In my last post, I assured you all that I would share with you some ways that I have identified as important in working through this physical and emotional trauma. Philosopher Manly Hall said ‘An unhealthy mind, even in a healthy body, will ultimately destroy health’. I feel like this is the place to start.
It is not an easy thing to admit that you need help. Society has conditioned our way of thinking, and many people view accessing professional help as a sign of defeat. As weakness. I see it as a sign of strength. It takes courage to recognise that you cannot battle on alone and that someone else might be able to help you deal with this better. We all like to think that we have a handle on our lives. That we know ourselves. That we can do it on our own.
But independence can be overrated.
Why battle on alone, barely able to make sense of your own thoughts, when somebody can help guide you in the right direction. Someone can offer support and insight into how you may move forward through your time of struggle.
Perhaps in this instance, it was easier for me to reach out and access professional help, because I have done it before. A lot of people would know that about me. A lot would not. I suppose it is something that we tend to keep under our hat. And we keep it under our hat for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps we are embarrassed, or ashamed. Or perhaps we just do not want to talk about it any more. Then there are people who make you feel like you do not need it. I have shared my experiences in the past and once was told, ‘Why are you paying money to do this, just get over it’.
You can’t just get over it. It does not work like that.
Regardless of what is causing your grief, or what other mental or psychological situation you might be working through, you cannot just get over it.
And for those reading along at home looking to help out their friends, I want you to know; that statement is incredibly unhelpful. It is damaging. And it will make your friend feel like you are not someone that can be there to provide the support that they need. It will further isolate them.
So I feel like I have broken past the stigma of accessing professional help. But I want to lay it out really clearly for you.
Getting help sooner, is so vital.
Waiting, will not help you.
If you have been waiting, it is not too late.
I have this approach to counselling that preventative is best. Access the help before the problem is so big that you cannot see a way out.
Obviously in this particular instance, it was different. It is not the type of psychological problem that developed over time and got worse. One day I was pregnant, and the next, I was not. The grief was instant. The grief was unlike any I have ever experienced. The grief was all consuming. And like I shared with you last time, there are days when I am okay, and then there are days that I am not.
However in that first week after coming home from the hospital, without my baby, I made an appointment. I contacted Emma from Tree House family counselling. I am thankful that I had an established relationship with her as I was more comfortable than I would have been with someone that I did not know. We spent several hours together, talking over what had happened. It felt just like I was talking to a friend. However the session also came with many suggestions on different strategies to help me move forward. I felt that my feelings had been validated.
That my grief was real.
That my pain was real.
Something that we spent some time discussing was my lack of understanding on how to acknowledge that this had happened. I felt that given my baby did not medically exist, and was categorised as early pregnancy loss, that I did not have a right to grieve.
That I did not have a right to be so taken over by these feelings.
Emma helped me to understand that I did. And she put forward some suggestions as to how I could acknowledge that this baby was real, and will always be a part of our lives. Using these strategies to move forward with my grief has been valuable. My journey still has a long way to go, but now I am more prepared with how to do it, and I know where I can turn to when I need some help along the way.
Did you know that there are a range of organisations that provide support for miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death? I did not know this. The hospital did not tell me, and I left with no idea of where to turn or what to do.
It was only because of our amazing Doula, Anna, that I learned of SANDS. Perhaps I would have discovered it at some point, but I am not sure that I would have gone looking.
Obviously I needed to let Anna know that we would no longer be requiring her for our birth team. When I did, she sent me a beautiful email, full of support and love, and most importantly, the link to SANDS.
SANDS are an organisation who supports bereaved parents in Australia. They are working towards breaking the taboo around discussing this grief, and are supporting families who are going through it. They offer support groups, run a 24 hours phone line, and provide email support.
I emailed SANDS, and was emailed back by a lovely woman. As you probably have all figured out, I communicate better in written form. It is easier for me to share my feelings and thoughts this way. So email is how I chose to access this support.
Then one day, the lady I had been emailing knocked on my door.
She bought me a gift bag. It contained a variety of support literature, specific to miscarriage grief. She bought me a candle to burn for our baby. And she stood at the front door and talked to me for just a few minutes. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that she would do this for me. She told me that this is how she honours her babies. She helps other families through their grief to honour her children that left this earth too early. What an amazing woman.
A few days later, I received a parcel in the post from Jessie-Lee, who was our photographer almost a year ago. She sent a butterfly pin from butterlies for babies, and a candle to burn for our baby. I was so very grateful to receive this. Jessie-Lee offers one complimentary Rainbow Baby photo shoot each month, for a bereaved family. What an amazing woman.
Anna visited the following week with a gift of her own. She bought with her a gorgeous piece of artwork, ‘Waiting for you,’ by Sarah K Reece, which is of a beautiful angel baby by the moon. It is on my bedside, with the candle from Jessie-Lee, and my willow tree that represents Isabella and I. So that for a few moments, in some way, we are all together.
All of these sentiments from these wonderful women drew my attention to support services that are available for bereaved parents. We don’t talk about it enough. People don’t know that there is help out there. I want them to know that there is.
Your support network & getting out and about
The regular check-ins and visits from family and friends were extremely helpful. Some brought food. Some cleaned the house. Some played with Isabella while I was not in a state to do so.
In times of darkness, true friends shine through. I can’t begin to thank each person individually for their support, but I want every person who is a part of our lives to know that they matter to us. That regardless of whether you sent flowers, or dropped over soup, or sent a text, or called. Whatever it is that you did- it made an impact on our lives.
Because having emotional support, and a strong network of friends and family, is invaluable.
I wanted to be a hermit. I did not want to leave the security of my own home. I did not want to put on real pants when I could be in my pyjamas. I did not want to attempt conversation outside of my lounge room. I cancelled plans that required me to leave the house.
I was supposed to be going to the movies with two friends less than a week after coming home, and I cancelled. I could not imagine getting myself ready and going out. Or going to bed later than 8pm! But then an hour before I knew they were meeting, I decided to go. I put on some pants, I brushed my hair, and I got in the car. And it was wonderful. I felt so much lighter when I got home. I spent the time that we were out focusing on something else. Thinking about more than myself and my grief.
So I began to make the effort to leave the house more. Isabella and I started to go for short walks by the creek. Do not underestimate the healing power of fresh air and sunshine.
It made a huge difference.
So I continued leaving the house. I left the house more and more. I went out with friends, I laughed and enjoyed their company.
And I felt guilty. Guilty for laughing. Guilty for having fun. Guilty for leaving the house. But each time, the guilt dissipated a little, and I enjoyed it that little bit more .
I am not saying that this journey is easy. I am not saying that it will be the best fun you have had in forever.
I am saying try.
I am saying start.
I am saying, put on some pants and let your friends in and go live.
Live for yourself. And live for the person you have lost who cannot live for themselves anymore.
And each time you do, it might just get that little bit easier.
For miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support
1300 372 637
Tree House Family Counselling
For counselling and one to one support
To nominate a friend for a complimentary Rainbow Baby photo shoot with Jessie-Lee contact her via her website.
Butterlies for Babies
October 26th is Pregnancy Loss Australia Annual Awareness Day
For the most amazing Doula