Monthly Archives: July 2015

So many angels, too little reason

Earlier this week I was told some old acquaintances of mine from many moons ago have unfortunately lost their first born baby with no reason. 

I wish that I could say that this was an irregular occurrence in our world… But it isn’t. It happens all too often and it isn’t talked about enough at all. 

I know this new mum and dad will be devastated. They won’t be sleeping or eating. They won’t be functioning as normal human beings should. They won’t be showering, they won’t be answering the door, they won’t feel like they are living. They will be having nightmares and right now; they are living a nightmare.

People will be trying to help them and all they will want to do is scream at them. Their friends and family will be hoping that they are saying and doing the right things; who knows, they might be … Chances are, is that these newly grieving parents won’t think anyone around them is doing or saying the right thing.  

(Mummy and Millie’s hands)

Coming to terms with a sudden and devastating loss such as this does not take hours or days, or weeks or months; it takes a lifetime. A lifetime of “maybe if I’d have just done this differently” or “what if I’d have taken that advice instead”. My own personal ones are “If only we hadn’t have chosen that nursery” and “Why didn’t I just take an extra few weeks maternity leave and then Millie wouldn’t have even been there”.  There are so many ifs and buts and unanswered questions and unfortunately a lot of these will remain just that, unanswered. Even though I still think these thoughts, I know that there is nothing that I could have physically done that day to stop this happening to my baby girl, this really has been one of the hardest things for me to accept and I don’t think that I will ever fully accept it, just like most parents who lose a child. 

Grief shows it’s face in more ways than one and newly grieving parents experience every single state of grief possible. I personally believe that acceptance is the hardest one. 

Parents should not have to accept that their child is gone, they shouldn’t have to accept that this happened to them for a reason – because it didn’t, it just happened. They should not have to accept that they are never going to see their child grown up.

There is no pain in this world that comes anywhere near to the pain in having to bury your own child. You don’t just bury your child, you bury all the hopes and dreams that you had for them, you bury part of yourself and you bury a piece of your life’s jigsaw that you will never find again. You can live without this piece, but it will always be missing. 

Grieving parents act in very different ways, you cannot put them all in a box together as they don’t belong together in a box. Grief is as individual as the person experiencing it. I can only tell you about our grief,what happened to us after we loss our little Mills but I can’t tell you about anyone else’s – here is a small insight …

Shock.

We went into complete and utter shock and felt like zombies for a long time after Millie passed away. There is still now, quite a lot of the period of those few months when we were at our worst that I don’t remember, for example; moving to a new house because we couldn’t cope living where we lived as it was too close to where Millie passed away. I don’t remember viewing the houses or moving in,   my mind has chosen to blank it out. Yet on the other hand, those first few horrendous hours are ingrained in my mind and the things I can remember from that day are unreal – these are the things that I want to forget, but my mind won’t let me.

Denial. 

Denial about losing a child is like smashing your head on a brick wall and nothing happening. I personally went into a world where some days I would expect Millie to be there waiting for me when I got home or that someone would come round a corner pushing her in a pram and I was about to hear her giggle. Of course, this never happened and when it didn’t happen, the grief hit me all over again. This still happens to me now and I’m not sure whether this one will ever go away, I think this one stays with you because even though practically I know my Millie isn’t with us anymore, a part of my brain still lives in hope that this could happen. I’m not mad or naive, I know that this is never going to happen, but it doesn’t stop me wanting it to. 

Hate.

I seemed to develop a whole new level of hatred that I didn’t know I had in me. 

I hated everyone. I hated everyone who tried to help me, especially if they had children. I hated people who seemed to have the perfect life and tried to understand when I knew that they couldn’t possibly understand at all. I hated the mums pushing prams down the street, I hated seeing pregnant women or new parents with newborn babies. I hated hospitals, I hated prams, I hated cemeteries, I hated funeral homes, I hated nurseries, I hated people. I hated everything and everyone in my life, except for my husband as he was the only one person in my life that knew what I was feeling.

These few things are just a small snippet of what we really went though, the rest I could write a book about.

The one thing we were adamant about though, was that we were going to get through this. We were going to stay together and fight this nightmare as husband and wife. Not long after Millie passed away, someone told us that around 80% of couples who lose a child split up in the first year afterwards – we decided there and then that we didn’t want to be a statistic. Yet it could’ve been so easy to become one and believe me on some days we thought we were about to join that statistic and we completely understand how so many couples split up whilst going through this traumatic time.

We argued, we fought, sometimes for a few days and a lot of the time it was over nothing in particular. I think we argued like this because we were grieving in two compeletely different ways sometimes. A mother’s grief is different from a father’s grief and mix that in with how you grieve in general, it can ultimately lead to an awful lot of clashing and fighting and tears. Then you realise that no one else understands you like this person who loved this child as much as you do, and things begin to fall back into place again.

This next bit may be a little controversial for some of you, but remember this is my opinion and I totally respect yours.

Looking back through our experience there are some things that I am absolutely certain that I couldn’t stand people saying to me and I know that I probably got, well, what’s a polite word? “Ratty” – and that’s being mild. A few things in particular I got fed up of hearing included “God took her for a reason” “She was too good for this Earth” and “She’s in a better place now”

I know people think they are saying the right thing talking about God and heaven etc but when a parent loses a child it is very hard to accept that you could be given something so precious for it then to be ripped away so soon – it really does make you question religion. I personally, after losing Millie have no belief in God or religion whatsoever as I don’t think Millie is in a better place, how could she be? The best place for her is with her parents not without them. I struggle to understand the concept of how people can say “God took her for a reason”  because I believe it is cruel and nasty for this to happen to any parent and if there really is a god then why would he send this terrible act to take place so many times on our earth and put so many people through this pain? 

I don’t want you to read this and think I’m preaching about God and trying to force an opinion on you because I’m not, I’m just explaining from one grieving parent’s perspective – my perspective. Some other parents I know get great peace believing that their child is now with God and in a better place and that is compeletely their perogative to have this view, the same way it is for me to be a non-believer. I respect all people’s views on religion the same way that I hope they would respect my views. I know religion is a touchy subject but there’s no reason why I cannot be honest about my views as I really do struggle with it and I want other grieving parents to know it’s ok if you struggle when people say things like this to you, it’s ok to get angry and mad because you have a compeletely valid reason to start to question life and all it’s happenings. I like to believe Millie is here with us everyday, she sees and hears everything that we do and I imagine her smiling and laughing at us, I don’t need to put her in heaven to be comfortable with the fact she isn’t physically with us anymore, I believe she wanders alongside us and is helping us to get through every day that she isn’t physically with us. 

I can’t tell you what not to say to a grieving parent because everyone has their own opinion but I will soon do a blog on situations after a child loss to give you more of an understanding. 

I hold Leo so tight every day and give him millions of hugs and kisses and I always will but even I over this past couple of days have given him even more whilst thinking about this couple and I really didn’t think it was possible for me to give him more than I already do. No wonder he keeps trying to wriggle away from me. 

I led in bed last night thinking about this couple and when I closed my eyes I could see exactly what they are going through, I could feel that ache I had when we lost Millie, I cried for our loss and I cried for them having to go through this pain because I know what thoughts are going through their mind. If you haven’t lost a child; I can only describe this to you but if you have lost a child, right now you are probably feeling exactly that. No matter how hard you try; if you haven’t personally gone through this pain, your imagination will get you nowhere near to these feelings. 

According to the National Office of statistics, there were 2912 infant deaths (under 1 year) in England and Wales in 2012, the year that our Millie passed away. This equates to an average of approximately 8 infant deaths per day or 56 a week or over 200 a month, whichever way you look at it, that is an awful lot of pain.  It gets worse. In 2012 alone, over another 2000 children (classed between the ages of 1 and 19) died too. So in total, not far from 5000 child losses happened in 2012 in just these areas alone. That’s 10,000 parents grieving for their child. So why still is it a taboo subject? 

Child loss should not be a taboo subject in this day and age. We all know so many people in our lifetime, that I promise you, you will come across someone who has lost a child – sometimes without even knowing. People who don’t know me, don’t know that I have lost a child. I don’t walk around with a sign on my head to tell everyone and I don’t introduce myself as Joanne, the mum who lost her baby. 

Due to the fact we run Millie’s Trust as our daughter’s legacy, some people do recognise me and others don’t. I might be talking to someone for a couple of hours before they come and say to me, “I know you’re MIllie’s mum” or they might not have a clue and ask me how many children I have. When I have been asked the latter, the reactions I have had when I’ve explained I’ve got 2 children but my daughter passed away or 1 child before we had Leo have been one reaction or another.

Reaction 1 (example)

“I am sorry to hear that. How old was you daughter and what was her name?” 

Reaction 2 (example)

(silence.) What are you upto this weekend then?” 

Do you see the big difference there? Two compeletely different reactions.

Shall I let you into a secret? 

I have yet to meet a parent who has lost a child who doesn’t want to talk about him/her.

And I’ve met hundreds and talked to thousands.

Many grieving parents want to talk about ALL their children, not just their living children as the child they have lost is and always be a huge part of their life. 

Please don’t ever be frightened about talking to a grieving parent (you know what, I wish parents who have lost a child had a name like a “widow/er” – as I’d rather not have to refer to them as “grieving parents” for the rest of our/their lives. You don’t call a widow a grieving widow for the rest of their life do you? Widow tells you enough to know that someone is always grieving” 

Where was I? Yes, don’t ever be frightened about talking to them and please do not avoid the subject of their child. From a simple “how are you?”, you will be able to work out whether they want to talk or not. It’s that simple. 

Please don’t ever ignore them. We had people cross roads in front of us to avoid talking to us and we watched people who we thought were friends walk towards us, realise we were sat down and then they’d turn around and walk away. That’s hard, it’s really hard to see that happen. 

Talk to them like how you would like to be talked to. Treat them how you would like to be treated. 

Since losing Millie we have really found out who our friends are and in some aspects, our friendship circle has completely u-turned. Some friends who we thought would be there for us are no longer in our lives and yet we have friends who we have met since Millie passed away who have become some of our best friends. Friendships can be a strange thing.

I lost some of my friends because some of them decided to make decisions for me and decided to not invite me to nights out or didn’t want me around because someone in the group was pregnant – I was upset mostly but also extremely insulted. I do not believe that anyone should be making these decisions for you and it can only hinder your progress in grief because you are not being able to make the choices you need to and other people liked to think that they knew what I needed – no one knew this apart from me, not even my husband and there is no way on this earth that he would have tried to make a decision for me on my behalf. 

This blog is getting pretty long now, so I’ll end it there as I know how busy you all are and really appreciate you taking the time to read what I write. 

Come back another time and I’ll broach this subject again. 

To all the grieving parents on this journey right now, whether you’re at the beginning, the middle or … Well that’s it really as there never is an end… we just want you to know that you are not on this journey alone. If you need help, please speak up. If you need peace and quiet, just speak up. This is your journey and no one else can tell you how to travel it and I promise you that one day you will smile again. Xxx

Do you know a child that has been taken too soon? In conjunction with our lovely friends at B for Balloons in Stockport, we are doing our first ever anniversary balloon release and you can join in too. 
Lots of you joined in with our Millie’s madness month over the past couple of years and this year we want to make it even more special for Millie’s anniversary. This year you can have a balloon in our BIG BALLOON RELEASE on Millie’s Anniversary on the 23rd October 2015.

The balloon can be in memory of an angel child that you know, just follow the instructions on the Just Giving Page below.

https://www.justgiving.com/Balloonreleaseforangelchildren2015

***Millie’s Madness Month is a whole fundraising month in October in honour of Millie’s anniversary***  

Triggers?

You know, sometimes it just really really bloody hurts. I can’t even tell why some days, some hours hurt more than others. You think you are having a good day, week or month and then it just hits you smack bang right in your face again and sometimes with no apparent reason. Or at least you think it’s no apparent reason and then days later you will realise that you hit a low after seeing a mum hug their daughter on the street, just at the wrong time for you or that you’ve watched a programme with someone giving birth to a baby girl and you see that instant that the dad smiles for the first time at this precious little life that he has created or you are driving down the street and suddenly you see a funeral hearse pulling up outside a church with a casket in the back. It’s moments like these that just sit in your head without you realising and suddenly an hour later or 3 days later, WHAM, it’s the thing that makes you cry.

Tonight’s trigger was instant    – I was watching Surprise, Surprise (I know, I know – it makes some of you cry anyway with the stories on there), but it wasn’t the story that made me tearful, it was the mum and daughter hugging each other and the mum looking at the daughter when the daughter realised the surprise the mum had set up for her (The Vamps playing a personal gig in her own back garden 😀) It was the interaction that hit me like a blade to my heart, the daughter hugging and holding her mum, the mum with this huge wide smile on her face because she could see how happy she had made her daughter in just these few seconds. That’s when my brain goes into overdrive … Example thought process…

I’m never going to have Millie hug me like that.

I’m never going to see Millie look at me with so much thankfulness in her that I’m her mum.

I wonder what Millie would have looked like when she was 15.

I’d do anything to be able to hold Millie like that. 

I’m never going to be able to make my daughter’s dreams come true.

Cue Tears.

The statements above weren’t even half of the things whizzing around in my head in the whole of around, I would say in, ooh about 30 seconds.  These questions and thoughts in my head, I feel like my brain is firing them at me with a bow and arrow constantly and I can’t stop them. Talk about confusion, mixed up emotions, anger, blame, miss … And hundreds more words … You can insert your own here if you’ve experienced this … Because I know that unfortunately many of you have and are experiencing this today and for the rest of your life. 
I don’t know what it is at the moment, why things seem to be getting to me just that little bit more , why my tears are falling just that little bit more easily. The past few weeks just seem to have been that little bit harder than usual and I’m finding it hard to pinpoint the trigger this time. 

I miss Millie every day. 

Every day I kiss her photo Good Morning and tell her that I love her 

Every day i carry on teaching Leo how to blow kisses to his big sister. 

Every night I kiss her photo Good Night and tell her that I love her.

I talk to her throughout the day and talk to Leo about his big sister every day. 

She really still is part of our every day life and I know that is never going to change but it hurts, so so much. 

I just get these urges that I need to pick her up and hug her. That I need to smell the hair on her head. That I need to hold her so tight. 

The feelings are so strong sometimes, like they are at the moment, I can close my eyes and i can feel that she is here with me. It’s like I can feel that hug is real that I am imagining giving her. 

I’m going to stop writing now, because the tears are coming quick and fast and I can’t see the screen properly to write.

I need to get some rest. Some nights I can get a clean night’s sleep (that’s what I call it when I wake up in the morning and I haven’t had any dreams or nightmares that have upset me) – you can’t imagine that I would still suffer from nightmares because we live a parent’s worst nightmare on a daily basis x

Someone else can have my place… 

25 months and it’s another door closed.

Which one I hear you ask? 

If you have followed our story from when we began, you will have read about my struggle with my mental illnesses diagnosis. After Millie passed away, professionals attempted to tell me I was suffering from “normal grief” – (I’ve never quite understood what that phrase actually meant) it soon became apparent that I was suffering from a lot more than this. 

I was assessed properly by a Psychologist in a Manchester hospital and I was diagnosed extremely quickly with severe PTSD, anxiety and depression and I was extremely lucky that I was such a severe case (unlucky in that way of course) that I was able to access treatment within days of being diagnosed on the NHS. I know that I am extremely lucky to have gotten this help so quickly and this is why I am so proud that over the past 2 years I have worked so hard to deal with my illnesses and today I was officially discharged – because this now means that someone else can now be seen, that someone else can be take my place and receive the treatment that I know they will so desperately need. I am led to believe that the current waiting list to access mental health services is around 6 months – this is an extremely long time when your head is a mess with these types of mental health illnesses and I am a huge advocate in that these waiting list times need to be decreased and quickly because I know (not believe, I know) that without access to this service I would not be here today. 

This journey has been torturous. I remember quite clearly in my first session that I didn’t want to talk, I cried so much, I cried so hard that I thought my tears were never going to end. Dan had to take me to all my early appointments because I had panic attacks on the way to the hospital because I couldn’t cope seeing or hearing ambulances, blue lights or sirens which meant I couldn’t drive there. I couldn’t cope even being on a hospital premises because of the one specific flashback that I suffered from. I have to had to go through everything over and over again with a fine tooth comb, explain my flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, dreams etc in each and every second that they happened. I’ve had to re-live that day over and over again in every single detail that I could remember and believe me, I can remember every single minute detail and every word spoken to me that day – details that I don’t want to remember but that just won’t go away, no matter how hard I try. 

You’re probably reading this thinking, that is awful, why did she have to re-live everything all over again and again. Unfortunately this is how the treatment I had works and I can honestly say that it was a horrendous thing to have to go through to get better. I can understand how some people cannot cope with this treatment, how some people give up at just the first hurdle during this treatment. I understand how people refuse the treatment even though it has been suggested that it would be a good option for them. I understand how people do not even entertain the idea of going through this type of treatment. I know that people turn the treatment down as people have written to me telling me that they have turned this type of treatment down for various reasons, asking me for advice on why I said yes to it, asking me if I thought they should request it again. I cannot make this decision for anyone though, only a person in this position can.

The good thing is, is that you are given the option, it was explained to me very throughly the options I had for treatment and that it was completely up to me whether I took the treatment I was offered. I did. I took the option of being treated with CBT and by the use of EMDR. I could have said no. 

Why did I say yes? 

I said yes because I wanted to get off medication. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life taking drugs because of the depression and anxiety I was suffering from because of my PTSD brought on by losing our precious daughter and the circumstances in which she passed.

I said yes because I wanted to be back in control of myself. I did not want my fears and irrational thoughts to control me or my mind for the rest of my life. 

I said yes because I needed the help. 

Excepting help when offered is often one of the hardest things to do in life but you often have to realise that accepting help often makes your life easier or better in more ways than one. 

I said yes, because I wanted to be me again. Of course I completed understood that I would never be “The Joanne” that I was once, but I knew that I could possibly get back a huge part of her that I felt had gone, had changed. 

I changed my name too. I never had a middle name but when Millie passed , around 6 months later I added “Millie” into my name, so I am now officially Joanne Millie Thompson – an ode to my daughter and a sign to myself that I am a new person, a different person that I once was.

I do know the old me is gone. 

What we went through losing Millie was the worst possible thing any parent could ever possibly go through, something a parent should never have to go through – but we did and we have survived, we have gotten through the worst and we are on the other side.

That song, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” always comes into my head when I’m writing/talking about this  because it is so true. 

Today I am stronger than I have ever been before and every day I get just that little bit stronger to get through each passing day.

This letter below is for the Psychologist that has been there through all my treatment and tears. I don’t know whether she will ever read this as that’s not what it is about.

Dear Pyschologist,

 Two years ago I was a broken hearted mum who had recently lost her precious baby and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going or whether I was going to get through the next night or day.

I walked into your office thinking that I didn’t expect your help to work, thinking that I would try this treatment out and then give up and carry on feeling like it felt that first day that I met you .

I came to you and I did not know how to act, what to say, when to cry, when not to cry, when to shout or scream or when or if I should just walk away and give up. 

I felt ridiculous that I had all these problems, I thought I was weak for being diagnosed with these mental health problems, I couldn’t understand why I was cracking, why I was breaking down into crumbs in front my own eyes. I hated the fact that I was putting my husband through this – I hated the fact he needed to look after me; but you made me understand, you made me realise that I could get through this.

You made me talk about the things I didn’t want to, I didn’t like you for that. You made me tell you how I was feeling; I’ve always struggled with talking about my feelings but you kept on going, you kept on asking. You listened when I was angry, when I was distraught. You listened as I cried and tore my hair out in your office. You watched my heart break over and over again as I talked about my daughter and the hopes and dreams that I had for her but that I would never see her fulfil. You were there as I closed my eyes and described what I was seeing in my flashbacks and nightmares and you comforted me by telling me you were to help me and one day my illnesses would get easier.

You ripped me to pieces by trailing through my mind in your sessions and on many occasion I walked out of your room thinking how much I thought I hated you that day because of how upset and distraught I had become whilst talking to you. I often came out of these sessions and couldn’t function properly for two or three days – which then felt I didn’t have much time to recover before the next session. 

But you kept on asking me back and I kept on coming. You encouraged me to bring my medication down, both anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, you encouraged me to discover mindfulness and to create a world where I could feel safe, where nothing could bother me, where everything is peaceful and tranquil. 

As the days turns into weeks and then months and now years, the sessions got harder and more intense but my everyday life started to become a little easier. My sleep slowly started returning, I dealt with my panics attacks in a more responsive manner, my medication came down, my smiles started to return and my hopes and dreams started to slowly linger again.

You talked me through my feelings about possibly having another baby, at which point I told you I didn’t think I could ever have another child again but you got me through it, you helped me realise that I couldn’t change what happened. You helped me realise that we made all the right decisions for Millie that I couldn’t blame myself for what I happened that day  – that we weren’t bad parents, that we didn’t allow Millie to pass away, she was just taken from us and there was nothing we could have done as parents to change that. 

You helped me to change my mind about having another baby and I thank you so much for that because without you and a special family in New Zealand, Leo probably wouldn’t have been born and he has completely changed our world again.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the kindest, most caring medical professional that I have ever come across. I know that you genuinely wanted to help me, to help us become strong again. I know that what you do is not just a job for you – you have a passion for helping people. I for one am glad that I have met you and that our paths crossed because you have taught me how to be strong again,  how to love again and how to live again and I will never forget that. 

I hope your family are so proud of what you do.

Yours truly,

A mummy that will always have a piece of her jigsaw missing x 

  

If I hadn’t have had my psychologist help, I probably wouldn’t have seen my gorgeous son’s smile x 

I know that just because I have been discharged doesn’t mean that it is all over .. This is just the beginning and I know this but I know that I can get through anything life throws at us as we have already proven we can get through the worst thing possible that could ever happen to us. 

The Black Dog will always be with me but it doesn’t mean that it will always control me.

Check out this link here to learn more about the Black Dog whether it be for who yourself or to learn about it because you have a friend or family member that is suffering. 

  

To book on a Millie’s Trust course click the link below

BOOK A MILLIE’S TRUST COURSE