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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The other day I realised that I have spent the last five May’s with one of my baby’s. I have either been pregnant (for 3 of them including my 40th birthday) and the second one I was organising my first baby girl’s first birthday party. This was the first May bank holiday for 3 years that I have been able to have a glass of vino and weirdly enough I am thinking about a second daughter’s first birthday party (this time in July rather than June).
Last year in 2018 we were living in the middle of a building site, I was heavily pregnant and we were going through a very hot summer. I spent most of it in the shade with an electric fan and my feet in cold water.
The year before that, 2017, I was in the very early stages of pregnancy with Arthur and suffered tummy upsets for a fair few months. It was also my 40th birthday so my hubby threw me a bbq party where we disguised appletiser as Prosecco, as we hadn’t announced our news to anyone. Despite my tummy upsets, we had hope for the future and it ended up being the only May I would spend with my little boy. Our slither of hope was smashed when September rolled around and we had to say goodbye to Arthur (read about it here).
May 2016 was one of my happiest times as Violet was doing well and was nearly a year old. She was about to be a flower girl at my cousins wedding and she’d gotten a princess dress that she loved. We were planning her birthday party that was a joint belated wedding reception too. We made so many very happy memories that summer before the horrendous September came along. I was lucky enough to spend two May’s with Violet.
May 2015 I remember being heavily pregnant with Violet having so much hope for the future. Despite getting negative news about Violet’s heart we were convinced we were in the right specialist hands and thinking positively we told ourselves everything would be ok. Violet survived in 2015, and that was the main thing, all thanks to Alder hey children’s hospital. I remember it rained a lot in May but then we had hot weather as soon as I went into hospital in the June typical!
Not about Theresa May
Anyway I just wanted to write an article that wasn’t about the other May and one that highlights how vastly different one year can be from another. I would like for those of you struggling to get pregnant or to get a rainbow or just to cope with grief to recognise how different one year can be from the last. I hope it gives some strength and encourages people to remember happier times too. Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.
At this time of the year my sleep (when I get any as my rainbow isn’t sleeping well and yes I get the irony given her name Aurora!) is peppered with a variety of different dreams all following the same subject.
It is always planning and arranging a birthday party. This year it’s one for a 4 year old as Violet would have turned four this June.
So far I’ve dreamt about lots of party themes including flower fairy tea party, puppy and kitten party, sleepover pamper party, Disney strictly dancing party, trolls theme, unicorn sparkles…
The dreams are all enjoyable in the main as I usually wake when the party is all set up ready before any guests arrive but I become upset when I actually wake realising that Violet isn’t here and I dreamt the whole thing.
Occasionally the dreams turn into a nightmare like last night when her little friends all started arriving with presents and balloons excited for the party to come. They were all asking where Violet the birthday girl was and we searched and searched shouting but she was nowhere to be seen. All her friends broke down crying and screaming then I woke up.
When I finally fell back to sleep again I started to organise a pool party in a hired swimming pool and so my dream party cycle began again.
Party girl to the core
I am a party girl at heart after all. I guess it’s a way my PR brain tries to be proactive in processing things and it could be worse I could keep writing the same press release over and over!
If anyone needs a kids party planning and arranging then just let me know, especially if it’s for a four year old as I can literally do one for you in my sleep! Violet would have had the best parties and I can assure you so will her sister.
Last year planning the Violet ball helped to halt these dreams, so I may have to start up plans for the Violet ball 2020, anyone fancy coming?
Always Violet Skies
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Like most people I love bumping into people I haven’t seen for a while. Someone I used to speak to or deal with all the time perhaps through work or a project and who has simply drifted away. Now in these modern times, thanks to social media, quite a lot of these people are still kept up to date on the happenings in my life. They are aware of the sadness of recent times, however there are occasionally still a few that slip through the net.
I met up with someone recently who I hadn’t seen for 5 years and initially I was so pleased to have ran into them, eagerly accepting the offer of a coffee in a nearby café. Then as I waited for them to get served with our brews my heart sank, as I realized the conversation I was about to have with them. I could forecast the surprised look then sadness before there would be pity and sorrow for my loss. Yes they would be sympathetic and the usual comments of “I’m so sorry” and “how have you coped” would be expressed. They would mention their kids and how they couldn’t imagine the pain of ever losing them. Then our entire conversation would take a different turn.
He brought the coffee and tea back.
I secretly challenged myself to see how long I could last before I would have to deliver the bad news to him. I asked him lots of questions, first about what had happened in the past 5 years in his life. He told me about his children growing up and how they were doing at school. About their different personalities with so much joy and passion proud of the people they were becoming.
Then he asked “what about me” and I told him first about the happy things; our house, getting married, travelling the world and our three children. About Violet, Arthur and Aurora, then about the loss of two of them. I finished on a happy note talking about Violet’s fund, Aurora and our hope for the future.
I’m now adept at delivering the proverbial sandwich with the shitty grief filling in the middle.
It’s very easy for me to simply avoid catching up with people and avoid setting dates to meet up for fear that I’ll have to have the awkward conversation about what has happened in my life. Don’t get me wrong I’m getting better at delivering it now but somedays it is still very hard for me having to relive it over again along with the associated emotion.
I hate being thought of as “that girl” and “oh poor Sarah” as that’s certainly not me. My loss doesn’t define me as a person. Yes it may have shaped me into the person I am today and yes I feel the affects of that change every second of every minute but I’m still me.
I just wish I could hand that old friend an overview of what’s happened instead and say “here’s an update on me please read it and then we will grab a coffee to catch up”. That way I don’t have to relive anything repeating myself and having to observe their reactions too. It’s a little weird though and cold I guess so not me.
What do you think? How would you tell people if you were me?
Well not for lots of people it isn’t. People who are alone, homeless, financially struggling, have mental health issues or who have lost someone dear to them it’s often a time of year they dread.
For us we face another Christmas without our little girl who’d be an excitable 3 year old this year and our little boy for whom it’d be a first Christmas. My husband will experience another year without his beloved father who died just before becoming a grandpa, a role we know he’d have excelled at. This year however, unlike the last two years, will be bittersweet for us as we now have our gorgeous little rainbow baby Aurora who will be 5 months old.
The first year after we lost Violet we actually couldn’t face Christmas at all so a lovely friends parents’ leant us their holiday home in the Caribbean and my mum treated us to flights so we could escape the whole season for 2 weeks. We were very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that could afford to help us escape in this way. I know others often aren’t as lucky and may choose to escape through shutting the world out at home. Or maybe their escape is immersing themselves in other people and going through the motions of Christmas, perhaps if they have other children then they have no choice.
Last Christmas we spent with family who happened to also be going through a hard time, albeit for a different reason, as we wanted to do what families should do and be there for one another. Although we did escape for New Years and what should have been our Arthur’s due date, as we couldn’t face that so we booked cheap flights and headed off to Morocco.
This year will be the first year we don’t escape Christmas or New Years, instead we are inviting family to spend it with us. We will wake up with an excitable 4 year old niece on Christmas morning and it will be a first Christmas for our littlest nephew as well as our daughter. The fact that we can help to make it a magical day for my niece and nephew, I think will help us to get through it.
What’s sad is this year the kind family who helped us to escape that first Christmas have just suffered a devastating loss themselves so this festive time will now be especially hard for them. Our hearts go out to them this year.
Our motto is that if you are able to celebrate Christmas this year then embrace your family or loved ones. Make the most of every second because you have no idea what the future holds. Also if you can help to make someone else’s Christmas better or easier this year then do it. Whether you donate to a local food bank, drop Christmas presents into a charity looking after disadvantaged children or just invite your elderly neighbours round for Christmas dinner, nothing says Christmas like looking after those who are suffering by easing their pain or helping them to also have a nice experience, even if for one day only.
I can’t wait to hear all your lovely stories of goodwill and sharing. I’ve heard lots already, as I’m blessed with lots of amazingly kind people in my life. So far there are tales of people stocking food banks with so much food they can feed many families over the 3 days of Christmas. Those who fundraise and collect donations for presents for underprivileged children. Some have collected blankets for the homeless. Keep up the good work. They say money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around well I say the same can be said for kindness.
Sending big hugs to you all and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming stories.
Most people I meet now, after they’ve recoiled from the shock of hearing I’m a mother of three but only one child is alive, say things like “oh third time lucky then” or “at least it’s all worked out in the end” Urmmm no it clearly hasn’t all worked out in the end has it? Has my daughter Violet suddenly sprung back to life?
When I was pregnant with Aurora people could understand why I might have been anxious and there’s even a term for it PAL or pregnancy after loss but once your rainbow baby is here then people assume that’s it and you must be feeling better now. The grief over child loss must be over now you have another baby surely? You can move on and avoid dwelling in the past.
I’m a mother of three
Well unfortunately it’s not that simple you see, yes I may have another living baby now but I still had two other children before her and just like those with more than one child. When you have a new baby you don’t throw your old one away and forget about them do you? Or you shouldn’t. If you do then social services rightly get involved. So why should it be different for angel babies? Why forget about them? How can we forget about them?
I don’t blame people who think I must have moved on though, as suddenly they see me out and about with my new baby actually smiling and resembling someone who’s happy. I guess I am happy fleetingly which is an improvement but it’s now as though I’m on a permanent roller coaster. Aurora smiles or babbles at me equals on a high then she looks at me in a certain way & I see her sister Violet in her equals unimaginable high & then immediate low.
I still get side swiped daily by emotions but different ones from before. Seeing a mother cooing over a baby no longer makes me want to cry for the loss of Arthur although I admit seeing mums with little boys gives me a pang of pain. Now it happens when I see parents of multiple children walking with them all to the park. Brother and sisters playing and arguing together. Family lifestyle photo shoots of the whole family looking happy together in autumnal leaves (yes I do live in Chorlton! Lol). Even at Halloween cute sibling photos of older ones taking their toddler brother or sister trick or treating for the first time pour salt onto my wound.
I find myself trying to imagine what Violet would look like now aged 3.5 and what she’d think of her little sister. How would they interact? When Aurora is bigger what arguments would they have about minor things? I find it hard to imagine and to think of Violet as anything more than a baby, almost toddler. I find that upsetting too. Her sister will never know her. I can’t imagine life without my sister so now I feel a new level of grief for Aurora for the big sister she will never know or experience.
The hallway of family photos we have where the sisters may sit side by side in different frames but never actually occupy the same one. There will be photos of Aurora getting older, fingers crossed, next to the same photos of her big sister who will eternally be a toddler. That will be a concept I’m sure Aurora when she’s older will struggle to get her head around, how can a baby be her big sister?
I wonder what Violet would have been like today and what she’d have thought of her baby sister? Do you ever wonder what if? I do every moment of every day.
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.
Choosing a burial 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. 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. 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.
Investing in the future
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”. I asked him to show us what they had available. He showed us several plots and one was under a big cherry tree 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. I hoped being kind and compassionate that she would look after my little girl.
The funeral plan
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. She liked to make people smile so 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.
Wave of Light
The day after Violet’s funeral was the last day of baby loss awareness week. 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. 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.
It never used to be this way. I used to love September. It was always one of my favourite months.
The starting back at school with a new year of classes. I was such a geek I couldn’t wait. New pencil cases, stationary, new uniform and shiny new shoes always excited me.
Then there was the turning of the leaves and the beautiful autumnal colours. The amazing sunsets as the weather starts to cool. The wearing of cosy clothes – knee length boots, fleeces, jeans, jumpers & fluffy socks. Open fires, comfort food, hot toddies and bubble baths. Watching the rain from inside a warm house and listening to the wind whistle round the chimney.
In the last ten years I’ve enjoyed spending time in Cyprus where it’s like a second spring with all flowers having another annual bloom so colourful and cheerful.
However all of this changed in September 2016 when my precious daughter died and in the following September my son Arthur was born sleeping too.
All of a sudden the changing colours of the autumnal leaves began to represent death to me. The darker nights and chilly weather no longer cosy but depressing and miserable. The pouring rain represents the tears I now shed at this time of year and the wind howls in pain for my lost babies.
I can’t face visiting my cheerful uplifting place either in the Cypriot sunshine with colourful flowers and amazing views as last time I was there I was with my daughter, but maybe I will visit again in the next few years.
This year in order to attempt to focus on something else, something much more positive, I decided to organise the Violet ball in memory of my beautiful daughter on 29th September, a few days after the second anniversary of her death, to raise money for Alder Hey hospital’s cardiac surgery fund. I hope those of you who are able to join us do so and that we all see the month of sad September out with a bang.
Today is the official birthday of our baby boy Arthur George who was born sleeping at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Legally he doesn’t exist as he has no birth certificate or death certificate as he didn’t draw breath. If he had he would technically have been alive.
He was a termination for medical reasons known as TMR and it was the hardest decision myself and my husband have ever had to make (read more about it in this earlier post). We knew it was the right one to make as he wouldn’t have survived to full term passing anyway around 30 weeks so we felt it was the kindest decision. We still wondered and worried as to whether we were right.
We were still grieving the loss of Violet and then felt as though we were burying our last little bit of hope when we said goodbye to her brother. We entered a period of darkness even darker than we could imagine. The little flicker of hope we had extinguish completely when we were informed there was a 50/50 chance of future seriously ill babies like Arthur. A few months later we got the surprise news of another pregnancy. A pregnancy fraught with worry, stress and anguish as we wondered if once again the light we thought we could see at the end of the dark tunnel was in fact yet another high speed train set to derail us once again.
Now exactly a year to the day we held and said goodbye to our little son I’m holding another 5 week old little daughter, Aurora.
We named her Aurora as it means “Goddess of the Dawn” and “Light”. We thought this was beautiful and had special resonance for us as we now can start to see daylight again through the fog.
Happy birthday to our little rainbow Arthur George who taught us to dream and hope again after the loss of our first precious daughter Violet.
He also made us more determined to change more babies lives by raising more money for Violet’s cardiac surgery fund at Alder Hey Hospital. We set a date for the Violet Ball at the end of this month, 29th September at Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester you can get more information here. There are tickets still available and we are looking for raffle prizes too so if you can help please get in touch.
Anniversaries after loss are always really hard for all those family & friends who were close to the loved one.
Talking from experience it really does help when others remember our cherished one on this day and when they commemorate their memory in some way, it reassures us that their legacy will live on.
Our worst fear is that our much loved child, brother, sister, mum, dad, family member or friend is forgotten so today take the time, observe the silence at 2.30pm today, light a candle, say a prayer or just give a thought to all those who lost their lives in the Manchester bomb last year and know by doing that you are fulfilling the wish of their families and friends in that they are not forgotten.