All the way to the other side of the world and back 

Kiwi’s don’t exist … That is the theory I came back with after leaving New Zealand (and of course, yes I know they actually do exist … But whenever I tried to see one it was always dark and I never actually got to see one apart from the one in the photo below) 😀 

  

So how did we end up travelling close to 12,000 miles to the other side of the world and why did we go? It wasn’t a holiday … Far from it … To me it was self-help break, a trip to find out who we had turned in to and to find out how strong we were without realising. It was a trip to find out what our future may or may not hold for us and a chance for Dan and I to see whether our marriage was capable of lasting through our grief. It was the trip of a lifetime … Or was it? Not really, we would rather have not been going under the circumstances that we were… A trip of a lifetime is something that you planned for, well; forever. A trip that you’ve made a list for of all the things that you can’t wait to see and discover that you never thought you would get to see.. Our trip wasn’t like that, it wasn’t a lifetime of planning that got us there, what got us there was losing our precious baby girl and the generosity of each and every one of you guys that donated your pennies towards getting us out there to New Zealand to meet a very special family, a very special family that have a very special little boy called Kory. Click here for media article 
This is Kory in the photo below.

 A few years ago, a follower of Millie’s Trust on Facebook put me in touch with a very lovely lady called Alison in New Zealand who unfortunately had lost her son a few years previously when eating a piece of apple in a nursery. We got chatting and Alison began to help me out with my emotions and feelings of guilt and then I talked about our communication online and thousands of you decided to get together and raise enough money to send Dan and I to meet Alison and her beautiful family on the other side of the world, which was absolutely amazing of you and we are forever thankful. It was unbelievable that just 5 months after we first spoke, Dan and I were on one of many aeroplanes on our journey to New Zealand to not only meet but to stay with these wonderful, well, the description for them then I suppose, were strangers – but they soon became something very different, they became our friends.

I struggled in particular after losing Mills and I needed someone to talk to, someone who had been through this – someone who could tell me what to expect. Alison became that person and her help whilst I was out there in New Zealand is one of the reasons why Leo is here today, Alison and Carl went on to have another gorgeous little boy, Charlie after they lost Kory and seeing them with him, made me be able to see our possible future for the first time in a long time.

 
The First time we all met in Auckland.

There is so much more to tell you about our visit to New Zealand and one day, I’ll tell it you all…I promise. Anyway, where am I going with this blog? 

Well, it’s been two years! How fast that has gone. It’s been 2 whole years since we rocked up in an orange camper van at Alison’s house and spent 10 days with this wonderful family who literally helped us to change our future.

 

One day (hopefully soon and not in 10 years time) we are hoping to get back out there and introduce Leo to these amazing people, to introduce him to another little rainbow baby called Charlie that came out of a terrible storm. We want to make more memories there with Leo and take hundreds more photos there that we are smiling on; except this time the smiles will be genuine and not show as much torment and anguish as the set we currently have. On many of the photos from this trip, we can see the hurt, pain, tiredness and stress in or eyes and I wish so much that I couldn’t see that, but one day, we’ll have some new ones and the smiles will be happy smiles. 

 
We might have had to travel over 11,000 miles to see our future but I am so glad that we did. Not only did it encourage us to have Leo but we met this amazing family who we will always be close to and I’m pretty sure Millie and Kory are playing hide and seek together in the clouds and watching down on us together, some times people are brought together for a reason, our two families clearly have … It’s a real shame that we are 11,000 miles apart but for now we have technology to keep us talking. 

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Kory’s parents set up Kory’s Trust in New Zealand – to see what they do, click here

A blog just because … 

Not much to read on this blog but just had to blog. 

The sound of silence drove me mad after we lost Millie.

Just been stood in the kitchen chopping up carrots and all I could hear was Leo giggling in our living room because Daddy was playing with him.  It made me smile as wide as my face. 

Never thought I’d smile again like this again over something so simple. 

Now our house is full of Leo giggling, crying, shouting and Rolo (our dog) running around and barking. I love all these noises.

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That time of year again …

“Wow, your dad sat up in bed and held Millie today, the first time in weeks that I have seen him do that….” 

Memories, they can make you smile or cry, laugh or hurt. The run up to Millie’s anniversary this week has been been like a film playing in my head that I have seen before. Remembering certain things we did together over those few days, people we saw, clothes we wore – the playback list is endless.

Sitting with her grandpa is something that is engrained in my memory because Frank (Millie’s grandpa) was dying of cancer the day we lost Millie. Telling Dan what had happened when I had visited Frank in the hospice that day, the day before Millie passed made us both smile because for weeks, Frank hadn’t had the strength to hold her properly because he was growing weaker by the day and we knew he didn’t have long left to live … We never expected him to outlive his newest granddaughter.

We lost Frank exactly one month after we lost Millie.

  

(Millie and her grandpa Frank, June 2012)

The minutes have gone by so slowly this week and every time I’ve looked at the time over the past few days, I could tell you exactly what I was doing at that time … 

Lunchtime 22nd October , sitting with Frank in the hospice and seeing him hold Millie and smiling at her … 11.40 ish am on 23rd October playing back the conversation in my head that Dan and I were having on the phone, him telling me that an ambulance had been called for Millie … 12pm being stood in Piccadilly train station struggling to get hold of that place were Millie was to find out if I needed to go there or to hospital … 12.30 taxi journey to hospital … Just before 1pm flying into the hospital and telling them I was Millie’s mum … Just after 1pm being shown Millie after not even being told she had passed away … 2.30pm in a family room with people giving me medication to calm me down and cups of tea to stop me from passing out, just after 4pm .. Dan finally walking through that door and having to accept reality … I could go on and on and on but the more detail I tell you, the more you will be sat there crying. One day I will write more and tell you more about what happened that day but right now, well it’s just not the right time for me 

In some ways, the days before her anniversary are worse because I start to think about all the things we would have done differently if we knew this had been coming.

1. We would never have taken her to that place in the morning.

2. We would have hugged and kissed Millie all night and not let her go.

3. I would have chosen to stay at home and not return to work yet after maternity leave. 

I can carrying on writing this list and for a long time in my head I did. I wrote it and re-wrote it and punished myself with it but the truth is and this is the harsh reality 

… That we cannot change any of it. 

We cannot go back and not to go work that day, we cannot go back and leave her with family instead of that place , we cannot go back and give Millie more hugs… What happened … happened …and as much as we want to change every little thing about that day, about that week;  we can’t, it’s just not possible. 

An anniversary is not a celebration and neither is Millie’s birthday. It is a day of remembrance for us, a day of sadness, a day of thinking about what we lost when we lost Millie. We were broken, broken in a way that we never thought we would recover from. 

This is the third anniversary we have been through now but the hardest pain hasn’t stopped yet this year because all those feelings will be back again on the 3rd November, the day that no parent ever wants to go through, the day we buried our baby girl. 

Every year on Millie’s anniversary we ensure that we are down at Millie’s resting place at the time that we official lost her – 12.52pm. It’s an act of respect for her from us, we weren’t there at the time we lost her but will be with her at her resting place every year until we join her. 

This year we obviously had an extra welcome addition with us – Leo. Leo comes down to Millie’s resting place whenever we go and he always will. I’ve taken a photograph of him this year on Millie’s anniversary guarding her balloons before we let them off for her.

 Balloons by B for Balloons, Stockport 

I’ve taken this photo because I want these for Leo when he is older so he can see that he was always with us on Millie’s special day. I know full well what some of you are thinking right now “well that is just strange” .. But is it? How do you know? Believe me, until you are in our position where you have to visit your child at their resting place you have no idea how you will feel, how you will act or what you will do. We have unfortunately met a lot of grieving parents since our journey began and every one of them does something different from the next person and you know what .. That is absolutely fine and no one is in any position to judge because we all have to do what we feel is best for us to get us through our tragic journeys. 

Distraction … That is my key. Distraction during this week is what keeps me sane. With the biggest lovely distraction this year being Leo … Leo has made a huge difference to us this anniversary because we have be strong for him. He’s too small to understand why we cry and he will be for a long time but one day we will tell him everything and he’ll grow up knowing all about his amazing sister.

Another distraction this week for me was being a model in a charity fashion show.
(Photograph by Joanne Thompson, follow me on Instagram – MILLIELEOSMUM ) 

Modiste in Bramhall held a fashion show in The Bubble Room and raised a fabulous £762 on the evening but they had asked me to take part in the show, something I have never done in my life or never actually wanted to, haha. 

But I said yes. The reason being is that firstly I can’t seem to say no to things I get asked to do for our charity and secondly because I thought it would be a good distraction for me this week and it turns out that it was! I can never say no to things because of the amazing people that do things for us, like Modiste hosting the show and Paul Bell, the photographer stepping in it at last minute and catching some fab photos for us. 

The fashion show was on Wednesday evening so just a couple of days before Millie’s anniversary, so it was good timing to have my mind somewhere else for a while. 

  
 (Photograph by Paul Bell) 

On Saturday (the day after Millie’s anniversary) we held a balloon release in memory of Angel children and over 100 balloons were released in a local park to us and it was absolutely beautiful but so sad knowing that each and every one of these balloons had been donated for a child that had been taken too soon.

 (We adhered to all UK balloon release guidelines)

One of the other things that we do on Millie’s anniversary is not see family or friends. We find it hard enough dealing with our own emotions and feelings on this day and we know that we need this time as our little family time and although some people may not understand this, it’s a decision that Dan and I made together. I even turn off my phones and respond later because I just don’t feel the need or want to interact with anyone but Dan and now Leo. It is really lovely that people text or us or leave us messages online but they are still there the day after and we always respond … But when we are ready. 

Again, other people will be different and being surrounded by family and friends might be good for them, whatever it takes to get through the day. 

We still have a lifetime of anniversaries to get through and we will; we will get through every single one of them together as a family. 

Millie will always be part of our family and nothing will ever change that. 

 

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This year, we have yet again launched our text line for Millie’s anniversary and you can still donate until Monday 26th October 2015 when it will be closed 

Text MILL03 £3 to 70070

(You can donate between £1 and £10) 

All donations greatly appreciated.

  
Tickets now on sale for the Christmas Market here 

Security, Sun and Celebrations 

Taking a trip through security at Manchester Airport and one of the security girls remarks, “I follow your page on Facebook, good job” – enough to make smile for just a few seconds longer in my day. Thanks lady, I needed the little perk up at that time.

You see, we were on our way for my 30th birthday treat, a week in Cape Verde. Never been there before, wanted somewhere hot, wanted somewhere peaceful, wanted somewhere new. Pretty much fit the bill.

Now this trip, we booked when I was about 8 months pregnant, not long after I booked Tough Mudder 😂. I have no idea what possessed me to book a holiday so close to the day I was doing Tough Mudder, ok I am totally guessing here that I was thinking that I was going to need the break after completing TM… I certainly wasn’t thinking about the bruises that my body would be covered in (check out the pic below) … So for anyone that may have seen me on holiday or out and about at home, no one did this to me, no one gave me these bruises other than them being self inflicted via Tough Mudder. I’m not kidding when I say this, some of them were (and still are) tennis ball sized. In fact, now they are a couple of weeks old, the colouring of the bruises are more consistent with the colouring of a standard yellow tennis ball ….. 😁 

 
On this note, thank you to everyone who sponsored me for Tough Mudder and if you think after seeing one of my bruise pics above I deserve any extra few pennies, you can still donate by clicking here.

I still struggle doing things of enjoyment that Millie should be taking part in, particular big events such as my 30th birthday celebrations. I had a few moments at home before I left, one being 2 hours before needing to be at the airport, I just needed to go and visit Millie at her resting place and talk to her before we left, it didn’t feel right not to … Once I’d been and had a chat with her , I left her resting place crying but I felt a tiny bit better.

The trip to Cape Verde was what we needed this week, a break away from everything and everyone. Weirdest part of the week … Sitting enjoy some food and a young woman constantly starting at me and then we realised she was googling me and showing her other half photos of me and it was really clear that they were trying to work out if we were who she thought we were … I facebooked a status about this on Millie’s Trust page to remind people that we are just normal and totally approachable .. It’s quite intimidating when people do things like this and just stare at us.. Just come and say hi, we’ll always say hi back. 

 

I never want to be away from Millie on special days like my birthday and certainly not this one, my 30th. So I planned our holiday to ensure that we were back the day before (today, 24th Sept)  so I could go visit our girlie on my birthday – if wouldn’t have felt right otherwise. I know some of you are reading this now and thinking “that’s a little strange, why does she have to do that?” – 

Thing is, is that I just do. I like to feel near my baby girl at special times and the nearest I feel to her is when I visit her sleeping place – you really will not understand this unless you have lost a child but I don’t actually want you to understand if you don’t already do so, because that would mean you losing a child and I certainly don’t want that. 

So today (the day before my birthday) will be spent with one of my besties, who just happens to also be my hairdresser, having my hair done and then my nails in preparation for my birthday party. This has actually now turned into a double celebration now though because it was announced this week whilst we were away that we had won a Pride of Britian Award. Full story here   

We managed to get online in Cape Verde after the announcement and we were honestly overwhelmed by the response from the public on both our website, social media and newspaper websites, you guys are so kind to us. So, when I manage to work out where I have some free time today I will attempt to find a dress for the awards ceremony next week. It always makes me laugh when we end up amazingly busy as everything has a habit of pouring into a few days once we end up with events on that we need to attend. I’m not the best of shoppers, I’m one of those women that just go into a shop when I need something in particular and I know where I will get it from,  so I guarantee I will be stressed by the end of today! Haha. 

In fact, I remember when Dan and I first went to the Trafford Centre to have a look around before a film, he said to me “I’ve never been around the Trafford Centre that fast!” 

Back to my 30th. Yes, so this is it. My last post in my twenties and Dan can no longer say he he has a wife in her twenties, haha!

See you on the other side …. x

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Millies Trust First Aid Kits Back in Stock – Click here to purchase 
 

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. 

  

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