Grief advice

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.

Initial grief

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.

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My babies grave at Christmas

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.
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Even just popping for a cup of tea is good
  • 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.
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Lovely winter blooms in my kitchen
  • 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.
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Fresh air and exercise can help to clear the mind

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.

Love

Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

If you enjoyed reading this why not read these –

Surviving after childloss

4 Years a Mother

The decade that was

November at last!

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.

October

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.

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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.

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Our fear – this was Violet the morning she died.

Expert jugglers

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.

Update

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.

Hope you’re having a great start to your month!

Love

Sarah x

Always Violet Skies

You might find these blog posts interesting –

My story

Four years a mother

Once you’ve got your rainbow

Mothering after loss

Control freak

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.

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A beautiful cloudy Violet sunset over our house last night

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.

Poorly child

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.

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Violet in hospital the day she later died suddenly

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.

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Photo of our house during the renovation with Dexter our GSD in shot too

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

Sarah

Always Violet Skies xx

You might be interested in reading these other posts –

When you finally get your rainbow what then

Four years a mother

Surviving after child loss?

Party girl…

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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.

Dream parties

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.

Violet’s 1st & only birthday – she loved it!

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…

I think Violet would have loved Unicorns!

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.

Nightmares

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.

Birthday balloons

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?

Love

Sarah x

Always Violet Skies 

Here are some other blog posts you might find interesting –

When you get your rainbow what then?

Mothering after loss

Making over Motherhood

Tommy’s Angels

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A few weeks ago we were invited into St Mary’s hospital for a pleasant reason for a change.  We were one of 180 sets of parents to be invited to attend Tommy’s the Baby Charity’s afternoon tea party for all the rainbow babies born in their care in 2018.

The parents and families (some siblings came along too) and 180 little rainbow babies all born in 2018 gathered together for the first time to celebrate life. It was so magical seeing all the people that had been helped by the charity.

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Tommy’s Afternoon tea party for 2018 Rainbow Babies

About Tommy’s

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the charity it was set up to initially help those who had suffered stillbirth and multiple miscarriages.  The charity spearheads research into the conditions and looks at preventative measures to try to safeguard pregnancy ensuring a healthy outcome for mother and baby.

Leonardo Di Vinci

This weekend I visited the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and highly recommend it, as it is amazing.  I always knew Leonardo was a genius but I discovered in this exhibition that his work actually led to changing the perception of how babies develop in the womb. He was the one that figured out that the umbilical cord feeds them too.  He also discovered that the heart circulates blood around the body in the 1480’s and looked at how it feeds the main organs.

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Leonardo’s study of human anatomy and specifically the circulatory system

Without Leonardo we wouldn’t have had the foundation for midwifery and then institutions like Tommy’s.  What is a surprise I found is how little we have actually progressed since his discovery in the 1500s as the questions as to why babies die or why women miscarry are still needing to be answered today. Those answers are being discovered thanks to Tommy’s.

Our experience

Tommy’s Manchester clinic offered me careful monitoring during my pregnancy with Aurora, after our 20 week scan. To closely keep an eye on her but also to help me to manage my stress levels too. The aim is for those child loss victims, who have lost several babies, to get reassurance that any issues or changes can be spotted by regular scans.  They also checked things like blood flow through the umbilical cord, that the placenta was working ok and checked the Aurora’s growth. Fluid levels in the womb and in my case, because of my broken heart, the blood supply into the womb too.

All of these checks helped to give me peace of mind during what was an extremely stressful and worrying time.  I lived life while I was pregnant from one milestone to the next so each 3 weeks until my next scan was a mini countdown. We celebrated after each one gave us positive news.  Although it still didn’t make me worry less as of course we had been told previously by experts during Arthur’s pregnancy in early scans that things were ok. We were also told by Violet’s cardiologist that her heart was ok “nothing to worry about” and then it contributed to her death.  So to say I was skeptical about what “experts” told me was an understatement but you know what?  The Tommy’s experts or as I like to call them Angels were right!

Afternoon tea

So the afternoon tea enabled the midwives, who had taken good care of us, and the head of the Tommy’s clinic Doctor Alex to finally meet Aurora in the flesh.  The last time they had seen her she was on a black and white screen during ultra sound scans.  It was great for then to finally get to hold and meet her. To find out that the little hyperactive baby on their screens was a fidget in real life too.

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Aurora with one of our “Tommy’s Angels”

Tommy’s is a charity

Tommy’s also have places in the Manchester 10k so if any of you out there would like to run for them and raise some money to help others like us then we would be very grateful you can get more information to register here.

Unfortunately with my poor heart health we’re not in a position to be able to take part so we have pledged to raise funds for them after we hit our Alder Hey fund target in some other way instead.  Would you come to a tea party in the summer perhaps and help us to thank our Tommy’s angels?

Also make sure you visit the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition more details click here.

Love

Sarah xx

Always Violet Skies

You might enjoy these other blog posts –
Somewhere after the rainbow – what happens if you lose your rainbow?

The challenge of a rainbow pregnancy

Grief is like being Ship wrecked

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This time of year we find a little tricky because this is the week our baby Arthur was due to be born, and although we marked his official first birthday and day he died in September, I still feel a little tug that says we should be having a first birthday party for him in early January.

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Our little boy Arthur

Why is grief harder for a TFMR?

Grieving for Arthur I find harder and more complicated than I do for Violet as the situation is much more complex:

  • We never knew Arthur not properly. Yes I felt him move and kick inside me (a lot) but we never got to met him alive.
  • We were the ones who decided to end his life prematurely based on medical facts and delivered him early sleeping. The hardest decision we’ve ever made.
  • The bittersweet this is that if we hadn’t decided to lose Arthur when we did then we wouldn’t have had Aurora and she wouldn’t be here today. So that is hard to swallow – how can you feel sad about someone who led to the creation of someone else?

Thank you Arthur

Anyway I saw my counselor this week and she said we should thank Arthur for giving us Aurora so tonight we will toast our little boy.  She also passed me a really lovely article that was taken from a guy called GSnow’s Reddit account.  Some of the original isn’t really relevant to child loss so I have edited it somewhat and also added some of my own words but you can read the full piece he wrote here.

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The Bay of Kotor

Grief is like being Ship wrecked

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating for me luckily it was my husband and we clung to each other. Some of my family and friends also floated nearby providing sustenance for us to carry on. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

At the start

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, seeing another young family similar to yours on the street, the sound of a baby crying. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Eventually…

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or a family gathering. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Occasionally the wave can come from no where and totally overwhelm you but again you rise up, gasp and breathe again.

The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.”

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Sunset over Auckland

Dianne Oxberry

I started to write and plan this article before I read the sad news today about local BBC newsreader Dianne Oxberry who sadly passed away.  I have lots of friends who were her friends and everyone who met her spoke fondly of her, so this article is dedicated to her friends and family.  May you ride the storm of grief and find some lovely memories from the beautiful ship to cling to.  If you know those close to her please help them to stay afloat.  Do this through kindness and compassion.

Big love and hugs,

Sarah x

Always Violet Skies

You might enjoy these blog posts –

More of a mother – does a natural birth make you more of a mother?

Somewhere after the rainbow – what happens if you lose your rainbow?

Mothering after loss

Guilt when a mother of loss

Tis the season to be jolly

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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.

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Violet’s one and only Christmas morning

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.

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Violet in her Christmas jumper and matching trousers!

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.

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Me with Violet this time 3 years ago.  Photo taken by the amazing @hollygoeslightly

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.

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Me & Violet with my brother & sister with their little ones 3 years ago

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.

Love

Sarah x

I used to love September

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This is now the worst month for me.

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.

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Autumn sunset in Manchester city centre on border of Salford

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.

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Autumn colours in Chorlton

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.

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Click here for details of ball.

Thanks for reading

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

What a difference a year makes?

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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.

TFMR

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.

Already grieving

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.

Aurora

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.

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Aurora at 3 weeks old.

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.

Arthur

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.

Love and thanks

Sarah xx

Always Violet Skies

You might be interested in these blog posts –

Somewhere after the rainbow

What happens when you get your rainbow

Mothering after loss

Emotional

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Relieved, ungrateful, confusing, complicated, devastating, exciting, ecstatic, elated, happy, sad, angry…

New mum emotions

Emotional is probably the only constant state at the moment, as with the majority of new mums, never mind those who have gone through child loss. I’m facing a wave of different emotions everyday but unlike most new mums mine include sadness, feeling angry, confused (how can you feel immense pain & pleasure at same time) & devastated that my older children aren’t here too.  I am a mother of three not one.

Midwives

The midwife service would ordinarily have signed me and baby off by now and passed our care onto the health visitors but given the extreme circumstances (loss of two children) they are keeping a close eye on me alongside the health visitors, which is nice in a way, as it is a total contradiction to the care we had 3 years ago where we were forgotten about for the first few weeks after we left hospital. We complained at the time to Manchester’s NHS trust and it resulted in a full restructure of procedures for new mum care in Greater Manchester, hopefully meaning high risk babies that have undergone surgery shortly after birth won’t now fall down the cracks as we did.

In a way this is probably also now the reason why both departments are now OTT with our care.

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Me (tired & make up free but happy) with Aurora

Are you sure you’re ok?

Midwives and health visitors ask me how I’m doing then look at me carefully to observe my facial expressions & body language to see when I say that “I’m ok” if I’m being honest. They all looked surprised when I explained after Aurora was born healthy that for the first time in 9 months a lot of my anxiety and worry had lifted. I actually felt a huge sense of relief and was also in slight shock that at last the ordeal of waiting and wondering was over. She was finally here and was healthy. Sometimes it still feels surreal so I have to pinch myself to check I’m not just dreaming and other times I still find myself because of sleep deprivation accidentally calling Aurora Violet as though my brain has regressed in time.  Although I’m led to believe this also happens often when you have multiple children who are alive too.

Anyway got to dash baby waking for a feed…thanks for reading.

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies 😘 x