Well what a weird year this one has been. Even September feels a little different than usual because we are unable to have people round to the house & with a little one entertaining at home is what we do really so that’s out then. Our fire pit & BBQ haven’t had that much use this year.
I used to love this time of the year being a nerd at school I loved going back for challenging new lessons, my new notebooks & stationery. I try to embrace these old memories of September by learning new things & treating myself to new stationery too.
In recent years September has always been a tough month for us. The beginning of the month saw us saying goodbye to our little rainbow boy Arthur (read more about him here), the middle of September saw us spend a few weeks in the children’s hospital with Violet & then the end of the month was when she sadly died.
Usually at the end of September we try to escape on holiday somewhere to try to take our minds off it but for obvious reasons we won’t be going overseas for sunshine this year. Not because I am fearful of my own safety I should add but more because we aren’t willing to take any risks with the health of our rainbow toddler no matter how slight they may be.
I recently heard something an amazing man called Les Brown said that resonated with me so wanted to share.
He said “I’m not going to let adversity define who I am and how I show up. It shows you who you are. It will either make you or break you.”
I really resonated with this. Yes I have been through adversity but I’m not going to let it define who I am. Yes it has changed me and made me see the world differently but it will not stop me from being me.
What about you? What resonates with you?
It’s a great time for reflection.
Are you back to school? What do you like about September?
Always Violet Skies xxx
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Recently I’ve been beating myself up about putting on weight during lockdown and the fact I’ve not exercised a huge amount. My body isn’t how I’d like it to be. My heart is now fixed so there’s no physical reason for not doing more exercise.
My fixed heart now seems to have slowed my metabolism down because it is working more efficiently so I seem to be burning less calories – typical hey? Anyway I was moaning the other day to a friend and she reminded me that I have actually had 3 pregnancies/babies in 5 years which is quite a lot and a huge impact on your body. Add into that that I’ve also had and recovered from heart surgery after having a titanium device fitted inside it.
Looking back over 5 years
I had a very traumatic birth with my first baby Violet who was undiagnosed breach resulting in me being rushed into surgery shortly after the birth. She was blue lighted to Alder Hey in Liverpool where she underwent heart surgery at 4 days old. She survived that luckily and we took her home 10 days later with major chest wounds weighing less than 5 pounds. Anyone who has had a prem baby will understand the additional challenges with caring for a baby so small.
Childloss x 2
Then I’ve also had the trauma of losing two children. First Violet at 15 months old then my second baby Arthur. With Arthur we had to face the near impossible decision of a termination for medical reasons after hearing at his 20 week scan that his brain hadn’t developed at all and in fact was just fluid. We said goodbye to him at 22 weeks and he was stillborn.
We’ve then undergone a horrendous inquest hearing for Violets loss almost 2 years after she died having to relive every moment of it and I did that whilst heavily pregnant with Aurora my third baby.
I faced the additional stress of a rainbow pregnancy following those two losses whilst rehabilitating a German Shepherd and project managing a home extension that we lived in throughout too. All while still working as a PR consultant too.
Child with special needs
After Aurora was born we discovered she was deaf and so are now adjusting to raising a deaf child. She also doesn’t sleep so 2 years in we’ve had to adapt to only 4-5hours sleep maximum a night on a good day.
Other minor things
In the last 5 years of my life I’ve also gotten married, travelled round the planet twice, raised over £50k for Alder Hey hospital, had heart surgery and most recently a cancer scare (luckily now confirmed as nothing to worry about).
I also started this child loss blog to help others out there and to try to raise more awareness of the issues faced. I’ve started lecturing in marketing at university, launched a new travel business and also made more of my love for photography by studying for a diploma in it. Now with covid changing the landscape of my career in travel and hospitality PR too. Grounding airlines and closing bars/restaurants. The working me has seen a huge shift in my outlook and what I do.
I’d say that’s quite a lot in 5 years wouldn’t you? So you know what? I’m going to give myself a bloody break and a pat on the back for still being relatively sane. So what if I’ve put some weight on. I’m not going to stress about that at all and in the grand scheme of things now with covid challenges too who cares?
Make a list people
So my word of advice to anyone out there is to make a list of all the things you have faced, overcome, survived and achieved in the last 5 years. I bet like me you’ll be surprised and so try to recognise what you have actually done rather than beat yourself up because of a saggy tummy, grey hairs and wrinkles. See how amazing you actually are to have got to where you are today. What have you done, over come and experienced in the last 5 years?
Appreciate the now
I did think about doing a list for the last 18 years but that just made me feel very old and exhausted 😂maybe I will write a memoir someday to share the full story and it’ll be perfect bedtime reading (to send you all to sleep or you will think it is fiction).
Big love to you all and thanks for reading
Always violet skies xx
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I’ve not written a blog post for a fair few weeks (well over a month!) because to be honest I just couldn’t be bothered.
I wondered if anyone was actually reading these and so whether I should continue or not.
Then I did a few extremely honest captions on instagram and got a fair few comments back from people telling me thank you, as what I said really resonated with them too. Someone also thanked me for making them feel less alone and that they reached out to find my blog when they were at their lowest ebb. That my blog showed them they could move on too and that there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the apocalypse that is child loss.
I’m back… did you miss me? (don’t answer that!)
So I am back again with my ramblings and I hope you will find them insightful. I’m also going to re-jig my website a little over the coming months so posts are easier to search for and to find.
I know a fair few of us have found the last 3 months especially difficult as we adjust to a new way of life, perhaps facing new financial pressures leading to a change of outlook, lifestyle or having to rethink career or business goals.
I have tried my hardest to be positive about the situation even though work dried up, my birthday was in lockdown and we spent the majority of 3 months isolating to keep our toddler safe.
I volunteered my time to help the lonely elderly by making regular phone calls to them to give them a caring ear and someone who cared. I also gave some of my PR assistance for free to help charities out including setting up one to help benefit those struggling from lockdown who are self-employed missing out on government support.
Missing family and friends I found hard along with valuable social interaction for the greater good.
Now as lockdown eases a little, we have decided to venture out more to open spaces, parks and to meet friends and family, observing social distancing of course. This I find really does help my mood and improves perspective too.
I do feel as though I’ve also been a crap friend too over the last 3 months as I’ve been struggling somewhat but hope to make it up to you all during the rest of the year.
I’m thankful that lockdown had eased as this week it was Violet’s 5thbirthday, meaning that we could visit her grave and even more lovely was the fact that Chester Zoo reopened on her birthday. We sponsor the elephants there in her memory so like to visit them to remember her and this we got to do yesterday. It helped to make a very painful day a little brighter.
Gorgeous violet flowers at Chester zoo
Visiting Arthur’s Giraffes at Chester Zoo
Violet’s elephants at Chester Zoo
I still find I have a great deal of anger at the world because of Violet’s loss and my soul aches as though part of it has been ripped away.
I often think about what she would have been like as a 5 year old. What would she look like and sound like? What would she enjoy doing? How would she be?
I try to focus on the positives and doing good deeds for others to try to spread the joy that Violet embodied. She brought a calm stillness to those she met like a master of Zen, pretty rare in a baby.
We are paying for a 5 year olds school uniform in Violet’s memory to help a family who are struggling. I have also made up little party bags that will be delivered to friends this week to hopefully make them smile and spread some joy. Once again we have renewed sponsorship of the elephants at the zoo too. Some kind people have also donated to her fund so Alder Hey will once again benefit from Violet’s legacy.
It was lovely that quite a few friends and family remembered Violet on her birthday, surprisingly lots of people who never met her sent messages of support and even flowers.
I do find it additionally upsetting & heartbreaking though that lots of people who did know her very well didn’t remember or acknowledge her birthday. This makes it all the more painful for us.
At the end of the day the greatest comfort you can give to the parent of loss is to remember and talk about their child especially on their birthday.
Failing as a mum of loss
My mission as a mum of loss is to try to keep her memory alive and when those who were close to her fail to remember she existed I feel as though I am failing as her mother.
Please remember this with anyone in your life that has suffered the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling. A simple text message can mean the world to them. They want more than anything to bring their loved one back and one way to do this is via memories so help them to remember the positives.
I’ve been watching comedy to take my mind off things and this I thought was quite poignant by Jason Manford
“Just because you’re struggling it doesn’t mean you are failing” I will try to remember this.
Take care and spread the love if you can
Always Violet Skies
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A friend of mine recently asked if I had been sent a letter saying I was high risk because I was self isolating from the start 5 weeks ago. I haven’t. Officially I am classed as low risk despite having a heart operation at the end of last year. My daughter who also has a congenital heart issues is classed as low risk too.
Regardless we have been isolating to the maximum for the last 5 weeks and will continue to do so.
I was told once before by medical “experts” that a daughter of mine should be treated as normal and wasn’t at increased risk of anything. She wouldn’t have any more reason to die than anyone else. She died of the very thing they said not to worry about and the coroner said she has been at a greater compounded risk, so forgive me if I don’t trust the medical “experts” now especially given this is a new situation and a new virus they don’t really understand.
Make a mistake once…
and it becomes a lesson. Make the same mistake twice and it becomes a choice.
My mistake was believing the medical experts when they said to treat my heart baby as a normal child. She wasn’t a normal child.
Not no risk
I’ve suffered the pain of losing not one but two children, so forgive me if I don’t want to risk losing another even if that risk is a low one.
Low risk means there is still a risk it’s not a no risk situation. No one is at no risk of the corona virus remember that.
Is any risk worth it really?
What do you think?
Are you willing to gamble with these very high stakes? I am not.
Stay safe everyone. Hold your nearest and dearest close.
It makes me sad during this time of isolation that my little bubbly outgoing sociable girl often seems lonely desperate for the company of other children. Yes she has me and her dad with her but it isn’t the same as someone a similar age.
When she sees other children going passed our house on their bikes on the way to the park for their exercise or animatedly chatting holding hands she bangs on the window waving to them shouting hello. She wonders why these children are allowed to play together but she cannot join them.
It’s hard to explain to an almost two year old that those children are siblings so they are allowed to play together and visit the park with each other.
She should have a big sister
It makes me so sad because by rights she should have an older sister to play with. A big sister to run around the garden with and who would be able to relate a little more to her, rather than the two adults she finds herself spending 100% of her time with.
Violet would have been able to look at books with her, play on the slide in the garden and they could have sat together to create sculptural masterpieces from play doh. Even just lounged together on their giant unicorn to watch TV.
Don’t get me wrong I grew up with siblings myself so understand all about the arguments but you know what I would like to have to break up those fights and solve the disputes rather than try to cure lone tantrums about wanting to see others.
Until now whenever I’ve gotten upset about her not having her sister here to play with I’ve taken comfort from the fact she has cousins she’s close to that she can grow up with. This current situation that stops her from seeing her cousins and indeed her friends reminds me how alone she really is. I was lucky enough to grow up with a brother and a sister.
Yes we can video call but she’s not overly interested in that. If we show her videos of her friends and cousins she watches them over and over finally tantruming when we stop her watching for the 100th time.
After seeing friends from a distance waving & chatting to them from the end of the driveway or over the fence she then has a tantrum because she’s not allowed to play with them. She’s even gotten her nursery bag taking it to the front door in an attempt to leave to go play with other children.
I fear that when this is all over our vivacious little girl might be a shy and reserved wallflower who has forgotten how to interact with her peers or other children.
A close friend of mine who grew up as an only child once told me she wanted to have more than one child as growing up as she dreamed of having a sibling to play with. She said she used to feel envious watching me with my brother and sister wishing she could have the same. I never really understood what she meant until now.
A new kind of grief
Watching my little girl cry and sob and tantrum because she wants to play with the children going passed our house breaks my heart. Even more so that by rights she should have at least a big sister with her right now and actually she is the youngest of three.
It breaks my heart it really does. It also reminds me of the difficult conversations that are coming in the future when she wants to know why she’s an only child and what happened to her older sister and brother.
I recently came across someone else on instagram who is going through a very similar thing with their daughter and the isolation situation so I thought it was important to share this in case it might help even more out there to know they aren’t alone in this.
Always Violet Skies
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Well this Easter is certainly a very different one for all of us.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post about why Easter is often one of the hardest times of the year for anyone who has lost a child (read it here).
One of the reasons I highlighted is that if you’re a parent of loss it can be hard to watch other families and their children getting out and about enjoying the weekend. Well this year hopefully it will be a little easier for those who have lost a child, as no one can go out anywhere, so you don’t have to see all the farm visit photos or pictures of picnics in national trust estates or cute Easter bonnet competition photos.
Last Easter we were lucky enough to spend it on the other side of the world at my brother-in-law’s beautiful wedding in New Zealand and visited friends in Australia before enjoying a few days in Hong Kong and Singapore. How lucky are we that we did all of that last year and not this year?
Count your blessings
This time of the year I like to remember just how lucky we are. Yes I work in travel so have lost all my work for now but I have a lovely little family and a home with garden we can isolate in. Life is good for me and I’m lucky (I’ve also worked very hard for the last 20 years too!).
Remember people you haven’t lost your freedom you are just staying safe at home. Soon you will be able to do anything you wish again and go anywhere you please. I for one am looking forward to travelling again and have already started to daydream about it.
If I can help you plan your escape and your next adventure then please let me know as it helps to keep my passion burning and my travel addiction satisfied. You can register for updates about travel bargains via my website here https://sarahstephens.inteletravel.uk
Whatever you’re up to this Easter weekend make the most of it. Relax spend time with your family, eat all the chocolate and just enjoy the now.
So some of you will be aware that before Christmas I finally got the heart operation I have been waiting for and had my huge hole repaired.
Night before my operation
The night before my operation I had a conversation with my husband that no one wants to have but really we all should. We spoke about that if things should go wrong in the operation what my dying and last wishes would be. I told him what I would like for my funeral and that I would like to be cremated with my ashes interred with our daughter in her grave.
We then spoke about what I would like for him and our daughter in terms of the future if I wasn’t to be in it anymore.
It was a huge and emotional conversation but one I realised that we all should really have today with our partners or close family as you really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, without meaning to depress you, we could be run over in the street tomorrow.
Do you have your will sorted too? We wrote ours back before Violet died so we are going to double-check our wishes are still current too.
So my advice to you all is if you haven’t written a will or told a close loved one your last wishes and how you would like your funeral to be, should something happen, then please do this.
Think about the ones you love
Make this conversation your priority if not for your benefit but for that of your loved ones. It is something that needs to happen. If unfortunately the worst should suddenly happen then it will be tough enough on your loved ones without them having to second guess whether you want your organs donated or flowers at your funeral.
Yesterday I was in hospital with my daughter and they tried to take blood from her 5 times and failed. It was horrendous having to hold her still while they inflicted pain onto her. Fortunately for her and me it was for some tests as an outpatient rather than them trying to get IV lines into her as a hospital admission.
If you have been through this with your child you will know how distressing it is. Even more so if you have been through it with a child for weeks to have them then die at the end. This experience brought back many harrowing memories of my daughter Violet for me and has made me want to write this article and I hope you will take a few minutes to read it here goes…
It is not about you
There seems to be some people still frequenting public places and still having social gatherings. Those who aren’t practicing social distancing with an “it won’t happen to me. I’m low risk anyway” attitude.
I implore you to share the hell out of this article and ask people to do one thing and read this to the end.
4 years ago
Nearly 4 years ago if you had have asked me if my daughter would die from pneumonia I’d have said “what no chance they have medicines and hospitals to prevent that”. But guess what? She died and the hospital nor us could save her. Think about that for a moment.
A disease the hospital knew all about; one that’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. One of the best children’s hospitals in the UK couldn’t save the life of a toddler. Think about that.
Now I don’t tell you this for pity or for you to feel sad please read on.
Everything and anything
If you had told me or my husband that to save her we’d need to sign away our houses. We would have done just that. If you had have asked us to give away all our belongings and sign away any future earnings then we’d have done that too. We would have literally given everything and done anything to save her our beloved daughter. I know the rest of my family and close friends would have also. Think about that for a second.
I still remember the nightmare day she died and I still have nightmares and visions of it 3.5 years later. Again I don’t want you to feel sad or pity for me, just to keep reading and thinking.
As my daughter was taking her last breaths and the doctors were fighting to try to save her. Four of my family members including myself were in that very room. I remember we were begging at this point. Yes we were begging and pleading with her to muster the strength to fight. We were pleading with the doctors to save her. We were pleading with whatever higher power there might have been to save her, even if it meant trading our own lives instead. Think about that for a minute.
We would have traded our lives all four of them for her one fragile beautiful little soul.
So that’s it folks that’s what I wanted you to read not for pity. For the realisation that all you have to do to save someone’s child (everyone is someone’s child) is for you to stay away from others. You keep your distance and stay inside your homes in order to save a child. That’s it. You don’t have to give your life for theirs just stay home or at a distance and wash your hands.
Yes I know some of us have lost our livelihoods and money so I don’t want to belittle that but remember what I said that we’d have happily given absolutely everything, including our own lives, to save our daughter.
Ask anyone who has lost someone they loved more than anything, whether a child, partner, parent, sibling or friend what they would do or give to get them back. It would be a lot more than simply them staying at home or away from other people.
If it would bring my daughter back hell I’d move there. Yes to hell if she’d be alive again.
We’re not asking you to give everything or do a deal with the devil just stay home and away from others for maybe a few months. That’s it.
Isolation at this time will save lives and whilst you might think you’re ok it’s not about you. It really isn’t about you right now.
Do it for those you love because take it from me hell is going on living when someone you love more than life itself isn’t. It can happen to you too I’m proof of that.
Trade your time for a life. For the life of a child.
Thanks for reading and thinking. Thanks for your time.
If you’ve ever lost anyone and especially if you’ve lost a baby or child then you will know more than most that life can give you almighty curve balls.
These sudden changes in circumstance if it involves the loss of a significant other or a child can feel like the curve ball is an asteroid sent for total destruction. If you have somehow managed to survive this mother of all apocalyptic curve balls then you will understand now why the curve ball of a virus leaves me shrugging saying “meh”.
Yes I’m in a high risk category because of my heart op recovery and if I catch the dreaded COVID-19 then could be very poorly. I’m self employed and my business is travel and hospitality. These industries are currently in free fall and I have mortgages to pay. I also have a house overseas again with a mortgage that I rent out to holiday makers, again that will be hit by this epidemic. People I’ve spoken to expect me to be far more stressed out and panic stricken than i actually am.
I think I’m so calm about it because you know what I’ve already been to hell and I lived there for a while. I’ve already had the very worst thing happen to me. This virus isn’t the very worst thing. I’ve lost 2 children and still I’m clawing my way back into a new reality.
I’m not overly worried because you know what? I’m a survivor. My family are survivors. We will get through this new challenge the way we have gotten through all the other sh*t that’s been thrown our way, over the years, and yes we’ve had a lot.
We will get through this new challenge with as always compassion for others, the adaptability to be able to seize every opportunity and by looking after ourselves to ensure we avoid taking unnecessary risks to our health.
This too eventually will pass and then people will be travelling, shopping and partying again until then please be kind to others.
In the words of the poet Bon Jovi “keep the faith” and wash your hands people!
So I have spent the last few years writing this blog about how to survive child loss and I’m pleased to say I have survived so far but then I saw the interview that HRH Meghan did when she was in Africa and still an HRH. Something she said in that interview really resonated with me and don’t get me wrong I’m not a huge royalist fan at all although I did love Suits!
Meghan said in that interview –
“it is not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life. “You have got to thrive”
This resonated with me as I suddenly realised that I owe it to my daughters (one an angel and one very much alive and thriving) and son’s memory to not just survive but to thrive.
Over the past few years the notion of enjoying something or loving life felt abhorrent to me. How could I do that when my daughter and son are dead? This abhorrent feeling has now been challenged by my rainbow baby who, as anyone who has met her will tell you, is larger than life and lights up a room as soon as she enters it; truly as her name means a Goddess of Light. How can we not strive to now enjoy life with her? I know Violet would want her sister to have a wonderful life and for us to enjoy our time with her too.
Now my heart is finally fixed it is surely not enough for me to just survive life?
It made me think that the last few years have been about me working hard to continue on with life, to go through the motions and to try to rebuild my confidence, by to a certain extent, doing the same things I used to enjoy and have always loved doing.
I’ve re-evaluated a little now and thought about the things in my life that despite childloss I actually enjoy. I love photography. My hubby bought me a camera for Christmas after we lost Violet to try to encourage me to take photos of landscapes and architecture, which were something I enjoyed. Check out some of my photos in my gallery here.
Confidence loss is real after child loss. A friend a few years ago suggested my photos were good enough to be exhibited (I laughed it off), another friend offered to display my photography for sale in a boutique hotel (again I laughed it off as felt it was certainly not that good) and then more recently another close friend and client suggested I really need to do something with my amazing photos. Even just typing this now a little voice of the old me (pre-child loss) is screaming in my head “take every opportunity” as the old confident me used to seize every moment and opportunity that passed her way.
I suddenly realized and recognise that I need more confidence in my abilities again. That I should invest more time in this hobby that I enjoy and that people seem to think I have a talent for. I’m now doing a Diploma in Photography to improve my technique and confidence. Another friend has now offered to feature my work on the front covers of his magazines. Wow just wow I’m blown away and for the first time I’m going to seize this opportunity rather than just brush it away as I have in the past.
Travel is another biggie for me. I’m a travel PR at heart and I have a real passion for this industry. A friend told me about a new type of business where you can qualify as an Independent Travel Agent working from home and fit the training in around your current lifestyle and work. So I decided in my new “thrive” mindset to go for it so I have now qualified as an Independent Travel Agent and this I feel will be a game changer to my family’s long-term happiness. We love to travel. We don’t travel anywhere near as much as we did but I love travel. I love talking about it. I love planning it so why not utilize my passion to help others?
We have family and friends all over the world so why should we not be able to earn commission whenever we travel to see them. I love travel and have been to nearly every continent on earth so why should I not share my passion with others. If I can help them to plan and book their dream trip then this is amazing. If I can help them to do start this business too so they earn commission from their own travel also amazing. This is a business that neatly weaves in with my PR career and my photography passion too plus I get to take the family along for the ride.
I’m going to try to write a little more in my blog about motivation and health too as now my heart is fixed as I need to get active and back into shape again. Don’t get me wrong I won’t be running any marathons anytime soon but would be good to get healthier.
Also going to continue to renovate our home hopefully to make it a nicer place for my daughter as she grows and my hubby.
I plan to work further on charitable causes too to build a legacy in my son’s memory so watch out for something happening Spring 2021!
Thought I’d post this cute video just because….
I’ve now had a spring clean of my life. How about you what do you hope to change or build more of now spring is here?
If you want any advice or to share your hopes then I’d love for you to get in touch or post on here.
Always Violet Skies xx
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