Guest post by Tina Thurtel, Sands Queensland Committee President
My first Mother’s Day was brutal after my baby, Willow, died. My partner was thoughtful enough to include Willow’s name on my card. It was bittersweet. I felt like crying all day. Mother’s Day was no longer a happy day for me, it was a harsh reminder of all that I had lost. I couldn’t see that it was ever going to get any better.
I will never forget my daughter’s anguished cry over the phone “I’ve lost the baby”. She was 29 weeks into her pregnancy and we all had a sense that nothing could go wrong now. A previous pregnancy had sadly ended at 10 weeks. But now so much had been prepared, the baby shower planning was under way and I had booked my flight to be there.
I flew to be with her that day and there she was – everything still looked so normal but nothing would ever be ‘normal’ again. The pain that she and her husband were experiencing was palpable.
As mother, mother-in-law and grandmother-to- be, my grief was for all three and yet I knew that I needed to put them first.
I work in an area of grief and loss and over the years I attempted to support and comfort many a parent whose baby or small child has died. Yet nothing prepares you for the very personal experience. And nothing helps you find the ‘right words’ to say. It’s best remembered that there are no right words but there are certainly some wrong ones.
Charlotte was born in the early hours of July 1st 2011 – a perfectly formed and beautiful little girl. During labour my daughter asked “why do I have to go through this?” but afterwards she knew. She had given birth to her first child and she and her husband would have those memories, however painful, to sustain them.
I’m a photographer, so I asked their permission to capture some images of this beautiful baby. My daughter tells me she is so pleased that she has them and was able to use them for an exquisite slide show for the funeral one never wants to have. She has used the photos in many ways and I have my own little album that I can sit and look at. As a result, I felt that I wanted to do something to honour Charlotte’s memory so have become a Heartfelt photographer. Hopefully I am at least able to give people some images that they can share with others and provide them with valuable memories of a child that will always
There is a saying that a “grandparent grieves twice” – once for their child and again for their grandchild. There is a sense of helplessness knowing that nothing you do will make it better. The most important thing we can do is be there and support our children’s decisions and actions.
I saw a poster a while ago and it said,
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”
I know that rings very true for my family and for many others who have been through similar experiences. We don’t always have to be ‘strong’ and it is so important to let the tears flow and feel the emotions, as even that takes a particular type of strength.
I look at my daughter and her husband with immense pride at their courage, their love and their joy in Charlotte’s sister, Rosalyn, who was born 14 months later after a very anxious pregnancy and an amazing birth.
Both little girls will always have a very special place in my heart.
Sands supports anyone effected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after. For those wanting to connect with other bereaved parents or grandparents Sands offers several online support groups through their Facebook page. Find further information about Sands support services at Support at Sands.
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