People are always asking me if working for Saying Goodbye is hard, and whether hearing other people's stories triggers my pain. The answer is most definitely not, as I no longer carry pain. I am privileged to walk alongside grieving people, and when they share their stories, I am hearing about their lives not mine; I haven't walked in their shoes, I just have an understanding of what those shoes may have felt like.
I am never traumatised talking about my lost babies, or by revisiting the stories surrounding their passing. Now I just feel honoured to have been given the gift of carrying them for a short time, and thankful to them for the gifts they have given me. I think of them and smile, I don't think of them and cry, and for some that is a hard concept to grasp...But if we process the pain of loss and fully embrace the experience, we can come through it more whole as people.
So the big question is, can we actually be happier post loss than we were before?
Yes I believe we can.
When sharing my story, the one thing I often say is 'I am happier now, than I was pre losing my children', and 9 out of 10 times this is met with a stunned reaction. Most people can't imagine ever getting to that place, and others wonder if I really mean it. How can someone lose 5 babies and now be happier?
First let me state this...by being happier that does not mean I don't miss my children, as I do. It also does not mean I am glad to have gone through loss, as I am not. I wish with my whole heart they were now with me and I would gladly hand back the lifelong journey of grief.
But I made the choice post loss to be happier than ever before, as I know if (when) I pass away I want to be remembered with a smile. I want to have benefitted other's lives, and have left a positive legacy, and this is something I can make happen for my children...I can't raise them, I can't celebrate Christmas with them, I can't take them to their first day at school, but I can make their legacy one of joy, rather than sadness.
So how did this quest begin?
Well once the blackest part of my grief had lifted I became desperate for joy to return...
To be honest I didn't know if it was even possible at this stage to experience true happiness and joy again, but I knew I had to try to get it back. I knew the losses had changed me, and I didn't know if that change meant I had used up my destined pot of happiness.
But as I searched for my joy, what I found was this.
The pain I had gone through had created huge cracks in my soul...in my heart...These cracks, these spaces made me now experience things more deeply, and more meaningfully, and most importantly it allowed me to feel more joy and more happiness.
I stopped cruising along in life, I embraced little things, tiny moments that would have previously gone by without me even noticing, now meant the world to me. I sought out fun activities, I made more time for friends and for family...I learnt what things made me really happy.
Is there a term for this?
Yes there is a fairly new clinical term, it's called 'post traumatic growth'.
Everyone has now probably heard of post traumatic trauma, but not many discuss PTG. Instead of being traumatised by a situation or maybe in addition to being traumatised, post the experience a person goes onto a better life, or has a better view of the world. This could be available to anyone who wants it.
I now live my life helping others get to a place where they can smile following loss, where their heartache is turned to joy.....
"And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed." Maya Angelou
So is it hard working for Saying Goodbye?
No far from it! It is a true pleasure.
I adore life...I adore my life...I want that for everyone and if I can help people achieve happiness post loss I certainly will!
The Legacy Lives On
I answered the phone again that night,
and said for the hundredth time 'She's alright!'
'She obviously tired, and can't stop crying,
she doesn't want to talk, although I've been trying.'
Eight days ago, we were buying a pram,
then something happened that wasn't part of the plan.
Our baby was born, far too early,
this couldn't be the end, surely?
But sadly it was, we screamed, we cried,
no hello, no celebration, just saying "goodbye!"
Medical staff with no words to console,
to lift us from the dark night of our soul.
Our baby was gone far too soon,
and we were left with an empty room.
Our hopes and dreams, lying in tatters,
our lives were now completely shattered.
Gradually we rebuilt, talking was key,
our baby was part of us, not just a memory.
No show or mask did we have to put on,
to hide the fact that our baby was gone.
Our story doesn't end there you see,
our baby brought us a gift that no-one could see.
A gift of compassion, an appreciation of life,
an ability to look beyond your daily cares and strife.
So although our baby never took a breath,
their legacy lives on, it didn't end with their death.
It will live on in our lives, for all of our years,
in our love, in our laughter and even our tears.
By Andy & Zoe Clark-Coates
(Pictures in this post courtesy of pixabay)
Zoe Clark-Coates is one of the founders and CEO's of the Mariposa Trust. The Saying Goodbye division offers support and national remembrance services for anyone who has lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in early years.
Website: www.mariposatrust.org & sayinggoodbye.org