The Hardness: It’s Just That Sometimes Life Is Hard

I have an amazing life, I am the first to recognise this. I know it. I have three beautiful healthy children. A gorgeous, generous, thoughtful and hilariously funny husband, a comfortable home. I am healthy (mostly). But sometimes the hardness comes and sits on my chest. For no reason at all.

When I say hardness, I mean the hardness of life. When easy things become hard. Life is ticking over, the world is turning as it does, but suddenly life is like swimming against a tide.

I go into a zone where I am critical of myself. I convince myself of all sorts of not good things. The world beneath me is shaky and uncertain.

This partly why I decided to have a break from Facebook, as I think if your armour is fragile social media (but particularly Facebook) can easily crack through it.

My husband has had surgery recently so my workload on the home front significantly increased for a time (testament to how much he does at home). I also have a dodgy hip and because of this I can’t sleep properly. I get sciatica at night and it continuously wakes me up. I feel like I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. Sleep deprivation alters your world view. I know this from experience.

And Christmas… And I miss my Mum.

I got a text message from my daughter’s ballet school to say that I should make sure that I am at their Christmas party because she is getting an award. So proud and happy. But sad too, because Mum is the first person I would call to tell.

But, no one to call.

Everyone is busy, and frazzled, and tired.

I think there are more people than we know who feel like I do. Particularly at this time of year.

Why do we hide vulnerability? Is it so bad to be human? Struggle is a deeply human experience so I am perplexed about why we try to pretend that life is peachy all of the time.

Social media certainly perpetuates this. But I think it’s ok for life not to be peachy all the time. And it’s ok not to pretend that it is.

But I know that tomorrow is a new day.

There is sunshine ahead. 

How are you feeling at this jolly time of year?

 

👣October 15 – Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day 💔

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Image courtesy of october15.ca

For all the families out there that have lost a baby, October 15th is a day dedicated to you and remembering the babies that we have lost. 💔

It is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It was founded in America but every year it is growing and is fast becoming an international day of remembrance. This is because the pain of losing a baby is universal.

Too many families suffer their grief in private because our culture does not provide a forum for the grief that comes with a miscarriage, still born child or infancy loss. It is too terrible to talk about, more than any other type of grieving, this is shunned. It is extremely isolating and sadly, friends and families remaining silent compound that isolation. [Read more…]

Getting Through Christmas After You’ve Lost Someone

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(Image via Pinterest)

Christmas can be such an amazing time, particularly if you have small children who are still living the beautiful fantasy that comes with it. But it can also be a wretched time. If you’ve lost someone important to you, Christmas magnifies their absence, and the pain of their loss is acute.

This will be our second Christmas without our Mum. Last year, she’d only been gone six months and none of us really knew what to do. So we went out for lunch, which is something we never, ever did with her. Feelings between siblings were still a bit prickly last Christmas, as the grief was still very raw and it was causing splinters between us. So going out was a good option, there was no pressure to attend if you didn’t feel like it. We could just do what we wanted to do.

But last Christmas for me, was really just about getting it over with. I guess like all the ‘firsts’ after you lose someone. So this year we are doing what we used to do when Mum was alive. Coming together, all bringing a dish to contribute to the meal, and spending the day sharing food and exchanging gifts. It’s a nice way to honour her. She loved Christmas, and thanks to her, so do I.

I hate the thought of struggling through Christmas every year because she’s not here. It’s only right that we should put in the effort to make it happy, when she made it so special for us, for so many years. This year we will pick up where she left off, and carry on the traditions that she embedded in our lives over the years. But, of course, it will be different.

If the thought of Christmas without your lost one fills you with anxiety and sadness, here are some suggestions to help you through.

If your old traditions are too painful, start some new ones. Reshape them, so there is life after your loss. It can be as small as exchanging presents in a different room, eating different food or doing something completely new. Going for a beach walk, or a bush walk with a picnic. The idea is that you are still able to celebrate the day, but by celebrating in a different way you are acknowledging that things have changed. Eventually, this new way will will become your tradition if you want it to.

Find ways to keep their spirit alive. My Mum made the Christmas pudding every year. She would soak the fruit in brandy in October and the pudding was cooked by November most years. It was her tradition to make the pudding, then she’d pour brandy on it and light it, just prior to serving it with custard and brandy cream. So this year, we’ve made the pudding, using her recipe, made in her pudding basin. It wont be the same as having her pour the brandy over it, but it will still make me happy. Because I know it would make her happy to carry on something that was really important to her.

Be ok with feeling sad, and feeling their absence. When someone was a big presence in your life, you’re going to miss around Christmas time, it’s only natural. Remind yourself that it’s ok to feel sad and feel the pain of loss. It is a reflection of the love that you shared, and still share, but in a different way. Reshaping your relationship with someone you have lost is part of the grieving process and big days like Christmas are part of that.

Talk about them, remember happy times. It’s possible that it will make you feel better. There are seven children in our family so we all have a litany of hilarious stories that we remember from when we were growing up, and of course, Mum features in most of those stories. The endorphins created from a good belly laugh will help usher you though a tough day.

Remind yourself that you are still living. And whoever you share the day with, they are still living. The day need not be finished because your special person is not with you. It’s likely that the people you spend Christmas with love you, as much as you loved your lost one. But life continues on, as hard as it is. To shut the day down does not honour their passing, it just makes those left behind feel sadder.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect too much from yourself or from close family or friends who are also feeling your their absence. Don’t force happiness if it isn’t there, take time to recalibrate. Sadness and pain are energy zappers, so rest if you need to. Take some time to reflect on the past, but also on the future. Try to think about what they would want for you. If you recognise that you need some quiet time in order to get through the day, plan it so you get what you need.

There’s no pretending, when a key person in your life is longer around it’s tough going, but hopefully focussing on the happier memories, being mindful about the present, but also mindful about the past, will help you get though and hopefully start building new meaning into your Christmas.

 

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This post is to mark the day, to help raise awareness and offer some comfort and advice to people who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, still birth or infant death. We need to keep having this conversation because it is the silence around this topic that make it such an isolating and lonely experience.

I have some experience with pregnancy loss, having lost six of my own. The one thing that made the whole dark experience even darker was the isolation I felt in my grief. Part of that was an over-arching rejection of my grief and sadness. This is not a blanket statement, there were several people who were incredibly supportive and accepting of whatever we felt, each time we lost a baby. But there were many who weren’t, and sadly some of those relationships have never recovered.

So, the experience of losing a baby in and of itself, is a terrible one. For that experience to be devalued and dismissed can be extremely damaging. For those of you who haven’t experienced pregnancy loss and are struggling to understand, some of the emotions I felt included shock, sadness, disappointment, guilt, shame, grief and fear. To name a few. However, I will point out that every woman experiences pregnancy loss in a different way. And I know from my own experience that my reaction to each of my miscarriages differed in some way, from the one before. There was always a new and surprising response with each one, but what I have listed are emotions that were consistent each time.

The grief of pregnancy loss, to me, is most complicated. There is no consolation, no looking at old photos of happy times, no recall of happy memories or funny quirks of your loved one, that while sad, will make you smile. When you lose a loved one, grief is an expression of the gap they have left in your life. But when you lose a baby that has not lived outside of your own body, there is nothing tangible to try and draw comfort from. The weight of that sadness is present, but there is no resolution. I had four miscarriages in a year, and during that time It felt like I was heaving a weighted stone around in my gut. I had a heaviness about me that only really lifted once I gave birth to my oldest daughter.

Along with the emotional ramifications, there are also the physical. The hormonal changes in a woman’s body, once she becomes pregnant, are extreme. When a pregnancy ends abruptly the body tries to recalibrate and it can take months before a woman physically feels like herself again. Combine this with a myriad of emotion and the impact on a woman can be momentous.

It’s important that this experience is not undermined and days such as October 15th – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, are an important part of healing and keeping the dialogue open for women who may be feeling alone in their grief. It’s also an important acknowledgement that the baby they carried and lost meant something, and the sadness that they feel is justified.

If someone you know is going through this, here’s a quick 101 on what NOT to say:

– oh well, there must have been something wrong with it

– it just wasn’t meant to be

– you’ll be pregnant again really soon

– why do you keep talking about it, just get over it

– it won’t happen again, don’t worry too much

– at least you know you can get pregnant

Here are some alternatives:

– I’m so sorry to hear about your baby

– come here for a hug

– how are you feeling?

– I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to say.

These are not a prescription, you can say what feels natural to you as long as you are showing the person that you acknowledge the depth of their pain and loss.

If you have lost a baby, remember them today by lighting a candle for them, or take a moment to reflect on their fleeting presence and what it brought to your life. One thing I learnt from my miscarriages was the depth of love that is possible, so each lost baby, while devastating, reinforced this and now my living children (of which I have three) are the beneficiaries of this love.

Share this post with your friends who might take comfort from it, or share it with those who aren’t sure what pregnancy loss is all about. Supporting each other through these experiences is what will make us all stronger and better able to cope with the sadness of one of life’s inevitabilities.

 

Letter to My Younger Self

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Image via Pinterest

I have always been fascinated by the ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ and whenever I see them in magazines and online, I always make a point to read them. I imagined that it would be quite a cathartic exercise. I guess I’m quite fortunate that I don’t have a great deal to purge, and what has brought me challenges over the years, I sit with comfortably now. But what I most enjoyed about the process has been reflecting back on how I’ve grown and what I’ve learnt.

I offer no ground-breaking advice, but some simple musings will serve me well beyond today.

Dear Collette,

Here are a few things to help you on your way.

You’re mostly a happy soul so don’t lose that; this disposition will usher you through the trials.

Reshape regrets – they’ll only eat away at you. If you can reshape them you’ll see the purpose they served to make your life better in the end.

Celebrate your success, not only do you deserve it but it will help you identify your true friends. Those who celebrate with you, wish you only good. Those who don’t celebrate with you, harbour resentment and will one day let you down.

Champagne will thicken your waist (and your head), when you over indulge be sure that the joy of the over indulgence will outweigh the discontent of a thick waist. Mostly it will, but be sure to check in with it.

Listen to your father. He was wrong (mostly) about you being the class clown, the town drunk and at times the village idiot, but he was bang on with his advice about adjusting your expectations of others. He told me to never expect someone to behave the same way as you would, if you do you will always be disappointed (your older self is still working on this). 

Listen to your mother and store away what she has to say. Each day something will come up that you will want to ask her and when she is gone you will miss deferring to her on life’s practicalities. She would have known what to do when your youngest wouldn’t sleep. So listen up.

Be more compassionate when you feel that someone has failed you. You will fail someone some day to, and not be able to help it. We all have limitations.

Trust yourself. That sick feeling you get in your stomach has always been right. Don’t ignore it, act on it, then you’ll find that you’re on your right path. 

Write everyday, it is the only way to hone your skills (your older self is still working on this one to). 

That cliche, authentic. Well, there is no other way. The only way is to live truthfully, honestly. You will fail at everything you do if you are not living truthfully. Life will be so much easier to live when you are being your real self. 

Don’t worry about money. Things have a way of working themselves out, even if it’s not how you imagined it would be.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but have fun, always. Even when you feel your soul is under fire. The joy of the small things will get you through.

And finally, always remember that life will never be better than it is now, so make the most of it.

And so my friend, be brave, be bold and go gently; it is a fine combination.

Collette

Do you have some advice to your younger self that you’d like to share? Share below, it is rather cathartic after all.