Friday, 26 September 2014

Grief is...

I'm not a poet.

Occasionally,  I feel compelled
and this is the result.

Grief is...a poem

Grief is a fire burning from within,
sometimes gently simmering below my shell,
sometimes boiling over splashing pain,
smoke signaling a soul charred.

Grief is a ravine, steep and treacherous,
sometimes my fingernails cling to its unsteady sides,
sometimes I skin-slide down to the dark deep,
broken, panting, ripped, defeated.

Grief is the tide sweeping me out to the deep,
sometimes my chin hovers above death lapping,
sometimes my arms beat frothing in despair,
as the ocean’s thumb presses my imprint on the shore.

Grief is the great gale forcing me aside,
sometimes I standing rooted like earth’s veins,
sometimes my knuckles ivory-clenched,
desperately take grip on souls stronger.

Grief is the relentless rain pummeling below,
sometimes I stand chilled to the brittle bone,
sometimes I dodge droplets of despair,
dashing undercover to my cave’s murky depths.

Grief is a hike in the wilderness without compass,
sometimes blindfolded I trek due north,
sometimes I stumble directionless in ebony thick,
with only a starless sky for company.

Grief is the song my soul sings on repeat,
sometimes my voice raises to Heaven’s sky,
sometimes my body moves to the miserable melody,
a rhythm and routine with a memory of it’s own.  

Grief is my core, my centre, my state of being,
sometimes my time, my home, my destination,
sometimes my dreams, my dawn, my midday sun, 

my son forever woven into my tapestry soul.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Choose Joy

I have forgotten to laugh. I may smile and chuckle occasionally, but it doesn’t come from a place of deep joy. I’m not sure I’ve been relaxed enough to really allow myself to feel true happiness. 

I have fleeting moments and Fin is helping me reach a place where I may be able to experience happiness more regularly. I feel emotionally stiff sometimes and it’s not until I inhale my baby’s neck or watch my 5 year old son pull faces to make him laugh, or see my older daughters hold each other that I realise it is possible and more importantly essential to feel joy.

I would imagine this is not uncommon for anyone who has gone through trauma. Losing my son shattered my core and now I’m trying to rebuild myself. I don’t always do a good job, sometimes the blocks fall and I have to start from scratch. 

I think it needs to begin with gratitude. I am my own worst enemy. I am tough on myself and I punish myself with never-ending sadness, allowing myself only small doses of happiness at a time. I shouldn’t be allowed to laugh when my son is not here to laugh with me. 
My joyous Fin

I’m starting to realise I deserve to laugh and it’s important to be happy.  Robin Williams taught me that. That I not only deserve it but that it’s essential for my well-being and the well-being of my children who watch me with great interest.

It is so very easy to get sucked into the darkness of life. Those that are sensitive to the traumas of the world may find it difficult, as I do, to claw their way to the light. Some nights I go to bed with a heavy heart. Heavy from not only my grief but the world’s grief. So many injustices!  How can we laugh when the world is full of so much hate and cruelty? I find insulating myself from that pain extremely difficult, so that sometimes I say ‘what is the point?’  What can I do that makes a difference to such a broken world?

I’ve noticed many a few of my friends have disappeared, content I no longer need them. Perhaps it is that or perhaps there is a depth of pain to me that they don’t want to experience any more and I understand that, I do. I need to feel lighter and perhaps by doing so, I will make them feel lighter too, so they feel like they can be around me more frequently. I need to them to know that I love them and am truly grateful instead of being wrapped up in a blanket of my own pain.

I think Robin Williams showed us we can make a difference. We can be who we truly are and demonstrate kindness and compassion and most importantly laugh. I don’t hear too much of it these days. I’ve even shushed my own children sometimes when I, immersed in my own sadness, am bothered by the noise of it. Craziness!  Laugh my lovely ones, let it ring into the stale, heavy air and let us all be romanced by it. 

Today, I will not only snuggle my children as I always do, but I will encourage them to laugh, to be crazy, to cut through the structure and rigidity of this life and just ‘be’. Hamish lived like that. For 20 months, he took joy, not in things, not in opinions, but in us, his family. He giggled, he reveled in our love. One of the best ways to honour him is through experiencing joy for ourselves. Despite the devastation his loss brought us, we need to laugh and be happy. To recognise that it is all here, in each of us. We don’t need to go looking for it. We already have it.  

This is a heavy one I know. I felt compelled to write it.

Thank you for listening (to the end).


Monday, 31 March 2014

Joy and Sorrow

Grief has become the steady thud in my ears.  I still have days when it pummels my brain and deafens me but on most days it simmers quietly. I'm endlessly aware of its magnitude, yet I am able to function and most days even smile. I'm in a very strange world where joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive.

Rainbows for Fin
I am reading my younger daughter 'The Faraway Tree' by Enid Blyton and tonight I read the part about the trees in the Enchanted Wood that make the 'wisha-wisha-wisha' sound. It was only when the children put their ears to the leaves that they heard the trees' secret.   I immediately realised it was a good analogy for my grief at the moment. I can hear the steady hum of grief, the dull ache of missing, the constant 'wisha-wisha-wisha' of loss, yet when I stop and put my ear up against it,  the anguish once again becomes painstakingly clear.

Finlay is now three and a half months old and a bundle of unquestionable joy. Our family is smiling a great deal more since he entered our lives. Our children revel in every smile and they all came running yesterday after I witnessed his first chuckle. My eldest positively sulked when I was unable to provoke another giggle from him.  My younger daughter will spend all the time in the world 'chatting' with him, telling him stories and smiling at his coo in reply. They are all enraptured. It's heart-melting stuff.

I take endless photos of every expression, every smile, I inhale his delicious babyness and imprint it in my mind. I know how important it is to ingrain these moments in memory.  Finlay in all his perfection will never fill the Hamish-shaped hole in my heart. That would not be fair on anyone. He is celebrated for his own individual delight and that makes Hamish's absence sometimes even harder to bear. What a fabulous big brother he would've been (I have no doubt). Why isn't he here to witness this joy?

The bigger picture is still quite elusive to me. I don't know why such horror strikes certain people at different times. I am certainly more spiritually aware than I was 18 months ago, but I don't proclaim to have all the answers or even the questions. But I read, investigate and enquire.  Philosophy, religion spirituality - I absorb it all. I try to be a good person, a positive person, a highly functioning person. I admit trying to be the very best version of yourself at all times is exhausting.
My fifth bundle of joy - Fin

All I know is that Hamish is with me. I carry him. I carry him in my mind, in my heart. He is in every crevice, every crack. Just a slight tap at my surface and he will be there. You will see him.  And in my rare quiet  moments, I will sit and talk to him. I will mentally brush the hair out of his intense blue eyes and remember the softness of his cheeks and the pinkness of his lips. The heartbreaking beauty. Perhaps it was too much for this world.

Thank you to my blog readers who have asked me to keep writing. I appreciate it so much. My little Fin has kept me busy and I've been concentrating on caring for him and my other 3 cherubs. It is obvious to me though, when I do write, the grief, the feelings, were all sitting there waiting at the gate, ready for release.

At the moment I am writing a novel at the urging of my lovely agent. Unfortunately, Hamish's story has not yet found a home in the publishing world, so I've been writing fiction and enjoying it so. I've also turned my hand to children's books and have just completed my second one (looking for publishers for those too). Writing in any form is essential to my survival, so I shall keep plugging away and hope one day I may actually create a job for myself (well, a second job, after mothering).

Thank you for listening.


Monday, 3 February 2014


Death has nothing to do with going away.
The sun sets. The moon sets.
But they are not gone.


This quote quells the pain in my aching heart. My son is not forever gone.  He is with me always.

It is that belief that keeps me rising every single day. It is with that knowledge I can smile with my children, love my husband, family and friends. If I believed Hamish ceased to exist with the exhalation of his last breath, my world would cease to exist as well. Forever gone is not something I can entertain. He lives on, in a beautiful place, of that I am sure. It is not something I really thought a lot about in the past. That is, until I lost my beloved child, my Hami.

It is one of the reasons I find it difficult to visit the cemetery. I can't think of him like that. It horrifies, paralyses me and bores into the dark and miserable recesses of my brain. My son is not 'there'. He is in a place of magnificence. A place of rainbows, beauty surrounding him, Hamish, the most stunning of all.  My husband feels differently. It is a place for them to be together and I respect and love him for that.

As poignant as is Rumi's quote is, it does not allow for the ever-present pain of 'missing'. How the lack of my son's physical presence is forever difficult to bear. The golden curls I can't entwine my fingers in. The silky smooth skin I can't stroke.

We love with all of our senses.  Our eyes devour the ones we adore...the characteristics that we love uniquely. In Hamish, it was his lopsided, cheeky grin, the roundness of his cheeks, the sparkle in his deeply mesmerising eyes. I miss blowing raspberries on his tummy after a bath and watching his chubby sweet body run down the hall, giggles ringing in the air as I would be forced to chase him and scoop up his deliciousness.

Fin - 6 weeks
There is silence left where his voice was. The giggle, the cute way he said, "Mum-may". There was so much joy created in the sounds he emitted. I crave his sound and replay it in my head when desperation calls. We also love with our nose and his scent was intoxicating as all children's are to their parents. I miss burying my face in the crook of his neck and inhaling his essence.

There is so much loss when the physical presence of a child is taken. The void is so massive, it barely feels survivable. But it is. With love, it is.

Just a few hours after I wrote my last blog post, my waters broke with the relief of it (it appeared to me). A few hours after that, our family welcomed a most beautiful baby boy. We called him Finlay.

Fin has been a part of our family for six weeks now and has made our hearts sing with happiness. As a friend of mine said, it's proof that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive.  In the last few days he has been smiling at us and the reaction he gets is akin to someone winning the lottery. Because our family has the won lottery. We have Finlay and Finlay has five people who fiercely love him.

Fin looking dashing in spots.
It's been wonderful watching our children fall in love with him. Miss B has predictably taken on the role as his second mother and has settled him to sleep with ease already. Miss M loves to play, to watch his eyes follow the toys she trails across his vision and Mr F has taken on the role of protector. "I will look after him Mummy and make sure he doesn't die," he said once. I choked and turned away as the tears streamed down my face.

Finlay will never get to see, hear, smell, or touch Hami, but he will always know his big brother, who I have no doubt is now beaming with pride in Heaven. In my eternal quest to honour Hamish, I will tell  Finlay how his big brother made a big impact in a very small amount of time. In this frantic world,  Hamish prompted other parents to hold their children a little tighter, a little longer.

Finlay will be loved, cherished for the person he is, for his own light and I hope he feels a connection to Hamish, to his story, as we do.

Thank you for listening.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013


I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

I've been in a cave licking my wounds. It's warm, safe and I felt protected. Not protected from grief, not  immune to suffering but safe from people who like to add to it. The only problem with my cave, is that the good people of the world can't enter. The people who bring light, food and water can't find me. I'm sitting in the dark, not knowing whether it's safe to emerge.

That's the problem with vulnerability. When you wear your heart on your sleeve, there are those who wish to tear it off and some who even like to stamp on it for good measure. Those people couldn't find me in my cave. After a while though, it gets lonely in there and just
6 weeks old
lately I started to yearn for the light.

So here I am.

I'm still feeling fragile but determined to be my own light with Hami's help. He has brought light to so many lives and I'm not helping him, hiding away. My son is a gift and it's my responsibility to unwrap the beauty of everything he was, he is and everything he will be to others. Sometimes, I want to wrap him in my own heart and keep every beautiful part of him to myself, but that wouldn't be fair. His light was too bright for that and it's my job to help it shine.

I'm days away from giving birth to my fifth child and I'd be lying to you if I told you I was filled with nothing but joy and elation at the prospect of another beautiful child in our family.   The truth is I'm nervous.  I know I will love this baby with everything I have. There is nothing this child will want for, no love it will be deprived of. But I did lose confidence, hope and a belief the world is a fair and just place when Hamish died. I didn't know if I deserved to be happy, to love again, to smile. I didn't protect my child, the most insanely beautiful child, so perhaps I deserve nothing but to wallow in the murky depths of grief? That's the cave-dweller coming out in me; the Rachel who is frightened.

This post is the first of those where I've promised not to be frightened any more. I promise to go forth and love this child with wild abandonment as the four before. I will have faith that I am a good mother, that I am enough for this child.

I will always yearn for Hamish. It's become a part of me, a part of my day. I think about him all day. Tonight when I was chopping carrots for dinner, I thought of him sitting at the kitchen bench, baby blues peering at me under those beautiful lashes, smiling at me, rendering me breathless.   I thought of him in the car as my 3 children sang at the top of their lungs to a tune Hamish would have gleefully bopped along to.  I think of him as he was, what he would be now, what he would've been in the future.

I cry a lot still. The sobs are gentler, the crying more private, but the pain is ever-present and the loss endless.   But I also love harder, speak softer and try desperately to be always there for my children and my husband. My psychiatrist wants me now to be kinder to myself. Something I am still working on, and I guess will be an ongoing challenge for me.

Thank you once again for those who urge me to keep writing, convincing me it does some good in the world, or at least their world.


Friday, 4 October 2013

One year without you

Today we held a special service to remember our beloved, sweet boy. It was filled with love, sadness and beautiful moments. These were my words. Thank you for the beautiful, uplifting messages. Most of all, thank you for remembering Hamish. 

Life is eternal 
and love is immortal 
and death is only a horizon 
and a horizon is nothing 
save the limit of our sight.

Rossiter W Raymond.

We have lived without our darling boy for a whole year. A year of less. Less laughs, less love, less joy. He up lit a room without trying. He made us, his family, feel a depth of love we didn’t know existed before he was born. He was joy personified. 

I know I’m his mother and I’m prone to outrageous bursts of bias, but to me, he was pure sweetness and light. I remember just hours before the accident taking him to the GP for a suspected ear infection and being immensely proud of him as he high-fived the doctor on the way out. He was cheeky, fun, and impossible to frown at. He could paint my walls the colours of the rainbows, I would catch him in the act and he would run, protecting his pens,  down the hall, laughing all the way. And all I could do was laugh with him. How could I not? Who cares about the paint on the walls, when you are in the presence of such joy?

As the days tick by, our love for him does not waiver, our grief does not lessen and our hearts are no less broken then they were on the 4th of October last year.  In his final hours, I remember running my fingers over the tiny chip in the corner of his front tooth (only I knew that chip existed) because I couldn’t believe that this could happen to a a child so loved, so beautiful. 

You may wonder what it takes to live without your child....something that seemed impossible to me a year ago and plenty of days in between then and now and I will tell you. 
It takes unmitigated kindness. Kindness that knows no boundaries, expects nothing in return and is given to you in spadefuls. That is what our family has received, bucketfuls of kindness and that is why we are here, living, breathing and honouring Hamish. The food, the messages, the gifts, the love. We have been walking through a haze of kindness and we are forever grateful. You know who you are. Thank you seems insufficient but it's all I have.

I now live to honour Hamish. I honour him through the intense love I have my for my children, my husband, my family and friends. I honour him by living in a way that I hope would make him proud. I want him to be proud of his mummy, who wanted to give up but didn’t.  I love this quote from Elizabeth Edwards, “She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”  I adjust my sails for you, sweet Hamish. 

It is because of our heartbreak, others hold their children tighter, kiss them more often and give of their time more frequently. That’s the legacy I want for Hamish.  Hold your babies tighter and give as much love as you can as our sweet boy did for us. 

Today my beautiful boy I honour you. I was so lucky to hold you in my arms for the time that I did, something I will forever be grateful for. I will never get to see you grow into the magnificent human being you would’ve been, but I will see you again, and that is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life. 

May God hold you in his arms until I see you again.

Thank you for the beautiful, uplifting messages. Most of all, thank you for remembering Hamish. 


Monday, 19 August 2013


I've been harbouring a secret. It's a very big, energy sapping, awe-inspiring secret inspiring hope and confusion simultaneously.

I'm pregnant.

Every time I go to type those two words. I stop. I falter. I give up and don't write anything at all.

It's like we hopped off the worst, scariest ride in the amusement park and stepped onto one which takes us to new lows and new highs. Hope and hopelessness being ridden at the same time.

Don't get me wrong. We are truly grateful for this gift, this privilege, but we are damaged in a way and I've been concerned about the fragility of our battered hearts and the beautiful new life that grows inside me.

This stunning quote from Elizabeth Stone rings so true:

“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” 

I lost a large piece of my heart when I lost Hamish. The rest of it is walking around beating inside my other three lovely children.

There were so many thoughts running through the wilderness of my mind when I found out I was pregnant.  Here are just a few of them:

Do I deserve another child?
Can I give the full love another baby deserves whilst I continue to grieve my beloved son?
Can I parent this little one without being a helicopter or wrapping him/her up in cotton wool?
What if he/she looks like Hamish? Will that be something I will cope with?
Is this a gift from Hamish?
Is this a gift from God?
Will people think I'm trying to replace Hamish?
What will people think?

Some of these thoughts I admit aren't entirely rational, but they are true and real and honest.

Those feet, those toes, those eyes. Ingrained in my mind.
On the days I'm neck-deep in grief and struggling to pull myself out, I wonder about the impact this has on my unborn child. Does this little one feel its mummy's sadness? My Psychiatrist assures me there is no medical evidence my grief has any impact on this child, but he does say mothers with depression do tend to have babies with a lower than average birth weight. I try to let the light in as much as I can. I relish the love of my three children and shower them with my own. It's not always easy to allow the joy to seep in. Some days I succeed, others I do not. But I try, everyday. Not just for this new life, but for Hamish, for my other kids, for my husband and sometimes for me. It's an ongoing battle, as any grief-stricken parent will concur.

I've been criticised for not writing about my pregnancy to date.  Apparently 'everyone knows' and my readers deserve my honesty and openness.  This is my response to that insensitive argument.

My pregnancy was an unexpected surprise but I have embraced this massive development in our lives with everything I can muster. I try to give my children as 'normal' a life as possible with every ounce of love I have. I love my husband and give him support as he continues to work in the field of medicine, caring for gravely ill people.  I have finished my book for Hamish. This was not only a time-consuming exercise but emotionally difficult.

On top of all of this, we have been gradually sharing the news of our pregnancy with family and friends, trying mostly to do it person. As one friend said to me when we told her, "this pregnancy isn't straightforward, but this news needs to be cherished and celebrated in its own right." I whole-heartedly agree.

When you are living this life all day, every day, there's not much left. I have nothing else left to give. I'm bereft of energy, of sense, of anything as night falls.  I savour the small amount I have left for Hami. He gets my night-time whispers, he gets my heart secrets.

I agree my readers who have brought and continue to help and support me through the worst time of my life, deserve my honesty, but I also knew they would understand the news would be broken when the time was right, not only for me, but for the ones I love so much.  That takes time.

Please forgive me.

Thanks for listening.