Sunday, 24 September 2017

We know from our own experiences how important having memorial things for your baby or child are. They give you the opportunity to make memories together with other family members and give you something/somewhere that you can go to whenever you want to. A family that get to take their child home can go away and make many many memories over the years together and can sit and share them whenever they want to.A family that has to leave the hospital with empty arms are not able to make any future memories together, the memories they managed to share in those brief but important days after their baby's/child's death are the only ones they will have.When you lose a baby or child, whether it through miscarriage, stillbirth, shortly after birth or during early childhood the grief is unimaginable. This can be compounded by not having something or somewhere to go to grieve your child. There is no typical way to commemorate these children and no socially acceptable way to grieve. Parents can feel confused and alone in their sorrow.As a family we were driven by a strong desire to do something to remember Charlie. We all had our own ideas of what we wanted to do and over the years we have all added more and more things to our memorial items. I always buy a new Christmas tree bauble every year, most of the family have had tattoo's in Charlie' honour and we have all found many different things. 

Finding your way to memorialise your child can bring some comfort.The thing many families struggle with is not being able to take any new photographs as your child changes and grows. This makes the pictures you took at the hospital so precious and being able to put them onto canvas or have them framed beautifully can help with the memory making.There are now charities that will come along to the hospital and take pictures for you. They are very discrete and are able to get photos that will be so important for the family.Some families I have spoken with have had the pictures they took put into a video with special songs playing along with some video footage of their child. Whilst it is very emotional to watch it can bring such comfort to them.Other families have told me how they sent out cards letting their friends and family know what has happened. Whilst this may sound strange it can help the family by not constantly having to be asked what has happened.A lot of people I have met have had tattoo's to honour their child, many having their footprints or date of birth along with a poem or a piece of writing they have found comforting. I have a few tattoo's over the years in memory of family I have lost and am proud to show them off and talk about them.

Jewellery is another way a lot of families choose to remember their child. There are so many companies that now do special memorial jewellery and will also place some of the ashes within so they can have their child with them at all times.I think this is such a lovely thing to have and brings so much comfort and love to bereaved families.Some families who lost their child through miscarriage can often feel forgotten as they will not always have been able to take pictures or have any ashes to place anywhere. They still need to be able to grieve and desperately need something to help them honour their child. As a charity we understand how important a memorial gift can be and this is what made us start having memorial gardens made to give to the families we support. They are all unique with no other one being exactly alike. Recently we have delivered quite a few to families and everyone of them has said how nice it is to have something just for their child. Regardless of how grieving parents acknowledge their loss, finding a concrete or symbolic action that is meaningful to their family can help with the healing process and bring comfort over time. We provide our memorial gardens for free to the families we support. We fund them by having a Just Giving campaign that donations can be made to to enable us to keep giving them out to bereaved parents and families.https://www.justgiving.com/…/charlies-a…/memorialgardengifts

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Last night was our 2nd Charity Ball and what a fantastic night it was.

Saturday afternoon saw 10 of us arrive at The Hunslet Club armed with decorations and chair covers. 
After our first event in 2016 we felt confident that we would be able to get the room ready in record time, I think we even surprised ourselves at just how quickly we had it finished and looking stunning, we really are an awesome team when we it comes to room dressing.


We then all headed home to get glammed up for the evening.

White Rose Photo Booth hire set up their booth ready for everyone to go along and have a bit of fun with all the costumes and silly poses it was asking you to do. There are lots of pictures from the evening. Click on the link below to go to the event page to see all the other pictures.



Our guests began arriving at around 6.15pm and a few butterflies began charging around in our stomachs. We have definitely found out over the last few years that we are very good at appearing calm and in control when inside we are very nervous but excited. We also have learnt that we always manage to pull off any event we plan and Charity Ball 2017 was no exception.

The room looked awesome and everyone commented on how nice everything looked.

Quickly the tables began to fill and the evening began to unfold.



The caterers did an amazing job of getting everyone served and satisfied in a speedy time. The pudding went down very well !!



Whilst people were eating and socialising we had magician Adam Casper going around the tables entertaining the guests. He is such a talented magician and certainly left many people looking very confused and baffled. Thank you for coming along Adam.



Next came the speech to welcome everyone to the evening and was followed by a video telling our story and reason behind the charity as well as remembering & honouring many families angels. It was a beautiful video but also a very emotional one, it really puts the evenings true cause in the front of your mind. There were so many photos that showed their beautiful faces, it really hits you that they are no longer with us. 
I am sure there were a few tears shed within the room but that was okay, this charity is a group no one wants to become a member of but once you are in it you become part of Charlies Angel Centre family. This makes it a safe and comfortable place to share feelings and show support. 

Last year we gave out 2 awards to Charlies young cousins for their amazing dedication to the charity. 
This year has seen the charity grow way beyond our expectations which helped us to honour many more of the people who have supported us either by fundraising for us or by attending events.

The first award of the evening was presented to Lyndon Campbell from Bevan Brittan Solicitors for their amazing support so far this year. Eight of the staff took part in the Leeds 10k and raised over £3000. We were also informed by them last night that they were not just doing the 10k they are going to be fund raising for us for 12 months. What an amazing bunch of people they are, thank you doesn't seem a big enough word but we are truly thankful to them.


Our next award went to Maria Davidson who makes the beautiful memorial gardens we give to families as a way for them to honour and remember their angel. Each garden is unique and they are so beautiful, Thank you so much Maria.

                                 


Award 3 went to Pauline from LHA Car & Commercial Ltd. Not only have they been our main sponsor for the evening but they are also making regular donations to us by asking their customers to make a donation to us when they go in for bulb changes instead of paying for them. What a brilliant idea, Thank You so much.



We then had 2 awards that came about through our contact with families. There have been so many families that mentioned two people who had really made a huge difference to how they managed to deal with and get through those immediate days and weeks after the loss of their baby or child. 
 The award for Outstanding Contribution to Bereavement Support went to Sam Oakes (Nurse Specialist in PostMortem Consent), she will go above and beyond her role and families speak so highly of her. She has also been very helpful to us whenever we have needed help or advice.


The award for Bereavement Support Officer went to Sharon Mobbs who works in the Bereavement Liaison Team based at St James's hospital.Sharon is always there for the families who go in to see her, many are often in a very distressed state. Sharon will make sure that they leave knowing the next steps that need to take place and feel like they are being looked after, she will also check in on the families to make sure they are okay.



Our 2 final awards went to Rhiann & Amy Curtis (Charlies cousins) for their continued energy and enthusiasm in their fundraising efforts. Earlier this year they both raised over £500 by taking part in the Radical Run.



Next came the auction and the raffle. The comedian who was supposed to come along to compere the auction had been unable to attend and I was getting a little nervous thinking I would have to do it. Thankfully one of our friends and guest, Lorraine, agreed to step in. Lorraine was amazing and has definitely missed her true vocation in life.

The auction raised a phenomenal total of £1166.50.

We had our expert raffle ticket seller Gemma on the case and she did another amazing job. The total raised from the raffle was £310.

With all the formalities out the way it was now time to let the music begin. there were some very fascinating dancing going on but everyone looked to be having a wonderful evening.

The total raised from the Ball is a huge £2,926.50

Yet again our supporters have blown us away, this is such a brilliant amount and will allow us to continue to provide the free help and support to the families who come to us. We have been sharing lots of pictures from the night on our facebook site, please go and check them out.

We are all feeling shattered today but are already thinking ahead to how much bigger the evening will be in 2018. 

Thank You for all your support for 2017, we hope to see you all again next year.

Friday, 8 September 2017

When someone close to you dies, your world is totally torn apart. 
When that loss is your baby or child that feeling is magnified a hundred fold. You feel as fragile as the thinnest tissue paper, feeling as if the slightest breeze might break you up completely. 
Friends, with only good intentions at heart, may try to console you, but so many of them don't know what to say or how to say it.
“What if I say something stupid?”. “What if I say something that makes them cry?” 
On most occasions there is nothing you can say that will make them feel sadder than they already are and just by trying to support them you will make them feel that you care.
However, there are some things that you really need to avoid saying to anyone that is grieving. Over recent weeks when I have visited families nearly all of them have mentioned at least one of the things I am going to cover. Whilst they really appreciated that people had made the effort to visit them they felt that some of the things they said they had really not thought about.
A common response that many families have said they have been told is
"Cheer up, your loved one would not want you to be sad"
I can almost understand the reasoning behind this but when you have just lost a loved one you cannot even think about feeling happy. You may feel that you are relieved that they are not suffering anymore but you have had a huge part of your life turned upside down and inside out. Grievers need to be sad in order for them to get to the other side of grief. When you love deeply you grieve deeply and the sadness is an important part of that.
Another common reaction is
"Try to focus on all the good things you have in your life."
Again, they are trying to give you support but it is not what a grieving person wants to hear when they have just had their world shattered into pieces. Trying to think of anything positive in your life at that time is almost impossible to do.
In time trying to look on the good things in your life may be possible but at that moment they will not want to be standing there saying look how lucky I am. 
"She/he is in a better place"
When you have just lost your baby or child the last thing you want to hear is this sentence, no matter how well meaning the person is. The best place for that child to be should be in their mothers arms with their family around them. Even people I have met who have a strong faith have said that this is where they have questioned their beliefs, some even struggling to return to their place of worship as they are questioning all they have been told over the years.
 “It’s been awhile since they died, It’s time you get over it.”
There is never a time limit on grief and people who say this have never experienced the death of someone close to them. Some people may find that they can move through their grief quicker than others but there should never be pressure put on them to move on and stop grieving. Most families will grieve for many many years and they will learn to live their life in a different way to before their loss, this does not mean they have moved on they have just found a way that enables them to keep going.
 “Cherish all of the wonderful memories. They will bring you peace.” 
I think this statement can be true, in time. But the last thing a newly grieving person wants to hear is to cherish the memories. When their heart is hurting and their mind is spinning and their faith is broken, thinking about memories cuts them because the only thing they want to do is create new memories, which they can no longer do.
 Also when it is the loss of a baby before birth, at birth or soon after birth, the families only have that small window of time before the funeral to make the memories that they will have forever. Knowing that these are the only memories you will have is not a comforting feeling, it feels as if your world is being pulled apart.
 “Pull yourself together because you need to be there for your kids.”
Grief, in its initial stages, is the emotional equivalent to having major surgery. The person is fragile and needs to heal. Following surgery, health care professionals will advise the patient to take it easy and focus on herself. No one would expect the patient to hop down off of the operating table after undergoing heart surgery so that she can fix her kids dinner. So please don’t make a grieving parent feel even worse by suggesting that she’s neglecting her children due to her grief. That’s just cruel.
Grief affects every aspect of someone’s physical and emotional health. It interferes with one’s ability to sleep, eat, concentrate, and function. Therefore, no one has the right to ask another person to swallow her pain in order to focus on others. Doing so only prolongs grief.
 “So, how about the match at the weekend?”
Though it may seem like you’re doing the griever a favour by keeping conversations at a superficial level, what grievers need is someone who is willing to let them be real. They need someone who isn’t afraid to talk about the tough stuff. The sad stuff. The human stuff. They need someone who will sit and listen and maybe even cry with them. This isn’t to say that you must never discuss sports or the weather. Just try to keep in mind that real healing comes from some of the heavier conversations.
 “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.” 
You need to do just that. Stop and think about how you would feel if you were faced with the griever’s circumstances. Consider their feelings, contemplate their pain, imagine their struggle. 
Doing so will spark empathy in you. And empathy is the best thing you can offer someone who is hurting because when you empathise, the right words will come more freely.
Reading this might be making you feel like you don't want to ever talk to someone grieving because you don't want to make their pain worse. You can never make their pain worse, the worst thing that could have happened to them has happened. Just remember to be there for them and let them cry, talk or even sit there in silence. 
Doing this can make such a difference to the grieving family and by doing so you have been a caring, loving friend.

Friday, 1 September 2017

 Understanding and helping a grieving father can sometimes feel difficult. 

But it isn't and it shouldn't be.

Often people will shy away from offering support because they think the man is 'coping'.

Through our own views, from what society has taught us, on how men should behave we can think that they don't need help.  
Men tend to handle their emotions very differently to women and grief is no exception. It is also a sad reality of our society that we deem that men should be the strong ones and don't need to grieve like the mother.

A couple going through the loss of their baby or child need to be able to understand and accept that they will both grieve very differently. The loss of their baby/child is such a devastating event that if the couple can not understand how their partner is reacting it can lead to them growing apart or even splitting up. 

Being able to understand and accept that everyone is different and deals with grief differently can be a way of being able to support each other in a positive way and can even lead on to them not becoming bogged down by 'destructive blaming' that can happen.
Grieving together can bring a couple even closer and make the relationship even stronger.

Grieving fathers can respond very differently to the mother and may even not show any emotion. 

This does not mean that they do not feel the pain as deeply as the woman or grieve the loss any less.

Men are often bought up to feel that they are the provider and the protector and they must keep strong for their family in times of distress.

Society is now beginning to realise more and more that 'men grieve too' and that it is acceptable for men to show their emotions in life situations. 
With mental health becoming a more understood area and so much emphasis nowadays being put in to mental well being and mindfulness hopefully it will be much more easy and expected that the father needs to be able to grieve openly.

We are beginning to see the change in attitude to men needing help and support through grief. We are now more frequently getting men referred to us or are ringing us up after finding our website when looking for help.
Some men may never feel comfortable showing their emotions but that is also true of some women. 

An area that can make the man try to hide or bury his feelings is the return to work. 
When a woman experiences the loss of a baby at birth they are still entitled to their maternity leave but the father is still only entitled to the 2 week paternity leave. 
The added pressure of being the main wage earner can make men return to work when really they should be at home with their partner grieving the death of their child. They may also work in an environment where there is no support available to him which can lead to them burying their emotions.

Some men may divert the feelings they are feeling into activities or exercise, they can go along to a gym and express their anger and frustration by lifting weights, hitting the punch bag or running for miles on the treadmill. Whilst this is a brilliant way for them to release their pent up emotions they still need to be able to talk about their child.

Whatever way you respond to your grief is okay for you and whether you are male or female should not influence the support you find offered to you. 

We need to start realising and acknowledging that Daddy's grieve just like mummy's do. They need someone to acknowledge their feelings and not to make them feel like their feelings are less valid than any one else's.

There are more and more groups starting up to support men through grief and we are hoping in the future to be able to offer a support group at our office for men. Hopefully this will continue to grow and eventually there will be as many places for men to go to as women. 

Grief affects everyone and no father should ever feel that they can not find or deserve help and support. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Over the last couple of months we have began visiting a lot of families in their homes to offer support to them and one of the things that every one of them has said, and we to have experienced, is how physically painful grief is. 

I have heard it described recently as an 'aching from the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair', and a physical ache in their arms which they feel could only be alleviated by cradling their baby.

If you say that to someone who has not experienced a loss they find it hard to understand. 
'How can grief make you actually hurt' is something that bereaved families will have heard.
I think I would have also felt like that prior to having experienced a loss myself.

Love really does hurt - and the loss of a baby or child is one of the most painful.

Over recent years medics and researchers have started to look into the physical and chemical reactions experienced by grieving people, and with the new technology available in scanning they have been able to show that the part of the brain responsible for processing physical pain also deals with emotional pain.

They have also shown that in the same way that a person having long term effects from a physical injury such as chronic pain, the pain felt by a grieving person may never totally go away, referring to it as 'heartbreak'.

When people talk about being brokenhearted it can actually feel like your heart is going to give up and I have heard it described as feeling as if someone was trying to pull it out of their chest. 
It may also feel as if someone is pressing down on your chest or your heart is leaking. 
When people feel like this they often do not tell others because they feel like they will think they are going 'crazy'or they won't understand.

It has been called 'Complex Grief' by doctors, which relates to when the physical pain from grief carries on for a prolonged period of time with no relief from it. Complex grief has been found to occur in up to 10% of bereaved people. Whilst this is quite a high number I think that it will probably be higher than that. A lot of people never seek help so they will not be included in the research.

Grief can also lead on to many other physical conditions which adds to the difficulty already being experienced by the bereaved person. Lots of people describe experiencing stomach problems/pain or always having a headache, which makes dealing with day to day activities almost impossible.

"Can you die from a broken heart?" 

Well a cardiologist has come forward and said YES. 

He has said that there is an increased risk of dying in the 6 months after a bereavement and it is more likely in men. He explained this by saying that following a bereavement the stress and anxiety felt can produce a specific hormone that can lead to some people experiencing heart attacks and strokes as well as being more likely to be involved in accidents.

When you look at all these things that people can go through after a loss it makes you realise how important it is to have the right help and support out there at the time it is needed. 

We know this is true from all the families we have met since setting up Charlies-Angel-Centre and from our own personal experiences. 

If people were able to access the support they need when they needed it there would be much fewer of them requiring doctors intervention which surely makes sense in today's culture of Nhs cuts.

One day the people in charge of making the decisions about the services available must see that prevention is better than cure and that putting adequate funding into areas highlighted as being underfunded is the only sensible solution.

If you know someone who is struggling with grief please remember that the physical symptoms they are experiencing are real and they need your support and help to get through it. That could be just spending time with them or offering to go shopping for them but it could also involve you making the decision to seek extra external support for them.

Grief hurts and it can hurt for years and years, never rush someone through their grief they are taking it at the pace that is right for them, just be there for them.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Parental grief is overwhelming; there is nothing that can prepare a parent for its enormity or devastation; parental grief never ends but only change in intensity and manner of expression; parental grief affects the head, the heart,  and the spirit.


For parents, the death of a child means coming to terms with untold emptiness and deep emotional hurt. Immediately after the death, some parents may even find it impossible to express grief at all as many experience a period of shock and numbness. All newly bereaved parents must find ways to get through, not over, their grief to go on with their lives. Each is forced to continue life’s journey in an individual manner.

Parental bereavement often brings with it a sense of despair, a sense that life is not worth living, a sense of disarray and of utter and complete confusion. At times, the parent’s pain may seem so severe and his/her energy and desire to live so lacking that there is uncertainty about survival. 

Some bereaved parents feel that it is not right for them to live when their child has died. Others feel that they have failed at parenting and somehow they should have found a way to keep the child from dying, 

Grieving parents should learn to be compassionate, gentle, and patient with themselves and each other. Grief is an emotionally devastating experience; grief is work and demands much patience, understanding, effort, and energy.

Parental grief can and often does involve a vast array of conflicting emotions and responses including shock and numbness, intense sadness and pain, depression, and often feelings of total confusion and disorganisation. Sometimes, parents may not even seem sure of who they are and may feel as if they have lost an integral part of their very being. At other times, parents may feel that what happened was a myth or an illusion or that they were having a nightmare.

Each bereaved parent must be allowed to mourn in his/her own way and time frame. Each person’s grief is unique, even that of family members facing the same loss. Bereaved parents shouldn’t expect or try to follow a specific or prescribed pattern for grief or worry if they seem out of sync with their partner or other grieving parents

Bereaved parents need to know that others may minimise or misunderstand their grief. Many don’t understand the power, depth, intensity, or duration of parental grief, especially after the death of a very young child. In some instances, bereaved parents are even ignored because some individuals are not able to deal with the tragedy. They find the thought of a child’s death too hard, too Inexplicable, or too threatening. Many simply don’t know what to say or do and so don’t say or do anything.

Probably the most important step for parents in their grief journey is to allow themselves to heal. Parents need to come to understand that healing doesn’t mean forgetting. They need to be good to themselves and absolve themselves from guilt. They should not be afraid to let grief loosen its grip on them when the time comes. Easing away from intense grief may sometimes cause pain, fear, and guilt for a while, but eventually, it usually allows parents to come to a new and more peaceful place in their journey. Allowing grief’s place to become a lesser one does not mean abandoning the child who died.

In the end parents must heal themselves. It was their baby; it is their loss; it is their grief. They need to gain closure, to experience release, to look to their new future.

Friday, 11 August 2017

As a charity we are always looking at different ways we can support the families who come to us following the death of a baby or child whether that loss is through a miscarriage, stillbirth, soon after birth, compassionate induction or neonatal.

Recently we have been getting many more telephone and email calls from families following a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages. 

This seems to be an area that is not always given the attention it needs. Often women will say to us how they feel that others almost dismiss their loss saying things such as "At least it was an early loss", "your lucky as you haven't had the time to get to know your baby" or "you can try again". Whilst many of the people saying these things probably meant it as a comforting thing, ask any family experiencing this and they will tell you a very different story. There is also the common misconception that the earlier the loss the less there is to grieve. 

Another area that is so difficult for families to talk about is the issue of compassionate induction, this is also called medical termination. 
There is still a negative connotation around the word 'termination' and many see this as the couple not wanting the baby and making the decision to get rid of it. 

This is so far from the actual truth. 

The couples who have had to come to the agonising decision to end their baby's suffering, through illness or congenital abnormalities, have done so through many hours of talking with professionals and family. They have made the decision out of love for their baby.
Many families tell us that they will often tell people that they have had a miscarriage as they are afraid of people judging them. They are then not only having to deal with the loss of their baby but they are also having to lie about what happened which can be very traumatic for them.
There needs to be so much more education and discussions about compassionate induction so that families are not left feeling alone and isolated in their grief.

From the moment the lady takes the pregnancy test and sees the positive result she has become a mummy.

Her and her partner will start to see their future and make plans for where their child fits in to it all. Their life has changed forever and they will have already started to get excited about telling their family and friends their news. 
Each week that passes is another week of getting to understand your body and your baby inside. 
The first scan comes and this is yet another chance for the parents to meet their baby, no matter how small they are. Seeing that little heart beat on the screen is a very emotional feeling and makes everything feel more real.

To then have this all taken away from you is so cruel, unfair and totally devastating. 
The father is also affected by the loss of their baby, a lot of people will often feel that the dad doesn't feel it as deeply as the mum. This is not true. 
Dad's grieve just as deeply as the mum. However they are often made to feel like they have to be the strong one and support the lady. Whilst the lady really does need support so does the man.

I once read a saying that I think is true, 'The family that grieve together heal together.' 

It doesn't matter how early a loss may occur or under what circumstances, it is still the families baby. They have had a part of their future taken away and the plans they had began to make are all now just a dream. 

To then have people belittle or undervalue your loss or underestimate the impact it will have on your life can make your grief feel even harder.

We have spoken with many families that have said how they have felt under pressure to be 'normal' again or have had friends/family react in a way that makes them feel like they should 'be over it' by now. This can put so much pressure on them and make them feel that they are wrong to grieve.

No one should ever feel that they cannot grieve and no one should ever tell a family how long they can grieve. 
Grief is a personal experience and is different in every person. There should never be a time limit on grief as this can then make the family feel pressured or even feel like they are wrong to be still grieving.

There have been many improvements made to the provision of support for grieving people over the years but the families that have lost a baby seem to be lagging behind in the support network.

We have recently been in touch with a nurse who works on a gynaecology ward in Leeds who works with many families on a day to day basis who are going through a miscarriage. The staff want to make changes to the care they can give/offer the people they look after. They are already providing a vital service but they know that the support these families need does not disappear once they leave the hospital. 

We are hoping that we will be able to collaborate in the near future to make an impact on the support these families need. Our aim is to have care and support in place for families upon leaving hospital until whenever they are ready for us to withdraw. 

As this service develops and becomes available we will keep you informed. We see this as such an important service that so many families could access. 
The national statistics say that 1 in 5 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, so surely it makes sense to have a support network in place to help these families through their loss.

Charlies-Angel-Centre.org.uk