ELEVEN MONTHS

10 April 2018

Eleven months since my Thomas took his last breath. The  heart-wrenching, knee-crumbling pain I felt that day is neither less nor gone today. Every details of the day is clear. If I close my eyes hard enough, I can see his beautiful face again, searching for me whenever I moved away from him. I can see his hand holding my finger for comfort. I can see his head turning to my direction for a kiss and reassurance that all is OK, that I am OK. I can see him in pain, then calm and I can see him letting go. If I keep my eyes closed longer, I can even imagine calling out his name, my face close enough to his, asking for a kiss. Mummy kiss?

I can only see a replayed memory I dare not to forget. I wrote it all down with every hope and intention to get it published in a form of a book one day -- a book about his beautiful life and ours together, how wonderful is that would be. However, grief drowned me. I feel like I am swimming upwards (constantly), hoping to find the surface to get some air, a break from drowning. I find them, the surface, the breaks and I take in as much air as I can before the waves hit and drown me again. Sometimes I stay afloat for so long and other times I barely make it to the surface.

My grief is different from my husband's or anybody else. I read somewhere that a mother's grief is the most painful kind of grief because the bond shared between mother and child is stronger, special, one of a kind. I have to agree without dismissing my husband's grief or anybody else. Grief is personal to the person going through it. You see, I had the extra 38 weeks of knowing Thomas before anyone met him. We were one, sharing the same body, eating the same food, breathing the same air. I carried his heart and watched him grow in my belly. I had extra time with him. My bond is different, deeper.  All I know is, the only people in the world who truly understand the gravity and magnitude of my grief, are the (oncology) mothers who held their dying babies until the end. No one else.

My grief has transformed me to someone even my 25-yr old self will not recognise. My experiences in life has made me a minority. My views in life are different, perhaps, devoid of trivial complaints, gossip, superficial judgements. I have less emotional resource to give to other people outside of my immediate family and so my time and level of engagement are calculated, all in favour to my emotional capacity for that moment. I have learned to preserve my energy. My true friends know this of me. I keep my distance from anything (even anyone) that does not give me peace. That is all I ask for these days, peace.

My grief has made me parent my children differently. I no longer believe that their happiness should be my main priority. I cannot make my children happy all the time even if I try to. I firmly believe, I am doing them a disservice if all I teach them is to be happy all the time. I cannot save them from despair, sadness and disappointments but I can be there with them as they go through every storm, share an umbrella together. I can hold their hands until they are ready to stand up again. I can be there to help them feel safe. I can hug them. I give the best cuddles, don't you know? Ask my sons. They need to feel and experience all these emotions, not just happiness because truth be told, life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Resilience is only half the battle, compassion is another. One cannot feel compassion if they do not know how sadness feels.

It hasn't been an easy 11 months. I've let myself be as authentic as I can be. I am braver, yes, because I can admit I feel joy and happiness despite my desolation. I am beyond grateful because I have William. He made me a mummy, he calls me mummy. He is my soulmate. If it wasn't for him, neither my husband nor I would be where we are now, doing the things we do, making big decisions and creating dreams. When we were choosing the name for William, I said to my husband I want William because it means resolute protector, and that's who he is, a protector to the ones he loves the most.

I saw this quote and it fit Jon and I so well: "No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together". He holds my yellow umbrella. He's my Ted.

There is a whole tribe that has been supporting me and family. Some I know and some are strangers with good hearts.

Love keeps my world go round. Love for my boys, my husband, my friends, family, myself.


A GRIEVING MUM'S LEARNED LESSON: THE OSCILLATION OF GRIEF

25 January 2018

An oscillation is a repeated motion about a fixed point. The fixed point known as the equilibrium position, is where the oscillating object returns to once the oscillation stops. (Source: Breithaupt Pages)
Words don't come easy when I try to explain what do I mean when I say "The Oscillation of Grief", so I decided to draw it instead.
The Oscillation of Grief, illustrated by me.
 That's me. My fixed point is grief, it's permanent, a lifetime. Going through life is when the oscillation begins and as I've mentioned, the fixed point is grief and I swing through all the emotions as normal healthy as I can with the people around me.

Grieving is usually paired with sadness, depression, longing, despair, etc. It's the common expectation from the bereaved. Yes, we are sad. Yes, we are lonely. Yes, we are angry. Another common expectation is that, there's a timeline until when one should grieve. I often get told to grieve as long as I want, however,  I must stop one day so I can enjoy life again, move forward and be happy.

What the non-grieving eyes can't see is that I (emphasis on "grieving mum") can be truly happy and  grieving at the same time or be grateful and still be grieving.  You can be one (happy) or the other (sad) or both. My joyful and peaceful days are not a sign of finally getting healed from my broken heart. It's far from it. The good days are just an indication that my life is not (totally) devoid of any good feels contrary to the idea that because I am grieving then I must be sad all the freaking time.

Sometimes when peaceful days are abundant and then a huge wave of sadness hit and cripples the bereaved, the eye-rolls (judgements) are imminent. Why can't she just move one? Why can't she just find joy in what she has?. Why does she keep on going back to square one?

It's almost an impossible task to just move on and enjoy what is, but it doesn't mean I am (we are) ungrateful. You can't control your feelings (fact). You can hide and ignore them but they will always find its way out just like fart. The heart will feel what it needs to feel. We shouldn't stop it. If it dictates sadness then sadness it should be. If it craves peace then give it peace. It is ok to be upset. It is ok to be sad. It is ok to be happy. It is ok to say no. It is ok to cry. It is ok to feel emotions.

It is OK to go through all the motions of the oscillation, both good and bad.

The oscillation of grief, when in motion, is the new (healthy) state of life of the bereaved. However, when stationary, the grief had only begun. It can stay motionless for as long as needed for the bearings to be right before any form of movement can commence. Seeking help can jumpstart the movement and often times it's the only effective way to start oscillation. The mind is robbed of reason when you lose someone and yet it screams why to understand the loss, that's when grief motion feels stationary.

The motions will change us as a person. It's changing me. For instance, I no longer engage with bullshit when I see it. I simply change direction, run away from it. The change usually filters the people in your circle, some leave, some stay and some don't care. The ones who stay are my truest of friends whom I adore and love with all my heart.

The illustration above should be a good guide for those who have grieving loved ones. Expect us to disconnect and reconnect to save our energy, that's just the truth and we can only ask for patience, understanding and unconditional love.

A continuous oscillation is deemed healthy and that's what I thrive for these days. I acknowledge every emotions and stay authentic as I can to these feelings and try to never apologise for having them. When I am sad, I am sad. When I am happy, I am truly happy. When I am angry, I am fuming. When I pick a fight, it's not the fight that matters, it's what I do to makeup after the fight has the most significance.

A healthy oscillation of grief requires kindness to oneself. It requires acceptance that we are not perfect beings. It requires self-love.

Disclaimer: This is written by me and thoughts and descriptions are drawn from my personal experience. Note that people grieve in different ways and this is how I am going through mine.





THE MOTHER I WAS AND THE MOTHER I AM BECOMING

28 July 2017

Watercolour painting made by me!

Motherhood, in all its glory and challenges is hard work. Nothing can prepare you for what your life is going to be once you become a mother, your whole being will shift dramatically. I say dramatically because if anything, hormone-charged emotions are abound. All of your pre-conditioned upbringing will come into play and it will be heightened because suddenly you are now responsible for another human life and all you have are memories of how you were raised and the values your parents instilled in you. In my personal experience, eighty percent (80%) of the time, Motherhood is pure joy, immense love, total admiration and incredible pride for oneself and your baby. And the other twenty percent (20%) is a mix of heartache, disappointment, frustration, sleepless nights, self doubt and unwarranted mother's guilt.

The reality is, no books (not even the amazing Maggie Dent) can truly teach you how to be a mother but it can guide you to become self-aware in what works for you and your family. Our babies play a big part in shaping us to the mother we are meant to be.

I once read somewhere that the best thing you can give your children is a happy mummy. A statement that spoke to me more than any other pieces of advice I've received and welcomed since joining the motherhood tribe. It was the one thing that got me through the low points in the early weeks of motherhood when I had William. I felt lonely and isolated from the rest of the world, even to my new found mummy friends, why? Because people's views are different and sadly judgement is given more than kindness. I was judged for bottle-feeding my newborn, for co-sleeping,  for not wearing my baby, for using a dummy, for choosing my baby over drinks with friends, for saying no to late dinners, for letting my baby "rule" / "change" my life and many more. It was hard and shocking because you'd think that every mother in the world would have compassion to another, but it's always easier to judge. I've done it, I judged mums too and joined mums who judged other mums. Insecurities play a big part when judgement is thrown to another mother. And like I said, your pre-conditioned upbringing will play a big part in the early days when you're new to the role and you are just as blind as every other new mums navigating this new path.

You know nothing Jon Snow. 

I knew nothing about motherhood. I had pre-conceived notions of what it is going to be but I didn't realise how "generic" they all were until now. It's not one size fits all. So when it became lonely because of the judgements, I vowed to choose my happy-self because it was said the best gift you can give your children is a happy mummy, and I believed it.

I've shared it to new mums in the hope that it will be as powerful mantra as it was to me. But that was before Thomas. Death of a child also shifts your whole being so dramatically and it messes the emotional balance you once established for yourself. Grief is so complex that no two days are ever the same even if you do the exact same things. It's neither linear nor straight-forward. Once you lose a child, your happiness will now co-exist with sadness forever.

And so now my stance has changed which means I am changing as a mother (once again). I don't believe that the best thing we can give our children is a happy version of ourselves.  I think and truly believe that our children need, an authentic version of ourselves. We show all kinds of emotions to our children like love, happiness, adoration, anger, frustration, exhaustion but it's often concealed when we're sad. I've told myself many times to not be sad, to gather myself together, it's the last time I'm crying, I am stronger than this. I told my William countless times that there's no need for tears or "you can't be sad" or "Don't be sad" or "What are you sad about, you should be happy because...". I've been told by my parents (and other elderly members of my family) that If you're sad you're weak. Crying is for the weak. Boys don't cry. Big girls don't cry. If you show your tears they will take you as a weak person.

My son needs a mummy who is not afraid to show emotions, especially sadness. A mummy who is willing to admit that it's ok to not be ok and it's ok to talk about it. A mummy who acknowledges that life is not all about the highs, there are lows too and they are equally essential for ones emotional and mental maturity. Compassion is often birthed by sadness and in today's world, we lack compassion.


Suppressing ones sadness can lead to anger. I know, I've done it and sometimes I'm still doing it subconsciously. 

Happiness is one of the many things we seek in life and it's important that we make a conscious decision to be happy when we can, where we can. I think life is magical when you're happy. But life isn't perfect and we shouldn't create a facade of happiness for the sake of "staying happy" or "being strong" or "being the best role model". Happiness doesn't equate strength, authenticity does.

I still don't know anything about motherhood, I only know how to be a mother to my sons, one in my arms and one in my heart. But one thing is certain now, I'll be challenging myself to be more authentic for my sake, for my babies' sake, for my family's sake. I am challenging you too.

As always, thank you for all the love sent my way. You are all magnificent human beings. How is your heart today?

Be kind always,
Sheryl xo

--------------------------
*It's ok to seek help, it's more than OK. It's not a sign of weakness, not one bit. If you feel you're being consumed by your grief, loneliness and sadness, it's ok to seek help. 






GRIEF + GRATITUDE

23 June 2017

My own artwork which proves that I draw like my preschooler does.

I lost 2 children, one at 9 weeks pregnant and the other at 23 weeks old. My grief is about my babies, most especially the one I met and held in my arms. The one who we waited for long and came but stayed only so briefly. The one who's forever changed me. THOMAS.

Grief is painful, that's textbook. It's not often talked about because it could be a generation thing or a belief thing or just plain coping mechanism. But you see, neither can you escape it nor hurry it.

Grief comes in waves. Sometimes you can stand through them and other times it hits you so hard and it eats you up, and you tumble and roll in it and before you know it, you're dragged in the deep end. It normally takes you somewhere calmer if it hasn't dumped you broken and you float with your head above water as your legs work hard to keep you that way. You're normally alone too in your own grief because the way you deal with it is different than the others.

Grief is ugly. It brings out the worst in you. You question everything, your faith, your God, your universe, your tribe, your village, yourself. Why my baby? But then you don't really wish it on any other baby but you still ask why anyway. You question everyone's intentions. Are they really sincere or is it just pity? Are they really concerned about you or are they tired of hearing your stories about your dead child? Are they really a friend or someone who thinks you deserve everything you've been given. Are they really there for you or is it just something they say to make themselves feel better?

Grief makes you play the victim. It makes you turn everything about yourself without you realising it. Was it my fault? Is this my penance? What could have I possibly done to deserve this? What did I do? What did I not do? Me! Me! Me! It makes you sick in your stomach that you even thought that it's all about you when it's really not. It's not about me. I am hurting, yes, but I am not a victim of life.

Grief makes you over sensitive, almost angry at anything. You become easily offended by the things you read, hear and see. When you hear someone complaining about having woken up at 4am by their child, you want to shake them and tell them to stop complaining and to bloody well enjoy it. When you read something online about "grieving the loss of the baby years because the child is now in school", you almost want to fight. Fight what? Fight the right to claim the word "grieving" should only belong to the bereaved. Fight to say, pick another word to use please because your child is alive and well. When you see someone juggles life with multiple kids and find more bad than good about the life they're building, it makes you want to just scream for them shut up and stop talking. You don't know what you're talking about!

Grief makes you guilty. You feel guilty when you don't cry and yet you feel huge guilt for crying too much. You feel guilty for thinking of something else and yet feel guilty for only thinking about your angel. You feel guilty for having fun or even for smiling but yet you feel guilty if you don't do it.

Grief makes you compassionate about others who are not grieving the same loss as you. It's not easy when you're consumed by the sadness that it comes with, but when that break in the clouds happen and you see sunlight through even for just a minute, you feel gratitude. It makes you so thankful that whatever they are complaining about, no matter how trivial, is still the hardest thing that's happened to them at that given moment and you want it to stay that way. You're thankful that the love they have for their child is so strong that even if they are alive and well they still feel some form of a loss of the baby years. You feel thankful for big families who juggle life the way they know how and still stay very honest about the ups and downs of raising a family. It's not easy. It's not always aha moments. Parenting is hard work. It's not hard, it's hard work, that's the difference.

Gratitude is everywhere today when I woke up. Oprah said it in a video that I am sure I was meant to see. I feel grateful and lifted because I hear my windchimes chiming away as I type this post. I feel inspired to paint and I did. It may look like an art made by my 4 year old but hey, I did something new today. I am still withdrawn to the outside world and pretty much stay at home to let myself feel.

I am grateful that my Thomas touched so many lives in his short lifetime. I am grateful that my William was part of that legacy. It was them on that photo that showed the world what love means. I am grateful for my family for always being there, through our differences we are united in love. I am grateful for the my true friends for giving us space and at the same be at our doorstep when we need them. I am grateful for my husband because this is our for better or for worse. I can only wish that our future will have better things to come and I do pray that one day we can smile wholeheartedly again. I am grateful for my windchimes, a very thoughtful gift by a family in US. Each time it creates the beautiful sound I smile.

Gratitude and Grief go hand in hand, and it means more to me when I can find things to be grateful for despite of everything. I am trying hard everyday to find these little things and when I do I grab them and soak in it even for just a minute. Gratitude bursts.

One day at a time.

WHY MY BABY?

14 June 2017

"The sun is peeking through the stained window in my walk-in closet. It warms up this very tiny room where I normally lay on the carpet where the sunlight hits and I turn into a recluse. Today is no different. I put Frank Sinatra on and turn the volume up until all I can hear is his beautiful voice. It's laundry day and my washing basket is full of clothes I need to fold and put away. Some clothes I don't really need and the others are pre-owned by a special woman. I go through the pile and pick out a special top. A mint green lacey top that she loved wearing whenever she visits me. I fold it gently and my tears start to fall. I have her shirt but I don't have her here with me."


This is a vivid memory of my first taste of grief. A daughter losing her mother and the pain was indescribable. I thought I've had the worst days of my life. I thought wrong.

Today is the first time I cried to the point of losing my mind. The deep need to hold my baby overcome my whole body and I was inconsolable, even to my husband. 

I sit on the floor of our bedroom and stared out the window asked, "Why my baby?"

I cried until I couldn't anymore and then I decided to take photos. I don't mean to upset anyone but my friends, this is grief. 











My dear Thomas

I am sorry Mummy's been crying a lot. I miss holding and kissing you. I miss singing to you. I missing playing with you. I miss you more than words can say.

I love you always and forever,
Mummy xx