A mother’s grief
My journey into grief and losing Esme has been one that I never imagined I would ever have had to live through. I never thought I would know what it feels like for my heart to hurt, to be torn in two and to be shattered. The year after losing Esme has been my hardest year ever, however it has also been a year during which I have learnt the most about myself and learnt to love who I am.
My grief is something that has been engrained in me. It is something that I have had to learn to live with. I know it is still early days, it has been only fifteen months since Esme died, but with support from family, friends and bereavement counselling I know I am going in the right direction and my grief is becoming more manageable. I am learning to live alongside grief and each day I continue to find happiness, to smile and not to hide behind my ‘brave face’.
It is difficult for me to remember my grief and what my thoughts were after Esme died and when we brought Charlotte home. Those days seem like a blur of sadness for Esme yet utter happiness for Charlotte.
My writing has helped me to make sense of my new world of raising a surviving twin alongside losing a twin. For the first few months after losing Esme, I wrote in my diary on the days when I struggled the most. For inspiration in writing this post, I’ve only just found the courage to read my diary. I think I have feared acknowledging how in pain and broken I was after losing Esme.
Although I read back through my entries with tears and heartbreak, I was surprised to discover they were filled with love rather than the dark thoughts that I imagined they would be. It was interesting and comforting to read how my thoughts changed and how I began to learn to accept what had happened.
To describe my thoughts of a ‘mother’s grief’, I have decided to share these entries. They are the originals. I have not edited them. My thoughts jump around, often when I feel angry or distraught, and then I try to justify, find a reason for or make sense of my thoughts.
9th September 2016
Hello my gorgeous girl, how are you doing?
I miss you so much. I miss holding you safe in my my arms. I miss stroking your soft cheeks. I miss kissing you on your lips. I miss telling you how much I love you and that you are safe and that Mummy and Daddy have got you. I love you so much.
I think I have finished all the planning for your big day. I just need to write our special piece of writing onto posh paper to put with you in your basket. I hope you like it in there even though it is just your body. When I was speaking to the florist about the flowers for your funeral she asked, “Do we have any choice in life about the things that really matter to us?” If I had a choice you would have grown up and been such an incredibly strong girl.
It was the most amazing thing in the world having twin girls. I felt so lucky. I miss holding my two beautiful girls safe in my arms. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever felt. Everything just felt so right and I am so upset and hurt that I won’t get to do that again. I know it was the kindest thing to do.
I hope and hope and hope that Charlotte is going to be ok. It is so scary but so important to take each day as they come and think of all the lovely things that is happening or happened and learn to dance in the rain.
So how do you learn to dance in the rain?
- Concentrate on the now
- You put one foot in front of the other
- You keep your chin up
- Focus on all the good things
I am going to concentrate on dancing in the rain baby girl.
Love you to the moon,
22nd September 2016
Esme Ann Campbell I love you so much!!
I watched a video of you this morning and loved watching you lying next to your sister. I miss holding you both together in my arms. Everything felt so safe. I hate that you have been taken from me and I won’t be able to cuddle you or your sister together in my arms again. It feels so cruel on all of us.
I am looking forward to Charlotte coming home and looking at all the stars and reading your story.
I have had had a very lazy day today but one which I have needed for a long time. I have got a bad cold and I am not able to go and see your sister. I need to look after myself. I am going to get a lovely shower, use some posh shower cream and take the dogs for a lovely long walk.
I miss your soft, silky pale cheeks, your beautiful little mouth and your beautiful kind eyes. I look at your sister all the time and I am reminded of how beautiful you were and still are.
I visit your little place and I can see your beautiful body lying down there. I long to cradle you in my arms, to stroke your soft cheeks, to hold your hands together and to hold you safe. To tell you, “Mummy’s got you. You are ok. You are safe.” But I can’t do that anymore.
“What are you doing up there?” “Who have you met?” I can see you dancing and being set free. Free from that horrible horrible illness. I will do everything I can to help stop it. I hate it Esme! I hate that it took you and how it ripped you away from us. I hate that it took and ripped you and Charlotte away from each other. But my darling it wasn’t any of our choices. It wasn’t mine, Daddy’s, yours or Charlotte’s or the doctors and if it was something you could tackle I know you would have beaten it.
I love you so much, Mummy xxxxxxxxxxxx
30th September 2016
My head feels very confused this morning. It’s just totally lost. I don’t know where I am.
I’ll come and see you Esme before I go and see your sister. Why were you taken from us? We would have been such a lovely family. So loved by everyone. Why are you gone? I want you back. I want both my girls in my arms again. I want what feels right. Why did I only experience what felt so right for such a short period of time? Why will I always have a hole in my heart and never feel complete? Why are you up there and in the ground and never get to experience life with us?
I love you so much. I miss you more than forty streets and love you and miss you more and more each day. You are my baby girl. You are so special to me.
I had the most amazing beautiful two girls who loved each other so much. Why can’t I have that?
It’s because of that awful disease Esme. That awful disease that got hold of you and ripped you away from us. You were doing so amazing. You were wriggling all around your incubator, you were practicing yoga moves, you were just doing so well. Why did it have to take you away from us?
I know you are at peace now but I just hate it Esme. I hate it you’re not with Charlotte. Not beside each other. I hate it I can’t breast feed you both. I hate it I can’t hold you both safely in my arms. I loved holding you safe in my arms. I loved looking at you and knowing you were with your Mummy and Daddy. But you are now high up in the sky. You are with lots of people that Mummy and Daddy love so much. You’re with my Nanna and Grandad. My Nanna will have so much fun teaching you how to bake. That was my favourite thing I did with her; currant buns. She would say to me, “Add a bit more Amy and a bit more. There you go. That’ll do it.” My Grandad will teach you so many things. He will teach you how to garden. How to train dogs. How to be kind and what is right and what is wrong. He’ll look after you so well. So will Daddy’s Grandma. She will make you laugh. She loved your Daddy so much. Daddy loved her so much. They would do anything for each other. You will have so much fun with Daddy’s Uncle Grieg too. You will travel the world with him and my old dog, Stan will probably go with you. You will have lots of fun dancing with Uncle Grieg too and your hair will always look amazing.
I am so excited for your sister coming home. She will have so much fun with us. I wonder how you two will connect with each other. I am looking forward to seeing if she says little things in which I know you are with each other. I am looking forward to getting to know Charlotte and playing with her.
I mustn’t keep living in the ‘what if’ world because I know you’re happy up there and with so many people that love you so much. They love you as much as Mummy and Daddy love you.
I have just phoned your Dad and he’s helped me, he always does., he’s a good man. I feel very lucky to have him. He’s put two lines on the Euromillions but he’s not happy with his draw. He’s a hard man to please. I need to go to the Post Office to collect what we think is a serrano ham. Your Dad has wanted to do get a serrano ham for a very long time.
I think what I’m finding most difficult about Charlotte coming home is that it’s not going to be the four of us at home. And that’s what hurts. It hurts a lot. It rips me apart. Slowly. I have so much love for Charlotte but it’s not the four of us.
27th October 2016
I am a strong woman. I do not judge or criticise myself. I do not think that other people don’t think I can’t cope because they don’t think that. That is just me giving myself a hard time. Why do I give myself a hard time? I don’t know.
I am proud of myself. I have gone through a lot. People say I am an inspiration to them. They look at my photographs and their hearts are filled with warmth. The outreach nurse says I am a lovely girl. Love yourself Amy Campbell because you are doing just fine just the way you are. Plus I think the real me, now I am a Mummy is one of the things I have always wanted and now I have that opportunity, so love every single moment! Lots of love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
5th November 2016
I love my little family with Esme and all our loved ones looking down on us.
8th November 2016
The pain of losing Esme
It starts with a memory. A happy memory. One filled with so much love. The touch of her hands. Her little feet pressing on my hands. Her soft skin. Her big eyes. Her little smile. Her content face asleep on my chest. Her little bottom in my hand. Then the pain begins to rise. It catches my breath. My world stops. The pain grips my heart so tightly it hurts. It hurts so much. It’s not like a physical pain which I can soothe because I can’t. Other than treasuring those beautiful memories that I have. And although all those memories remain deep in my heart it is sometimes not enough.
28th November 2016
I am a lucky girl. I have everything that I want. I have a baby who is up in heaven surrounded by loved ones. She is happy. She is free from any suffering. She can live the life she deserves to live. I have another gorgeous baby here on Earth who is thriving and doing amazing and I have the support from so many lovely people.
2nd January 2017
Well 2017 here you are. Start of a new year. It doesn’t mean these feelings of pain will go away but it is the start of a new year as 2016 was a very scary year: the fear of losing both babies; both girls; being in hospital; cord prolapsing; babies born with a disability due to prematurity but not being able to do anything about it; one being poorly; then the other; then both; dealing with that gut feeling where you know something isn’t right; being told the news about Esme; that the kindest thing to do is to remove her ventilation; that her head circumference has increased dramatically; the car journey going into the hospital that Saturday morning; the moment of hearing about Esme; seeing her have her seizures; her lip curl up, body stiffen, running for the nurse and feeling like she took forever to give her the pain relief.
But the actual saying goodbye, the moment when I knew she was gone was sad, so sad but a moment of peace, pure peace. Peace that you know she will no longer have to suffer, she’s ok, she’s with loved ones. She won’t have to, doesn’t have to fight the horrible illness anymore because she’s free from it. Her mind, spirit has lifted and she’s free to do what she wants.
I think it was at their Christening, when I looked across at Charlotte and I thought “You’ll be just fine, you have the strength of two, everything will be ok.”
So what have I learnt about myself in 2016. I am strong. If I focus on the now, put one foot, my best foot forward, I will be ok. I will find a way to cope. Keep plugging away at Campbellinas. Start designing clothes for Campbellinas Baby.
The idea of having a big family does really excite me and I guess it didn’t take me long to get pregnant so I am very lucky about that, very lucky. But I need to remember to look after myself, look after my mind and my body. I need to get my friend to look at my back.
I will look into baby classes for Charlotte. But I need to wait until March until we’re out of the cold and flu period. I will start the year with meeting my friends I met in the neonatal unit. I am very excited to see them on Friday. Lots of playdates to look forward to. Charlotte will be five months by then which will be perfect for her.
I need to stop feeling stressed about returning to work. I need to ring up my union. But Amy stop it. No need to feel or panic about work, that’s being silly!! You have Campbellinas and you have Charlotte. Perfect! Nothing for you to get your knickers in a twist about. So with Campbellinas, which you can put all your energy into, as that’s what you want to do, you need to concentrate on designing. Finish Sara’s blanket up until casting off and then have a go with some drawings. You are very creative too Amy Joan and with Kirsty as well, you can together design something pretty amazing. Love yourself!
1st March 2017
So I’ve made it, done it, seen it. I’ve seen my friend with her twins and her babies. Her babies that she’ll hopefully see grow up together, play together, hold, feed, go on adventures together. That’s how it should be for us but it’s not the case. That’s not how our story goes.
Yes life is cruel, the hardest thing in the world is being told that your baby, your beautiful baby isn’t going to make it out of hospital but is going to die. The living through that day is one of the scariest days. Watching your baby die, knowing that this is the last time you’ll ever hold them, feel their fingers, look into their eyes, that’s hard, that’s painful.
But then you get this feeling that everything is going to be ok, like Grandad’s sunshine hugging me. That feeling when you know she is safe. She is free. She is grateful that she felt nothing but love in her life. Her suffering has finished. You can’t change nature, you can’t stop it. If it’s going to happen it will happen. If you’re going to pull your way through and continue the fight of survival you will. Charlotte did even though she was incredibly poorly, she did it and made it home.
It’s how you continue your life. It’s important to let things go. It’s important to accept things for the way they are. To live life to the full. To talk, to smile, to cry, to look after yourself, to be proud of yourself. I am proud of myself, I have managed to pick myself up, to talk about my feelings, to get help, to show Charlotte how much I love her. To continue being the best parents to our little girl.
What have I learnt from losing Esme? I have learnt to live in the present. To have no regrets. To concentrate on the now. To TRY and not worry about the future. Worrying is normal and everyone tells me it comes with parenting. To look after myself.
My story, mine and Con’s, at the moment is to bring up Charlotte. She is amazing. We are very lucky that we have our own baby. One who is very very beautiful.
We know we are very well supported and have a lot of amazing friends and family, near and far away. They are all very proud of us. I have had so many comments to say how well I’m doing. This makes me feel happy. Yes, I will always wonder what it will be like raising two very beautiful girls but that’s only natural because that is how it should have been but nature is cruel and that choice, that life was taken away from us.
So when something is taken away from you, you have to make the most of what you’ve got. It will still hurt and I’ll probably cry when I see my friend with her twins, but they might be tears of happiness that her babies are doing great. It will take a while, maybe a long while, who knows, for that pain to ease but you don’t know how it’s going to be so just be easy on yourself. Try not to get anxious over it because you don’t know how you’ll be. Just let it be. What will be, will be.
You can’t change what has happened, nothing you can do will bring Esme back. She is where she is supposed to be, we didn’t fight nature, we let it be, we wouldn’t want her to suffer anymore than what she had to. Some things in nature are meant to be challenged if you know there is hope and happiness. Not one of suffering and pain. She is with so many loved ones, she can look down on us and I just want her to be proud of me. Proud of the way I’m bringing up her big sister, like I was proud of her. Proud of her courage, her determination, her elegance, her grace, her fight. I am proud of every little part of her as she is incredible. I have one amazing angel up there, guiding me, Connor and Charlotte through life.
I love you Esme Ann Campbell. I miss you with all my heart but you’re free and I feel proud of us that we set you free. Like the doctor said, there are different types of bravery and my little family have certainly shown we are incredibly brave.
I love you! I love my family. I love you all millions xxxx
17th March 2017
What is strength?
Strength is remembering
Strength is putting one foot in front of the other
Strength is talking
Strength is being brave, not afraid, being truthful to yourself, not hiding behind a brave face
Strength is listening to your body, asking for help.
Everything happens for a reason. Everything will be ok. In my life, everything is ok because Esme is where she is. She is at peace.
Tonight I am remembering her little basket sitting in the middle of the church, the sunlight beaming in, the knowing that I am surrounded by nothing but love. So many people love Esme. My little Esme. Maybe she was here to look after Charlotte. She fought everything that the world threw at her. But somethings you can’t fight and if you were to fight it, it wouldn’t be right and it wouldn’t be fair.
Strength is getting up in the morning, putting your makeup on, knowing you are going to have a good day; an amazing day with your little bundle but knowing that at some point, that stab, that shortness of breath it likely to hit you. The unknowing of what part in Esme’s life you will be taken back to. Today was the church. Her little basket. Knowing what she looked like inside it but too afraid to look. I didn’t need to look. She’s in my heart.
Strength is believing things will be ok. The moment you get the bad news. The feeling of being trapped. The knowing that some things won’t be ok. Facing your deepest, darkest fears and standing up to them as they unfold before your eyes.
Strength is trusting others. Understanding when you need to take it easy or ask for help or a cuddle. Strength is acknowledging when you are feeling weak and accepting it is ok to feel this way. Not fighting things but accepting. You can’t change certain things, You have to go with it. Guided by love, trust, hugs and kisses.
Everything will be ok Amy Joan even if you feel nothing but pain and a deep sadness and loneliness from losing your little girl but it will be ok.
Love you Esme Ann xxxxxxxxxx
18th August 2017
On my walk this morning I found myself pondering over Learning and Acceptance.
Life is about learning but learning to accept something that has been taken from you is hard. A close friend told me life goes on and if you don’t go with it you get left behind.
Every time I see twins, go on a new adventure, walk past a school playground or see Charlotte interact with other babies, I get lost in thoughts about what life would have been like if Esme was here. I’ll always have those thoughts but it’s important to accept this and not feel like I’m punishing myself when I let my mind wander. It’s about accepting my life for what it is now, not denying myself of any feelings and being kind to myself.
Although Esme is no longer here, her life is complete. Her life was filled with nothing but love.
That is how a life should be and I couldn’t be more proud to be Esme’s Mummy.
It was my writing that has helped me to survive grief and cope with the excruciating pain of losing a baby. It has helped me to learn how to talk to Esme and be a mother to a baby in heaven. I hope that by sharing these entries I can give some understanding of how I felt when I lost Esme. I hope to give comfort to those of you who have gone through, or are going through, similar experiences.