Nearly 5 months later, my goodness – what a blur! [This is the second part of Charnjit's blog]
Let’s go back for a moment for those who do not know my story…My beautiful baby girl, Zara was born sleeping on 29th January 2016 at 27 weeks. She never took a breath, clutched my hand or looked into my eyes and smiled at me but she was still my daughter. Of all the things I thought I’d be planning her funeral wasn’t on the list.
Our Bereavement Midwife offered to help organise as much or as little as I wanted her to but as it was one of the last things I would do for Zara, I wanted to do it all!
My husband, Joe & I anxiously waited for Zara to be returned to the hospital following the post mortem. Seeing and holding her fragile body, trying to get to grips with how much her appearance had changed since we last saw her was terribly upsetting. A date had been set for the funeral, 16th February 2016.
We visited the Bereavement Suite for the last time so that we could prepare Zara for the days ahead. We dressed her in a pretty white gown with lace trim and pink roses, she looked very peaceful. We sat together holding her in our arms, taking the last few pictures of her knowing that we’d never be able to touch or hold her again. The final kiss goodbye and walking out of the hospital was the most painful.
The day of the funeral arrived, I remember seeing the hearse for the first time and her tiny white coffin situated between the two seats. There really are no words for me to describe how I felt on this day, so I will not attempt to write any.
Joe & I sat quietly holding hands over her. We’d asked that her coffin remained closed on the day of the funeral as we wanted the family to remember her as they’d first seen her, the morning after she was born.
The service was both beautiful and incredibly sad at the same time. Our closest family released pink balloons afterwards as mark of celebrating Zara’s short life and allowing her to be free of this world.
Things quickly changed after the funeral. Joe returned to work, there were no more visits from my midwife now that I was physically OK and friends and family called or visited less often. I guess for everybody else, life had to go on. I understood this and I chose to spend much of my time alone with my thoughts and feelings so that I could truly begin grieve. It was tough, some of the darkest days of my life. I felt like I was in auto-pilot, so busy organising things that I didn’t actually know how to grieve. Should I cry all day? Laugh? Speak to people? Sit in silence? It was a very daunting process to say the least, what I was quickly learning was that I had to take each day and each emotion as it comes. As much as I tried to control it, I really couldn’t prepare myself for how I was going to feel from one minute to the next, it all depended on what thoughts crossed my mind in that moment.
Eventually, I started to go out more and would bump into people - some that knew and others that didn’t. The ones who did not know would ask how the baby was and when I explained the situation, some would do everything to change the subject and others would look like they wanted the ground to open and swallow them up. It was difficult having these conversations but comforting to know that I was lucky to have people in my life who were kind, sympathetic and were willing to offer support.
I very quickly adapted to the different ways people would now talk to me. Sometimes they would say insensitive things that could be hurtful, not intentionally but nevertheless, they still hurt. I tried not to be upset or angry because I guess some people just don’t know how to express themselves emotionally and maybe they’ve never had to deal with this type of grief before. And this type of grief is so different, to lose your child is a horrendous experience that no parent should ever have to go through, but sadly we do and to be perfectly honest there really are no words that can make this any better.
At times conversations would feel unnatural, as if certain subjects were “off limits”, this was incredibly difficult to deal with. I understand that each mother will grieve differently but I felt as though people assumed that I wouldn’t be able to cope talking about babies, children, pregnant women etc. I was OK with all of this! My beautiful niece was born a month before Zara passed away and friends/ family around me who I was genuinely happy for, were pregnant at various stages or had just had their new born babies. I absolutely know and understand how much joy and happiness a new arrival can bring to a family. For this reason, I separated my situation from what was happening with other people.
I did however, struggle with seeing lots of social media updates from people I knew, sharing what felt like every move their unborn child made. This was not out of being bitter or jealous but more so because I now know how quickly a pregnancy can change.
So many stories! It was nice that people felt they could share their experiences with me but on some days it was just too painful to listen, I still did, offering words of comfort and support. I would feel sad that so many good & loving families have had to suffer such a terrible experience(s). I would estimate that roughly 90% of the people I spoke to suffered a loss directly or knew somebody very close to them, who did. So common, yet such a taboo subject…why is this?
Returning to work was tough. I’d become so used to being in my own space and then being back at work around so many lovely people, who wanted to know that I was OK was just overwhelming. I felt like I was reliving every minute of my experience over and over again. It’s different at home because you can prepare yourself for visitors but at work I was caught off guard at my desk or on the way to the coffee bar. Thankfully, I was able to hold it together in the office but the journey home or the evenings were a different matter.
So where am I now? Feeling strong, positive and hopeful for the future. I have good days where I laugh at the silliest things (usually the random things that my 4 year nephew says) and I have bad days, where I allow myself to grieve in whichever way I need to whether it be sitting in a room crying, needing some time alone or admitting to loved ones that I just need a hug. All of this is OK. I remember the first time I allowed myself to have “fun” after losing Zara, I cried for 2 days straight. It was so difficult trying to enjoy myself again because I felt like I was forgetting about her, even though I now know that this is impossible. I will never, ever forget her.
What am I learning? That it’s all going to be OK, even when I don’t think it will. Everything will happen as and when and if it’s meant to happen and the rest I will do my best to take in my stride.
The world is full of amazing people! A beautiful woman, who I am yet to meet read my original story and took it upon herself to summon a team of knitting angels to make tiny baby clothes for me to donate to the hospital Bereavement Suite. I am truly touched by this type of generosity from strangers.
What is the purpose of this story? To try and educate others around me on how to deal with a grieving mother. The pain will always be in my heart, I am doing my best to learn to live with it. I cannot and will not get over it but I’m trying to move forward with my life.
Please know that I understand that you do not have the words to make this any better. That’s OK!
Please say her name when talking about her, it will not upset me, instead it will make me smile - she was and will always be a part of my life.
Please feel free talk about whatever you want, whether it be about your beautiful babies, children at school or just whatever you might be having for dinner! No conversations or questions are off limits!
If I appear to be upset, just tell me it’s going to be OK or give me a hug, whichever you feel is most appropriate.
My only request is that you do not speculate on whether or not I am pregnant or even question when we plan to try again. Somebody noticed my tummy and asked the question, unfortunately I have not been able to lose all the weight since the passing of my daughter only months ago. Please understand that we have experienced something so devastating that even these words do not begin to scratch the surface.