Welcome to my blog Wellness after Loss
“It is only in darkness that we can see stars”
This is the post excerpt.
Welcome to my blog Wellness after Loss
“It is only in darkness that we can see stars”
Miscarriage is the girl that sits opposite you in the office, who says nothing as to why she’s been off work for a few days, maybe even a week, but returns looking washed out, sad and pale, she gets a quick hi, how are you? and then the office moves on.
Miscarriage is the girl on the bus who you see every day on your way to work, she silently sits listening to her headphones, minds her own business, looks the same as she did last week, quiet, inoffensive and in her own little world.
Miscarriage is the mum, who gets up the next day and take her other children to school, gets on with the life, and keeps going for the sake of her others children.
Miscarriage is your boss, who has everything sorted, she is well dressed, articulate, and together, she comes back into work with her usual organised demeanour that she had before, she has structure, control, energy and power, you respect her for her strength and her ability to work with her team.
Miscarriage is the bus driver whose wife is at home in bed, having just had her third miscarriage, while he must go to work in order to pay the bills.
Miscarriage is the CEO of a large successful corporation, she does not stop, if you want to be a part of the team, you don’t stop either, not even for a miscarriage.
Miscarriage is the woman who has done IVF, with hope in her heart, praying that this one will hold, only to wake up one morning to find out that it hasn’t taken just like the other four failed attempts.
Miscarriage is the beauty therapist who looks glamorous, coming into work in her heels prepared for a full days work on her feet, meeting and greeting clients while all she wants to do is lie down and rest her weary body.
Miscarriage is the shop assistant, the hotel manager, the cleaner, the CEO, the manager, the mum, the business owner, the friend, the sister, the person.
Miscarriage happens, miscarriage for some women has happened many times, its a hidden grief, it shows little evidence of coming, but if it happens, it hits hard. Its a conversation few are open to having, many don’t know what to say, and many will assume its no big deal, just move on, and go and try again…….
But miscarriage leaves a gaping hole in peoples lives, it leaves unanswered questions, it leaves feelings of hope dashed, it leaves a mum wondering what is wrong with her body, it leaves a dad feeling helpless, she questions why she cannot hold onto a pregnancy, it leaves unanswered questions to an ever complicated area of pregnancy, the why’s and the why nots. The questions of why did my baby not survive and hers did. Why did I not keep this baby, why why why.
A miscarriage may be seen as a loss ‘too early’ to grieve, but it is far from that, it is a loss, relevant of the time it needs to be give and the time it needs to heal. For women of childbearing age the chances of miscarriage can range from 10-25% so its very likely someone you know has had one. Miscarriage is the hidden grief, the grief that a mum carries with her, its the sadness she holds in her heart, its the conversation we don’t have because its awkward, its the comments like “just try for another” or the “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be”. For many there isn’t another baby, for many it was their last attempt at IVF, it was their last natural conception, for some a healthy full term pregnancy never happens again. So, spare a thought the next time your colleague comes back to the office, and you know where she has been, ask her how she is? Offer her a moment of your time, and if she isn’t ready to talk…..allow her that space too.
‘The definition of strength is the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.’
Is strength getting up again and again after you fall.
Is it putting a smile on your face when inside it feels like there’s a volcano that has erupted the size of Ireland.
Is it pushing forward when all you want to do is curl up in bed and hide from the world.
Is it working to inspire others while you yourself feel completely empty of inspiration.
Is it pushing through your pain instead of sitting patiently as it bleeds out in a messy fog of hurt.
Is strength finding the courage to leave your lover after he’s abused you for 10 years.
Is strength walking away from someone you love cause your not being treated right.
Is strength ‘getting over’ the the death of a loved one, having miscarriage after miscarriage and your friends telling you to ‘hang in there’. Or delivering your stillborn baby, then trying to go back to living a ‘normal’ life.
Is strength saying NO when you’ve spent your whole life saying yes?
Is strength being vulnerable and open to pain
Admitting when you don’t feel strong
Sitting with hurt in your heart
Saying sorry when your in the wrong
Reaching out to a friend
Accepting when a loved one dies, allowing grieving for that loss
Strength is forgiving that person who wronged you in your life
Strength is saying NO
It’s giving hope to others
It’s being yourself when everything around you feels shaky
It’s holding your own in confrontation and knowing your truth
It’s living your truth, knowing your boundaries
It’s being able to ask for help, its self-care
It’s leaning into the discomfort
Its knowing when to step back
It’s finding peace with yourself and not searching for external acceptance.
Strength is loving others unconditionally.
Strength is loving yourself first.
Counselling in Grief
The path after baby loss is not straight, its long, bumpy, twisty and uncertain. Its not the same for everyone, and everyone is not the same.
I have been grateful to work with clients in the counselling room, and in groups, privileged to listen to the stories of grief & loss.
It feels that we all have one thing in common, why? and what now? Why did this happen, and is it my fault? and what do I do now my baby is gone?
These are common questions I hear in the therapy room, did my body let down my baby? in those early days, the feeling of guilt is overpowering, the feeling of ‘I let my baby down’ ‘I didn’t do enough’, ‘its my fault’ ‘my body failed us both’ and ‘what now’?
You didn’t let your baby down, neither did your body, but its normal to feel that you did. Blame, guilt, and shame all play a huge part in loss. Its about allowing those feelings to rise, run around inside us and then move along. They say there are stages in Grief, some agree, some do not, whatever path grief takes, allow it, grief is a natural process to healing, it is not an overcoming of a loss, it is not a ‘letting go’ it is a process that one must move through in order to allow healing. I question do we ever truly heal, and I question are we ever truly the same after a loss? But I also question that after a loss our outlook on life changes, it shifts, it sees life differently. Without pain there is no growth. Growth is not always welcomed, often we say to ourselves I want everything to go back to the ‘way it was’ but truthfully after we lose a loved one, this cannot be so. All we can do is carry that loved one in our hearts, and in our memories. Cherish the small times we had with them. If life is made up of energy and we are all energy, then nobody really dies, nobody goes away forever there is a presence around us that is not tangible, but it is there, those we loved and lost are in our world but not in physical form.
My words do not heal a broken heart, nor do they help in a loss, but knowing that you are loved unconditionally and that your loss was never your ‘fault’ may go some way to understanding the why. Its the feeling we have inside of us, that deep feeling of emptiness that nobody can take away. The emptiness of what was inside of you growing, that connection you made to that small person the day you heard you were pregnant, the hopes and dreams you had for those little ones dashed when you hear there is no heart beat. The loss of what could be, the future, the first birthday, the first day at school, the first communion. All the hopes of the ‘firsts’ that are not to be.
You are here now, and your life is different, you did not chose life to be different, but life is. Its where you go to from here, your body and your mind need to be nourished, cared for, minded. Mental health is real, our body and our mind are connected, they are one, we need to care for our body, and care for our mind, in order to allow movement, healing, future conception, and healthy mind and body functioning.
By caring for yourself, you are caring for those around you. Take time for you. Be at one with your thoughts, your feelings and your sadness. But also allow yourself to smile, see the beauty in the small things, get out into nature, walk in your bare feet, step into the cold sea, feel the sand in between your toes. Walk among the trees and listen to the birds. Drink plenty of water. And get some quality sleep. Its the small things that help both mentally and physically as you move through your grief…..let time and space hold your hand.
Hello Fathers day 2019,
I would like to pay homage to all the amazing dads out there, both the ones that are here and the ones that are gone. My father died in 2006, it feels like only yesterday. I sat and held his hand while they turned off the life support machine….the moment they turned off the machine, something inside of me died too that day. I miss him every day. I have a son who never met my father, but who knows him through stories of wax jackets and welly boots, a carpenter with big rough hands who created art made of wood, a man who loved his dogs, and all animals nature had to offer…he had kindness to give to anyone who entered into his life. He was a gentle man who gave more than he ever got.
Fathers day is also a day to recognise those dads who are dads, but whose babies did not stay, to those dads who have not yet had the opportunity to take home their baby from hospital and watch as their little one grows up, to the dad who doesn’t get to hear the word ‘daddy’, for those who never get to see their baby’s first steps, and for the father who never gets to take his child to their first day of school……these are the forgotten dads. To you fathers who only got to hold your babies for a short time, then had to say good bye.
Its recognising the dads who are not the biological dads, but have embraced fatherhood in all its ups and downs, who have taken on those children in love and kindness through obstacles and selflessness. I have so much admiration for those fathers who have embraced fatherhood when the child is not their own biological child, yet they call themselves Dad.
I had two babies, one baby could not stay, both babies from different fathers, and both fathers not wanting to be a part of their lives, I have been both mum and dad and am proud, proud of who my son is becoming, and proud of what I have managed to do. Being a single parent is the most rewarding thing I have ever been able to do, and I am stronger for it. This does not disregard that I feel sad he missed so many years of having a father in his life. But we all have obstacles and we are all fearful at times, we are all grieving at times, and we are all unsure. But out of the grief, loss and fear….there comes hope and new possibilities.
Happy Fathers day……..
The Natural healing power of the Sea, and what it has taught me in the last four months is what I want to share with you. Nature is a power above and beyond us.
Before Christmas I decided to ditch my wetsuit and head to the beach in the middle of an Irish winter in a Bikini, with a towel, a hot flask of tea, and an open mind. I went to my local beach, to find others crazy Irish people there, with the same thing in mind as me, to breathe and then swim in the sea. We sat at dawn watching the sun rise, and we practised the Wim Hoff Method of breathing, I knew nothing of it then. But I was inspired, and when I entered the water, I understood what that inspiration was.
The door was now open, the horse had bolted! A few weeks later, on New Years Day 2019, I planned a non-wetsuit birthday swim, with hot flasks of tea, birthday cake and great friends. It was a cold winters day, it was dark and the dawn was breaking, my friends and I sat, practised our breathing, and then….jumped in. Since then I swim every weekend, and every weekend it gets better, the distance gets a little further, and I connect more and more to myself and to the sea.
When my sister and I were young, our parents took us travelling, we were blessed, we saw much of the world, we experienced diversity, wonders, cultures and adventures. We made friends on our travels, and our parents allowed us to explore. One day my sister, myself and our new local friend we were out swimming in the sea, in what used to be an old derelict harbour, we got into trouble, couldn’t swim properly and nearly drowned.
Grief, Loss & Trauma are all parts that make up who I am, but I am also made up of kindness, love and hope, with a little bit of chaos thrown in there! I’ve had many life changing events, that have proved to push me beyond the limits of hopelessness and fear, into a place of hope. Those events in life have shaped me today, although they instilled anxiety and fear within me, I have learnt appreciation, gratitude and most of all, how to love, and how to face my fears with shame never too far away. A childhood of let downs, abuse and neglect, yet sugar coated with privileges of a good school, riding horses in a middle class setting. I grew up with friends who appeared to ‘have it all’ good school, great secure families, self-esteem and security. I watched only in envy to have but a nugget of what they had. I felt I only had a heavy, lonely heart that had been left out to dry in the cold, and an empty void of loss which began with my mothers death at age eleven.
Trauma has sat patiently with me my whole life, it fluctuates regularly and my body holds the score. Like an engine that is not finely tuned, that requires care, maintenance, support, love, patience and repair. Thats where the sea swimming comes in, it re-regulates me, it re-aligns by nervous system, it balances my mental chatter and it brings me to the present moment. It shocks me into balance, it’s my natural healer.
Week after week my son and I wake early, make a hot flask of herbal tea, and we take to the sea, with our two small dogs, there we meet our regular sea swimming friends who have been with us since New Year, we meet, greet, strip down on the cold dark mornings, breathe then head for the water. This is what it is about, friendships, laughs, fears, unknowns, love and support. Before we enter the water, we breathe, we go silent, we listen to the sea as it moves, words are not needed, only presence. The presence of a friendship that has unspoken words, there is a stillness. Each of us has our pains in the body, some have migraines, some have injuries, some can’t swim well, and some feel sad from life’s troubles, but what brings us together is the water, it unites us, it holds us in a space of ‘here and now’ is allows our bodies to heal from the pain, it allows us to reset our minds, it brings us to the fore, for that moment of submersion we are at one with the sea, there is it and us, we are insignificant in the grandeur of the big sea. Silence becomes the group, we swim apart, and each search for whatever it is we are looking for. A relief, a release, a hope, a remedy, a calmness, a clearing out, but most of all, it brings us to love and it brings us to the now. We get out, dry off, warm up over a hot cup gently cradled in our cold hands, and we chat.
Is it that the sea is powerful and unforgiving, is it that it heals, is it the boldness of the untamed waters that we feel drawn to, or is it all of the above? Nobody really knows, all we know is it has a natural beauty that no man can create, it has a ruggedness that is un-tameable, its a power unto itself. Loss played a role in my life, I lost both my parents, and I lost a baby, the loss in my life has made me appreciate what I do have, and the sea has taught me to accept what is, and to be at one with my grief. To take on each day as a new day. To be bold. To love beyond limits, to listen, and to learn from others. It has taught me that there is much about life we cannot explain, that hope is everywhere. Nature is a healer in life and that there is great strength and power in the simple things.
Grief and loss are all consuming, grief is a powerful and painful emotion that after a loss is normal, we experience a deep sense of pain throughout our body, that is un-describable, there are no quick fixes to grief, no tablets to heal the sadness and no treatments to fix the gaping wound left after a loss, there no knowing when that grief may come back around, no time-lines and no preparation for when it comes back and give us a hard thump in the chest. Grief is grief. There is no way of teetering around it, it is a deep sense of loss.
I have been on a roller coaster of grief in my life, loss has hit me from many angles, from losing my mum, then my dad, losing my family home, then my baby. What it has taught me though and is still teaching me, is nothing is permanent, and nothing is secure, and there are certainly no guarantees in life.
For me nature is my healer, my grounding source and my strength. Nature is my go to, my drug of choice, and my friend. I have a need to be in nature, its a life source for me, it fills up my tanks when they are low, it re-calibrates my heart and my anxious body. It re-aligns me when I am at a loss and it guides me to a peaceful mind. In nature I can heal, I can be silent in my thoughts and my words, and it gives me so much yet expects nothing in return. The trees stand in silence, they do not judge, they do not comment, they do not resist, they stand and they let the wind, sun, rain, snow and ice spin around them without judgement, they do not weep, they do not feel resentment. They just are.
Nature is beautiful in all its forms, winter, summer, spring and autumn, there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, I will go into the weather no matter the season, no matter the extreme, its all just weather. I find peace there, I find myself there, I find hope.
Hope is what we all search for in loss, my hope is that when I wake up in the morning and step outside that this will be a good day, and that I am open to all that may happen in this day, be it good or bad. Consider a walk today in nature, anywhere any time, nature is all around us, even in the concrete jungles of our cities, there is beauty, stop to pause, look up, listen to the birds, look for the beauty around you, it is there, we just have to tune into it, listen for the signs and be open to the stillness, be mindful where you go, feel your feet on the ground as you walk, if the body aches, be mindful of those aches, breathe into the body, and be at peace with your grief, your grief is there to help you heal, it is there to allow sorrow in our hearts, it is there for a reason, allow nature to walk with you in your grief and sorrow, allow nature to help you heal, allow nature to give you hope in your life…..
Sleep in our life is generally not focused on, yet its one of the most powerful, natural healers we have within us. In times of grief, sleep is even more integral in healing the body than any other times, yet can often be the hardest thing to do.
Grief is all encompassing, it takes over every cell in our body, leaving us depleted, anxious, and overwhelmed. When I came back from the maternity hospital I had spent two days in, I was completely lost, confused, and exhausted, more emotionally than physically, and that can be the worst kind of exhaustion, because the mind is so full and over worked, yet the body is on edge, hyper sensitive, and full of grief.
Sleep for me was a place I eventually went to when my body just gave up in the evenings, I would eventually fall into a sleep of confusion only to wake some hours later, in total emptiness for those first few minutes I had ‘forgotten’ my grief only to be flooded back with it some minutes into my wake, this was a pattern I had fallen into, I became asleep when awake and awake when asleep. Totally all over the place. Little did I know this was normal.
Sleep is needed for the body’s repair, without sleep we cannot recalibrate our body or our minds, we cannot re-charge, and our body’s homeostasis is out of balance. In grief our body holds the experiences of our grief deep in our cells, we are restless, unsettled, tired most of the time, yet awake for hours during the night, when our brain is in “chimp’ mode and overactive with thoughts of immense sadness.
What can we do to help ourselves, NOT ‘get over’ our grief, NOT ‘forget’ about it for a short time, but to move through our grief, feel it, allow it to be there, allow ourselves to feel sad.
Sleep is about quality not quantity, being kind to yourself, and allowing the grief, instead of pushing it away, if we push it away it goes ‘somewhere’ and comes back out time and time again.