My First Bereavement Group…and Merry Christmas to Every One x
Around 25th August I was able to go to my first bereaved parents groups, held by two wonderful social workers Deb De Wilde and Belinda Power. These ladies have helped countless people like myself process thoughts, emotions and that feeling of isolation that many of us have by bringing together other parents who know exactly what you are going through, I often look at these two ladies when I attend the meetings and shake my head in disbelief, I am not sure what has given them the strength to continually help families like ours, because when I think about all that they do I know that it would have to take its toll on them, where do they get the strength from day in and day out to deal with and support families in their darkest hours? While it would be unkind of me to discuss details of our meeting like who was there and how their baby died and what else they said I can let you know how I felt on that first meeting. A friend of mine who had also lost her baby picked me up that morning to take me to the meeting, it was nice to catch up in the car and have a chat as we drove there. When we got there many of the people seemed to already know each other and were already chatting quietly together, I could see some people proudly sharing photos of their little ones and some people like myself who hadn’t yet worked out where they fitted in the group.
The meeting started and we sat around a circle, the general rules of the meeting were discussed and how Deb and Belinda felt the meeting would run and what would happen was gently told to us. Each person was to get a time to speak, you didn’t have to share if you didn’t want to but we would be encouraged to do so. The ‘oldies’ ie the people who had been there more than this one time were the first to speak, there seemed to be a bond between many of these people, they had obviously been in contact with each other since their last meeting and were on the same page, which was nice to observe. Generally each person would say what had happened to them and their baby, how they were feeling and what things they were currently struggling with and how they were conquering different obstacles. Aptly there was a box of tissues in the room which was passed around frequently, and while I felt heartbroken for these other parents and had tears in my eyes and a heavy heart for them, when it came to my turn to talk and let people know about my beautiful boy, for some reason I was determined not to cry. I am not sure why I didn’t want to cry, maybe I saw it as a sign of my own weakness in front of these people that I didn’t know, maybe I just wanted to be strong that day, maybe I saw how absolutely shattered these people were and in my mind thought that I could be “stronger” at any rate I had it in my mind not to cry as I relayed the story of the birth and death of my baby boy. My theory of not crying soon backfired on me, I finished my story and felt like a cold, hard, horrible mum, I felt like everyone was looking at me questioning why this mum was not distraught, what had meant to make me feel strong and confident had left me feeling week and demoralised (obviously not by the people within the group, but by my own thoughts) at the end of the group we were given an opportunity to borrow some books, over the years Deb and Belinda have developed an extensive library of all sorts of books written for people like me who have lost a child/baby and offer a borrowing service to us, I chose a book that I had heard a lot about from various different people called “When bad things happen to good people” by Harold Kushner (who happens to be a Jewish Rabbi) which in itself was of great help to me, this book allowed me to process what had happened to Ryan and I in a totally different light, some of his ideas were quite random but some of his thought processes were what led me back to realising that yes there is a God of Love.
I exchanged phone numbers with a couple of the people in the group who lived close to me, who were nice enough to have a chat with me and who I thought seemed like people that I would get along with (there were some other people in the group who I would have loved to have a chat with, but never got the time to). In a way it had been nice to sit in this room which felt far removed from reality, far removed from whatever was happening in the day outside and to know that I was in the company of not just one, but many other people who knew how I felt, who had that same heavy heart as I had and who were trying to grasp onto that little bit of silver lining, yet couldn’t quite get there, we were there to remember out babies, we were there to work out how to continue on with lives, we were there to hear of other peoples experiences on returning to work after their baby had died and how to handle different situations, we were there to feel a sense of belonging, we all belonged to a special kind of group that no one wants to be a part of yet none of us had the choice, brought together by a horrendous situation we forged friendships through a common loss.
We left that very first group experience and I was exhausted, when you listen to so many peoples losses you can’t help but take that all on board and carry it around with you for the next day or so, it gave me both a tired and aching head. I had hoped that Ryan would be able to come to that first meeting with me as he is my rock, protector and shield and when he is with me I feel invincible, but as he had been off work for 4 weeks after Liam was born, he needed to be at work and he had meetings all that day so was unable to come with me. I called him to let him know how my first meeting went and told him that I would never be going back there, it was too much for me to bare, I was struggling dealing with my own grief let alone taking on the grief of other people as well….however you will see as time went on I changed my mind, returning time and time again to that meeting, and as the next meeting approached I was eager to go, these meetings are invaluable to people who have lost a baby and while they are a little “full on” each meeting is different, each meeting provides us with different tools needed to get through our next stage, and in each meeting you are surrounded by people just like you
That day I had seen lots of other little babies, proudly yet sadly shown to me, and when I got home I had this fear in me that I had forgotten what my little boy looked like. If I closed my eyes I could clearly remember his smell and the softness of his skin on my lips, I could even remember what he felt like cradled in my arms and how heavy he was, yet I could not picture his little face. Yes I knew there was a button nose, chubby cheeks and lips just like his sisters but I felt like the imprinted image was gone. I looked and looked at photos of him trying to regain that central calm of knowing my son, yet I couldn’t. I looked at his photos over and over flicking from one to the next but although I could see this baby and knew he was mine part of me told myself that I had forgotten him and it was a horrible gut wrenching feeling. I looked at his photos until I fell asleep. That night I had my second dream of Liam, I dreamt that I was back in the hospital, it was the day that he had been born and had died and I dreamt of the nurse dressing Liam after his first ever bath and showing him to me asking if I would like to hold him, and she handed him to me and I put my nose straight away on his head and breathed in his beautiful smell, I looked at his face and remembered every detail about him, I traced my finger over the bridge of his nose and around his forehead. In my dream I knew that Liam was dead, I knew that I was beyond sad yet my dream gave me a sense of calm, I had found that inner part of me that believed I had forgotten what he looked like, I even held his little hand in my dream and marvelled at his long fingernails, no I had not forgotten what he looked like, it had been my deceptive mind playing tricks on me. It was a beautiful yet sad dream, I didn’t want it to end because I was with Liam, yet I didn’t want it to continue because I knew that he was dead, and I wanted him to be alive, it was a bittersweet experience.
Life for Ryan and I was just starting to feel “normal” again, it was a new sense of normality, what used to be normal now did not exist and we were just starting to readjust to our new found normality. While Ryan was at work I was now enjoying my time much more with Alethea, I had realised that I only get one shot at being a mum, and I wanted to try to be a fun mum, so at every opportunity we were given I would take Alethea out to have fun. We would head down to Dee Why for a scooter ride, meet up with her friend Chiara and go for icecream, our days were once again filled with fun and happiness. I remember this one day, we headed to Dee Why with Chiara and her mum and younger sister, all the girls went scootering as fast as they could, and I ended up having to run really fast to catch up with them because I was scared they would jump into the pools at Dee Why without us being there, that’s how fast they were going. I could see them at all times, and when I reached them, Chiara and Alethea both had their shoes off, they were determined just to put their feet in the water, so of course Gina and I said that they could, it soon became clear that more than just their feet were going to get wet, so the girls were stripped down to their singlets and underwear and ran around squealing with delight. I was laughing at them, but Gina was anxious about how she was going to dry the girls and get them home, I had to laugh at this one because I was now at the stage where things like this just didn’t bother me, before Liam died I would have felt exactly the same way that Gina did, and worried, but since Liam had died I had begun to realise that little things like this didn’t really matter, both of us live only about 5mins away by car from the beach, we still had the girls clothes that they could get dressed into, all be it a little wet, but all I was planning on doing was popping Alethea’s clothes on, putting her in the car and going home for a bath as it was around that time of the day. Alethea was having fun, and that was all I cared about, I pointed this out to Gina and told her that the girls were only going to be little once, the more fun they had now the better and Gina relaxed and agreed. I loved watching Alethea having fun in the water, there is something about kids and water and absolute pure happiness and fun.
There was another time I remember, we had taken the girls to ballet classes in the morning and then Alethea had swimming lessons that afternoon and Gina told me that she was going to take her girls down to Dee Why for an ice cream around 3pm did we want to join them, of course I said yes, as having Alethea have fun was my main priority, and what child doesn’t like ice cream! We got to the shop and ordered and when we sat down Chiara very innocently said to me ‘Where is your baby’ it was a random thing at this time for her to ask as she had seen me many, many times, and Alethea answered Chiara saying ‘Baby Liam is in heaven, which is past the clouds, and past the stars’ and Chiara looked at me and said ‘When are you going to go and get your baby?’ and I could see Gina physically slump down in her seat as she shook her head at Chiara trying to make her stop asking questions. I think that Gina thought I would get upset, but how could I, this was an innocent 3 nearly 4year old who was trying to work out what had happened in her own mind and it made me laugh listening to her, and I explained that Liam was in heaven that I couldn’t go and get him that he would wait there for me until it was my turn to go to heaven, and Chiara’s response to that was ‘my mum wouldn’t leave me there’ which yes did pull at my heartstrings a little bit, but again it was such an innocent and truthful thing for her to say, and Alethea in between eating her ice cream defended me telling Chiara that we couldn’t go there to get him because he lived past the stars, Alethea was so proud telling Chiara this and said it both defending me and Liam but also said it as a proud big sister, yes she might not have her little brother here to play with, but somehow, somewhere along the line she had become a typical big sister, being protective and being proud of her little brother, and that was a beautiful thing to watch
This will be my last post for a little while, with Christmas and New Year approaching our family is looking forward to some quality time together, so watch this space mid-January and we will be back then!
Before I go I need to get a few things off my chest, and they relate to the here and now. I don’t put every message I receive up on our blog, some are too personal to put up and so I respond to them personally, some can be a little nasty and most of the time I just ignore them, but I figure if people are writing me these messages there must be more people out there that feel the same way, so I would like to dispel a couple of myths.
Firstly for those who say ‘enjoy your millions’ or something to that effect I have this to say: In Australia just because my baby died of what I believe is negligence on many peoples parts does not mean that we are entitled to “millions” in Australia you cannot claim for punitive damages, ie because Liam is dead because of many mistakes means we obtain nothing. In Australia if you want to pursue a legal claim you have to do so through a civil claim in which I have to prove that I am now deficit of certain things and that I have an ‘abnormal grief reaction’, for example if I could not get out of bed each morning and look after Alethea because of my grief and need to hire a nanny, then I can claim for that, trust me there are those days that I don’t want to get out of bed, it is easier to stay in bed and ignore the world, but that was not my promise to Liam, and I would be a horrible mummy to Alethea if I did that. If I couldn’t clean my house and needed a cleaner to come and do that then I could claim for that (however I am the sort of person who would probably clean before the cleaner came!) Apparently if I was the “most affected person” then I could claim between 100-150K but apparently I am not “affected enough” I choose to live, I choose to be a mum, I choose life and because of that we are entitled to nothing. I have been told that if our case was seen in another country that yes we would get “millions” however this is not our case. Ryan and I want no money from Liam’s death, that would not bring him back…however if we were in another country any money would mean that I wouldn’t need to return to work next month, I could focus all my energy on my one and only surviving child and enjoy every moment with her, it would mean that yes I could get a cleaner and not worry about that part of my life, it would mean that we could take some family holidays and have fun as a family….however this is not the case in Australia. I also earn no money from this blog, I do it because it is my release, I do it to try and help someone else.
For all those asking what exactly went wrong when Liam was born, I can say that yes we have answers to some of our questions, but more are still coming in, I haven’t mentioned it for a couple of posts because I don’t want to get into trouble myself, I am not yet sure what I can and can’t share (even though I have de-identified everybody and the hospital which has been very hard for me because sometimes I did want to name and shame, but again I am not that sort of person) so even though I have some answers on exactly what went wrong and how they failed their duty of care to Liam, Ryan and I if I share I am scared of the repercussions on me (ie they could take me to court…go figure that one). I hope that because no one can be identified that I can eventually share everything that went wrong, and yes that night everything went wrong, in saying this I am also realistic, there is a chance that Liam had something inherently wrong with him, he may have died anyway, but he was NEVER given the chance to live, and whether that was the case or whether it was because of everything that went wrong, no baby in his circumstance would have been able to survive what they put him through. If everything had gone how it should have and Liam had died it would still be a horrible, horrible tragedy, but I would be able to accept it more, because no one would have failed him me or Ryan, but like I have said given his circumstances NO baby could have survived what they put him through.
To our family in QLD I apologise for not yet putting you into our story, yes you have been pivotal in our healing, you too have shared our sorrow as well as our joys, you helped us to heal more than you will ever know and I will get to your story soon. Ryan and I are proud to call you family, we love each and every one of you (for everyone else this is another heart-warming story that I can’t wait to tell!)
For those asking how our Christmas this year will go, our house is totally decorated, Alethea, Ryan and I put our Christmas decorations up on the first weekend in December, Alethea and I loved every minute of it, however Ryan struggled that day. Santa is coming to our house on 25th December in a BIG way, yes we can spoil Alethea, after the year that she has had she deserves it, and it brings such happiness and joy to watch her excitement build towards Christmas. Our house will be one of happiness and fun over Christmas, yes it will also be tainted with sadness but mainly I hope it is happy. We of course will visit Liam’s grave on Christmas day, I have placed 2 red poinsettia flowers there, he has a Christmas ball with his name on it, a Santa snow globe there (thanks to Becky and Deece) and on Christmas day we will release some red and green balloons for him. We will also return on boxing day (26th) as that will be Liam’s 6 month anniversary and we will release lots of balloons up into the sky for him. To those people who took the time and thought about a meaningful Christmas present for Liam, thank you, yes they made me cry, but I was so grateful for each and every one and they made me realise how much you cared about him and us.
To everybody who has taken the time to read our journey so far thank you, because of you my little boys memory has lived on, thank you for sharing our story with your friends and family, for those people who have read our story and then taken the time out of their lives to write us messages thankyou as well, because you have given us the conviction to continue. To those who have shared our blog on Facebook/Twitter thank you, baby death is such a taboo subject to talk about and you put yourselves out there by posting our blog.
To all our family and friends who have got us to the point that we are at today thank you, people showed us their true character after Liam died, we have developed friendships immensely, and we have lost a few friends as well, but for the ones that we have we are very grateful for.
Watch out 2013 I have so much more to add, so much to say, so much for everyone to know and I look forward to sharing it all with you. Merry Christmas and Happy New year to everyone…someone recently said to me “I bet you will be glad to get rid of 2012” and my answer is both yes and no, yes because Liam died and that has been all consuming and horrible, but it was also the year that I carried him, felt every kick, every hiccup, rubbed my tummy and sang to him, let his daddy put his hand on my stomach to calm him down when he was overactive, which ALWAYS worked, he knew his daddy before he was born, he felt his love even in the womb, and they had a special bond, I loved him every minute that he was growing inside me, he was and always will be loved more than anyone can imagine xx
- Posted in: The First Weeks