Yesterday I attended Bereavement Training in Antrim and it was a brilliant day. It was wonderful on two parts - personally, because I did not cry (bonus!!); and professionally, because it was great to meet other women who are so passionate about the bereavement care which families receive.
I always find gatherings of like minded people a wonderful and fascinating environment. There is so much passion for the same cause and so much openness to share and learn. It was great to be amongst so many dedicated and hardworking midwives.
There was a lot covered yesterday and it was great to be on the receiving end of this information. Some information rang true with my experience, but other information and scenarios did not. We discussed communication, not making assumptions, and how to break bad news. We looked at different experiences from bereaved families, and some quotes covering different areas of life - work, friends, remembering, triggers, religion, and different cultural experiences, amongst many others. So many things change when you lose a baby and so many areas are affected.
There were even some 'aha' moments for me. One in particular was about the turmoil of a loss. One minute you are going along with life and the next minute everything stops. Life changes beyond recognition. And these changes are far-reaching and long-lasting. There was a piece in the training about how a lot of people end up changing jobs after a loss. This was my 'aha' moment. I thought, 'really, this is actually a 'thing'?' My life has changed beyond measure and so has my 'job'. The realisation and recognition of how traumatic loss is was comforting for me.
People cannot realise enough that everything changes.
I have attended a few training sessions now, both as a Sands speaker and as a participant, and the majority of people who attend are midwives. I understand this. Midwives are the people who are there during the bereavement. They are the ones who often break the news of the baby's death to the family; they are often the ones with the family before the birth answering their questions and mopping up tears; and they are often the people who are there delivering the baby. They are also the ones visiting the families in their homes after the baby has been born. Honestly, I do not know how they do it. They need support as well. They experience a stillbirth, not in the same way as the family, but they are there going through it.
It is wonderful that this training is now available. But, more needs to be done to pass on information about the best way to provide care during a bereavement. And, this information needs to be passed on to people working in other departments and areas of the hospital. Where are the doctors, consultants, and management? From my personal experience, they could benefit from this type of training as well. So, where are they?
All it takes is one comment from someone to make the grief and bereavement worse. All it takes is one insensitive throwaway remark from someone to derail healing and acceptance. Any person who comes into contact with bereaved families should avail of training and information about the best care to provide for bereaved families.
I hope to spread the information learnt yesterday to those that are affected and hopefully there will be greater exposure from other staff members in the training sessions coming up.
I have been in a funk these past few weeks. I will be honest. I do not know why, but I have been very, 'meh' lately. Usually I would be an optimistic person, a glass-half-full type of gal, but not at the moment. But then I wonder if optimism can exist alongside life after loss...
Can I be happy after Patrick? Can I focus on the positive and good in life when Patrick is gone? It is difficult being me at the moment (and I am not looking for sympathy here). I would not wish it on anyone.
Everything is so confusing and murky and sad. The weather does not help, let us be fair. It rains all the time. Every. Single. Day. And then when it does not rain, it is cloudy and dull and dreary. There is not light, no heat, no warmth.
And sometimes I feel like this is what life is like.
You see, and sometimes I have avoided telling people this, Patrick is dead because of negligence from the hospital. He should be here. It is this fact that I cannot reconcile my life with. I did everything I was supposed to do when I was pregnant with Patrick. I knew there was something wrong and I was not listened too. Now, I have a cross in a field. How do I put that into my life and wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face full of optimism and positivity?
I saw a psychiatrist on Monday (yep, that is how far life has got) and he said I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). What? I feel weighed down by those words.
Where do I go from here? I need to find the light again.
Sometimes I cannot remember what Patrick feels like; I cannot quite grasp what it feels like to be his Mum.
He is a separate entity in himself. He is completely different to Shay and Florence and obviously, I have a very different relationship with him than the other two. He is on my mind constantly and I am always aware of his presence and absence.
It does not matter whether the children and I are at home having a morning snack, outside in the garden, or we are all out together with Daddy sightseeing or eating. No matter when or where, if I look at them two, I see Patrick not being there.
Sometimes I will catch the husband looking at them and I wonder if he thinks the same thing. I wonder if he looks at them and sees Patrick missing also.
I know that I have lost a child and I know that I am missing something, but sometimes I cannot grasp what that feels like. I feel like I am on autopilot. I feel like that part of me is visible but hidden at the same time. Does that make sense? I feel bereft but incapable of grieving in the same moment.
I never really feel joy or happiness when I think of Patrick. Will I ever? Of course I am very grateful to be his Mum, but there is too much behind that sentence to figure out. The only concrete emotion associated with him is sadness. But, sometimes I cannot conjure up what that sadness feels like and so I do not know how to feel connected to him. I do not know what it means to be his Mum; I do not know what it means for him to be my son.
How does he be a part of our lives without feeling sadness? How do I have a relationship with him that moves and evolves throughout my life? I cannot seem to figure out what we are supposed to look like together. But, then, maybe I am trying to define and control something that cannot be controlled or defined?
All these questions all the time and no-one to provide the answers. Sometimes I wish I knew what was going on. But, I do not. Maybe nobody does.
All to often I fall into the habit of sitting here waiting for an answer to appear...
I sit here at my dining table facing a window which is full of cloud. Everything around me is balancing - books and papers balancing in piles, Shay's toys balancing on each other, and the children attempting to balance on blocks. No matter how many times I tell them not to stand on their toys, they are always doing it.
They are both standing next to each other staring at the television, balancing. They have so many mannerisms which are the same that I wonder what Patrick would have been like...
It is all a balancing act. Life is a balancing act. I also balance. My balance is on the brink of emotion. Will I or won't I?
I have heard a lot of stories lately about people and their loss. I have heard a lot of stories lately about the reactions of the people in their life, of the philosophies directed at them, at the comments overheard. It makes for heartbreaking hearing. But, that is the nature of my 'job' now and I do welcome all conversation. Even if heartbreaking to hear, I relish in hearing the stories.
It always amazes me what other people have gone through after they have lost. Sometimes it does not have to be a child who has died, some people say crazy things after an adult has died also.
You see, the reactions of people affect the person who is grieving. If we are told constantly that we need to 'move on' then we start to bottle up our emotions. If we are told constantly that we should not worry because we will have another child then we stop talking about our loss. If we are told constantly that we should be 'over it by now' then we pretend to be happy.
And pretend and bottle we do. But, surely, everyone is different and everyone deals with a situation differently. You show me the Definitive Guide On Grief and I will show you a rubbish bin to put it in. A person should be allowed to feel however they want/need to feel. And a person should be allowed to feel down/sad/bereft for however long they want to feel that way.
Why the constant need to be happy, or act like we are happy? I think too often when people lose a baby there is a rush to make everything better. But, nothing can ever be made better. The loss and sense of emptiness is always there.
Because the moral of the story is that, we have to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we need to feel before we can make sense of anything. And this is not just a moral for people grieving. It is a moral for any person going through any myriad of situations which a person can go through.
Life is a balancing act. There is both happiness and sadness on either side. We should not pretend to be happy all the time.
You are allowed to be sad. No matter what type of loss. No matter how long ago.
You can stop listening to everyone telling you that you need to move on. You can stop listening to people making out that enough time has passed. And you can stop listening to people telling you that happiness is the way forward.
You are still allowed to be sad.