At our first ever bereavement support meeting (just 3 weeks after Conor died) I was told that my address book would change following the loss of my child. It did. I had anticipated it changing anyway with the arrival of my child. I had planned to attend parent and baby groups to get to know the other mums in the area. I expected to be out less and in more. I expected to never have a quiet moment but I was left with only quiet. The silence of stillbirth is deafening.
For a long time I struggled with the sudden change in my relationships. I had never felt so lonely yet this loneliness only increased in company. I felt angry and bitter as people carried on with their seemingly complete lives. I clung to the same few people who held me as I fell. Others fell away from me. My anxiety was so high at times that I could barely leave the house. A conversation with a former colleague has stayed with me. This woman worked with bereaved parents and offered to meet me for a coffee on my return to work. When I told her how I was struggling with relationships she advised the following…
Think about the role that people in your life can play and use them for what they offer…
Those who offer emotional support
Those who offer practical support
Those who offer fun and distraction
Those with the same interests
Those who offer professional support
Nearly four years on from Conor’s death and three years on from the death of my Dear Dad I find myself reflecting on this conversation and advice in a new light. For the first couple of years living this new life I sought only emotional support. I pushed away those offering practical help as it wasn’t needed. I didn’t want fun and distraction and turned down meet ups. I needed to “wallow” in my grief such was it’s rawness. I also had to recognise that while I hoped family members would take on each of these support roles, this expectation was and is unrealistic. Each person’s personality type, cultural beliefs around grief and life experience influences the role they can comfortably play. It has been my experience that most people do not deviate from their roles.
Since moving house this year my world has got bigger as I have added to my relationships. I have found a new energy in myself with this new start. I think I have even found some of my old self. I have left behind so much of the trauma that was associated with the old house and its environs. I have left the neighbours who crossed the street to avoid the mother whose baby died. I have left the roads that we drove along that fateful bad news day. I have left the location of the life that I thought I’d be living. For the first time I have friends who are parents of living children the same age as Conor’s brother. For the first time I feel I too can contribute to parenting discussions regarding living children (though I have no advice when it comes to getting a toddler to sleep through the night!!). I have set up a book club for book (and wine) loving women in my new neighbourhood. I am busy living and finding enjoyment in this new life. It doesn’t take away the sadness but I no longer feel so lonely or bitter. Somehow it is all made easier because I have no expectations of the new people I meet. For the first time since Conor died I have looked for people to fill the fun/distraction/practical roles. I do not seek or need to have emotional support from these new relationships. I continue to have my little group of “go to” people; Conor’s Daddy, my amazing sister, my little army of girlfriends and my loss mum friends who say “me too”…to name a few. These are the people I am grateful to for keeping me going. They are the people I turn to when I need that emotional connection. I know in the coming weeks as I face into Conor’s & Dad’s anniversaries that I’ll be leaning just a little bit more on each of them. I also know that the relationship is reciprocated as I take on the role of emotional support in their lives.
Back to baking…. the new oven has been used for bread, cake and biscuits. I continue to find peace while following a recipe and my sweet tooth is satisfied with the results. This is a recipe I found online for use with the bundt tin I treated myself to with a voucher for my birthday. It looks like a star shape to me and I love to find this connection with Conor. This cake is a delicious blend of almond and chocolate. It has been baked with love for friends old and new…