Yesterday was the blessing of the graves in my parish. This is an annual event on the parish calendar where everyone gathers, attends mass, and blesses the graves of loved ones.
Because Patrick is buried in the graveyard I feel an obligation to go and be a part of this annual event. Because there are so few activities in the year for my son I feel like I should go and honour him. But, to be honest, I resent the whole thing.
Since Patrick died, I have not yet managed to make it through mass without crying. The Chapel, the Priest, the words spoken, and whole act, upsets me greatly. And, I do not even really know why.
You must remember that this is the Chapel that I sat in during Easter before Patrick was born with him kicking me. I still remember that - it is so vivid in my memory. This is the Priest who was at Patrick's burial and who has visited often, always leaving my company a little shaken. These are the words that talk of forgiveness, acceptance, love, and God's will. But, how do those relate to Patrick? And this is the Chapel where Florence was Christened, where my parents sat and watched their granddaughter be baptised before going outside and meeting their grandson who is buried metres away.
And why is he buried? Patrick should be up and running around, not lying buried in a graveyard. And, I know that no child should die, that it goes against the natural order, but Patrick is dead because of negligence and what am I supposed to do with that? Why me; why Patrick?
So, where people gather and exchange pleasantries and the odd, 'how ya doing'?, I wish that I was not there. I loathe the entire activity. I find no comfort in going. I resent the fact that I even have a grave that needs to be blessed.
I know that my situation will never change, that it can never be made better, and so I must learn to accept it and be 'okay' with the circumstances in which Patrick died. But, how do I do that? How do I be accepting of what happened? How do I be 'happy' with these events which are now in my life?
And then my four-year-old son wakes up and wonders out to me just now and I am reminded that grief and life live next to each other. My two sons at completely different ends of the spectrum; with completely different impacts on my life; and completely different places in my heart.
"You've got to remember that grief isn't the absence of love. Grief is the proof that love is still there"
- Tessa Shaffer
Amen to that.
Two years after my son was stillborn, I still find it tough. I still find happiness hard to come by some days. This life, this lack of happiness and drive, is heartbreaking.
Earlier this year, I was at bottom. I was struggling to find answers. I was struggling to find some support. Why was there no-one to make this better? Where was the understanding, the hug from someone caring, and the people willing to work through my loss?
Conventional medicine was not helpful, supportive, or open to working through my grief. The only solution I received from traditional medicine was a prescription. I do not need a prescription; I needed support and understanding. I had made phone call after phone call and I was always put through to someone different. I was always placed on a waiting list. I was always seeking some help and none was ever forthcoming.
I knew that I needed to do something. I felt like I was drowning. So I reached out to a friend who worked with essential oils.
I knew a bit about essential oils already, like how lavender could be used for relaxation, and I needed something to help me. I needed support. I needed something to nurture my soul because it was broken. I needed something to comfort my emotions because they were scatty and unreliable. I needed something to help me be happy again because I had lost my joy.
And, so, I bought some essential oils. This has been the beginning of my journey out of the darkness, confusion, and feelings of hopelessness and being lost. People, they have saved me. They have comforted my soul, helped me find the light, and helped with my emotional and mental health. They get me out of the house (hello, no-more recluse). And, they have given me something to move towards, provided me with something to be motivated about, and given me something to love and nurture.
I need to get this out there. I am doing myself, and you, an injustice by hiding this part of 'Hope After Grief' in a corner. So, I am going to start posting about different essential oils, their properties, and their uses. Maybe something will resonate with you, you will reach out (as I reached out), and you will see the benefits of incorporating these into your life. They are life-changing. This is what I use after grief, these oils have given me hope, and you should know this.
People, we need support. We need tools to help us work through loss, grief, bereavement, and all those negative aspects that come along with it.
Love, light, and wholeness!
I have been thinking lately about life’s purpose and the reason why things happen. I mean, why do things happen? Why do some things happen, and others do not? Why do some things happen to some people and not to others?
You see, we are homeless. I am living with my in-laws. Only for them, I do not know what we would do. Because of all this upheaval, I have been thinking a lot. How could I not? I have lived in Northern Ireland for five years and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I am homeless…
And so, I think. You all know that I think too much sometimes. But, a confession. When I need to think, I clean. I do not know why, I just do. Cleaning is like therapy. Maybe it is the repetition of the movements. Maybe it is the moving from one point to another. Maybe it is the purity in the event – getting to wipe the surfaces clean.
Do you see the analogy? Movement. One point to another. Wiping the slate clean.
And, so I clean. And, so I think. I have been thinking about, "why"? Why have I ended up here? Why have I ended up with nothing? Why have I ended up homeless at 33-years-of-age sleeping on a mattress in my parents-in-laws house with two young children?
These questions naturally lead to others. Why… Patrick? Why… a grave? Why… never ending tears? Why... directionless?
And from whys, there come questions about the reason for all this and the purpose of my situation. Because surely there must be a reason for my present situation? There must be some higher purpose behind leaving me homeless after leaving me Patrick-less? There has to be, there must. And so, I clean, and I think, and I ponder.
Why here? Why now? And, where to from here? If the only way is up, then it is going to be an amazing ride, because I am at bottom. If things can only get better from here, then watch this space, because I am destined for great things.
But, in the meantime, I clean… Maybe the present reason for me being homeless is so that my in-laws get a clean house…?
Yes, that title means what it means. I am homeless.
Last week, Ophelia struck Ireland. I had heard on the radio that people were panic buying, Shay's nursery was closed, and my hospital appointment was cancelled. Now to be honest, I thought it was all an overreaction. Cancelled, closed, and panic buying because of some wind?? 'Come on people, calm down. We have had worse'.
The husband came home and we were talking about the storm madness. I was shocked that people were 'panic buying'. Panic buying? I could not believe it! We were brewing two lovely cups of tea when a gust of wind took the roof off our home. The husband and I stood outside the door for about 10-minutes trying to figure out what to do. Actually, trying to decide if we could get the roof back up and into place.
But, no. It was not to be. Not then and not now. We are homeless. Only for the husband's parent's, I do not know what we would do.
I find myself at bottom - again. It is a blow. And, it affects everything. Even though it is not remotely connected to Patrick, I do wonder what we have done to deserve all this. Losing where we live feels like another bereavement. And, so, I liken the two events together.
I cried for about two days and threw an almighty pity party - attendees = me. And, then I picked myself up and decided that I needed to focus on those things that I could change. This has been a tremendous means to change my thinking and I am grateful for that. Right now, we are still homeless, but we are healthy and happy. This is what is important.
My pity party was not much fun. I am glad to be out of it. Onwards and upwards!
Their was a Wave of Light on Sunday night and it was lovely to be a part of it.
There are amazing charities and organisations out there who provide candles to families and individuals to light during this Wave. It took place at 7pm on Sunday, October 15th. We lit a candle for Patrick and I also lit one in Patrick's grandparents house. That got to me a bit. To explain to people what the candle is for and to light it is very emotional for me.
Unfortunately, lighting a candle is the only thing that I may do for Patrick on a daily basis. I started lighting a candle for Patrick on the six-month anniversary of his birth. I remember talking to a counselor and I was inconsolable. I do not know how he managed to understand what I was saying. You see, six months for me was a significant number, but to everyone around me it was just another day. It was an insignificant date on the calendar and this was extremely difficult for me.
I remember crying to this counselor because no-one was mentioning Patrick. No-one had planned anything for him. And he said something to me that I still hold dear: "why do you need other people to speak about him first?" What he was saying was, if I wanted to do something to honour Patrick, why did I feel like I needed permission from other people to do that. Why was I waiting for other people?
This flicked a switch.
The tears dried slightly and a weight was lifted. I went home and lit a candle for Patrick and I have been doing it everyday since. I like the physical act of doing something for Patrick, of having him included in my daily routine. It is only small, but it is something.
The Wave of Light brings this candle-lighting activity full circle. My everyday activity is amplified to become part of a worldwide movement. I love being part of this Wave; but it is heartbreaking to think of all the families lighting a candle. The loss is huge - literally and figuratively.
For those who took part in this Wave, I hope you found comfort. I am sure that all the babies were lighting them with us.
Another week is over. Another week has started and who knows what it will bring...
Before Patrick was stillborn I, along with most parents who experience the tragedy of baby loss, had never heard of Sands, or Feileacain, or any other baby loss charity. I had never heard of Wave of Light or Baby Loss Awareness Week, or any other awareness event. When I think of all the things I had never paid attention too, all the turmoil which other people were going through... Shocking.
Before Patrick died I was not on this path at all. Now my days are filled with loss and grief and bereavement and offering support to families going through the trauma of baby loss. How things have changed. Do you know that my twitter feed (@Maguire_HopeAG if you wanted to know) is full of baby loss charities and grief and bereavement and mental health and rainbow pregnancies...? You get the idea.
Now my days are filled with making sense of what has happened, and continues to happen after the event, and how to support other people going through it. Now, my life is dedicated to trying to improve the support and help which is available to families. How life has changed.
Baby Loss Awareness Week affects me at either end of the emotional spectrum. I am truly grateful that there are awareness events available for my family and families around the world. I am grateful that I am given the opportunity to talk about Patrick and remember him when so many other people are silent. But, these events make me yearn for him more, if that is possible. And, sometimes, I wish that this was not my life. I wish that I did not need to participate in these events. But, I do.
I honestly cannot believe that it is over for another year. Was there anything in your area? Did you get involved? I applaud all those who organised the events and dedicated their time to my family and other families around the world.
In January this year I sat down and made some goals for the year. I know. Do people still do that? Really Suzanne??? Well, yes, I did.
You see, no-one tells you that time does not always heal. To be honest, this year has been the one with the most upheaval, the most confusion, and I suppose, the most darkness and tears. The first year is all, 'I don't know what is going on'. The years after are the realisation that this is it, well it is for me anyway. I can change how I celebrate dates and I can change how I talk about Patrick, but that is all that I can do.
I needed something to work towards, so I made some goals. I knew that this would give me direction, allow me to put on paper what I wanted to achieve, and give me something to look back on when the going got tough and I thought that nothing was working. And, you know what, all these things have happened.
Professionally, what I wanted to focus on was this - the blog and talking about what life is really like after loss - and I wanted to move forward with Patrick and doing things for him in his memory. I also wanted to talk about pregnancy after loss. After having gone though a 'rainbow' pregnancy, it is an absolute minefield. Without a doubt. And, there is little support or understanding around the heightened emotional and mental health needs of women and their families.
Had I not had goals written down, I would probably still be flitting around. I would still be lost and stumbling and becoming increasingly down because I felt like I was not doing anything. Without goals written down I would not have put myself out there a number of times.
One of those times was applying for a grant with the charity, Change Your Mind. I wanted to raise awareness of the emotional and mental health issues during a subsequent pregnancy. I got a grant, which is a brilliant achievement in itself. This grant, and what I said I wanted to do, gave me something to do...! And, it fitted with what I enjoy doing - research and writing. Lovely! It was a breath of fresh air; my head surfaced.
So, over the last few months, I have been working. Thank goodness! I made a flyer and there are plans for a publication also. There is a picture of the flyer above (not a great photo, but awareness does not call for perfection). So far, they have been earmarked for England, Australia, and Ireland. The response has been amazing.
I am proud of this flyer. It feels like a huge milestone. It feels like the flitting with, 'what I am doing?' and, 'how can I make Patrick proud', has paid off. It is an achievement. I suppose, what I am trying to say is this: I cannot change what has happened, but I can do something different with the situation that I am now in. Life is not the same; I am not the same. Patrick dying is not positive, but I can try and do positive things from it.
If we start small and take tiny steps through the grief and sadness, we can make our way out of the dark. If we put one step in front of the other, we can make our way towards the light. We just have to start. No-one can do it for us.
Hello. Long time, no contact.
I am just back from a lovely break in England. The family and I toured about in a caravan and it was lovely. The weather was mild and sunny and we visited a lot of National Trust places. There is some amazing scenery and sites. But, now it is back to reality...
Before the break, I attended the ISA (International Stillbirth Association) Conference in Cork. Now, I must say that I do love a conference. I love people coming together, and I love the academic side of it. I love hearing about research going on and what other people are thinking about topics that are close to the heart. I never did think that I would be attending a conference about stillbirth, but hey, that is how life has gone.
I went with Sands NI and it was great to see so many charities and people from different organisations there. We are all there for the same reason.
Some things that amazed me about the conference:
My intentions after the conference:
So, this is where I am going. There will be information through my organisation, Hope After Grief, which you can find at:
And, as always, Patrick was very much present during the conference and throughout the holiday. It was Shay's 4th birthday yesterday also. I lit a candle for Patrick before Shay blew out his candles so that the whole family was together...
Last Friday, I, and Steven Guy, the co-ordinator for SandsNI, visited a Minister to talk about holding a Christmas Carol Service in Fermanagh. You have to get in early!! It was welcomed very positively, which is fantastic.
I know it is too early to be talking Christmas (although planning for a Christmas Carol Service next year is already underway!!), but, I cannot wait to attend a Christmas Carol Service. It will be special because it will be catered to parents who are missing a child; parents of children who are no longer here. And, not just parents. Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles, Godparents who never got the chance to step into the role, or other people in the community who want to come and lend support to people they know who have lost a child. But, of course, everybody is welcome.
I have looked over the order of service and I already know that I am going to shed more than one tear. The readings are emotional. And, I think that they are more emotional because of who they are about and aimed at. How am I going to 'hold it together'?
You know how? I am not. I cannot wait. I always think releasing all the pent up emotion is good for the soul. I think it is a huge relief to get it off the chest. And, I think that it is extremely beneficial, mentally and emotionally, to let the grief out. Just let it out. Sometimes we do not show emotions or let the tears out because we are worried about how other people will feel. Maybe they will be uncomfortable seeing me cry?
But, you know what, it is not about them. It is about you. It all comes back to you and your baby. It all comes back to me and my baby.
This Christmas Carol Service will be the icing on my year. I hope that other people will come and celebrate the babies that are no longer with us. Christmas is a special time of year, but it is also extremely emotional. The whole idea of Christmas does not really fit in with Patrick not being here - so much happiness and anticipation alongside grief and sadness and loss.
But, I can make happy memories around Patrick, even if he never got to celebrate a Christmas. This is what the Service is about. Patrick will finally be able to be apart of Christmas. A whole evening for him, and all the other babies that he is playing with.
Like I said, I cannot wait! Will you join me?
This is a first, I must say. I am feeling a lot of love at the moment. I think I have turned a corner somewhere - or maybe the sadness is on holiday for a while...?
No, I will choose to think that I am turning a corner. I do not know what I will see around this corner, but I need to turn it. I can never leave what is behind me, but I need to move forward. I need to turn down this road and acknowledge that it is totally different to where I have been for the past... I have actually just searched how many days it has been since April 21, 2015. It has been 868 days. Can you believe that? 868 days since I said 'hello' and 'goodbye' to my beautiful boy. That seems like such a long time. I have had a wee cry about that number... Who even knows what 868 days feels like? It is madness. That seems like such a long time.
Right, I have had a moment and now I need to carry on with this thought that I started. Now, do not slap me for this, but sometimes I think it is down to choice, it is for me anyway. You need to understand, that I could never have written these words after Patrick died, not even a year, or even two years, after he died. It is only now.
I was thinking about this blog and its future. And, I was thinking about my life, and the children, and what it was all going to be about now. And I came to the realisation that I am holding on to all this anger and 'why' questions and darkness because I feel bad for enjoying life when Patrick is not here. I feel like I will forget him if I do not hold onto the hurt and anger. I feel like people will forget him more if I choose to be happy and see the light and try to enjoy each and every day that I have.
I know that this is common among bereaved parents, but I honestly thought that I was living life and not holding on to any hurt, anger, resentment [insert negative emotion here]. But, I am not. I do not want to be angry and negative all the time. I do not want to be pessimistic about life. I do not want to only feel sadness when I think of Patrick. I know that I will be sad, I will not pretend that it is a switch that I can flick and never have any sad moments for the rest of my life, but I want his life to be positive. I want his impact to be good.
So, I am embarking on a new 'journey', if you will. I have written before about how I feel lost. And, 868 days is a long time to feel lost. But, I finally feel like I am finding myself again. It has taken a long time and some truly determined effort and soul searching on my part, but I need to take this other road; I need to turn the corner. I need to remember that I am not a bad mother for wanting to be happy.
I know that this may not be the cuppa that some want, but it is really tiring holding on to so much negativity. I know, I have been doing it for the last 868 days. Longer even. So, I choose happiness, and light, and sunshine. One day at a time...