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  • Writer's picturethesepreciouslittlepeople

New Year's Eve: Going 'Through It'

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

My youngest (coming up to 2 years old: a bundle of energy, messy blonde hair, and the most adorable little lisp) has a new favourite book at the moment: 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'. I remember my son (now aged 4) absolutely loved this book at a similar age. Maybe it's the repetition within the text, the onomatopoeia that accompanies the family as they traverse every obstacle put in their way, the nervous but thrillingly exciting anticipation of finally meeting the bear that they have been seeking out, the dramatic dash back to the safety of their home, the relief they all feel as they take refuge in a big cosy bed together.

My little girl's eyes light up and her voice squeals, "BEAR!" whenever she spots it on a page whilst reading this book, so we were commenting at dinner yesterday that she will most likely want us to make a bee line for the bear enclosure when we head on a family day out to London Zoo today. I mentioned how we were going to visit what we call 'Esme's woodland' (the place where our first baby is buried) on the way, and my son remarked that he feels sad that we never get to 'see' her and that we don't know what she looks like. I empathised (oh, how I empathise!) and said that I wished we could see her too, but we will be able to take her grave some flowers, and we can always think about her and talk about her. His reply was heartbreaking in its simple explanation of his sadness: "Esme is dead, isn't she? That means you can never come back."

As with every year since I first started understanding the importance others place on one year rolling into the next, it's a reflective time of year for me. Christmas is over and done with, which can feel like a small victory, but there's another milestone to endure right ahead: a new year beginning without our missing piece. It's hard to escape the reminders that for many it's seen as a time of celebration - of all that has passed, but, also, the chance for a 'fresh start' - dreams are dreamt, perhaps holidays are booked, resolutions are made, new opportunities are embraced or sought out. I remember back in 2012 it was our last New Year's Eve before we made good on our resolution to start a family - a night out in a Cuban beach resort - part of what turned out to be a fairly surreal holiday that took us away from our families at Christmas time for the first time ever and what was meant to be our 'final fling' as a childless couple. On 31st December the following year, instead of parenting a newborn baby and continuing to make plans for their future like we'd hoped, we were very much in the initial throes of grappling with how to parent a child we would never be able to see or touch ever again. We took the somewhat bizarre decision to head to a cinema that evening to watch Disney's Frozen (not long released), and went for a tearful walk near home close to midnight. It was along a very quiet countryside road where we'd gone for a walk during the wee small hours following the worst day of our lives. Neither of us had been able to sleep before I was scheduled to return to hospital to have my labour induced after discovering our baby had died. On what felt an incredibly sad yet very sacred and special walk we had chosen a name for our (as yet) unborn child. It affectionately became known to us as 'Esme's lane'. So, on this first New Year's Eve, deep in mourning, we had a lantern with us and lit the candle inside in a symbolic gesture to try and include Esme. We spoke out loud our enduring love for her as we wished for brighter days ahead, things that brought a little hope and warmth to our hearts in amongst the sadness and yearning. But as we heard the jubilant ringing of church bells, and were witness to the faint popping of fireworks in the distance, I felt sick at the thought of what our life had become, and who we feared we would be leaving behind in 2013 (and that included our once-happy and hopeful selves).

One of my happiest 'Esme memories': attending my close friend's wedding at 6 months pregnant

If you are reading this as someone who is desperately missing a baby gone too soon, please know that whatever you're feeling at this time of year, especially if it's wretched and heartbroken, you are most definitely not alone. However long ago your loss was, what for many others are fun and festive times can still be tinged with deep despair. Take time out if you can to acknowledge your emotions, know that it's normal to feel whatever you're feeling, and be reassured that you will survive this. Cry if you need to, rage at the unfairness of the universe, but also remember that it's ok to allow all the love you still feel for your precious little one to help you to carry on, to continue to carry them with you into the new year that is beginning. I will be thinking of all of the babies that we wish could be here growing up with us, and I hope you are surrounded by love and support, because I am sure that is what has kept me going. It's taken me many decades to learn that it's better to have no expectations around this time of year, but especially whilst grieving. It's just another day to face and get through, we don't need to give it any more credit than that. You can spend most of the next couple of days hiding under the bedcovers if you think that might help, but I'd urge you to get out into the world if you can bear it, to try and reconnect with nature, even if it's through a veil of tears.

Finding happiness right now might be a stretch too far, but the wisdom of Michael Rosen can help whenever I'm plumbing the depths of my grief:

"We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it."

Sadness is an emotion, nothing more, nothing less - sometimes it stays with us a while, sometimes it's mercifully fleeting, as it is for my living children - it's not a permanent state of mind. Our 2019 will be full of moments of wonder and happiness in amongst our sadness - we will find ways to honour all those people who live on in our hearts, and we will remember our precious little people with love and joy - of that I have no doubt. Sending hope and strength out to you all, and best wishes for a peaceful and gentle new year.

The book I have written for children affected by the death of a baby is a much-needed addition to the genre of children’s books that deal with bereavement; find out more about These Precious Little People here, and order a copy here.



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