Many, many of these are shed by not only loss parents but also by the grandparents, family, friends and some people who are told the story of the angel.
They are not something to be hidden but often they are. Sometimes they take a long time to dry and sometimes they appear out of nowhere, even when you feel you are having a good day. However much you cry or don’t is not wrong. I have met some loss parents who are able to talk about their missing child and not let one free but then there are others who just hear a mention of their child’s name and they are sobbing.
I am glad I have moved on from the unstoppable tears. They embarrassed me as I rarely show emotion and they caused people to want to give me hugs and I don’t do hugs.
I cried so much in the days after losing my Milo, once the shock and the numbness eased off. I had days where I just wept all day. I would calm down and then someone would speak to me and then they would start again. I had horrendous headaches from them.
Seeing my dad sob over his grandson’s coffin is one image that haunts me even now and will do until the day I join my son. One of the nurses sat and cried with me the night my Milo died. She needed more consoling than I did, ( I was very numb). It showed me just how much she loved my boy and how much he would be missed by the staff. She told me that night that she doesn’t often work with the babies who come onto the ward but there was something about my son and she always asked to be in charge of him when she was on shift.
Some loss parents don’t go to have a subsequent child (rainbow). They just can’t face the thought that the loss might happen all over again or feel unable to deal with the stress that a rainbow pregnancy brings. Being pregnant again after a loss is so difficult. Every little twinge and your mind goes straight to it’s all going wrong.
Other loss parents go on to have two or three rainbow babies (no matter how many babies are in between their birth and their angel sibling they are still a rainbow). Neither way is wrong and anyone who comments negatively is a numpty.
I did go to have my rainbow baby. She was born almost two years to the day of when my Milo was born. His birthday is the 6th and hers is the 10th (such good planning).
I always say she is a subsequent child rather than my second child as my Milo was and always will be my second child. She is also not a replacement for my boy. No one could do that.
I do worry about her asking what the reasons were to have her, if it was only because her brother died. The honest answer is we would never have had her if her brother was either well or alive with all his issues. We would never have been able to cope with our eldest, Milo and an extra child. It wouldn’t have been fair to any of the children if we had done that. Milo would have been such a high needs child that his brother would have missed out on so much because I would have been dealing with his brother or he wouldn’t have seen me much as I would have been in the hospital with Milo. The thought of bringing another child into that situation fills me with fear.
Many loss parents have little (or big) rituals connected to their angel child. It could be something small to help them get through the day or something large that only happens on special days.
I don’t feel like I have a special day ritual other than I have to visit my Milo’s grave, either with his siblings or without. My living children want to make Milo a birthday cake every year now after they made this years. Not sure if they want to do something to think of their brother or just so they can have more cake.
Whenever I see a Red Kite (bird of prey not an actual kite) I will always say hi to my Milo and the kids have started to do it too. There were a nesting pair at the hospital where my Milo spent most of his days so I came to know that I was getting close to him when I could see them circling. There was also one flying around the church on the day of his funeral. It stayed around until the service was over and then it flew off as his coffin was placed back in the hearse.
I cannot sleep at night until I have looked in on my eldest to check he is ok and I have placed my hand on the door to the room that would have been my Milo’s, looked up to the sky and said goodnight to him. This ritual started while my Milo was still with us and I had the hope that one day he would come home and be sleeping under the same roof as the rest of his family.
This is something all parents need but something that doesn’t often happen in most homes. Toddlers like to make lots of noise for the sake of making noise and elder kids seem to like narrating their game playing so aren’t quiet either. Quiet time is important to anyone’s mental health. Mostly quiet time happens at night (not for the reason you are thinking 😉 ) as the kids are sleeping.
I try to find at least 10 minutes a day to be still and silent. I often think of my Milo in this time though other mundane life stuff creeps in too. Having the quiet time helps me connect to my missing son and it grounds me for that day.
My most recent quiet time was just last night. My living children had had a great day with their grandparents and cousins but were very tired. We were supposed to be visiting my Milo as a family but getting my daughter in the car once was a nightmare so I wasn’t taking her out again until we got home for love nor money. My husband took the kids for a short drive around the village while I ran up to the graveyard. Once I got there I placed his new gifts on his headstone and took a step back to look at him. I haven’t visited at night for a while and definitely not since we added his new solar lights. They add just the right amount of illumination to his grave and make the place even more serene and calm. I just stood at the bottom of his grave and closed my eyes. I could almost feel him in my arms. Sadly this quiet time abruptly ended by my husband returning with the other kids and hearing them shout for me through the car windows.
You may find that your parenting style changes considerably once you have lost one of your children. You may have been really relaxed before but are now what is considered to be a ‘helicopter’ parent, watching your child’s every move like a Red Kite or you could have been really protective and now have loosened the reins a bit because what is the worst that can happen when you have had to say goodbye to your child.
A change in your parenting style isn’t wrong, just as your parenting style staying the same with your other children isn’t wrong either. You do what you need to do to get through.
My parenting style definitely changed loads between my eldest and my youngest. He was bottle fed, in a pushchair constantly, in his own room from five months, slept away from home at five months and at nursery at twelve months. My daughter on the other hand was breast fed, co sleeps (even now at three years old), wrapped as much as I could, never spent a night away from home and she will be going to nursery but I couldn’t face sending her at twelve months. He also napped in his moses basket or cot from birth whereas her nap place was my arms or lap. I barely put her down for the first three months of her life. When people wanted a cuddle they almost had to pry her out of my arms but I freely gave over my eldest son.
I do feel bad about the differences but I can’t go back and change it unfortunately, just like I can’t go back and change the loss of my boy. You never know how you will be after a loss and how much you can cope with.
Moving onwards is not a well liked concept within the child loss journey. How can you move on from your child? How can you leave behind this small person that you love with all your heart?
One of the most well intentioned but sadly wrong thing that someone outside of the child loss experience does is telling a grieving parent to move forward from your grief, pain and loss. The non loss person might be thinking that they are helping with their rubbish platitude but moving onwards is not really something a loss parent does. You just learn to deal/cope with everything and never get over the loss.
How have I moved on?
My biggest challenge in going forward was when I had my rainbow. Having her meant that everything was going to change again and that there would be someone in my life who means the world to me but that would never meet my Milo. Having her also made me face my demons about being in hospital and giving birth. She helped my thoughts move on from birth = poorly child.
I also try and help other loss parents as much as I can. This is predominantly on line as I find it easier to not be face to face (social anxiety more that an inability to cope). I find helping someone find their feet again in this new and painful loss journey helps me keep looking forward rather than back at my loss and months of darkness. Of course helping someone who is right at the start can bring back the bad memories but they also help me see just how far I have come since losing my Milo.
After losing your child you will never be the same person you were again. You may want to be but that won’t happen. Your very being is intrinsically changed once you experience this type of loss.
You have to learn to embrace the new you. You may not like her to begin with but sadly she is here to stay. Some of the changes might be huge like an inability to see or speak to other children aged the same as your angel or small like a constant sad look in your eyes.
You may also find that your tolerance level has dropped. Mine certainly did. Before if people made mistakes in their pregnancy I wouldn’t say anything but now I can’t stop myself. I try not to use my Milo as an example but if me saying something means a baby is saved then I will talk about his loss until the cows come home. You may also find a want to help people who are in the same situation as you.
I am more willing to talk to different people now. I suffered with major social anxiety before losing my Milo. I would hardly strike up conversations with anyone. Having to meet nurse upon nurse and different doctors all the time made me have to chat to people and so that has now transferred into my life.
I also now soak up every available moment with my living children. I don’t want to miss a moment of them growing up. I used to never be bothered if my eldest went to stay at a grandparents house but now I want him under my roof at all times.
I have also found that my protectiveness of my eldest as increased but I allow my youngest an awful lot more freedom than her biggest brother had at her age. I used to follow her brother around when he went to soft play or at the park but I now sit with a coffee and chill out while she has fun. She is safe and knows where I am if she needs me. She is also a lot more confident in new situations.