My history with grief
Up until Esme died, I was very fortunate that the only grief I had experienced was that of losing three grandparents.
My MayMay (my Grandad’s partner) died when I was quite young. I have many fond memories of her and remember being very upset when I heard that she had died but I found I accepted it ok.
Losing my Nanna (my Mum’s mother) was very difficult and upsetting. I was in my final placement for my teaching degree and had to battle through completing my course and coping with losing my grandparent. My Nanna’s was the first funeral that I ever attended. I cried from start to finish. The hardest thing was seeing my Grampy (Nanna’s husband) cry. I’d never seen him without a smile on his face. I also felt a sense of relief and compassion, knowing that she was no longer suffering anymore and was at peace.
I found out my Grandad had died on returning home from a girlie holiday. He reached the incredible age of 94 years and was amazing. I didn’t cry for him like I did for my Nanna. The tears weren’t there. The hardest thing about losing my Grandad was hearing my Dad cry, heavy heartfelt tears, in the days leading up to his funeral. I didn’t cry much at the funeral and felt greatly comforted by the bright rays of sunshine that shone so brightly through the stained glass windows. The fact that I didn’t cry for him like I did for my Nanna confused me. I couldn’t work out why I hadn’t cried much and also I felt as if I should have cried a lot more. I spent many months wondering if I was just numb, when the tears would come and when the grief of losing him would hit me. Over two years went by until one Friday evening in our first house, Connor and I were onto our second bottle of wine and listening to a random selection of songs from the past. The title of the song played at my Grandad’s funeral popped into my head and as we listened to it, tears began to spill. It was also the song I remembered my Dad listening to and crying at in the days before the funeral. It felt a relief to have a good cry, I had been waiting for those tears. As far as I can remember this is the only time I have really cried for his loss. He’s never far from my mind and I have so many precious memories of him to cherish that I feel I don’t need to cry.
Every loss that I had encountered, including my pet dogs, had been in the natural order and due to old age. Although I cried many sad tears that they were no longer with me, I hadn’t felt pain in my heart like I did with losing Esme.
For almost the first year after Esme died my heart felt broken.
Credit; Remember My Baby
On the 30th September, 2016, a month after Esme died, I wrote in my diary, “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?”
During the times when I cried for her, my heart it was physically hurting and aching and my chest felt heavy. Sometimes I felt as if someone had reached into my chest and was twisting it, at other times the pain came from deep down and I ached with longing to have her back with me. The pain brought with it sickness and shortness of breath. I wanted to roll into a ball to protect myself from the pain worsening but felt too helpless and unable to do anything but hide my eyes.
In January 2017, five months after losing Esme, I could no longer cope with the sadness I felt in my heart and realised I needed professional help. Despite the amazing joy that Charlotte brought me, I felt unable to lift my heavy heart, smile without feeling it was forced and enjoy being the mother I had longed to be. It was a time when I have never felt less like myself. I felt as if I had read about the ‘old me’ in a story, a story about a girl who once smiled, laughed and had fun with her friends and family. I longed to have a glimpse of that happiness again and longed for my heart not to feel broken.
Will my heart feel whole again?
In March 2017, I started bereavement counselling. I felt that a weight had been lifted. I was on the right path to remembering who I was before having Charlotte and Esme prematurely and I had found a way to help me cope with the pain of losing my baby.
After a few months, I remember talking to the counsellor about how my heart continued hurting so much for Esme. I was scared of feeling this pain forever and my heart never being whole again. For me, my broken heart was a sad heart and I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with such great sadness.
During that session, I asked the counsellor, “Will my heart ever feel whole again?” She replied, “I don’t know, Amy, what do you think?” I thought about how happy and full of life I felt on my wedding day, I thought about the many moments of joy I had shared with Charlotte and I thought about what Esme’s life had taught me, to be strong, courageous, brave and selfless. I answered, “Yes, in time, I do think my heart will be whole again.” The counsellor concluded, “Well there you go, you have your answer, one day your heart will be whole again.” And that was all I needed to hear. It gave me hope and inspiration to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to be kind to myself and to not put any pressure on myself to hurry that day along.
Pregnancy after loss
There were many reasons why I felt the need to have another baby, I love being a mother, I wanted the chance to show, to myself more than anyone, that I could carry a baby to full term. I couldn’t ignore the fact that my heart pined for another baby to hold and the broodiness I felt was so strong that it was matter of “needing” another baby rather than “wanting” another baby.
I also felt that there was an uncomfortable need to have another baby to help “fix” my broken heart, but I didn’t like feeling that way. I felt uneasy. It was unfair to put this pressure on a newborn baby, so I tried to concentrate on not overthinking things and remember that it was perfectly natural to want more than one baby.
Today, I am now in my third trimester with my second pregnancy and feel so relieved that I understand how it feels for my heart to be whole again before he is born. To know that I have done it myself makes me feel so proud of how far I have come. It is very reassuring to know I have formed a framework of strength, belief and hope before he arrives.
Never giving up on hope
I have never rushed into hoping that the day will come when I can say “yes, my heart does feel whole again.” After that discussion with the counsellor I knew that it would happen but like many things, it would take time. There was no hurry for that day to come. I couldn’t wave a magic wand to heal my heart nor did I want to. I wanted and needed to take that journey and find my own path of healing.
A year after Esme died and after experiencing all her anniversaries for the first time, I began to know what true happiness felt like. I’m not talking about just feeling happy because the spring sun is finally shining after a long, cold, harsh winter, but the kind of happiness that comes from my heart.
Without losing Esme, I would never have known what it feels like to have my heart shattered but I also would never have experienced the meaning of true happiness.
The first time I felt this happiness was on 24th September, 2017. I was sitting in our garden in the late afternoon sunshine and watching Connor play with Charlotte. That day I had become the owner of a Shetland pony called Ben. It was a day which I thought would never happen and when so many dreams came true. When Charlotte and Esme were born a close family friend said “When the girls come home, Ben is all theirs”. To this day, I still feel like the luckiest girl to have my own pony and one that Charlotte can enjoy learning to ride.
This moment of happiness gave me hope and belief that my heart was slowly healing.
I feel stronger and happier now than I have ever felt. Although there are many times when I feel great sadness at not having Esme here and I miss her terribly, I know my heart is full of love and no longer feels the hurt or pain it did during the grief-stricken times in the year that followed her death.
I have found so much love raising Charlotte and seeing the progress she is making, but for many months I felt torn and guilty for feeling such happiness when mixed with such despair for Esme. With the support of a close friend, I have learnt that I am allowed to feel both full of life and love and joy as well as missing Esme. Those two things can totally coexist.
I will never know when grief is hiding just around the corner but what I do know is that I am able to cope when it does hit and grips me tightly. I have learnt that it is ok to cry those heart wrenched tears. Those tears are often because I just miss her and feel a longing for one more time, one more cuddle, one more kiss. The tears don’t mean I am broken but signify that I am human and a mother who has loved and continues to love her baby who has died.
I have lived and experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows and have found great comfort in knowing what it feels like to experience pure love, happiness and loss. Losing a baby has given me a different perspective on life and one that I am grateful for. It is reassuring to know that I can still experience great joy after so much grief and suffering.
I am looking forward to welcoming my next journey. This baby boy’s arrival will bring with it a new chapter in our lives. We will soon become a family of five and although we will be a family of four on this earth, I know that Esme’s legacy will always be shining through.