this, I believe that my daughter continues to exist somewhere. I believe that I have seen, felt and heard her since she left this world. As completely ‘out there’ as I know this sounds, I feel that I am bound to share some of these experiences because they feel important, but I don’t have all the answers, or even some of them. I just know what makes sense to me and I also know, from the many, many books on the subject I have read, that I am not alone. This is a very scary thing for me to come out with as by sharing this side of myself I feel afraid; of what, I don’t know. Having lived through the death of my child I’m not entirely sure what place this fear has in my life but it is there: fear, perhaps, of judgement or of ridicule.
Here’s some other stuff about me: I am an ordinary mother of four; three of whom are physically with me. I cheerfully cook and clean but despise ironing. Although I often squeeze the heck out of my kids and tell them I love them a thousand times a day, I still shout at them from time to time. Yes, even though my other child died. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have lived with episodes of depression.
Before my child died, I was an energetic, dynamic ‘doer’ with a belief that I should spend at least some of my existence helping others in some way. I loved people and barely a month went past without my attending some kind of course. From childhood, I read avidly.
I have a degree in English and European literature. I have been a PA, a PR executive, run European marketing and events for a US company, a tour guide in Europe, a reflexologist, birth doula and a healer, although I can no longer practice any of the last three things. This is because a part of me still believes that it’s a travesty that I couldn’t ‘heal’ my own child or stop her from dying, despite the fact that I believe that it was her time to leave, for reasons that I may never fully know . I dance flamenco. I speak four languages including English, I have won prizes for public speaking and I love to write. When I was younger I loved to write so much that I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be an actress.
I met my husband randomly through two of our mutual friends at a party despite having attended the same university as him for the same three years and having had many opportunities to meet him over twelve years. He is the love of my life and the kindest and most infuriating person I know. I come from a close family; my dad was always at home for dinner and I treasure many memories of discussing my English writing homework topics with him. My mum is the most tolerant person I have ever known and gave so much of herself as a mother. I aspire to be half as good as she is. My sister found her calling as a nurse early in life and nobody in my life has ever come close to her loyalty, reliability and good sense.
Bear with me here. I have been in shock for the best part of eighteen months. I am gradually writing my way through this and hope that somehow this will help me to make sense of the huge black hole of grief that exists for my daughter, to shine a light on the unmentionable topic of child loss and perhaps to link hands with others and remind ourselves that perhaps our children are not ‘lost’ after all.
I should mention at this point that this blog reflects my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I write about my husband, children, family and friends because they form an intrinsic part of my life but I do not express their views or speak for them. I also do not mention them by name and, if you know us and wish to comment on these pages we respectfully ask that you do not name them either.
Finally, I want to thank my lovely sister in law for setting up these pages for me. She did this days after Romy died and worked hard at assembling what became our first website and blog. I don’t think I could ever have realised how important it would become for me. Thank you. And thank you to anyone who has walked with me, held my hand, listened, cooked meals, watched our children, sent cards, plants and prayer flags, said Romy’s name. You all know who you are. I hope I can ‘pay it forward’, starting now.