I have put together a short list of things I found helpful following Ollie’s death, when I was absolutely desperate, that brought me comfort or made my life slightly easier. These may not be right for everyone; everyone has different ideas and feelings but this is what I found helped me 🙂 I highly recommend speaking to a counsellor or getting support from trained professionals, SANDS have a free helpline to call where you can speak to a befriender. The team are available to speak to on the telephone from 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 6pm to 9pm Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
- Do puzzles – In the weeks that followed Ollie’s death I had severe anxiety (which reached such a pitch so one evening I went to hospital) and flashbacks from the PTSD I was suffering from. To occupy my mind I bought puzzle books, simple puzzles that didn’t require too much thought but kept my brain active. They work as a very good distraction technique and can be done anywhere – I recommend Arrowword, Wordsearches and Picture pointers or even Words with Friends on your phone. I swore by them. I found that colouring in or watching television wasn’t a good enough distraction for my mind. They’re super cheap from any supermarket, newsagent or Amazon.
- You are allowed to talk about your baby, don’t be afraid of that – If your grief makes people uncomfortable, sadly that’s their issue. Your child is a person and just because they aren’t physically present doesn’t mean they aren’t with you. It is your baby and your grief and your loss, talk away.
- Find something that makes you smile – I know this may sound impossible, I thought so too at first, but around 4 weeks after Ollie died I stumbled across Zepplin Moon on my friends Instagram page. The artist creates pictures of animals such as Sloths, Stoats, Walruses and Otters with funny captions, some of them have beautiful quotes on too. I ordered a print for my dressing room and a friend sent me her book, now every time I feel a little low and need a quick pick me up I look at her Instagram page. It never fails to raise even a small smile.
- Go outside into nature – Again, I know this may sound impossible. I could barely leave the house for 2 months after we lost Ollie but when I finally managed to I felt it brought me peace and actually closer to Ollie. Look at the trees, and flowers and lakes and rivers and clouds and grass. It made me see that life sometimes can be beautiful even on the hardest of days and that our angel was watching us from a beautiful place. It helped clear my mind and keep my body active, plus it’s a free activity to do that gets you out of the house and into a routine.
- Be kind to yourself – This is the most important thing. What has happened to you is a trauma that is almost incomprehensible. Give yourself a break and don’t put pressure on yourself to do absolutely anything you don’t feel comfortable with. I felt a lot of pressure to respond to messages, not cry in front of people and ‘ be brave’, but actually just making it through the day is enough. Everyone goes at their own pace in their own time, do small things for yourself which can be such small things like a bath, a cup of tea, a glass of wine (in moderation) treat yourself to something nice like a face mask or some new pyjamas. I know how hard it is, when all you feel like doing is punishing yourself but it is not your fault that you lost your baby. Please be kind to yourself.
- Take it hour by hour, or even minute by minute – I found this helped me in my darkest hours of grief and anxiety. If I made it through this minute I can make it to the next, if I make it one more hour, then another hour has passed that I have survived. For a few weeks I refused to go to bed (Ollie passed away in our bedroom) and night times were huge triggers for me, I stayed awake until 4am every night when I believed it could be classed as morning time, taking it minute by minute during this time helped me make it through.
- Be mindful of unsolicited advice and opinions – This is your own journey, there is no right or wrong way of dealing with something like this. Everyone is unique and everyone is individual, however people may give you advice that is unsolicited and unwanted as a way of trying to help or maybe just because they don’t know what else to do. Do not feel pressured to accept it or follow it.
- Sleep aids – I found it extremely hard to sleep for a long time and it is something I still struggle with now. To help me sleep I tried a lot of different things but found the below things helped me:
- A reading light, I bought a small clip on light from Amazon so that I could read without disturbing Reece by putting the lamp on and didn’t have to worry about turning the light on.
- Try to name the 52 American states starting with A in your head, it works trust me.
- Try Horlicks – Again, trust me.
- Have a hot shower before bed, the heat makes your body relax and therefore makes you sleepy.
- If all else fails just get up, get out of bed and go make a cup of tea or do a puzzle. Even if it just means waiting until the sun comes up and it’s morning, sometimes laying in bed trying to sleep can make things worse and unwanted thoughts and images begin to haunt you. On many occasions I just gave up and went downstairs, often I found I would fall asleep on the sofa just by the change of environment
- Do not be afraid to ask for help – If you are struggling please speak up and if someone offers you help accept it. It won’t be forever that you need someone to do a food shop for you or grab some milk or in my case go to Boots at 9am for maternity pads because I couldn’t stand the itchy ones I had! People genuinely want to help and please accept it. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Remember you are not alone – 1 in 4 pregnancies now end in a loss in the UK, you are not alone and you will survive this. In the loneliest hours in the middle of the night I thought I was the only person going through this but there are so many other families sadly experiencing this who make it through, and you can too 💙
- Try writing things down – When I was unable to get my words out and when I was so consumed by grief, I wrote how I was feeling down. It helped my brain process what was happening to us and release some of the anguish I was feeling, I bought a notepad from Amazon and filled it with rambling thoughts which made no sense but I found actually was quite therapeutic. A lot of the notes I made helped form this blog and the book I’m writing. It also helps you identify your progression. I felt I could write things that I didn’t want to say out loud.
- Be aware of google – It is often tempting to start googling things, I have found from experience that google often presents a worse-case scenario and whilst at times the worst-case scenario is happening, a lot of the time it isn’t. It is important to listen to yourself and your own voice and those of actual medical professionals in person and not behind a screen.
Here’s a list of books I read which I found comforting/helpful 🙂
- The Comfort Book – Matt Haigh
- Be Wild, Be Free – Zepplin Moon
- Untamed – Glennon Doyle
- Ask Me His Name – Elle Wright
- Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? – Julie Smith
I’ve also heard very good things about Zoe Clark-Coates books!
I’m sorry if this sounds patronising or lecturing, I just found then when I was searching online for help during those dark days the information I found on what to do was really limited. These may not help everyone but helped me, if anyone has any other suggestions of what I can add to my list please drop me an email or a DM on instagram. x