Some of you who read this blog, know me or just follow me on social media may be aware that my daughter Violet died at the end of September but what you might not realise is that her funeral coincided with baby loss awareness week 2016. The second anniversary of that is today.
At the start of this week in 2016 we got the news that the coroner was releasing her body so we had to finalise things with the funeral directors and to make arrangements for her funeral, including making decisions like cremation or burial. We decided to bury her because I couldn’t face the idea of my baby being burned. Crazy I know as she was dead already but I still felt as though I was protecting her little body by burying her instead. Then we had to decide where to bury her and to pick a plot.
We decided on southern cemetery as it was close to where we live and there are lots of important and respected people resting there, so I know it seems ridiculous but I felt as though she’d be in good company alongside Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Wilson – if it’s good enough for them then…. I remember us visiting Southern Cemetery and one of their team taking us to show us the baby section of the cemetery. They explained there was only one of these tiny plots left beside the road going through the cemetery. It was a small plot surrounded by other little baby graves and next to it was a communal baby grave shared by many that must have had them all stacked on top of each other as though they were on a supermarket shelf. It made me feel ill and I decided over my own dead body would she be buried here. I asked the cemetery man was there not anywhere else and he said we could have a family burial plot but that would be more expensive. I said “fine she’s not being buried at the side of a road even if I need to put it onto a credit card” and I asked him to show us what they had available. He showed us several plots and one was under a big cherry tree that was opposite the grave of Kirsty Howard, the amazing girl who was so brave and raised so much money for Francis House. I said that one would do. None of the plots were acceptable or perfect because my baby being dead wasn’t acceptable. Our final choice was simply the least offensive and I strangely felt comforted knowing that Kirsty would be her neighbour so hoped being kind and compassionate that she would look after my little girl.
In the middle of Baby Loss Awareness week 2016 I wrote Violet’s eulogy. I wanted to ensure her send off did her memory justice and that everyone would know exactly who she was and would understand why we loved her as much as we did. We selected her favourite songs for her funeral, a close friend agreed to give the service for us and we thought about what she would like. I know she was only 15 months old but she had very strong opinions and preferences on things. She loved balloons so we asked everyone to bring a balloon to her service and, as she liked to make people smile, we arranged for all the balloons to be collected then taken to the children’s hospital and her nursery. We set up her fund in this week too for Alder Hey hospital’s cardiac surgery fund and asked people to donate to it.
The day of her funeral, the 14thOctober, was the penultimate day of baby loss week 2016. I remember it was a crisp autumn day with blue skies and sunshine, even though there had been bad weather forecast we only had high winds that day. I went through the day in a bit of a trance almost as though I was an outsider looking in and I carried the angel bear that I had been sent the day before. I cuddled and sobbed into the bear throughout the service. The bear was a gift from an amazing little charity called Heart to Heart UK that also gifts bravery bears to children undergoing heart surgery. Their gift really helped me.
The day after Violet’s funeral was the last day of baby loss awareness week and all around the world people lit candles at 7pm creating a wave of light in memory of all the babies lost. We lit a candle in our empty quiet house full of sympathy flowers and cards then we cried some more and had a drink.
I decided to write about our week in 2016 because sometimes you don’t think about what parents have to go through logistically just after their baby dies. You almost forget that they have to make important decisions during this most horrendous time. Decisions about choosing a funeral director and whether to bury or cremate? What to do for a service? Whether to ask people to donate to charity and if so which one? All these things would be difficult enough if your child hadn’t just died but they have. The world as you know it has just ended. The most important person in your world has gone and you have to make these decisions.
So please join in with celebrating the end of child loss awareness week by lighting a candle at 7pm on Monday to join the wave of light but also have a drink with us as we mark the end of the anniversary of probably one of the most difficult weeks of our lives.
Thinking of our lost babies Violet and Arthur this week but about our darling daughter today. The day we laid her to rest with music, balloons and colour just how she would have wanted.