It’s really no surprise that child loss and mental health go hand and hand. It’s the most unnatural, heartbreaking and life changing experience that any parent can endure and my mental health changed FOREVER the day that my son Jack died.
The day after this photograph was taken in 2017, was the day that I realised I needed help.
It is true when they say “never judge a book by its cover”. On the outside, I looked happy but on the inside, I was struggling to cope with day-to-day life and dealing with my overwhelming grief and emotions.
I had just marked the fourth anniversary of my son’s death, my fourth Christmas without him and what should have been his 10th Birthday when I finally admitted that I needed help. For over three years, I had tried to keep busy, tried to keep going, tried to just get on with it but after one week in bed feeling the lowest I ever had, I finally admitted that just “keeping going” wasn’t working for me anymore. I knew that I had to face the death of my son, face my grief and face myself. The day after this photograph was taken; I finally had the courage to make an appointment to see a counsellor. I had spoken about getting help so many times over the years but I had to get to that low point to finally take the step. Taking that step has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. For me, therapy had saved my life, my heart, my head and my relationships.
I’m not going to lie, it was awful to start with and I hated every minute of the first 4-5 sessions. Every week I would leave feeling emotionally and physically drained, my head would be sore, I would feel physically sick and have to go straight to bed. Every week, I would think “is this making me worse”, “I can’t go back there next week” but I did go back every week and why? Because I wanted to help myself and no matter how hard it is, I want to be able to cope with my son’s death, my grief, my emotions and my life.
I shared this in 2017 and why am I sharing this again? It is not because I want pity or sympathy, it is because I want to mark Mental Health Awareness Day and also baby/child loss week and how getting professional help has helped me on my journey. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud that I got myself help and I am proud that I had the courage to stick with it when it would have been easier for me to walk away and not face my issues. Was therapy the end of my mental health issues? No it wasn’t, like my physical health, my mental health will always need to looked after, cared for and given time to rest and recover.
I suppose for me, more people are sensitive to my thoughts and feelings because they know that my son died. Many people will say you “have a reason to struggle to cope or feel the way the way that you do, you have a reason to be sad or angry”. People who don’t face as traumatic circumstances don’t always get the same grace because there is so much stigma attached to mental health issues.
People understand broken legs and physical pain but many people don’t understand broken hearts and emotional pain. Nobody chooses the emotions that they have or to have mental health issues and by talking about our experiences, we can try to combat the taboo around this subject. Hopefully you will join me in sharing your journey to help others who are suffering.
At brightest star, we offer one to one counselling with our amazing counsellors Yvonne and Janice. I’m not sure where I, or many of parents/siblings and grandparents would be without the counselling and support that Yvonne has provided them since the beginning of the Brightest Star and since Janice joined us the last few years.
Arlene, Jacks Mummy xx
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