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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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.
So these past few weeks I’ve really struggled to feel anything but confident about my parenting skills. I know from speaking to other parents out there that this is a common feeling to have at times.
Your baby died
You see the struggle for me is when the rational voice in my head tries to change my mood by telling me that I’m a good mum. Another voice reminds me that my first baby died didn’t she and maybe it was because she wasn’t looked after well enough. Perhaps I should have tried harder or done something differently?
Whenever my rainbow baby is ill all these feelings get dredged up from deep down. All these fears and bad memories or nightmares from hell (also known as Manchester Children’s Hospital) as I call them.
If my rainbow baby is diagnosed with a chest infection or heavens forbid pneumonia then even more negative memories and emotions appear as that’s what Violet died from.
When I took our toddler to the GP a last week we saw a different doctor than usual and she looked at the on screen records looking puzzled asking does she have a lung disorder as she’s here a lot to get her chest checked. Our usual doctor insists we bring her to be checked whenever we are remotely concerned but obviously this lady didn’t get the memo. I really think they need to have something that flashes up on screen to say “her sister died of pneumonia” as I then had to explain no she doesn’t have any lung disorder we are aware of and to rationalise why we’re so over cautious bordering on paranoid. When I said her sister died of pneumonia I didn’t even get the usual “I’m sorry to hear about that” instead I think she was a bit embarrassed as I think she initially thought I was just a paranoid over protective mother. She listened to baby’s chest and agreed it sounded crackly so prescribed some antibiotic.
Roll on a few days and baby seemed much better thankfully so we sent her back to nursery. Around lunchtime I got a phone call to say she was breathing rapidly and sucking in below her ribs so really serious for a little one.
I collected her from nursery and we drove straight to hospital A & E, where the triage nurse said she thought we looked familiar. When we explained that our other daughter died in the hospital she immediately said “oh my god you’re Violet’s parents”. It turned out the reason we recognised each other was that 3 years ago she worked on the ward where Violet died and she had looked after her the night before. She welled up and I started crying so it was a great start to a possible hospital admission.
Thankfully because the nurse remembered Violet it was then an easy job for me to insist she asks for the on call respiratory specialist to consult and she obliged immediately paging them for us. Anyway they did an x ray of her lungs and saw she had a possible viral and bacterial infection on them. They gave us more antibiotics and said as long as we monitored her for any further changes then we could take her home.
We were only home for a few hours when we noticed her breathing had gotten rapid again, around double what it should be, so we knew she was getting worse and phoned an ambulance, which is what we’d been instructed to do if she got that bad. The operator explained that the ambulance would take 3 hours to arrive so given our proximity to the hospital we would be better driving her there ourselves.
We arrived back in A & E and were told they would be admitting her for monitoring overnight, as her oxygen levels were erratic. It felt like I was at the gates of hell and having to enter it once again. I explained this to the hubby and he laughed saying “pleased to see you’re not being over dramatic then” lightening the mood as always!
There are no words to describe how it felt being back in that hospital again sitting and sleeping (who are we kidding more lying with one eye open and jumping up every time she coughed!) at the side of my baby’s cot bed. All the memories I had suppressed of my time there with Violet came back along with my scepticism about what we were being told. Luckily this time we had the top respiratory consultants looking at her x ray and examining her too so I felt more confident with what we were told.
I got the best Valentine’s Day present in that we were discharged from the hospital and once again told to monitor her. Fingers crossed she seems much better now but it’s always tough with little ones when they can’t tell you how they feel.
Here’s hoping she recovers quickly and we never have to return to that A & E again. Although I plan once she’s better to take some more books in for the children in A & E as quite a few we looked at reading with her were ripped and damaged.
We’re still exhausted and reeling from the adrenaline here and hoping she’s better soon. I take my hat off to those people, especially a dear friend of mine, who have children with long term illnesses who are often in and out of hospital. It is really tough to have to try to parent while doctors and nurses torture your child trying to make them better.
So at the start of this week I was supposed to be attending a family funeral in support of a close family member but we had a dreaded bug that floored all of us including my poor mum who had come to try to help. That was the first of two funerals for this week, the second was earlier today for a dear friend and business mentor.
In light of these I thought I’d write something about grief and try to give some advice to anyone who is trying to support a loved one through their heart ache. I hope this might help at least one person.
Grief initially is all consuming and you can literally feel as though you are drowning (read more about the shipwreck analogy here). It is like you are on a sinking ship so you might panic (panic attacks are common), you may have great despair and feel as though you have to fight just to keep your head above water. The feelings can be very different and unique to everyone especially depending on who it is who has passed and their relationship to the one grieving. Also timing plays a huge part in how severe grief can be too, whether it is how someone died (was there time for a goodbye), did they die far too soon or if the passing coincided with an anniversary or special occasion then that can heighten painful feelings.
Seven pieces of advice
My seven pieces of advice for anyone with a friend or loved one who is grieving is this –
Listen – always listen to what they are telling you. If they say they don’t want something then listen, regardless as to whether you think what you are suggesting would benefit them. They know what is best for them at that moment in time.
Check in – regularly check in with them so they know you care about them and tell them to let you know if you can do anything. Often the person is so consumed by grief that they can’t think of what to say and may answer, “I don’t know” so maybe suggest to them what you would like to do for them. For example “would you like to go for a walk?”, “would you like me to bring you dinner?”, “can I take you our for a drink somewhere?” or “would you like a spa day?”. All yes or no answers these closed questions are the best ones to use.
Ask first – If you’d like to drop them a meal round or call to see them ask first as it might not be a good time for them. Don’t just drop in.
One week – Ideally make a note to contact them a week after the funeral as this is the period after which many others will have been in touch and now the person is truly on their own. It is at this time the grief stricken one feels forgotten and as though the entire world has just returned to normal while they are still in pain.
Flowers – If you would like to buy flowers for the service then please check with your loved one as they may just want donations to charity instead. If you feel you’d like to buy them flowers personally then ask them first if this would be ok or take them a plant instead or if not suggest you bring them wine or chocolates instead. Some people when grieving hate flowers.
Change of mind – remember at the moment they are not thinking straight at all and their emotions are everywhere so give them leeway to change their minds. That’s why continuing to check in with them is so important as one day they might say they are fine and don’t need anything but on another day they might just need someone to go for a walk with or have a cup of tea and a chat.
Fresh air – don’t forget the benefits of exercise in the fresh air if your loved one has been cooped up inside then suggest you get wrapped up and go out somewhere for a walk.
So there you are my top tips for you for trying to navigate support for someone during the early stages of grief.
Please remember that with everything everyone is different and so grieves in a very unique way. They also will grieve differently depending on the person who has passed and their relationship to that individual.
I hope this is helpful to some of you out there. I hope so anyway.
Someone asked me recently what my plans were for the next 5 years. I laughed and said ideally I still want to be alive and I hope my family are all still alive too. Then I’d like us all to be healthy and happy. That’s about it.
A 5 year plan?
Not sure that was the answer he was after as he said I meant professionally and for your business. Well it’s not much use wanting anything work wise if I’m not here is it was my answer?
Maybe they shouldn’t ask parents of loss who have a heart defect that will hopefully be repaired before Christmas that question?
I used to be a planner
I used to be into forward planning years ahead at least as far as work, holidays and home went but these last few years have taught me that there’s no point putting too much effort into future plans when something could happen unexpected at any time that can change your world in a heartbeat.
Now I try to live in the present
It much better to live in the present as much as you can and also to try not to dwell too much in the past either as there’s nothing that can be done with that now.
Don’t get me wrong I still plan a little because I have to with work or family plans but i only tend to plan a few months ahead at a time.
How about you? Are you a planner?
Always Violet Skies
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November is here at last and I say that not because it is a favourite month but just because October is finally over. This year it was particularly tough.
I was supposed to be visiting Lisbon last week for my mum’s birthday treat but had to pull out and left her with my sister as my little rainbow baby was poorly so I couldn’t leave her at all. The illness of my daughter combined with Baby Loss Awareness Month was the main reason October was super stressful and a tough month for us.
A poorly rainbow
Our rainbow baby was the same age as Violet was when she died and she contracted pneumonia twice, which was exactly what happened to Violet before she was admitted to hospital never to return. This is why this past month has been so fraught for us resulting in hardly any sleep; stress levels beyond belief, emotional meltdowns on a frequent basis and the consumption of a vast amount of comfort food/drink on a regular basis.
We also managed to still juggle work commitments, the organisation of a surprise birthday party for my mum and even had a drink out baby free for an hour or so for a friends birthday before hot footing it back to soothe a poorly baby.
Health wise my daughter is luckily recovering well but we’ve decided to keep her away from nursery until the new year at the earliest to allow her lungs to fully recover and to ensure her immune system is back to full strength too. We will continue to juggle work commitments and childcare thanks to the support from family and friends. There’s no way we will risk losing this little girl too.
New parenting territory
It sounds strange but today I feel a little relieved because yesterday our rainbow reached the exact same age Violet was when she died so today she has surpassed her sister’s age by one day. It makes no logical sense why I feel relief at this but my stress has lifted slightly.
Is this normal with rainbow babies? Anyone else feel this way too? Or am I just odd? Please let me know.
So now we’re on totally new parenting territory as we have the oldest living child we have ever had and it’s all fresh new sailing for us from now on.
These last few weeks have been especially difficult for us as our rainbow baby is sick. We had to take her into hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, which is what her sister died from. Back at home now luckily and she’s responding well to antibiotics but it is unbelievably stressful anyway without our history with her sister.
Lack of control
I realised a key reason for the stress of having a poorly child or loved one or heaven forbid their loss is the lack of control over the situation (unless you’re a murderer of course but that’s a different story!).
The fact you had no control in the end over whether they survived or not. You did everything you could possibly do but even that wasn’t enough and it is the acceptance that at the end of the day we really don’t have control over these things.
When our children are sick, again, it is the control issue that makes us super stressed. We can do everything we can possibly do to look after them. Give them antibiotics, fluid, pain relief, and take them to the doctors or to hospital. Listen to the “experts” and follow their guidance. Other than that there isn’t much more we can do. We are powerless and have to do our best then simply hope.
Regaining control on life
I think that is why after the loss of Violet and then Arthur doing things I have control over helped me to regain a little of my sanity.
Managing a house renovation and extension project was something I could control. Rehabilitating a German Shepherd from being a working dog into a family household pet again I could do and get some comfort from. Setting up a fund in Violet’s memory and organising a charity ball again was something I could control and work at organising. We have now raised a total of £42,860 for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
More of a control freak
Yes I admit I am probably more of a control freak in some respects than perhaps other people but after speaking to a few others who have had to endure looking after sick children or unfortunately baby or child loss it is this loss of control that is a tricky one to deal with.
My advice is to try to do other things you can control to try to balance out those things that you simply can’t.
Big hugs and lots of love
Always Violet Skies xx
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From the age we first start school we are conditioned into the fact that September means new beginnings so much so that as adults, even when we have no school age children and are no longer in education ourselves, September can often still seem exciting as we prepare for autumn with new clothes, new stationary and a renewed focus for the future. This has always been the case for me. I loved school even more so a new notebook, accessories and clothes that came with it!
A New Beginning no one wants
September equalled new beginnings. I could always look at this month in a positive way until 3 years ago when that new beginning first came to equal a negative “new beginning” no one wants to ever face. That new beginning was the loss of my daughter and the new beginning that year was trying to carry on with some semblance of life without her in it. No one ever wants that kind of new beginning and this has become my biggest on going challenge to date. It’s tough really tough and never ending. Yes it was nearly 3 years ago but it feels like yesterday one minute and like a scene from a movie about someone else’s life in the next.
Another horrendous September
Then the following September after our annus horribilis we faced another “new beginning” to add to the stress of the one the previous year. This was the loss of a much-wanted son that came out of the blue with shocking news for me accompanying it and so we had to arrange a second child’s funeral in our second stressful September “new beginning”.
Bringing control back
So last September I organised the Violet Ball to take back control of my Septembers and that year’s “new beginning” was a black tie charity event for 200 people to raise funds for Alder Hey children’s hospital. Which as an experienced PR is the kind of event I have organised before but this time with a 6-week-old new born baby in tow event organisation wise that was a first for me!
An exciting New Beginning
This September we decided not to do a charity ball as we agreed we needed a summer to relax and decompress rather than run around finalising an event. I was dreading finding out what this year’s “new beginning” for September would be. But you know what this year’s is actually a positive (hopefully) and challenging one as I got asked to become a part time Associate Lecturer at MMU Business school teaching marketing. New starts and exciting new beginnings that are positive is exactly what I needed and I might treat myself to a new notebook.
Hope your September’s have been successful and less stressful ones too.
Always Violet Skies xxx
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In early September when kids start or go back to school it’s not so much the hundreds of photos of them lined up in front of either a front door or a fireplace that irritates me but more the stupid comment(s) that accompany them. So to save me from adding a passive aggressive and brutally honest blunt comment in reply to some of these posts I decided instead to write this, so hopefully if you care you will read this and think before you write that irritating social media post.
Here are those comments
“I wish he or she would stop growing” errr no you don’t because that would mean they would die and then be dead like my daughter who remains 15 months forever.
“Oh they’re growing too fast” at least they are growing there are lots of parents out there whose babies are sick and not growing fast enough. Be thankful you’re not them and don’t insult these parents by complaining when your child is healthy and thriving.
“Oh I wish they would stay as babies forever” errr no you don’t see my earlier comment above. Would you like it if they died then they would always be a baby?
“I miss when they were little” that’s why taking photos is so important but be thankful you don’t just miss them because they are no longer with you.
“It’s all going too fast.” You know what life tends to go fast when you’re enjoying and/or loving things. Try sitting in a hospital chair next to a sick child and your days seem to drag on and on. Or heavens forbid sit next to their grave. There are lots of parents sat in hospital with their school age child who is too sick to attend school and I can tell you their days just drag on. They would give anything to be doing a school drop off instead and waving goodbye to a child at the school gate rather than in an isolation ward as they nip to the loo.
“I wish time would stop” no you don’t because then you would be dead. Do you want your child or family to grow up without you? Think how extremely lucky you are to be alive now and living in the reality you have. Embrace every second and live in the present not the future because you certainly don’t want to be living in the past or to only be alive in someone else’s past.
Share those photos
So folks if you feel the need to share photos of your little darlings in their school uniforms to celebrate that they are growing, healthy and happy. To thank the universe that they were born to you in a country with free healthcare and education, so they can actually go to school then great share away. But please out of respect to those of us not in as privileged a position as you don’t wish for your children to stop growing, for time to stop or say that you are upset they are going to school. Be happy and be grateful. Appreciate the now and embrace the moment because you are right about one thing it isn’t happening again. Relish the time and moments. Take the photos, make the memories and remember to feel happy not sad. Embrace this exciting new chapter in you and your child’s life – hopefully there will be many more yet to come too.
I know a hell of a lot of people who would love to be buying a new school uniform, waving their child off at the school gate and at the end of the day hearing all about how their first day went. Myself included. This September Violet should have been starting Primary School and that she isn’t hurts us beyond belief. We would do anything to have her here now. We know as a little book worm at 15 months that she would have loved going to school. So if your child is attending school this September be thankful and celebrate it but don’t for a second wish for something different.
Big love, Sarah
Always Violet Skies x
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A fellow blogger recently launched her own hashtag challenge #julyyourway and the first day was entitled “your authentic self”. I realised I no longer knew exactly who I was anymore and decided I needed to write this post in case some of you loss mums or parents are the same.
Who am I?
I don’t actually recognise myself anymore. I can tell you all about the old me in great detail as I spent 39 years with her.
The old me
The old me was strong, determined, unwavering and a great calculated risk taker. Her instincts about people and situations were nearly always right. The type of person you could drop into a room of total strangers and she’d be fine chatting to them making friends pretty quickly. If someone told her she couldn’t do something she’d make it her mission to prove them wrong. One of life’s dreamers believing in positive thinking and that with the right mindset you can achieve anything. Always working towards a vision of the future and undertaking the next challenge. Underneath the confidence she genuinely cared about all those she met, worked with and spent time with. It took me a long time to get to know, appreciate and love the old me.
Where did she go?
What happened you might ask that would fundamentally change your personality permanently well like most new mums four years ago I lost myself a little after the birth of Violet. All new mums will relate to the fact that usually you immediately become more risk adverse as your instincts to protect kick in and your self-confidence takes a knock too as your body shape changes. However most mums will tell you that maybe a year or two later they rediscover themselves again building up that old confidence. Their core self is fundamentally unchanged.
That happened to me too. I was starting to rediscover the old me again in September 2016 then the unthinkable happened.
When you lose a child they say your world changes, life is completely altered and things will never be the same again.
The air is completely knocked out of you but what you don’t realise is with the air goes your personality, as you knew it. All your hopes and dreams, your confidence, trust in yourself and others, All the things you’ve literally spent a lifetime developing, building & honing are wiped away in a moment. All the negative things cling on such as self-doubt, negativity, criticism, depression but the good things…
The old me was confident, fun and had a wicked sense of humour. She was lovely to her core because she genuinely believed there was more love in the world than bad. She truly believed in positivity and only saw the good in people. She believed in what her gut or core instinct told her about people and situations. She actually believed that eventually life will come good and that good things happen to good people. Work hard try your best and believe in others then good things will happen. She always looked for the silver lining in every black cloud. It never failed her until the day her daughter died.
Try a reboot
At first you think these stronger qualities are still there just diminished like they were post-child birth. Just like when you’ve had set backs or heartbreak in the past? Like a hard drive that just needs a reboot. You try to do that to reboot yourself by trying similar things you’ve done in the past to recover like rest, holidays and seeing loved ones. Over and over you try in vain to recover. Eventually you discover that these qualities aren’t dormant any more. They aren’t still there to be rebooted they’ve been completely wiped out. It’s like you’ve had a computer virus in your brain that’s wiped out the useful things leaving only that photo of you from a beach holiday 10 years ago that you didn’t even like and the only email messages that have been retained are spam ones about PPI.
You have a vague memory of the old you but it’s hard to imagine now you were ever that person. I can only explain it by saying that it’s as though I’m viewing an old movie about someone else. I miss her. I’d spent years trying to learn to love myself, to be confident in my own skin. This confident me enabled me to be very good at what I did career wise, especially as I was able to juggle twice as much work as anyone else and easily did 16 hour days regularly. I was a caring considerate person who loved life and loved having fun. I really did work hard play hard and excelled at it.
Now that person is gone. Yes physically I look the same. I still have the same cognitive abilities (sleep deprivation affected maybe but I can still ace an IQ test or two). I even the same memories but I feel as though I’m looking in at someone else. I miss the old me but after over 2 years of trying to get her back I’ve realised that she’s “left the building” never to return. I’ve accepted that I need to build up these qualities in myself from the beginning again, to build the new me.
Still a central core
I’d forgotten how I used to be really strong. There’s a central core of that original strength left that’s hardened up, so much that it takes a lot for me to cry now but every so often a bit of it crumbles. This core is still surrounded by kindness and compassion just not the huge volume I used to have. This has been coloured by grief and the realisation that really bad things can happen to good people. Karma doesn’t exist and positive thinking will only get you so far.
The new me comes with a great deal of darkness the old me didn’t have. This has shaped my sense of humour so it is very dark now. I don’t trust my own gut instincts anymore, as these have been proven wrong twice with the very worst results. I also no longer trust others especially those in the medical profession where I now take what they tell me with a pinch of salt.
Luckily over the last 2 years that I have been hitting reboot I have seen some of my wacky creativity come back and my ability to speak to total strangers on some days now is almost as good as it was. Although I find it extremely hard to tolerate fools and I seem to have become even less diplomatic than before so I can be quite honest and frank now. This is of course a work in progress. Some things like confidence and speaking to strangers just takes practise and stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s at least one good outcome in that I don’t really have a comfort zone rather a numb achy uncomfortable zone.
Version 2.0: Post child loss
Unfortunately unlike computer software I don’t think “version 2.0: after child loss” will be an upgrade on the one before. Hopefully I’ll eventually be able to patch over some of the holes and maybe even rebuild a few of the qualities the old me had that were great. It will take time though as it took 38 years of hard work to develop the old me.
Feel free to check in with me again at age 79 and we can see if the old me has returned just a wrinklier version.
On the positive side it has changed my outlook on life instead of planning for and looking to the future I try to live in the present. To enjoy the here and now making the most of every moment as I understand just how short life is.
Do you ever feel you have changed? Is it for the better or worse?