Sunday Thought July 26, 2015: Two Perspectives, One Half of the Same Whole

At first for today’s Sunday Thought I was going to choose one or the other of the pictures below. Both appeared on my Facebook timeline this week, and summed up perfectly my feelings.

After a while, I realised I couldn’t choose between them because they are two halves of the same whole – so I chose both:


For anyone who thinks that grief has a time limit, or that you ‘move on’ from the death of your child. There is a Hugo-shaped hole in my heart that will always remain. I feel the ache from that hole every day, I feel the pain of the void his absence has left in our lives. I feel the frustration when people don’t know what to say for the best, or do not mention Hugo.

But – oh, I feel such a proud rush of love when people do mention Hugo. When they admire him for the gorgeous, feisty baby he was. When they observe the work that has been done in his memory.

That is because Hugo’s Legacy comes from that pain, that void. As Angela Miller says, the love that oozes from it gives me the power to use my experiences to help others, to make others sit up and listen, to challenge.

To change the world.


This is something I have difficulty with.

Since Hugo died I have discovered the very best of people: people I knew before, some I have met since. Such kindness, empathy, warmth.

Through my blog I have made the most beautiful friendships. Some are fellow loss mamas, others are not. We share in common a passion for sharing with others our feelings and experiences through words, a determination to give comfort to others, reassure them they are not alone.

Through social media I have made the most wonderful friendships. Professionals from all fields. Kind, compassionate, determined people willing to listen and take account. People willing to help me get involved, use my skills, collaborate to make a difference.

Through my blog and social media I have been given fantastic opportunities. Opportunities to get dressed up, have fun, be me; opportunities I never thought I would have.

Opportunities I never thought I would pursue, or do: speaking in front of large audiences, and with a clear voice too. The power of that love for Hugo gives me the strength.

Many beautiful moments.

All opportunities that came because Hugo died. Yes, these opportunities have come as a result of a lot of hard work, but the motivation for the effort comes back to the same reason.

Friendships, relationships, opportunities. But no son. No offence, but there are no prizes for guessing which I would prefer.

While I have a better sense of comfort with the opportunities I have been offered in the past year, I doubt it will ever sit well with me.

I would give it all back to be another mummy with the everyday trials and tribulations of caring for an energetic, willful 13 month old little boy. Who knows what our lives would have looked like in reality, but it would have been full of beautiful moments. Beautiful moments of a different sort. The wonderful moments of motherhood, the frustrating moments.

But what is done cannot be undone.

The way forward is to move forward. Reflect on the beautiful moments I had during those 35 precious days with my beautiful boy. Wish for more, so many more; no amount of time can ever be enough.

Hold on to those beautiful moments, and look to the future. Forging more wonderful friendships, generating more opportunities, creating more beautiful moments.

Hugo will always be a part of them.

The Origins of the Society

“At last”, he said. “We have been waiting for you for a long time.”

The woman felt a chill run through her. The events of the past few minutes had thrown her world upside down.

Recognising the woman was looking a bit perplexed, he offered her a cup of tea. Deciding the bookseller was eccentric but harmless – and hearing the torrent of rain continuing to lash down outside – she accepted.

Considering its age and fragility she thought it safest to leave it on the cash desk for the time being. She found a spare spot on the desk amongst the plethora of paperwork and books of every age, shape and size. With a sigh, she sat in a straight-backed chair upholstered in worn velvet that was placed next to the desk, and watched as the man shuffled back in to the dark alcove. The clink of cups and the rolling boil of the kettle prompted the dog to wander over to the woman, probably in the hope of a stray biscuit.

Books were everywhere, even stacked on the floor to relieve the overflowing shelves. She looked around her trying to find a place to set her wet umbrella where it wouldn’t get anything else similarly soaked and ended up stashing it under the chair, giving herself a mental note to remember to pick it up on her way out. The dampness of the weather outside added to the intensity of the mustiness in the bookshop.

Her handbag rested on her lap, and she reached in to retrieve her phone. A missed call, three texts, a few emails and social media notifications. She was about to open one of the apps to write about what had just happened but she paused, finger paused over the screen.

What would she write, and what was the point anyway? She had confided in only a couple of her closest friends when she joined the Society. Friends she knew she could trust, those who would not judge, pry, or ask too many questions. They knew she would give them updates, little snippets, when the time was right and she was ready to talk.

Everyone else? Well, they wouldn’t take it seriously, thinking she was just having a laugh, hence the secrecy.

With a frown, she locked the screen of her phone and popped it back in to her bag. Her hands tightly clenched the bag’s strap while her feet tapped up and down in a combination of excitement and nervous anxiety. The book – the book! – sat just a couple of feet away on the cash desk.

The dog nudged her for another fuss as the man reemerged with a tray bearing a tea pot, cups, a milk jug and a sugar bowl.

The crockery was old-fashioned bone china, delicate cups and saucers with a pink and green flowery print. Beautifully kept, with not a chip the china was clearly kept for best.

As he poured the tea, she leaned forward eagerly – but what to say, where to start? It would all come blurting out in a right old muddle – best to let the man start by saying what he knew.

A cup was set in front of her; the proffered milk was added, and sugar declined. “You might want some anyway,” he said. “You’ve had quite a shock.” After a moment’s hesitation she realised how light-headed she was and sweet, sugary tea always helped with that.

With shaking hands she picked up her tea; some of it spilled in to the saucer. Embarrassed about her lack of grace, especially during such a momentous occasion, she took a deep breath and told herself to get a grip.

With one hand on her tea cup and the other fussing the dog’s head, she watched as the man finally stopped fussing with the tea things and sat down on the other side of the desk.

The book sat between them. Both looked at it, cup of tea in hand.

Remembering the grunt of greeting she had received when she entered the shop, she realised she might have to start the conversation.

“I have been wanting to read about the origins of the Society for a long time. There are so few people involved in the Society, and not much is written down. There is so much hearsay, verbal history passed from member to member, so it is difficult to know what to believe.”

The man gave a barely perceptible nod, which she took as a prompt to continue

“I can’t believe I found the book here. I mean me! All these years, so many people looking for it, and I found it! Surely people must have looked? Most of the meetings are held in a place only down the road.”

Placing his cup back on his saucer with a gentle tap, the old bookseller gave a wry chuckle.

“That is because they think they know what they are looking for. You, by contrast, kept an open mind.”

“The book finds you.”

The events of this story happen directly after The Second Hand Bookshop.



Sunday Thought May 23, 2015: Giving In is NOT the same as Giving Up

Ever felt like you just want to hide under your duvet and never emerge? Like you want the world to just go away and leave you alone?

Me too.

There is a popular motivational quote by Regina Brett:

“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.”

I agree with this quote on most days. Reflecting that I am fortunate to be alive, that life is short I usually get up, make myself presentable and show up – on my blog and on social media at least, if not in person.

I’ve done the getting up, dressing up and showing up thing even when I really haven’t felt like it. I should have given in to the urge to sit on the sofa, watch rubbish TV, read a book, or do colouring-in.

Instead, I carried on working away, putting pressure on myself, feeling guilty if I wasn’t doing something productive, constructive. The guilt was even more acute if I was doing something that did not directly involve Hugo’s legacy. There have been times when I have felt guilty for enjoying myself.

It has taken me some time to realise that giving in is not the same as giving up.

No, not by a long shot.

There are plenty of days when I have not felt very sociable. I have stayed within the controlled environment of my own home, but engaged happily enough on social media and on my blog.

There are some days, like yesterday for example, when I didn’t want to be on social media. I felt very low and thought it best to stay away rather than pretend to be cheerful, or whatever the online equivalent of putting on a fake smile is.

I was low because of a rollercoaster week. So, I indulged in some self-care with a magazine.


The magazine part of the self-care didn’t last very long because the cat wanted to help me relax. Her idea of helping me relax is to lie on me and get me to fuss her, leaving no hands spare to hold the magazine. I don’t mind though of course, fussing her and listening to her blissed-out purring is one of the best-possible forms of relaxation.


Today, I am happy to report, I feel brighter. Recharged.

The lesson is it is ok, acceptable, fine to give in sometimes. There is so much pressure on us to be all things to all people. To be happy all the time. To always be ‘ok’, grateful for who and what we have, who and what we are. To be go, go, go.

Trying to achieve these impossible ideals will only make us unhappy, stressed out over time – not just for the bereaved. It works for all of us.

So, taking inspiration from Regina Brett here is my thought for the day:


I even treated myself to a new pink lipstick, which also helped put a smile on my face.

There is no easy fix for grief, anxiety, or any such complex emotions. They are not easy to control. But I do whatever I can to make sure to help balance out the negative emotions with a bit of positive energy.20150524_135801-1

And then the fun began...
Beau Twins

Friday Favourite – Me!

Today’s Friday Favourites post was supposed to be a light-hearted one about my favourite TV series. I had it all planned out in my head: it shouldn’t have taken long to write. Light-hearted or not, though, my heart just was not in it.

I was in a low mood anyway, and couldn’t summon much enthusiasm.

I procrastinated, tried to make myself write it, reasoning that I had already missed one Friday Favourites post (I wrote about the result of the General Election last week instead) until I realised that, of course, it does not matter. No one is going to be any worse off for not learning what my favourite TV shows. Probably no one cares, or noticed (not fishing here, I’m being realistic about people’s busy lives!).

Such a post – or any blog post, for that matter – cannot be more important than my own emotional well-being.

So, I switched off the laptop and snuggled on the sofa under a blanket (it was chilly this morning) and read my new book on resilience that arrived yesterday.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that for many months after Hugo died I would force myself to write, to work on my blog irrespective of how I felt as a form of punishment to myself. Self-care was something I really struggled with back then, but it is something I am now making a conscious effort to invest in, make time for.

Resilience is about understanding life will not always go to plan, and about having inner resources to deal with adversity, and getting on with life in a different way. That does not mean forgetting whatever has affected your life – I shall certainly never, ever forget Hugo – to me, resilience means looking after myself. Looking after myself means putting less energy in to things I cannot change, and investing more energy in to things I can.

More energy helps me cope much better.

Back to the book I was reading – it’s called The Little Book of Resilience, by Matthew Johnstone. It’s excellent, and I can recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about it. The text is engaging and down-to-earth. I’m a very visual person, and it is full of humorous illustrations.


Reading the book, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment: I should make myself the topic of my Friday Favourite post. Not in a narcissistic or self-centred way; in a self-care way.

I enjoyed giving myself time out to sit and read the book rather than forcing myself to write a post my heart wasn’t in, it would have been rubbish as a result, and that wouldn’t have helped my mood!

In that reflection was a lesson.

So, I made myself my favourite. My reasoning is that you treat someone or something that is your favourite with extra care. It is about time I treated myself with extra care, especially now I have evidence of the benefits that I can remind myself about if I’m tempted to work through the fog again.

As a result, I made a few promises to myself:

– To write only when I’m feeling inspired, in the mood, ‘in the zone’

– To remember that self-care comes first

– To listen to my body more

– To trust my instinct

– To find time every day to practise self-care – even if (gasp!) that means turning off social media for a while so I can’t get distracted

– To be compassionate to myself about my feelings, meaning to practise self-care if I am feeling low rather than ignore them or tell myself off for feeling that way

– To have perspective about my blog (that’s part of the title, after all!)

– To not worry too much what others think, and remember most people are caught up with their own lives to notice what I am or am not doing

– To remember that not everything has to be done ‘now’

– To stay true to myself

There will probably be some other promises I add to the list too. What would be on your list of promises if you made yourself your favourite?



Word of the Week – Me

The Reading Residence

The List

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Beau Twins


A few weeks ago I wrote about how I need to have courage and to be kind to myself, because my life after bereavement and trauma is forever.

With a return to work imminent, I have been trying to do more things, push myself, and reintegrate.

That has meant testing my coping strategies.

Grief really does come in waves. As I described in this post, grief can be a tormenting tease. The positivity I felt from events last week such as a wonderful trip to Leeds after was extinguished in a heartbeat last Saturday morning.

Back were the feelings of lowness and panic, and with a vengeance.

There were a couple of things that contributed to this dip. Last week had been a busy one, and I am learning the hard way that my energy levels are limited. A psychiatrist gave me a useful explanation for this: in ‘normal’ (for want of a better word) life we spend 70% of our brain’s energy thinking of and doing normal everyday stuff. In dealing with grief or trauma, the brain spends that 70% of its energy on just getting through the day and on self-preservation, leaving just 30% for normal everyday stuff. That was helpful to explain my brain fog, my now-terrible memory (I frequently forget or take a while to respond to things – sorry). So, my busy week of ‘normal’ things wore me out emotionally as well as physically. As I adapt, and learn my boundaries, that will hopefully improve.

Another was news that the new Royal baby was in its way. My response felt silly, but being kind to myself I had to reflect it is perfectly rational in the context of my life: the news underlined everything I so badly want but do not have, and what I may never have (in terms of being able to go into labour when the baby is ready, and have a natural birth).

In response, I did the sensible thing and avoided social media as best I could until the media hubbub subsided.

Martin and I had a film day, which was much-needed. It gave us a break, and kept me away from social media.

Other things in my self-care coping armoury include colouring-in of course; taking pictures of bright and colourful things for my Instagram account; and I’m also getting more into Pinterest, finding lovely things – it’s a safer form of window shopping. Frustratingly, because I love books reading is still hit and miss, but hopefully that too will come.

The Reading Residence
And then the fun began...