Monday, 20 November 2017

When we meet a family we are supporting there seems to be a common factor that all of them describe.


There are so many bereaved families out there that are struggling everyday of their lives since their baby or child died with anxiety. 

There are many different levels of anxiety an we see that with our clients. 

Some will experience mild anxiety where they struggle to do certain activities but it doesn't impact on their day to day life in to much of a negative way.
Others describe anxiety that can impact on their daily routines and they may need someone with them to enable them to get out and about to keep up with their shopping etc.

Then there are the families, and we see many of these, that are really struggling with anxiety. It is often so severe that they do not feel able to carry on with any day to day activities. 
Many describe feeling that they never want to get up out of bed let alone contemplate getting dressed and meeting anyone. 
It can often be difficult to even feel like they want to see their family, often because they feel that they will have to put on a front and try to act 'normal'.

Anxiety can become totally debilitating and at its worst can lead on to feelings of wanting to self harm or even commit suicide. I have had people say to me that they would rather be with their child than try to keep going without them.

This is when it is so important that these families have the help and support they need when they need it, even if that is the middle of the night. This support doesn't necessarily have to be from professionals, often there will be a friend or a charity that can be there to help them through the crisis. 

If you know a family or are part of a family that has lost a baby or child please keep looking out for each other, anxiety can not only affect the parents but any family member.

Helping a friend or family member realise that they need extra support can be a true life saver. Taking that first step of reaching out for help and support can be extremely difficult but knowing someone is there to pick you up when you fall can really help to seek extra support. 

Often having someone with you can make you realise that you are not 'going mad'. This is something we here a lot of, families that feel that they should be ok by now, so are putting to much pressure on themselves to 'get over it'.

One thing we have come to realise since Charlies death is that you don't get over it, you learn to live your life differently whilst always finding a way to include your baby/child. 

If families allow themselves to grieve, for however long it takes, they can often see that there can be a future ahead. It won't be easy and many will always experience anxiety but with the right help, support and friendship there can be a way forward.

A friendly face can make a big difference, so never underestimate how much you can help just by being there.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The decision to have a baby can be a difficult one to make for any family, there are always the worries of how will they cope financially, will they be able to cope with the new life they have bought into the world and how their relationship will change after the birth.

This decision is made so much more difficult when the couple have experienced the loss of a baby or child.

Some will make the decision to try again as soon as possible, often because they feel an enormous gap that they need to fill. Others will be feeling that they will never want to try again as they can't imagine going through another loss and can not see that a further pregnancy could be a positive experience.

There are the families that may have had fertility problems and the thought of having to go through any more heartache is too much to comprehend.

When a family has lost a baby or child they may also be faced with having to wait for genetic testing or postmortem results. The lady may have also had to go through a surgical procedure and her body is adjusting after that. Some ladies also find that it may take some time for their hormones to return to normal an their periods to return.

All of these things makes another pregnancy feel very daunting.

Talking with your consultant, GP or midwife can be a good way of getting your fears and worries out in the open and they can try to allay some of them. 

Talking is so important.

Once you have become pregnant again it can be the beginning of 9 months of worry and fear. Although you are happy and excited to be pregnant again many women say that they are constantly worrying that the same thing will happen again. 

Families that have lost a baby during pregnancy, at birth or shortly after birth and become pregnant again will usually be supported by the hospital and midwife and monitored very closely. Whilst this can help you feel more secure it will never take away the fear altogether.

Many of the families we have supported and that have gone on to become pregnant again speak of how difficult it can be returning to the hospital for their scans. They want to see their baby but the thoughts of their last experiences come flooding back and they feel full of dread. 
Often they will not be able to start to 'enjoy' the pregnancy until they have passed the point when they lost their other baby. There will be many difficult trigger points throughout the pregnancy and each one will be just as difficult to get through.
When families are given the right support throughout, this time can become a positive experience.

A common thing that we hear is that they will never feel relaxed until they have their baby in their arms, healthy and crying. 
Many families have gone on to have another baby and whilst they are so delighted and happy they will never forget the child they lost. The new baby will never replace that child and the family always includes their angel baby in every aspect of their life.

If you know a family that is currently going through a loss or has gone on to have another baby please remember to talk to them about their lost child, it really can make a difference to them.
Also if they do not seem to be receiving the help and support they need please either get in touch with us or tell them that we are here for them whenever they need us.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

When you go into the hospital for any reason you always have certain expectations about the care you will receive. 

You expect to have a named nurse in charge of your care and a consultant that will coordinate and prescribe the right medication required. When it comes to the time to be discharged again you expect that you will be sent home with the tablets you need, a follow up appointment and possibly even an appointment for the district nurse to visit to change a dressing or remove some stitches. You would even expect that your GP will be informed of your admission and treatment you received.

Why is it then that when you have experienced the most devastating loss of losing your baby or child that some families are still being sent home with nothing more than a big brown envelope filled with leaflets, leaflets that will probably never be read and will end up being filed in a draw.

I can almost comprehend it when a family has come in through an emergency that they could slip through the net, but even then this is unacceptable. 
But when a family have been going along to prenatal appointments and scans because their baby is unwell or diagnosed with a life limiting illness during pregnancy how can they be overlooked and almost forgotten by the people who are paid to be there to help.
Families that have found out only hours before admission that their beautiful baby has died before birth are usually given the care and emotional support they need to help them get through the birth and the next few hours but then once they leave the safety of the hospital ward many are having to struggle on alone.

Since we set up our charity we have been honoured to meet and talk to many families going through their loss. Many have spoken about the good level of support they received but many more have explained that they too were discharged home and left to their own devices. 

This is totally unacceptable and it saddens my heart to see that things have not improved since we lost Charlie.

There is a difference in the levels of care received by families in different parts of the country and we are currently trying to find out the standards of care from as many different hospitals across the UK. We are also interested in finding out which counties have bereavement midwives and comprehensive bereavement support.

Unfortunately we know and understand how devastating the loss of a baby can be and we saw first hand the impact of no follow up support had on Charlies mummy. 
To think that nearly 5 years down the line the standards of care upon discharge have not improved.

Something has got to happen to ensure that no family should ever have to go through child or baby loss alone. We will never stop campaigning for improvements and we ask that everyone who comes across our charity to do that as well and make bereavement support a major topic for discussion.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

I am a bereaved grandparent. I am one of the thousands of grandparents out there trying to keep on with their lives every day whilst never forgetting their grandchild.

The relationship between grandparent and grandchild is a very special one, you are able to be part of their lives without having to deal with the day to day drama's. You are able to spend time with them doing fun activities and you are almost expected to 'spoil' them.

When a grandchild dies the grandparents grieve deeply too. They grieve not just for their grandchild but also they share in the grief with their child. Many grandparents describe the feeling of helplessness, they want to grieve for their grandchild but they also want to support their child as they are going through their grief.

When a parent or a grandparent loses a child they also lose a part of their futures that the child would have made. All will grieve but they will all grieve very differently.

When parents experience the death of their child they will probably grieve very differently to each other, this is also true for the grandparents. Often relationships can become strained and they could come into conflict over how each other is dealing with the death. This doesn't mean that one of them is grieving better than than the other. There is not one right way to grieve and everyone has to find a way that they can cope.

Sometimes just understanding that we all grieve differently can help a grandparent to understand and support their child through this heartbreaking time.

When you read books about grief or google it many sites/books say that there are 5 stages to grieving. 
Whilst I understand there are many feelings that everyone will experience I do not agree that everyone experiences all the same emotions, not everyone will experience the same feelings and they definitely will not experience them at the same time as another member of the family.
Grief isn't rational or orderly and although most people will experience similar emotions and feelings they will never be the same.

Sometimes grandparents may describe it as feeling like they are grieving twice, once for their precious grandchild and then for their child who will not be the same person they were before the death. 

Death can also make you look at your own mortality or start to become anxious that they will lose another grandchild/child. 
I know that I definitely did and still do have periods when I can be troubled by dreams or intrusive thoughts about my other grandchildren dying. I have never really spoken to anyone in detail about this as you feel that people will not understand or will think you are going 'mad'. I think at times I did even wonder if I was going crazy.

The important thing to remember is that what ever you are experiencing it is OK, we all have to find our own ways to cope and no matter what it is it is right for you.

Another important thing is to realise and recognise when you need extra help. It is not 'giving up' by going to your GP and asking for help, it takes a lot of inner strength to be able to take those first steps and you have to do what is best for you. 

There are also other agencies that are out there to support bereaved families, ours being one of them. Sometimes just being able to talk openly about your child/grandchild with someone that you know really does understand how you feel can be like a weight being lifted from your shoulders.

Never feel that you have to go through this alone, there are people out there that are there for you and want to be there for you.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

We have found that making memories is so important to any family but to the family that is dealing with a life limiting diagnosis, a miscarriage or a stillbirth memories become even more important.

If a family has been given the devastating news that their baby is unlikely to either survive birth or will pass away shortly after birth they need to make as many memories as is possible in the short time they have. 

Some families choose to have a 4D scan so they are able to see their child's face and get to know them during the short but precious time they have with them. At a 4D scan the family will also be provided with a disc of the scan for them to keep along with a teddy bear containing a recording of their babies heartbeat.

Many families will begin to make a memory box for them to keep all the special things they receive before and after their child's arrival.  

There are now some amazing charities out there that will also come along to take photographs with the family to help them make and record memories during those hours that they have together. These pictures can be so special and important to the family and will bring comfort to them in the years to come. 

We found a kit that enabled us to make an impression of Charlies hands and feet, I saw similar sets that parents could buy that were from making imprint in clay to having them bronzed. 
There are also companies that will take a cast of the mums pregnancy belly and make it into a solid cast for them to treasure forever.

After the loss of a baby or child there are places that allow them the opportunity to have some of their baby's ashes placed into jewellery as a permanent memorial. This is a lovely way for the mum and dad to always have a special part of their baby with them forever.

Because child loss, miscarriage and stillbirth are becoming more easy to talk about with others, and many celebrities have come forward to talk about their experiences, the subject is becoming less taboo and there is beginning to be many more ways for families to make their special memories.

Every family will build their own special memories and in many different ways. 
If you know a family or are part of a family that is currently having to cope with this awful loss maybe spend some time finding ways that you can help or enable them to make memories. This could be by collecting things together for them to have as a keepsake, this could be a candle, a teddy bear, a special poem or a song.

We all go through our lives making memories and often spend time reflecting on them and feeling safe and warm in them.
Bereaved families also need to make as many memories as possible but in a short space of time which can be exhausting and draining. 

Their memories are so important as they will be the only ones they will be able to make with their child.

We would love to hear about the ways you or your family have been able to make memories. Knowing other ways we can pass on to families we support is really helpful.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

October 9th - 15th has been Baby Loss Awareness week across the world, culminating with the Wave of Light this evening at 7pm.

We know that not everyone will be able to make it to an event due to many reasons, from work to family commitments, so we ask that where possible you can light a candle for an hour between 7 - 8pm.
If you know someone who has lost their baby or child and are unable to light a candle please try and light an extra one for their angel.

Becoming a bereaved family is something no one ever wants to become but once you are you become part of this 'family' that understands and appreciates the pain people are in. You will not be judged nor criticised for how you grieve and you will always be able to find someone who wants to talk about your angels.

Going along to a memorial event today can be the first step for some families in seeking help and support. Even if you are not a religious family just getting together with other bereaved families can make a big difference. Not all events are held in churches if this is something that could deter you from going, and many events can be found on social media or local newspaper websites.

Charlies-Angel-Centre Foundation are going along to the Candle Lighting for Miscarriages, Stillbirths & Infant loss event to be held at Church of the Epipheny, Beech Lane, Gipton, Leeds. The event starts at 18.45 till 20.00. We will be there to light candles for our own precious angels as well as being available for support for any of the families attending.

There will be thousands of events like this all across the world and at each there will be many many candles lit. If all those lights could be seen together I'm sure all our angels would be able to see them and feel how much they are all missed and loved.

Charlie Arthur Curtis - born at 04.11am on the 29th December 2012 and gained his angel wings 19 minutes later at 04.30 in the arms of his mummy. He was and always will be a very special little boy who was so greatly loved by all of his family and is missed every single day. Charlie and his mummy have inspired so many people to fight for improvements to bereavement support following the death of a baby or child and his legacy will live on for many years to come.

Our candles will shine brightly for you tonight Charlie

Sunday, 8 October 2017

We are supporting so many more families each and every week and one of the most frequent things we get asked is Can you get through this feeling of total and utter despair.

What we always tell them is you're entitled to whatever feeling that comes up. You may feel intense anger, guilt, denial, sorrow, and fear, all of which are normal for a bereaved parent.
Nothing is off the table, nothing is wrong. If the urge to cry comes up, just do it. Give yourself permission to feel.
Keeping your emotions bottled up is just way too hard. If you keep your emotions inside, you'll only make yourself feel worse about the saddest thing you have ever experienced. It's perfectly natural and even healthy to let yourself feel everything you can about this loss, because this will put you on the path to accepting it.

You won't ever fully be able to get over it, but you'll be able to build the strength to deal with the death of your child. If you don't embrace your feelings, you won't be able to move forward.
There is also no timetable to your grieving process. Every individual is just that: an individual. Bereaved parents may experience many of the same emotions and difficulties; however, each parent's journey is different depending on personality and life circumstances and experiences.

When you go on your computer or read a book about bereavement it always used to give you 5 stages of grief that begin with denial and end with acceptance. We know from experience that this does not happen, yes you will possibly experience a lot of the emotions but many will go through many different feelings. New thinking is that there is no series of steps to be completed in the grieving process. Instead, people experience a grab bag of feelings and symptoms that come and go and eventually lift.

Because the grieving process is so personal to each individual, couples sometimes find themselves at odds because they can't understand the other's way of dealing with the loss. Understand that your spouse may have different coping mechanisms than you do and allow him or her to grieve in the way that suits them.

During the grieving process, many people will experience a state of numbness. In this state, the world may seem like a dream or seem to go on separate from them. People and things that once brought happiness evoke nothing at all. This state could pass quickly or linger for a while, it's the body's way of offering protection from overwhelming emotions. With time, feelings and connections will return.

For many, the numbness begins to wear off after the first anniversary of your child's death, and then true reality can hit very hard.

Many parents say that the second year is the most difficult.

Some parents find the thought of returning to work unbearable while others prefer to throw themselves into the daily activity and challenges that work offers. Find out what the bereavement policy is at your workplace before making your decision. Some companies also offer employees paid personal days or the opportunity to take an unpaid leave.

Don't allow fear of letting your company down force you to return to work before you're ready. When someone we love dies, we lose the ability to concentrate or focus, your brain doesn't work right when your heart is broken.

Try to wait at least one year before making any major decisions. Don't sell your house, change locations, divorce a partner or alter your life significantly. Wait until the fog has lifted, and you can clearly see the options available to you.

Be careful of impulsive decision-making in daily life. Some people adopt a "Life is short" philosophy that pushes them to take unnecessary risks in the living of their lives to the fullest.

If you find comfort in your faith, turn to it now to help in your grief.

Some families we have helped have said that the loss of their child had damaged their religious beliefs, and that's okay.

In time, you may find that you are able to return to your faith.

The phrase "Time heals all wounds" may sound like a meaningless cliche, but the truth is that you will recover from this loss in time.

Initially, memories will hurt you to your core, even the good ones, but at some point that will begin to change, and you'll come to cherish those memories. They'll bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

It’s important to know that it's okay to take time off from grieving; to smile, laugh and enjoy life. This does not mean you're forgetting your child that would be impossible.

While your impulse may be to blame yourself for what's happened, resist the urge. There are simply things that happen in life and nature that cannot be controlled. Beating yourself up about what you could have, would have, should have done is counterproductive to healing.

For some parents, all they want to do is to sleep. Others find themselves pacing the floors at night and staring blankly at the TV. The death of a child takes an extreme toll on the body. Science has shown that a loss this big is similar to a major physical injury, so you absolutely need rest. Give in to the urge to sleep if you have it, otherwise, try to establish a night time routine that can help ease you into a good night's sleep.

Sometimes, in the days immediately following your child's death, relatives, and friends may bring you food so that you don't have to cook. Do your best to eat a little each day in order to keep up your strength.

It's difficult to deal with negative emotions and everyday activities when you're physically weak.

Eventually, you will return to making your own meals. Keep it simple. Bake a chicken or make a big pot of soup that can last for a few meals.

Whether or not you're finding it difficult to eat, try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Sip on a cup of soothing tea or keep a refillable water bottle with you. Dehydration is physically draining, and your body is already being drained enough.

While it's understandable that you may want to blot out the memory of your child's death, excessive use of alcohol and drugs can aggravate depression and create a whole new set of problems to deal with.

Some parents find that a sleep aid is a necessity, and that anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication helps them better cope. There are many varieties of these medications, and finding the right one that works best can be a daunting task, and one best undertaken with the help of your doctor. Work with your doctor to find what works for you and to make a plan for how long you'll be on medication.

It's not uncommon for friends to pull away during this grieving period. Some people simply do not know what to say, and those that are parents may feel uncomfortable with the reminder that the loss of a child is possible. If friends urge you to get over your grief you may want to distance yourself from them for a while whilst you deal with your grief.

Knowing that you're not alone in your grief and that others are facing similar challenges can be comforting. Bereavement support groups for parents are available in many communities. These groups offer a number of benefits including the chance to tell your story in a supportive, non-judgemental environment, a decreased feeling of isolation and people who validate and normalise each other's emotional reactions. We have been running a support group for the past 2 years and families have said to us that they have found them really useful.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, a time to honour and remember babies who died during pregnancy or as newborns. Each of us will find our own way of honouring our angels, whether it is lighting a candle or releasing a balloon.

This month is a time when we could all reach out and support other families that we can see are struggling or someone who just needs a friend to talk to.