Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Title unknown...

At the beginning of the year, my lovely friend Mary, quoted that her mantra for the year would be to "Be open and stay alert", I asked her if I could adopt if for my year too and I think that maybe it is having an effect.

So, following on from my last post, my training at Helen House has started once again this year.  You can read about the beginnings of it here.  In our latest session we discussed the differences between open and closed questions - subtle differences in language that make a huge difference when you are trying to actively listen to somebody talking about incredibly difficult subjects.  There is always a significant amount of role play during our training and I am having to learn to really think before I speak and use silence constructively.  Not easy, I can tell you. 

Our group has now been asked how we feel about facilitating workshops for not-so-newly bereaved parents who would like some form of support to continue.  I am interested as I really see it as a two-way opportunity for support, both for the people who join us and for myself. 

A few weeks ago, I had a letter out of the blue from Tom's Consultant Paediatrician asking me if I would be interested in participating in a training day at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington that was being aimed at teaching all the Paediatric Registrars in London how to support bereaved parents and children.  She is a trustee of the Child Bereavement Charity, who will run the lectures.  Last week we met for coffee and discussed what would be useful to talk about for about an hour during the lecture.  I will be fully supported during my time by a counsellor at St Mary's who I met last week too.  My first lecture is on Thursday and I plan to go without notes as I find it easier to talk without having an agenda.  I have also said that I am more than happy for it to be open for discussion rather than have to have too much of a script to follow.  I will talk about preparation for death and discussions and interactions that took place in the weeks, months and years before.  I will also share what I thought was helpful or things that I think could have been done better.  I know it's not something that anyone could do and when I have tried to discuss it with friends and family, I get very mixed reactions.  But I feel that I can do it and that I need to give it a go.  I am trying to find a balance in my life and I think that by using my experiences constructively balances the more frivolous side of my creative life now. 

During coffee we also talked about a new government directive called the Child Death Overview Process and I was asked if I would consider being a parent member within our Local Safeguarding Children Board.  It is a role that would not be very time-consuming and from what I can gather, I would be required to read through publications from a parent's perspective to make sure that they were not too insensitive. Since 2008, it has been mandatory for every child death to be investigated and I still feel fortunate to this day that I didn't have to go through the agony of having to face Tom having a post-mortem.

Who knows if this is the right or wrong thing for me to be doing now.  I feel that unless I try it, I'll never know.  It feels incongruous to mention in my space here because I know it is a distressing and sensitive subject to stumble upon amongst the quilting and crochet and baking.  But here's the thing:  it is the biggest part of my life and no amount of creativity will ever fill the void.  In the run-up to Tom's anniversary and birthday that both fall in spring, it feels worthwhile, but I'm nervous and know it will be exhausting.  Perhaps it is my way of keeping my darling boy alongside me.  Like I could ever forget such a face - there is a serenity to this, one of my favourite photos, that always makes me sigh.

I will be back tomorrow with some borrowed beauty...


  1. 'Be open and stay alert' - I like that very much. Whenever you post about Tom my heart aches for you. What a smashing photo of your lovely son. x

  2. I didn't know about your precious Tom - and I don't know how to express my care and compassion having now read some of your previous posts - but I do think that what you are doing now sounds incredibly brave and generous and will help so many other people cope with the most painful experience possible.

    lots of love Lucy xxxx

    P.S. I really hope I have expressed what I want to say in the right words and haven't upset you in any way xx

  3. I think what you are doing is an incredibly brave and courageous thing that will be of immense value to other bereaved parents. I wish you much strength. It's a beautiful photograph of Tom.

  4. I think that you are doing wonderful and positive things and I am more than happy to read about them along with the prettys and quilting. Well done on keeping going and also I admire you for helping other people in your situation

  5. It never feels incongruous to read about Tom here. It is a part of who you are.

    I like the idea of the lectures, counselling and bereavement support being a form of creativity. In a very different way to quilts and crochet, but you're nevertheless doing something practical that will help others, and I'm sure yourself too.

  6. Thank you for sharing that photo of Tom. Such a gorgeous child.

    I am completely certain you'll be a wonderful asset both to Helen House and to the hospital. It must be very hard for you to do but there's no doubt you'll be able to help some other parents who are in absolute agony. You're an inspiration.

  7. You're so brave. I wish you all the best, your efforts are remarkable, I'm sure you'll be able to help so many people xx

  8. It is an incredibly important thing you are doing and I am sure the Pediatricians will benefit hugely from listening to what you have to say.

    But yes, I am sure it will be totally exhausting (emotionally and physically) so you take good care of yourself too.

    I like the fact that you talk about this and Tom in the midst of the crochet and the baking. Because that's real life.

  9. Well my friend - it is you who are lovely - and open and courageous.

    In all of life's difficult situations haven't you found it so helpful to have someone say "I know how you feel"- or "I went through that same cycle of feelings" - this is what you will do for the bereaved.

    With love and I am sending the Feb photo asap


  10. "I know it's not something that anyone could do and when I have tried to discuss it with friends and family, I get very mixed reactions. But I feel that I can do it and that I need to give it a go. "

    When you mention your son, your loss is palpable in your writing and it seems to me, that who better for a parent facing something similar, someone who has experienced what they sadly, have to face. It is very generous and compassionate.

  11. Tracy what you are doing is a wonderful thing. For you to share your experience so generously and caringly will make such a difference to families in anguish and despair. It sounds like you have so much going on and it's going to be a really busy and quite intense, emotional time, take care of yourself x

  12. The strenghth and honesty that you will bring to these roles will make you perfect for the job. It is a rare person who can approach such sorrow with such an open heart.


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