I remember reading somewhere on the internet, I can’t remember where though, about The Kübler-Ross model, otherwise known as “the five stages of grief”. This model is a series of emotional stages by survivors of grief and death, and the 5 stages according to the model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
For some reason this model came into my head this morning, and it got me to thinking about where I am within these 5 stages. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I believe I am finally within stage 5 – acceptance.
It hasn’t been an easy road though, and looking back I can see SO clearly where I was with each of the 5 stages:
Stage 1 – Denial And Isolation
I remember this stage only too well. The shock of Frankie’s diagnosis of a severe cleft lip and palate, finally getting my head around this and what kind of life he would have with operations and hospital treatment, then finding out that his heart had stopped and he would be born sleeping. My heart might as well have stopped at the same time, such is the pain and emotions I felt when I knew that he wouldn’t make it into this world alive. And yet, a part of me hung onto the hope that they were wrong. That he would be born and would give a huge cry and open his eyes. I willed that to happen from the moment he was placed in my arms, I was in complete denial about the fact that he would never do that. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was walk out of the hospital carrying a memory box instead of Frankie. Then, and only then, did it start to hit home just a tiny bit.
Even through organising Frankie’s funeral, through being at his funeral and the subsequent weeks that followed I felt isolated, lost, ostracised, kicked out of the club of motherhood, not good enough to be a mother. I also felt like I was in the worst nightmare that I had ever been in, and every time I woke up from sleep, I thought it was all over and that I had Frankie with me, only to be hit with the realisation that it wasn’t a dream, Frankie had been born sleeping and he wasn’t with me.
Stage 2 – Anger
Oh boy do I remember this phase well. I was SO angry at the world, so angry at those who had their children with them, so angry at those who were expecting babies when mine had died. The anger was completely irrational and would hit me at the most random of times, but especially whenever I heard parents moaning about their children or their children’s behaviour. I wanted to scream at them, at least you have children – my child died. Be grateful for what you have! I managed to placate my anger by saying to myself that I must have deserved what happened to Frankie, that I wasn’t good enough to be a mother, that I was a bad person and that Frankie would be better off without me as his mother, which is why he was taken to another place. There was no rhyme or reason to my thinking while I was going through this stage, and I couldn’t even see parents with their children or prams without feeling insanely jealous and angry. I’m not proud of my feelings in this stage! I was also very angry that Frankie was diagnosed after he was born with Chromosome 15 Duplication Syndrome – why did it have to be MY son that would have suffered with unspeakable disabilities had he lived? What did I do to cause him to have this horrendous chromosome disorder?
Stage 3 – Bargaining
I then remember moving on to bargaining, where I would say things to myself like why couldn’t I have died so that Frankie could live. My reasoning behind this was that I had had just over 40 years on this earth, but Frankie had had no time at all, and he deserved that time and to live more than me. I would have happily traded my own life for Frankie’s in an instant so that he could live and experience the world.
Stage 4 – Depression
I didn’t fully realise I was in this stage until just after my cousin Tony died and I suffered my third miscarriage since Frankie at the end of December 2014. I think I had been in this stage for a long time but I ignored it because of all the death and loss that I endured since Frankie – my father in law, my cousin Brenda, my cousin Tony and the miscarriages I experienced since Frankie was born sleeping. On top of that I also suffered betrayal by so-called friends and redundancy. I didn’t see these as losses until Trudy Berlet the bereavement midwife at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital came to see me in early January this year and pointed out that those things were indeed losses on top of all the death and other losses I’d endured.
I was starting to realise that I was in this stage in November last year leading up to Frankie’s 1st birthday, as that was an awful month for both me and my husband and I honestly don’t know how we got through it. Somehow though, we did, and we thought December would be better but on December 1st, my cousin Tony passed away. By the time I had my third miscarriage since Frankie over Christmas last year I was at absolute rock bottom, and by the time Trudy Berlet came to see me I was so down I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. All my CP could do when I had my third miscarriage was offer me antidepressants. The waiting list for counselling was months long, but I knew I could contract Trudy, and I wanted to try and avoid going on antidepressants if at all possible.
After Tony died my anxiety levels went through the roof. I worried about every little thing and that something really bad would happen to my husband, parents and family. I was relieved to know from Trudy that this was all part of the bereavement process, and completely natural given all the death and loss I had been through.
I stopped doing everything I was doing – Frankie’s Legacy as a charity, writing, supporting others who have been through what I’ve been through – the lot. I was signed off work for 3 weeks and it was during this time that I realised I should have taken much longer in terms of maternity leave after Frankie was born sleeping. I only took 8 weeks, and went back to work telling myself that I needed to go back to refocus myself. But I hadn’t even scratched the surface of dealing with losing Frankie.
Once I hit that rock bottom point, which was when I was sat in my GP’s surgery on December 28th last year and my doctor asked me how I was since my cousin passed away (he was also my cousins doctor and so knew him well) and stopped running around like a blue ass fly with Frankie’s Legacy as a charity, things did start to get better very slowly, and the fog of depression started to lift.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
I wasn’t running around like mad trying to kill myself to keep Frankie’s memory alive any more by running fundraising events and trying to be there for everyone when I needed just one person to be there for me. The reality of all the death and loss I had endured was starting to hit home, and I accepted everything that had happened to me, including losing Frankie, once and for all. Writing and blogging became my saviour, and it was then I realised that this was the path I should have been on to help keep Frankie’s memory alive, not run myself ragged to benefit others who don’t appreciate it. So my focus shifted to Frankie’s Legacy becoming an awareness raising tool and blog, and through writing I began to deal with losing Frankie and many things started to make sense. I was able to process all the death and loss I went through last year.
I suffered a fourth miscarriage since Frankie was born sleeping in February, while I was waiting for a referral back to my fertility specialist which my GP did after I had miscarriage number three over Christmas last year. When I had that referral appointment with Mr Watts, he suggested I be seen by Professor Siobhan Quenby and Professor Jan Brosens at a recurring miscarriage clinic at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. It was there that I found out once and for all why I kept having miscarriages, and I was diagnosed with hyper fertility.
It was then that the acceptance of everything that happened finally started to sink in, and I found myself feeling happy for the first time in a very long time. I honestly think the last time I felt happy was in August 2013 when I was four months pregnant with Frankie. The following month my whole world fell apart when Frankie was diagnosed with his severe cleft lip and palate, and it was one thing after another after another after another from that point onwards.
The diagnosis of hyper fertility helped me to accept once and for all everything that happened to me, and to make sense of it all. I no longer thought why me, I mean, why anyone? Why did my cousin Tony have to have cancer and pass away? Why did my cousin Brenda pass away? Why did my father in law pass away? Why does anything happen to anyone? Life isn’t a bed of roses, and I firmly believe that how we deal with the bad times shapes us and makes us into a better person who is able to enjoy the good times more when they happen. Bad things will always be around the corner, so for Frankie’s sake, and because I know he wouldn’t want me to mope, I am making the most of every happy time that comes my way, and learning to recognise the happy times and the good things that happen to me when they happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I have relapses back into each of the stages now and again. A memory or some news will trigger it, and I am back into anger, bargaining or depression. But unlike before, I can recognise when it happens and do something to pull myself back into acceptance.
I am continuing to take things one day at a time – always.