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 …
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 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.
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 completely 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 completely their prerogative 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 completely valid reason to start to question life and all it’s happenings. I like to believe Millie is here with us every day, 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 up to this weekend then?”
Do you see the big difference there? Two completely 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
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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.
***Millie’s Madness Month is a whole fundraising month in October in honour of Millie’s anniversary***
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Joanne and her husband Dan established Millie’s Trust when they tragically lost their daughter during a choking incident when she was at nursery at just 9 months old in October 2012.
They didn’t want her passing to be in vain and they wanted to do something long lasting in her memory, this became Millie’s Trust.
Millie's Trust (registered charity number 1151410) provides First Aid courses at the lowest possible cost and FREE First Aid awareness courses if you are pregnant, have a child under the age of 12 months or are struggling to find the funds to attend. They also provide a Paediatric course for nurseries to ensure more nursery staff become trained.
Joanne also writes on her own blog Same Person, Different Me which is where this blog post was originally published.