Sunday, 10 December 2017

This Thursday, 14th December, is our second Christmas Memorial Service at St Cross church in Middleton, Leeds.


Last years service was a wonderful evening and provided somewhere for so many families to come together to honour and remember their angels. 

This year we are hoping that it will be just as successful or even more. 
Over the last 12 months we have met so many more families and have been able to support them in their loss. 

Our charity always aims to help and support bereaved families but we have found that the families we have helped go on to become friends rather than acquaintances. Coming together at this very difficult time of year for bereaved families is such a special way of everyone being able to help each other. There is no one there that will not understand the struggles that people are going through.

We have all been busy making sure that everything is ready, from the baubles for the tree, the special gifts for everyone who attends and the prizes for the raffle.




We are very fortunate to work with and alongside some amazing people who give so much of their time and energy to our charity and without them we would definitely find it harder to do everything we currently do. There have been some wonderful donations made to us for raffle prizes, Beaverbrooks Jewellers staff have agreed to come along to provide refreshments for everyone and we are delighted and excited that a local singer has agreed to come along to sing for us. 



We hope that you are all able to come along to the service. There will be many of us there from the charity if you need to talk to anyone about support you may need or just to have a chat to.

Whilst the evening is not predominantly to raise funds for us, any  money raised from the event will enable us to continue to provide the free support and help we currently give.

Christmas can be a very difficult and lonely time for families and if we can help make the holidays a little less traumatic for them we will do.

Charlie Arthur Curtis has already made a huge impact on the face of bereavement support and we couldn't be any prouder of our special little boy.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

December is always a difficult month for our family since we lost Charlie. 

Back in December 2012 we were all still busy getting ready for the festive season and were trying to stay strong for Carrie. 
None of us expected that we would meet Charlie in December, his due date had been 22nd February, so we thought we would still have several more weeks with him safe inside his mummy. We all shared our Christmas day with each other and even when Carrie had some stomach twinges we didn't think that it was Charlie getting ready to join us.

Charlie however had very different ideas.

Throughout Carrie's pregnancy, when we went along to her regular scans, Charlie always showed us how strong and courageous he was. The first thing we would always see was his strong little heart pumping away, this always gave us that slight glimmer of hope. Questions would whirl around your head, how could this little baby with such a strong heart beat be so poorly.
None of us were under the illusion that things were going to end positively but it definitely made it harder when you could see him moving slightly and grinding his gums. All of us hoped that Charlie would be the baby to beat the odds of this awful condition.

Christmas is always portrayed as a happy time when everyone gets together and shares happy times, even putting aside any bad feelings or arguments.

We know that this is not always the case. 

Whilst we were in the hospital there were families there all celebrating and excitedly sharing their news,but we also know that there were also several families there that were going through the same as us. 
They were suddenly faced with having to say hello and goodbye to their baby, they were in a place where they could hear other people welcome their babies into the world. Some families, including us, had to remain on the delivery suite hearing babies crying as they took their first breaths. 
We know that this was not what the staff would have wanted for us but the specialist bereavement suite was full. This in itself was heartbreaking as this meant there were several other families that were trying to come to terms with the death of their child.The only way we could be moved round to the Rosemary Suite was when a family made that heartbreaking decision to go home, leaving their baby behind.

Since our own experiences we have come to realise just how many families are affected by baby/child loss across the country. If you have never been touched by a loss you wouldn't even begin to imagine how many families are dealing with this on a daily basis.

All of those families are currently trying to keep functioning through the Christmas and New Year whilst never forgetting their precious 'angels'.

If you are part of a family that has lost their baby/child please try and be gentle on yourselves. Don't worry if you don't feel like celebrating or getting together with friends and family. If you are not able to send out cards, that is ok, you already have enough going around your brain without the extra worry of joining in with the tradition of card sending. Give yourself the space to grieve without worrying.

If you know a family that are trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other over this festive season please don't put extra pressure on them by expecting them to want to join in. 
If you don't get a card or present it isn't personal, they are probably not even able to think about going out to the shops.
If they do want to come along to any family events be ready to share with them the memories of their child. They will probably want to share with you but may feel worried to do so.

Everyone feels awkward when it comes to talking about death and the death of a baby even more so.

It is important to acknowledge and respect what they feel able to join in with, they are still the same person they were before but they now carry their grief with them. 
The person doesn't change but their emotions, experiences and outlook on life almost certainly will. Many families say that they now see what is actually important in their lives and the things that used to worry them no longer do.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

We have reached that time of year when it feels like everyone is out there getting excited for the festivities ahead whilst you are sat at home wondering how you are going to get through it again.

Already I am seeing houses with their decorations up and Christmas tree's standing proud. All the shops are full of every present you could ever imagine buying and many that you think why would anyone buy them.

The TV is now full of Christmas things from presents to the food, and supermarkets & shops compete to have the best Christmas advert. Radios have began to bring out all the old songs and we are forever hearing 'Wish it could be Christmas everyday' from now until the 26th December.

Work colleagues have already planned the Christmas work 'do' and the talk is of the new outfits being bought for the night.

Christmas cards will soon start arriving through the letterbox and you will be sitting thinking that maybe you should be writing yours. Panic will start to kick in for people and they will begin to stress that they have not got all the presents they need to buy and that they will not have enough food for those relatives that could turn up over the holidays.

There is however a group of people that now dread the festivities and the excitement that Christmas used to bring.

The grieving families feel bombarded with the constant reminders of the pain they feel from the loss of their baby or child. They see everywhere families out together celebrating the festive season whilst they can only sit back and wish that they were able to join in.

Often bereaved families will shut themselves away and try to shut out the holiday noise. Many will begin to resent this time of year and may even end up hating Christmas as it brings up to many painful reminders for them.   
 If there are other children it can become difficult as you have to keep up with the celebrations for their sake and you want them to have a wonderful time and make memories for their futures. Many families say that they feel like they just go into automatic pilot and try to make it into a magical time for their children whilst never forgetting to include their lost child into the day.

There are so many beautiful memorial gifts that are now readily available to buy and these can really make a difference as it allows the family a way of being able to still buy their child a gift.

Every year since we lost Charlie I have always made sure that I go and buy a new bauble for our tree that is 'Charlie's bauble'.
I know other families that have also bought new decorations in honour of their loved one and either hang it in the house or take it to their child's grave. 

When it comes to Christmas day I think that every family will find a way for them to get through the day, whether that be spending time alone, with other family members or visiting their child's grave or favourite place. Whatever you choose to do is the right thing for you.
A grieving family should never feel that they are being judged for how they want to spend this time. It is a very difficult time for them without the added pressure of feeling that people disagree with how they deal with it. 

The best thing family and friends can do is to let the grieving family know that they are there for them when and if they want them. Let them know that your door is always open for them to come along for a drink, a mince pie or even a hug.

Please don't let a grieving family feel alone or that they have no one to reach out to at this festive time, always give them the option to join in even if they don't end up taking it. Sometimes just knowing that you are there for them will be enough.

If you are a grieving don't feel that you have to join in with all the celebrations just for the sake of it but also don't feel guilty if you do want to go and join in.  

Christmas can be difficult for any family, the extra money worries and family gatherings but adding in a bereavement can make it even harder. 

So let's all try and show each other an extra bit of compassion this year and stop putting extra pressure on ourselves and others to be 'OK'.

Monday, 20 November 2017

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

Anxiety

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.

Charlies-Angel-Centre.org.uk