“I don’t know how you do it.”, “I couldn’t carry on living if my child died.”, “How do you survive?”, “well done for carrying on”. These are all statements I have been told since Dexy died. I never truly understood the meaning of them. I know they are meant with good intentions but I can’t help but think “Would you say this to someone who has just lost their grandparent/parent/sibling?” I never got told any of these when my nan died. I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t either. So that is one person with two different relations with not a whisper of these to them. Strange right?
But I thought I would write down 5 ways I “Survived” (not like I really had a choice) my son’s death.
Number 1, Carrying on.
I get asked this a lot by nonloss parents and I never really know how to answer it without sounding slightly blunt or it being taken the wrong way. Whilst my world ended and time paused when Dexy died it didn’t mean everyone else’s did. No one knew that he passed away for 5 days outside our close family and friends. People still got up and went to work, the sun still set and rose and the medical professionals looking after us well their shifts ended; other staff members their shifts began. I had no choice other than to carry on. yes, suicide was thought of. Phil and I talked about dying but was that really an option? If we died Dexy would never have been born. I never would have met him or spent time with him. He wouldn’t have got the funeral he deserved. We wouldn’t have got any answers. His life would have been meaningless because everything he has done since dying wouldn’t have happened. I now cannot imagine a world without people knowing his name and knowing him. Carrying on to have him live was all we wanted.
Carrying on to have his little brother has not been always so well received by people. I got asked a lot if it was what I wanted, If I was ready, that the “new baby would help heal me”. I mean with all respect to people but it’s not like you go out and replace any other family member when they die is it? So why is the attitude surrounding pregnancy after a loss so negative and healing obsessed? I didn’t carry on without Dexy to just replace him. I wanted to add to our family, give him a sibling, give us another child to love and take care of. Carrying on included that for us. It doesn’t mean that having another child is right for everyone. There are lots of factors that go into it. Some parents don’t want to have another baby which is perfectly okay. Others may have fertility issues or other underlying health conditions that make it difficult and trying to conceive isn’t always possible. It is scary.
Living life after loss isn’t just carrying on. It is just living. There is no negative in it. You have your child with you in all aspects. You’re not leaving them behind. Yes we left Dexy’s physical body, we cremated him but he is still with us. He is in our lives every second of every day and that is not carrying on. Plus carrying on sounds like moving on and I also have a strong hate for that term. A child dying is not like moving house. One house to the next doesn’t apply with grief. It is living end of.
Number 2, do not let people compare your child to a dog.
Now you’re probably thinking what the actual hell is Hannah on about? She has officially lost it. But I’ve actually had someone tell me that they lost their dog and got another which let them heal, it filled the hole. I never knew that such a stupid statement could come out of someone’s mouth. Plus people that put your dog on Christmas cards and not your child also suck ass. Once again I know deep down, in the core of earth they mean well but please think before you say such a ludicrous thing.
I love my dog. He is my absolute world. I see him as another child, he holds so many memories, he has got us through awful times and has been there at the happiest. But when he dies one day it will hurt. It will be painful. I will cry for a long time. But I do know that the amount of pain and hurt I will feel will never be as bad as my baby dying. My child. However, I do know that both Toby and Dexy will be extremely excited to see each other and Dexy will be able to play with him because he always used to kick him in the head and Toby always used to lick my belly and snuggle on it. Don’t worry he’s a chihuahua and weighs basically next to nothing- haha.
Number 3, grieving publicly is allowed.
I must remind myself whilst typing this that I cant make this paragraph 10,000 words- Haha. In a world of social media, it is really common to share all the positive experiences in your life and portray your life to not be entirely true. But it is also useful to remember that being “real” and showing all aspects is important too. No one has a completely perfect life. As I scroll through social media I regularly see people on holiday with what people would see as the “perfect person” posing with a coconut drink in an amazing exotic location. Life isn’t always like that though. I am one of those people who never used to share my personal problems online for the world to see. Unless you count 14 year old me moaning on Facebook about how unfair being a teenager is. But what kid doesn’t do that? When Dexy died I never once thought that I shouldn’t share him online. I know it isn’t a kind place all the time but it is also a public platform where I could meet other parents like me. I could feel less alone. The more I posted about Dexy online the more I felt the walls breaking down with people. At first, I think people were scared of saying the wrong thing but I’m pretty quick to let people know that they have. I had parents telling me about their children that have died and something clicked for me to start a blog. Now look, I’m here at 23.39 writing out my late night thoughts- haha. This opened up a whole new world. I have spoken to and listened to so many parents over the last year. Nearly two years in a couple of months actually. I have helped people, medical professionals have told me that it has helped them, people who are supporting friends and family have thanked me for showing them what to say and do. But then I have the opposite end where people haven’t always supported this and think publicly grieving shouldn’t be a thing. Showing photos of him or even talking about him should not be done online. What boring people right? Who wouldn’t want to listen or read my late night rambling sessions?
Publicly grieving is new. 20 even 10 years ago it wasn’t a thing. social media didn’t have such an influence and impact than it does now. It wasn’t easy to get hold of information and it was used as openly used for support. My parents’ age group and older never had this platform around growing up. They couldn’t just look up the hashtag “stillbirth” and see thousands of other parents talking about their children. Most of them never even got to see their babies that died. So I completely get that this is strange for them. If it wasn’t for Dexy I would probably think it was a little odd. But now it is a massive part of my life. It is also the part that is keeping him alive the most. It gives me a place to talk about him and share my memories. To have photos of him around forever. Even when I am older they will still be there. I can talk about how shit it is and people get it. If I didn’t have that how would I know that I’m not alone. How would I know that what we went through other people have too? How would I know that his skin was normal for a stillborn? I would still be blaming myself for that if other parents didn’t tell about about it and show me photos of their children.
Social media and talking openly about Dexy has let me have some form of closure on many parts. My blog has given me a space where I don’t have to be scared to share or talk about how hard it is. If I didn’t have it I would probably be bottling it up still and close to exploding. Being alone after baby loss is the worst part. No one talks about it and you have no one to talk too. You suddenly become this alien that people are scared of. People cross the road or avoid you in person whereas on social media you have the whole world to find people just like you. I have never regretted sharing my son or my life online. Even with trolls and negativity, I have never regretted it.
Number 4, people who were around then… Where are they now?
People love a bit of gossip, excitement and drama in their lives. As soon as the tiniest thing comes up or something goes onto social media I’m the quickest to be like “woaaaaah hold up… What’s going on here then?” I love it. This is mainly boring old celeb drama or if shit is going down at work- Haha. But isn’t it strange when people pop up into your messages that were either a dick in the past or they are like friends of your ex’s friend’s friend? you know what I mean. They immediately message you when something bad happens but months or years down the line you are now unfriended and have not spoken to them since? I find it so odd. I appreciate your kindness in telling me you are sorry for my loss and all but don’t act all bestie when a few months down the line you unfriend me because you can’t hack seeing photos of my dead child. Like what is with that?
Or family… People who don’t bother, then show up and then stop showing up/cause too much shit for their own good. Like yes, we needed you when he first died but we still need you now you know. We need people to talk to and be able to hear that people are thinking of him. I have regrets in my life to do with family. I’m not scared to air my feelings but normally this isn’t because of how I feel it is because of how Dexy and we have been treated because of his death. I’ve cut out multiple family members since Dexy has died for various reasons. May I add all have a good reason and not just because I felt like it. The same as friends. If you cant show up emotionally then don’t show up at all.
I can count the people outside of my immediate family on two hands that I have kept close. Become even closer with in fact. I feel like Dexy has really done Phil and Myself massive favour by showing us who is worth having around and who sadly are not. It isn’t fair to put this sort of pressure onto parents who have just had their child die. They shouldn’t have to watch people fuck off and they shouldn’t have to feel like they did the wrong thing the whole time for protecting themselves and their baby. Grieving the breakdown of friendships and family relationships on top of grieving for your child is NOT FAIR. Which brings me to my next point.
Number 5, he is my baby, not yours. Also whilst you’re on this point you matter too!
No matter what parenting style you have, a group you fit in or whether your kid is dead or alive someone, somewhere will always tell you how to parent. I have it now with River and I had it with Dexy too which is odd because I don’t think I can do much wrong with him but apparently you can.
People like to input their meaningless comments and that is okay the whole time you let them slide but when they start grinding you down and making you second guess yourself you need to remind yourself that they are your baby.
Other family members will grieve but you are the parents. You will be hurting the most. You will be going through this. This is your life and your baby and no one can take that now. People don’t want to see the photos of your baby? Tell them to close their eyes. If you feel happy and comfortable enough to show people and share your child do so with pride. Just because one person doesn’t want to see your child you know what… I do. If you ever feel like you have no one to share photos with share them with me. I love babies. I’ve had people be scared to show me them because others have made comments and you know what. Fuck’em. Your child is beautiful no matter how small, no matter what gestation, no matter how chunky or how little or a lot of hair they have. They are BEAUTIFUL. You should be proud. My details are on my contact page so if you would like too, chat away, share away.
If you don’t want someone to do something, to come over and see you, to go to work, go to a party… Guess what? You don’t have too. I kept going and going and going after dexy died. I put every bit of energy I had into things and all of a sudden I just crashed. Full force into the ground and broke into a million pieces type of crash. I broke. I spent so much time listening to other people grieving for my son, too much time listening to other people’s uncomfortableness over Dexy and too little time on me. I was so conscious of who to bring him up around and who to not show photos too that I lost sight that he is my son. That I am a mother. If you have to take photos down in your house for people to come over… Don’t bother inviting them. Just putting it out there. I wish someone told me that a loooooong time ago.
But putting you first also means to do what is right and to treat yourself well as you deserve it. If you want to sit in the shower crying for an hour or two listening to the same song on repeat ( Joanne- Lady GAGA) then I encourage you. It is okay to drink wine and cry. It is okay to drink coffee out with your friends and laugh. Oh lord, it really is okay to laugh. it is okay to love. It is okay to be happy, sad, happy, happy, happy and then sad again. Everything you need to do is okay as long as you are safe, people around you are safe. So maybe hold off going 100mph on the motorway for now.
Look after yourself. you’re doing amazing. I just wish our children could be here with us.
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