Why I can’t do Christmas this year

Christmas has been concerning me for most of the year. I am dreading the time the festive adverts and decorations start to appear.  The emphasis for Christmas is about being with family and loved ones, the magic of childhood, it is about “joy”, “merriment” and “cheer”.  It is a reminder of what we should have and all we have lost with James.  Christmas adverts force this message on us, and the thought of this being rammed down my throat incessantly makes me shudder and recoil in fear.

Not only this, but last year the run up to Christmas coincided with the last few weeks of my pregnancy and I remember the events and feelings so well. We wondered whether we were going to have a baby on 25th December, and each day we were on tenterhooks in case my labour started.

We didn’t have a “proper” Christmas last year.  I didn’t decorate the house much, because I have always been superstitious about taking the decorations down by 12th Night, and I thought we’d be too busy with a new baby to do that;  we did very little entertaining;  we completed our gift shopping weeks before we usually do and I missed my usual last minute panic buys in the shops;  we missed out on some of the fun with my family who were staying an hour away and we couldn’t plan to stay with them overnight because I may have gone into labour at any time;  in fact we weren’t with our families very much because it was going to be the last time Mark and I would have to ourselves, unless I went overdue, and so we wanted to spend as much time as a couple as possible.  It didn’t matter that it didn’t feel like a proper Christmas though, because we were more focused and excited about becoming parents and meeting our baby.  Christmas would come around again.  I remember how happy we were that after years of waiting we felt we were going to have a family of our own very soon, at last.  I had never known anyone to lose their baby after 6 months’ gestation and we were told everything looked good for us, so I thought we’d be fine too.

As we spent time alone over Christmas last year we pictured how different our next Christmas could be, and I thought we would have a proper Christmas.  We’d have a 1 year old and our lives would be completely different.  We’d be used to being parents by then and our families would probably be fighting to spend our baby’s first Christmas with them.  We’d probably be at home so both sets of grandparents could spend time with us, we’d decorate the house beautifully and it would be perfect…

But this is far from how it will be this year.

 

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September, nine months on

People often hide their grief away, but I have always been open with my emotions and it feels like I am living a lie by not expressing myself.  We have a very unhealthy relationship with grief in the West.  It is a fact of life, and no matter how much we try to ignore it, all of us will experience the death of someone central to our lives at some point, and for me, hiding myself away only makes it harder.

I decided to start my blog this month.  Until now, I’ve been unsure about sharing my feelings, which are sometimes difficult to admit.  Grief can make people behave in strange ways and I really don’t want to alienate myself from others in sharing all my thoughts, but I already feel alienated, and at times feel so alone.  Very few people have stayed in touch like they did before.  Some people have really surprised me in this regard, and I wonder if it is because I need to reach out to them and share what I am feeling.  A few people have been incredible with us and without them I don’t know if I would still be here.  You have no idea just how much a simple text to say you were thinking of us, and other simple gestures have meant to us at those really, really difficult times.  I hope those special people know who they are.  We realise that others just don’t know what to say or do a lot of the time, and after losing James the last thing Mark and I need is to drift further apart from those we know and care about.  I know the friends and family who read this blog will be doing so because they care about how we are and how we feel.  We know there is nothing you can do to bring us back our baby, or extinguish our pain, but it is healing for us to talk about it with you, even just a little.

Until we lost James we would have been the same, not knowing what to do or say, being in fear of saying and doing the wrong thing.  There are many misconceptions about loss and bereavement by those who have never gone through a devastating loss.  We know this is difficult for you, but going through grief is even harder.  All too often the fear stops us from doing or saying anything, and really this is a mistake.  There is no instruction manual, and unless you have experienced crippling loss yourself, there is no way to understand it.  Surprisingly it is often the people closest to those bereaved who are the ones to back away.  We don’t want to burden anyone with our grief;  it is hard to know who to turn to at times, and so I am sharing my feelings with all of you who would like to know: Continue reading

The first month, January

Shock and disbelief

I didn’t keep a diary the first month after we lost James, but I can remember a lot about this time.  The grief hit us really hard.  We felt devastated that our dreams were over.

We were in complete shock, well after the funeral took place.  We couldn’t believe what had happened to us.  It seemed like a strange dream.  Mark experienced physical symptoms of grief, especially backache, and our sleeping patterns were all over the place. I wasn’t interested in my food, or in anything else.  I couldn’t think of anything but James, and was incredibly sad that we weren’t together anymore.  We poured over James’s photos and videos every day, and wrote down anything we could that seemed significant to remind us of James.

Time was playing tricks with us.  Every minute seemed like an hour, but the days seemed to be going by.   Nothing seemed real any more.  Life as we knew it had completely changed.  It was divided into two halves when we lost James, the before and after.  I now knew what it felt like to experience real suffering and I wished I didn’t.  How could something this terrible have happened to our baby, especially when he was so healthy?  We couldn’t concentrate on anything, and had to write anything important down.

We didn’t venture out very much.  I wanted to be at home most of the time where James had been for most of his life.  When we did go out I wanted to go places we had been with James.  It was emotional going to those places; I could remember the last times I had been to each one.  We went out food shopping and  I could remember what I looked at and decisions I made.

I wanted to preserve the memories of things as they were on the last day we had spent together with James.  I didn’t want to move anything before I had photographed it in its place.

I cried when it rained and the thought of James getting wet in his coffin, and I thought about covering his grave with a plastic sheet to keep it out.  The need to mother him was so strong even though he was dead.

We didn’t know anyone who had lost a baby at full term, and we felt we needed some guidance, but it was really difficult to get any.  I didn’t know how I was going to get through this, and I needed to know there was hope after going through such a traumatic thing.  I wanted to know what would come next.  We were given an information pack from SANDS, the charity for parents who have lost babies.  Their support group was an hour’s drive away.  We both went along to the next meeting.  It was in the evening, in a community centre, and it reminded me of the place we went for our NCT antenatal classes. The women at the session had all suffered bereavements years ago and had all subsequently had children.  I felt we didn’t have enough in common, and it was too early to hear the stories of others.  I wasn’t able to handle any more grief than my own.  I was disappointed too that there were no men there for Mark to talk to.  He wanted to open up and discuss how he felt.

Mark had two weeks’ paternity leave and he was worried about returning to work.  His bosses told him to take the entire month off and they would review the situation after that.  He dreaded the thought of returning to his job.  I was incapable of looking after myself, and so he looked after us both and did all the cooking.  It was a distraction for him and he was glad to keep busy.