Monday, 21 May 2018

Cumulative Grief

"Cumulative grief is the term used to describe people that have experienced loss after loss." Many of the families we work with have experienced more than one loss of a baby or child.
As helpful as it would be to pretend that every time we suffer a loss we have time to process that loss and include it into our lives before we suffer another loss, we know that that is simply not the case. It is all too common that a death is followed by another death. Pain is piled on pain; fear on fear. 
This experience of suffering a second loss before one has grieved the initial loss is sometimes known as “cumulative grief”, “bereavement overload” or “grief overload”.
When another loss happens, how can you possibly know if you have “grieved the initial loss”? 
This is a tough question because grief is so individual for all of us. There is no checklist or timeline that works for everyone. But one thing that is common to the many different grief theories out there and to the personal experiences of so many grievers is that grief requires time. We need time to understand and process each loss. If we don’t have the time we need before another loss occurs we end up overwhelmed by these losses and unable to give them the attention they need.
When we become overwhelmed by anything our mind kicks into an incredibly powerful defense mechanism, which is avoidance. People try to use avoidance when experiencing just one loss, so it is not surprising that this grows when there are more losses. Though avoidance, denial, and shock may seem like a really bad thing (and it can be if it is never resolved), it can be our body’s way of keeping us functioning in the short term. When we are overloaded with multiple losses, this avoidance allows us to maintain our day to day activities. What becomes important when multiple losses have occurred is an awareness that we may need to make a real effort to begin the work of facing the reality of the loss, as this avoidance can’t continue indefinitely.
Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for how to cope with cumulative grief. But if you have suffered multiple losses there are some important things to remember.
 Be aware of the risk of cumulative loss/grief overload. 
Knowing is half the battle!
Just being aware that multiple losses in a short period of time can bring up unique challenges and can put you at risk for a grief process that is complicated is important. Cumulative losses do put us at higher risk for prolonged grief. 
Be sensitive to other friends or family members who have suffered multiple losses and are at risk for cumulative grief
When we lose someone we become absorbed in our own way of grieving. We can find it difficult to deal with people who are grieving differently. Being sensitive to the differences between all grievers is important. This sensitivity can be especially important when someone is facing the unique challenges of cumulative grief.
Be aware of the increased possibility of avoidance or denial in instances of cumulative grief
To make it through, one day at a time, you may find yourself more likely to use avoidance more than you have ever done in the past. This can also increase your risk of alcohol or drug use. These are often used to numb the pain and blot out reality. Being aware that you must grieve all of the losses. 
Keep in mind that time is not the only factor in cumulative grief
Though it may be tempting to assume that bereavement overload only occurs when deaths occur in immediate succession, this is not the case. A loss that was never fully been grieved years before can be brought back up by a new loss and can be overwhelming.
Grief is as unique as each person we lose, so we cannot rush grieving multiple losses
Though it can be tempting to think that grief is grief, and we can lump our grief together if we have multiple losses in a short period, the reality is that we must grieve ever loss individually. Grief is not generic to any loss but is specific to each person we lose, our relationship with that person, and the circumstances of that loss. Time must be spent on each loss in order to process them in our lives.
Cumulative grief can put a greater strain on our faith.
One devastating loss can be difficult enough and can cause us to question our faith in a higher power. When someone suffers multiple losses, this feeling can increase. People can begin to feel they are being punished and have a harder time resolving a God with all the pain they have seen and felt, or struggle with repeatedly experiencing ‘bad things happening to good people’. This is certainly not true in every case of grief overload. Many will continue to find strength in their faith but it is important to know it is normal if your faith shakes as a result of grief overload.

If you have had multiple losses it is important that you do seek help and support. You may be surprised by how much it can help you and your family. When you are already emotionally and physically exhausted from the pain of one loss, it can help to seek support when more losses happen. If counselling doesn’t feel right for you maybe consider other ways which you can grieve for each of your losses. Find a friend or family member to talk to. Write or journal. Find a creative outlet, like art or photography. Join a support group. Just make it something that works for you and that will allow you the opportunity to deal with each of these losses. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

The plans for our 2018 Charity Ball are well and truly underway and it is looking to be the biggest and best yet.

We always get quite excited about the Ball as it is a time when we can celebrate what the charity has achieved in the last 12 months as well as celebrating the achievements of others that provide support to bereaved families.

In our first year we gave out 2 awards for our youngest fund raisers as we felt that it was important to recognise the effort and commitment they gave to the charity.
Last year we gave out several more awards to businesses and professionals that we have either worked with, fundraised through or been contacted by families to say how amazing they are and the support they have given them.

This year we have 8 award categories and we have opened it up to the public to vote for someone who has helped them, supported them or even inspired them.
The 8 categories are:

Bereavement Support Worker
Best Bereavement Service (Hospital or Community)
Midwife of the Year
Inspirational Individual of the Year
Outstanding Volunteer
Young Fundraiser of the Year
Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year
Corporate Fundraiser of the Year

We would love to get lots and lots of nominations for each category and if you would like to put someone forward you can by going to our website and clicking on the Charlies Charity Ball page on the drop down menu.

This year we have also released opportunities for businesses or individuals to come on board as sponsors for each of the awards. This is a brilliant way for companies to become involved and help us to raise as much money as we can to enable us to continue to provide the free services we currently do.

We are offering 3 different levels of sponsorship:

Headline Sponsor - £350

  • 10 Free tickets
  • Programme - full page colour advert in our programme which is given to each guest.
  • Goodie bag - your flyer added to each goodie bag.
  • Presentation slide - Your logo featured on a sponsor slide within our presentation shown at the Ball.
  • Website Marketing - Your logo will be placed on our website sponsors page.
  • Social Media Marketing - Charlies Charity Ball sponsors will receive regular 'Shout Out's' on our social media outlets with links to your business.
  • Email Marketing - Charlies Charity Ball sponsors will see their logo included on our newsletter leading up to the event.
  • Inclusion/credit in press releases produced in relation to the event.
  • Logo included in the 'Thank You' page of the souvenir brochure.

Table Sponsor - £250

  • 10 Free tickets
  • Programme - half page colour advert in the programme which is given to every guest.
  • Goodie Bag - Your flyer added to each goodie bag.
  • Presentation Slide - Your logo featured on a sponsor slide within our presentation shown at the Ball.
  • Website Marketing - Your logo will be placed on our website sponsors page.
  • Social Media Marketing - Charlies Charity Ball sponsors will receive regular 'Shout Out's' on our social media outlets (with links).
  • Inclusion/credit in the 'Thank You' page of the souvenir brochure.

Award Sponsor £100

  • 4 Free tickets
  • Programme - half page colour advert in our programme which is given to all guests.
  • Goodie Bag - Your flyer added to each goodie bag.
  • Presentation Slide - Your logo featured on a sponsor slide within our presentation at the Ball.
  • Social Media Marketing - Charlies Charity Ball sponsors will receive regular 'Shout Out's' on our social media outlets.
  • Logo included in the 'Thank You' page of the souvenir brochure.

If you or someone you know are interested in any of the opportunities to get involved with our Charity Ball you can either email us at:
or go to our website and click on the Charity Ball Sponsorship page on the drop down menu.

We look forward to receiving the nominations and hopefully seeing lot's of you at our Charity Ball & Awards Night 2018. Let's make this years event a night to remember.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Last year we were contacted by a lady and her friend who wanted to raise money for our charity as a way of saying thank you for the help and support we gave to their friends after they lost their baby girl. 

We have met some amazing people who have wanted to raise money for us over the last 5 years and feel very humbled by their dedication and determination.

The latter end of 2017 and so far in 2018 has been great for fundraising and we seem to have reached that point where we are only having to arrange a couple of events ourselves, which is great as it means we have more time to dedicate to the day to day running of the charity and the extra services we are now providing. It is also much easier on our stress levels as organising events can be very tricky and time consuming.

Helen & Dina decided to take on the challenge of a 34 mile walk around 3 Lochs in just 1 day.
On their JustGiving page they explained why they had chosen to undertake the challenge.

"We are raising money for Charlies-Angel-Centre and supporting bereaved parents and families. The charity has helped to support one of my best friends through a very tough time in her life and I have heard from her all the fantastic work they do, supporting her and her husband and only on public donations.
Charlies-Angel-Centre needs to be recognised for their hard work in order to support families through hard times."

After they had completed the event we were really happy to receive some of their photos from the day.

They managed to raise the amazing amount of £577.50 on their Justgiving page. Helen has asked if they can come over to meet us at our office to hand over the cash donations they also have received. 
We are really looking forward to meeting them and saying a massive Thank You. 

Monday, 23 April 2018

What is Normal after your child dies?

Normal is having tears waiting behind every smile when you 
realise someone important is missing from all the important
events in your family's life. 

Normal is trying to decide what to take to the cemetery for 
Birthdays, X-mas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, New Years, 
Valentine's Day, July 4th and Passover. 

Normal is feeling like you can't sit another minute without 
getting up and screaming, because you just don't like to sit through anything anymore. 

Normal is not sleeping very well because a thousand what if's
& why didn't I's go through your head constantly. 

Normal is reliving the moment your baby/child died 
continuously through your eyes and mind, holding your head
to make it go away. 

Normal is having the TV on the minute you walk into the 
house to have noise, because the silence is deafening. 

Normal is staring at every child who looks like they are your
child’s age. And then thinking of the age they would be now. 
Then wondering why it is even important to imagine it,
because it will never happen. 

Normal is every happy event in your life always being backed
up with sadness lurking close behind, because of the hole in
your heart. 

Normal is telling the story of your child's death as if it were an
everyday, commonplace activity, and then seeing the horror 
in someone's eyes at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become a part of your "normal." 

Normal is each year coming up with the difficult task of how
to honour your childs’s memory and their birthdays and 
survive these days. And trying to find the balloon or flag that fit's the occasion. Happy Birthday? Not really. 

Normal is my heart warming and yet sinking at the sight of
something special my child loved. Thinking how they would 
love it, but how they are not here to enjoy it. 

Normal is having some people afraid to mention my child’s
Normal is making sure that others remember them.

Normal is after the funeral is over everyone else goes on with
their lives, but we continue to grieve our loss forever. 

Normal is weeks, months, and years after the initial shock,
the grieving gets worse, not better. 

Normal is not listening to people compare anything in their
life to this loss, unless they too have lost a child. Nothing compares.


Even if your child is in the remotest part of the earth away
from you - it doesn't compare. 

Losing a parent is horrible, but having to bury your own child
is unnatural. 

Normal is taking pills, and trying not to cry all day, because
you know your mental health depends on it. 

Normal is realising you do cry every day.

Normal is being impatient with everything and everyone but
someone stricken with grief over the loss of their child. 

Normal is sitting at the computer crying, sharing how you feel
with chat buddies who have also lost a child.  
Normal is not listening to people make excuses for God.
"God may have done this because…" 

I know my child is in "heaven," but hearing people trying to
think up excuses as to why a fantastic young child was taken from this earth is not appreciated and makes absolutely no sense to this grieving mother. 

Normal is being too tired to care if you paid the bills, cleaned
the house, did the laundry or if there is any food. 

Normal is wondering this time whether you are going to say
you have two children or one child, because you will never 
see this person again and it is not worth explaining that your child is dead. 
And yet when you say you have one child to avoid that
problem, you feel horrible as if you have betrayed the dead child. 

Normal is asking God why he took your child's life instead of
yours and asking if there even is a God. 

Normal is knowing you will never get over this loss, not in a
day nor a million years. 

Normal is having therapists agree with you that you will never
"really" get over the pain and that there is nothing they can do to help you because they know only bringing back your child back from the dead could possibly make it "better." 

Normal is learning to lie to everyone you meet and telling
them you are fine. You lie because it makes others uncomfortable if you cry. You've learned it's easier to lie to them then to tell them the truth that you still feel empty and it's probably never going to get any better -- ever. 

And last of all...

Normal is hiding all the things that have become "normal" for
you to feel, so that everyone around you will think that you are "normal."

Monday, 16 April 2018

Here is our April 2018 Newsletter. 

We always enjoy keeping you all up to date with what we have achieved and more importantly what you have helped us to achieve. The work we do would not be possible without the loyal help and support we get from all of you.

If you would like to contribute to our next newsletter, July 2018, with your story please send us an email to Often hearing others experiences can help other families and makes them feel less alone and isolated. Knowing that someone else can identify with the grief and pain you and your family are going through can bring comfort. We know from experience that many good friendships have happened through sharing their angels with each other and being able to support each other through the 'wobbly' times.

We hope you enjoy reading our latest Newsletter, feel free to share it with all of your friends and family.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Losing a baby hurts regardless of what stage of pregnancy you are at.

Since losing Charlie and being thrown into the world of bereavement support we have come to understand how painful, both physically and mentally, child loss is.
Before Charlie came into our lives most of us had never really thought about the effects of child or baby loss. We may have had family members that had been through a miscarriage but it was never really spoken about.
It has only been in the last 5 years or so that this subject is becoming more openly spoke about. The soap's often get slated for their portrayal of difficult storylines but the way that several of them have dealt with baby loss over the last few years has been commendable. Not only have they sensitively looked at the impact it has on all members of the family but they have also raised the profile of bereavement support for families following the loss of a baby or child. This has made it easier for people to go and seek support and it has made the people offering the support more recognisable. There is still a huge gap between the number of services available and the amount of families needing help and support and we can only hope that these services continue to grow.

When we were looking for help there were very limited resources available to us and it felt as if we were just thrown into the abyss. We know that there is more help out there now but it is still inadequate for the amount of families that need it.
Across the UK the picture is pretty much the same as Leeds, although there are some areas that seem to be able to offer a consistently high level of support. We have been campaigning for improvements to the current levels of bereavement support after the loss of a baby or child for several years now and we will not give up our campaign until we see that all families, regardless of where they live, are getting the help they need when they need it.

There are still some people that think that if a woman loses her baby during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy that it isn't a 'big deal'. Often we hear how friends and relatives have even said 'well it isn't really a baby yet'. To that couple, when they saw those lines on the pregnancy test, it is their baby. Having someone they love refer to their baby as not really being a baby yet is so hurtful.

Even the terminology used by the professionals when it comes to losing a baby before 12 weeks makes the family feel that their baby was not valued or respected in their own rites. Often the Dr's and nurses will refer to the baby as 'products of conception' or 'foetus'. Both of these are very impersonal and if you were the parent hearing your child spoken about like this I'm sure you would feel devastated and angry.
I understand that the staff are busy but please remember to show some compassion, these families are facing probably the hardest loss they will ever go through and your treatment of them can make a huge difference to how they are able to process what is happening.

Recently the laws surrounding the certification of babies born before 24 weeks of pregnancy has been in the headlines and a review is currently underway. This could make a big difference to the families who at the moment are not even able to get a certificate acknowledging that their baby was even here. This recognition of their babies existence will have a big impact on the families mental well being as they will have a legal document that shows that their baby did exist.

If a family lose their baby after 24 weeks the family are automatically allowed to register them as a still birth, but if the baby is even just 1 day off from 24 weeks they cannot.

The term 'miscarriage' also has different meanings to different people.
If the baby is lost before 12 weeks it is called an early miscarriage and from 12 - 24 weeks it is classed as a late miscarriage.

When you talk to people about miscarriage they often think that it means that the lady will just naturally pass the baby with very little effect or pain. Some will even say that it must be like just having a period.
However we know that this is not the case for many women.
Whilst some ladies may pass the baby in what they describe as being a 'heavy period' many more will have very different experiences.
Lots of ladies have told us that it started with them beginning to feel contractions and once in hospital they will have to go through full labour to deliver their baby and others have even had to undergo surgery to deliver their child. None of these different ways are going to be painless and will have a very big emotional and mental impact on both the mum and dad.

We have also spoken with parents that have had to make the very difficult decision to end their pregnancy due to either the babies physical health being incompatible with life or that continuing the pregnancy could result in the death of the mother. To even begin to understand how these families feel is impossible.
No one should ever have to make such tragic decisions but then to have their choice referred to as a 'termination' is heart breaking. Many families will not refer to their loss as a termination to family due to the way it makes others think about it. They will say that they have had a miscarriage rather than feel like they are being judged for their decision.
There are still such negative thoughts about the word termination and it gives people the idea that you have chosen to end the pregnancy for no specific reason. None of the families we have spoken with would ever have wanted to make the choice to terminate their pregnancy, their baby was very much wanted and loved.
The word termination usually makes people think of young girls who have become pregnant and are not ready to become a mum.
This is NOT the case for families seeking a termination for medical reasons. There has been some talk about finding a better way of describing it and one that we have been told by a family we support is 'compassionate induction'. I think that this is a much gentler way of describing what the family is going through and could make it much easier for them to openly talk about their loss without fear of being judged.

As a charity we will support any family that has lost a baby or a child regardless of how the loss happened or how long ago it was. No one should ever be judged for the decisions they make about their lives, unless you have walked in their shoes you have no idea how much turmoil they have been through and continue to go through.

Bereavement is hard enough to deal with without the added stress of wondering how people will be with you. If you know a family that have experienced a loss please reach out to them, make them see that there are people out there who care and want to help. It can be as simple as just a smile as you pass by to a hug just at the right time.
Life is to short and to precious to spend your time worrying about what others think. Sharing a problem can help you to cope with it.

No one should ever go through grief alone.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter can be another very difficult time for families who have lost a baby or child.

All the shops are full of Easter eggs or gifts, TV is full of adverts for Easter and getting together as a family. Everywhere you look there are pictures of families all happily enjoying their Easter Day. Even buses and billboards are full of Easter promotional pictures.
Even if you go out to eat over the holidays all the restaurants are full of adverts and special Easter meal deals. There seems to be no escape from it.
Easter is portrayed as being family time and you feel that you are excluded from this on the basis that your child is not here. This can make you feel even more alone and isolated.

If you go back to the origins of Easter you see that it is
supposed to be about celebrating new life and remembering the sacrifice Jesus gave to his followers and his rise from the dead to take his place beside his father in heaven.

This has lost some of its significance over the years as it has become another commercialised celebration. 
Like Christmas, the big companies hijack the true meaning of the story to benefit themselves.
It is sad that we live in a world where money means more than people.

If you are a Christian and attend church over the Easter holidays this can bring conflict to your beliefs. You want to go along and celebrate with your fellow believers but you may also feel conflicted by how could God allow something so awful to happen to your child.
Many will get comfort from going along to their church and being around others that share the same beliefs. Often families have spoken that it has taken them a while to return to their church as they had felt very angry towards God for allowing their loss to happen. Many are now able to return and have found great comfort and peace from going back to the church.

A lot of families will find their own way of getting through this time of year. I know many families that use this extended weekend to do or make things in memory of their child. I have seen Easter pictures incorporating their child' name, baking chocolate crispy cakes for theirs and other families, visiting their child's grave to take some Easter decorations and spending some time there with their angel.
Other families may decide to try and avoid all the celebrations that are going on. They feel like locking themselves away and doing anything else but celebrate.
Whichever way you decide to get through another commercialised 'family time of year' is the right one for you.
Don't feel pressured into feeling that you have to join in if you don't want to. Let people know that this Easter you want to spend some time either with your partner or even alone.
You may wish to buy other children in the family a gift but if you even find this too difficult don't make yourself feel bad or guilty. You can always plan to take them out after the holidays to do something e.g. go to the park or swimming.

Some families find it useful to do something totally different over the holiday period. Maybe take a couple of days away together, or go off and visit places you have wanted to see. Anything that is different to how you would normally have been spending your time can be helpful.
Breaking the routine can also give your brain a break from the worrying of how to act around others who want to be celebrating Easter.

As the years have gone on I find it harder at Easter time when I am buying Easter eggs for my other grandchildren. I will stand there and find my mind thinking of which ones I would be buying Charlie, would he have liked normal chocolate or would he be like his mummy and prefer white chocolate.
It makes you focus on the fact that he would have been 5 this Easter and would have been really involved and excited about the Easter Bunny visiting. How we would have all loved to be standing there this week putting eggs in the trolley for him.

However you decide to get through the holidays remember to go easy on yourself. Life is so hard at times, for you to then be giving yourself a hard time about it. Give yourself time to do what you want to do or need to do to be able to keep going.

Be gentle on your heart.