Tuesday 17 December 2019

Milestones, Grief and Time Travel

This is a postscript of the Address I gave at the SANDS Memorial Service ....

I have had cause over the last year to watch a ridiculous amount of My Little Pony. At first this felt like a burden but I'm here to tell you that season 5 is hardcore. There’s even a character called Dr Whooves. based on our best British icon Dr Who.

This of course has no relevance to today except that it enables me to talk about time travel.

I want to time travel now. 

2044 3rd June

My wife turns to me and says Grace would have been 30 today. For a moment I see her life, she’s probably moving in with her boyfriend  because in my mind none of my daughters are moving in with anybody before they hit 30.

lets go back a little

July 2037

I’m sitting somewhere imagining Grace graduating from University …maybe…if that’s what she wanted.We'll never know

My life, our lives are full of imaginary milestones and it’s not just me of the future that’s doing it.

We took note of the first week after Grace was born

the first fortnight
the first month
the second month
the sixth month
the nine month mark…because you know that’s enough time to have a baby.

More than just dates though.

We noted when she might have crawled, might have stood, might have walked.

We celebrated her 1st birthday and endured the anniversary of her death. And then we did it again a year after that.

we endured the memory of burying her and the pain of walking away from her grave again and again. 
We mark them with our tattoos and with our jewellery

These milestones have become the map of our relationship with Grace,a vital work, a heady mix of fact and imagination. But how long can we, how long should we do this for.

If David of the future could pop in right now I’m pretty sure of what he would have to say.
“you will never stop David and why should you, She’s your daughter"
I’ve spoken to too many people in the last 2 years who still know their dead children birthdays after decades to know that David from the future is not an idiot. That he knows what he’s talking about - which is a bit of a surprise to everyone.

So don’t worry about charting your children lives….in fact lets go one step further.  I’ll explain what that step is i a moment

I was speaking at a conference in Denmark about stillbirth.  2 women came up to me afterwards and both thanked me for speaking so openly as they had both had stillbirths about 6 years ago. One of them said that listening to me was the most amount of healing she had been allowed to do.

I’ve also spoken at a couple of events with well meaning academics who have forgotten the human cost in the midst of their research and professional life and thanked me for essentially shoving my grief in their faces. a reminder they needed.

So here's the next step. Do not be ashamed of your grief. We use the phrase stillborn, we talk of loosing our children. But we did not loose them and the word stillbirth has started to become a meaningless medical word. let’s make no mistake of what we are talking about here. Our dead children. Our babies that died. This is no small thing, this is trauma, this is something that can change the way your brain works and make the world actually look physically different. There is research that shows that trauma affects you on an epigenetic level meaning that it can even affect your genes. It can alter your brain chemistry. You all remember leaving the hospital wondering why everything looked and felt different? If this research is right it didn't just feel like it looked different it did look different.

So do not be ashamed of your grief, do not be ashamed or feel like your going crazy, do not hesitate to seek help if you need it, do not hesitate to see a Councillor, a therapist, a psychiatrist if you need it because this is no small thing.

Do not be ashamed to talk about your beautiful child , do not sacrifice your dignity to those friends or family who refuse to make the effort to understand.Because with all due respect, if you are a partner, or a parent, a grandparent or a best friend who doesn't get how big this is - then what use are you?

Do not think you are going crazy.

Do not feel ineffectual because 2 years later you don’t want to go back to work.

I was asked on a radio interview. How was i doing.  Well I said. People think I’m OK because I can speak and articulate, because I smile and laugh readily. But the reason i speak is because I’m not OK. This, this is my therapy. Make sure you find yours. 

You are not mad, you are not pathetic, you are not …alone

you are hurting, you are tired, you are struggling,  - yes yes yes

But be proud because like so many you are living with an empty weight in your arms, and you’re still going! 

you are strong
you are survivors of trauma
you are parents….and that’s what parents do, honour and love their fallen children 
After giving my acceptance speech at The Butterfly Awards, a man hugged me. 
I'm a soldier," he told me, "I've held dying men in my arms but I couldn't do what you do"  
Make no mistake at how big this thing is. Your grief is a wound. Wear it proudly, it is one of the few things we have to give our children.

Do not shrink into your grief but stand tall.

Take your time, find your way, live well in this new normal and own your grief because the milestones never stop coming.

Thursday 17 May 2018

4 years since Grace's Funeral

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Barry. I don’t know Barry, I have no idea what he looks like, what he did with his life, was he tall or short? ... I know nothing except 2 things
He died 2 years ago and Esther misses him.
Yesterday I spoke about Grace at a bereavement study day near Southend. As usual when I speak I wear my grief proudly, I let my tears speak as much as my words and I let my words leave you in no doubt as to the fact I’m still working out who I am in the light of my daughters death 4 years and 2 weeks ago.

Today marks the anniversary of Grace’s funeral, the day I walked my daughter down the aisle in a white willow coffin, the day my wife and I sang Amazing Grace past the ache in our hearts and throats, the day a congregation joined us in singing with such love and gusto that it almost blew us of our feet. Today marks the anniversary of watching my little girl being lowered into a hole in the ground that My brother Peter helped me dig, the day I watched that tiny coffin being covered with dirt.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Bradford Babyloss Conference - Pt 2- The Arrival

…And whadya know it worked. I found myself at the conference with enough time for a bit of banter before lunch. Some would call that a result…..which it was!

I’ve done a fair bit of speaking abut Grace since she died and my biggest audience was 6000 people in Denmark, but as we sat munching on sandwiches and debating the spiciness of the samosas (bless you Heidi) there was something playing on my mind.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Understanding Babyloss Conference Pt1 - The journey - an epic saga

On Friday my family and I set out to attend the Understanding Baby Loss and Bereavement Support Conference organised by the University of Bradford Midwifery Society and Our Angels charity.

We didn't get very far.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

2 weeks of crying....

For the last 2 weeks or so i have cried everyday. I am emotionally exhausted…and I’m pretty happy about it.

Today marks 10 days to The Butterfly Award and I thought I would put something relevant up every day until we get there.

The Butterfly Awards now in its fourth year, is an amazing opportunity to celebrate those who do so much work around bereavement as well as honoring parents who have experienced the loss of a baby. The event aims to celebrate survivors and champions of baby loss.

That means it’s almost a year since I won this award in the Inspirational Father category. I got to say it’s a tough award to win, when you evaluate what it is you’re actually winning.

Anyway this year I will be speaking and performing at the awards and my wife will be singing. I have also been on the judging pane. Now I've judged things before. I've been on the British Comic awards panel for a couple of years and while I've read comics that have moved me to tears, this is another thing altogether.
Over the last couple of weeks I have read  75 profiles, a list which comprises all the finalists (how Mel and Jade, the organisers managed to read all the entrants and keep their sanity I'll never know)

These people ….are amazing, they are inspirational, they move me tears again and again and again. Tragic stories, stories you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, and so much bravery. Have a look for yourself if you want - https://thebutterflyawards.com/voting/

So yea I have cried and I’m glad because to have been part of this process, to aid in the honouring of so many inspiring people. Well that’s a privilege. So yea, I'm tired, I'm raw, I'm done but I'm happy about it

Wednesday 28 October 2015

To be an Inspirational father ?

When a stillbirth occurs in hospital, a butterfly is fixed to the door so that all staff know what has occurred before they come into the room. Consequently, butterflies have become synonymous with stillbirth.

Skip forward a year and out of the blue I received an email saying I’d been nominated in the Butterfly Awards.

“The What Now?”

I almost deleted the email thinking it must be spam but decided to give it a read.

The Butterfly Awards celebrate survivors and champions of babyloss, that seek to break the silence surrounding stillbirth. They were started by Mel Scott and Jade Deverill: both of whom have had tragedies of their own.

It seemed I’d been nominated for awards in the categories of Inspirational Father and Best Author/Blogger.

Thursday 10 September 2015

The Butterfly Awards

So I have been nominated in 2 categories for a Butterfly Award
The Butterfly Awards celebrate survivors and champions of baby loss. You can find out more about the awards here - http://www.thebutterflyawards.com/index.php

The awards are a public vote and while I would like to win because I believe that having the awards would help me on some of my upcoming plans to honour my daughter, a quick read through of the other nominees profiles has left me so utterly humble.

This then is my wish.

Have a read through the nominees and vote for whomever you think is most worthy. It is far more important to me that this issue is highlighted than that I win

The profiles of the nominees are here - http://www.thebutterflyawards.com/index.php/voting

I have been nominated for the Inspirational Father award - http://www.thebutterflyawards.com/index.php/voting/userprofile/DavidMonteith

Thank you