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The Journey

Challenging Times, Sudden Death

They say time heals a broken heart. It doesn't you just learn to live with the pain that bit better with each passing day. I was 40 weeks pregnant and trying to persuade the doctors at the hospital not to induce me. I was determined to go into labour naturally. My son was born by induction. I have gestational diabetes when pregnant, I'm classed as "high risk" and I was insulin dependent on my 2nd pregnancy. I'd been to the clinic in the hospital that day and bought myself another 5 days, I was chuffed. That afternoon I was at home with my husband when his mobile phone rang. I can remember hearing bits of the conversation and in particular "we have to tell her, we can't not tell her". At that point I became anxious. My husband put the phone down and the look on his face, I knew this was big, life changing. I wrapped my arms around my swollen 40-week stomach and braced myself. "Jason is dead". Those words, those 3 words collapsed my world, I didn't hear anything else he said. I instinctively had to get to my mams house. There was a sense of urgency, not for me, not for my unborn baby but for my mam. Jason was her first born and I couldn't imagine how those 3 words had affected her. I couldn't breathe for her, my lungs wouldn't function properly and I just couldn't breathe. We drove to my mams house, my husband and I not speaking a word. There were other family members there. There were moments when I thought the world is not round, it's flat and at any moment I was going to fall right off into nothing, a big black whole. Jason died suddenly when an aneurysm erupted, he was 38 years old or young. He was too young to die.

That night I went home and my waters started to trickle|leak. Less than 12 hours after my brother died my waters started to leak and I had to go into hospital and give birth. My husband phoned ahead and explained the gravity of the situation. As one soul leaves this earth another one enters, she was on her way. I bounced on a birthing ball in the labour ward for what seemed like hours and my waters didn't break fully, I was hooked up to an IV infusion of oxytocin and over the next 6 hours (3 bags) later labour did not progress. The mid wives changed the bags they thought the batch was faulty. The truth was I'd just lost my childhood best friend, my heart was broken into a million pieces and no amount of drugs was going to bring on this labour. My body had gone into fight or flight mode and it was using everything it could to protect me. My mind took over and in my mind, my brother just died, my body had no choice but to respond to that. At around 11:30 pm that night the midwives having monitored my daughter's heartbeat throughout this whole process found my daughter's heartbeat was dropping - Rapidly! I was in real danger of losing my baby as well as my brother. I was rushed to the emergency theatre and my husband was made sign all sorts of forms/papers. He had to make a choice on those papers, if it came to it they wanted to know who he wanted to be saved. He choose me of course but I wished he choose her because the truth was I didn't want to live in a world without my brother. Lying on that trolley being rushed to the theatre I kept telling the midwives I can't have an emergency c section. I need to be able to go to my brothers funeral in 2 days time. An emergency c section wasn't an option for me I needed to be able to walk. It was all over so quickly, thankfully our beautiful angel arrived a bit battered and bruised but alive. I could feel her heart beat against my skin and for a moment I felt alive again. I wondered in that instant how life could be so cruel, so hard, the injustice of it. As long as her heart beat, he would always live. I spent the next day or so trying to connect with this little bundle while writing my brothers eulogy from my hospital bed. The funeral home where my brother was laid out was on the same road as the maternity hospital, 5 minutes drive in a car and I couldn't make it to see him. At night I thought of him lying there alone and we were here, just 5 minutes drive away. I didn't get to see him before they closed his coffin and buried him. I was holding on to the only life I knew, the little angel in the cot beside my bed. I had an IV drip with morphine from the emergency c section attached to my arm which I didn't need as no amount of morphine could have taken this pain away. It may as well have been water administered through the drip. The pain of grief is not like any other pain, there is a drug for every illness and pain. I firmly believe you could have given me any amount of opiates and it wouldn't have made a difference to how I felt - Numb.

The day of the funeral came and the hospital said I was too unwell to attend. This wasn't an option, I made my husband come & collect me the morning of his funeral and I signed myself out of the hospital with a prescription for painkillers. The steel staples from the emergency c section digging into to my open flesh wound. My husband carried our daughter and we went home. I didn't know what to wear, I wasn't expecting to go to a funeral and I had just given birth. I'm sure I found something suitable I have no recollection. We went to the church and when I walked into the church and saw the casket there in front of the alter the beat left my heart for the 2nd time that week and I couldn't breathe. It took every ounce of strength I could muster to walk down that aisle and sit in the front of the church at the edge of my seat. If I reached out my arm I could touch the casket. He was so close and yet so far.... I said my final farewell and read out his eulogy while our 3-day old daughter slept in my husband's arms in the front seat. That was my final parting gift to him.

After his burial, I went home & collapsed into my bed. I drifted in and out of sleep, the discomfort from the steel staples in my swollen abdomen brought me back to consciousness frequently and the realisation that this was real. The next day I had to go back to the hospital to have the staples removed from my stomach and our daughter had to get the heel prick injection. All the while the world was one less soul short. I firmly believe our daughter was a gift sent from God to help us get through the darkest time of our lives. She gave us purpose, a reason for living, hope. She was the why the link in the chain that kept us all together. Because I had a caesarian I couldn't drive for 6 weeks. My mam came up every morning to bathe and clothe our daughter. My mam made sure she was washed every day and I knew how much that meant to her. I knew she needed to do this that she too needed a purpose and to not think about what had been taken from her. I didn't cry at my brother's funeral and I never cried the days and weeks after his funeral. I didn't want to upset my mam & my brothers. I wanted so much to cry, to scream to lash out but I couldn't. I felt so much anger and guilt. Guilt because I didn't get to tell him all the things you get to tell a person when you know they are dying. I didn't get to say goodbye or tell him I love him. I didn't get to share the childhood memories, the good and the bad times we had as children and I felt robbed, cheated in some crazy way. This opportunity was somehow taken from me. The next 18 months were a blur, I kept the grief tucked right down in the pit of my stomach. I held it in for 18 months and I cared for our daughter and son who was now a teenager. Being self-employed I didn't get maternity leave so it was back to business some weeks after our daughter was born. I was comfortably numb. There was nothing, no joy in my life. I couldn't see the rainbows in the sky, everything was grey, dull and I was just existing. I wasn't living that's for sure. I'd get up and put on a mask and pretend everything was OK while inside I was screaming.

The only thing that kept me alive (if I can call it that) was my family and friends. My husband, in particular, he didn't have to say anything he just knew because his own mum died suddenly the year previously. It was around the 18 months since Jason's passing and our daughter's birth when I knew the time was right for me to grieve. I had been strong too long and now it was time to deal with the grief I kept buried deep in my soul. I knew the wave was coming and this one was a maverick. When I finally began to cry I found I couldn't stop, the tears just kept coming, there was no relief, no reprieve just a constant flow of tears, hurt, pain and anguish. I had started back running about 6 months after Jason died, running is something we used to do together as kids. We were part of an athletic club and running helped clear the fog from my head, it helped me with the numbness. When the grief finally surfaced the only thing I could do was put on my trainers and go for a jog. I always wore sunglasses no matter what the weather or season. In March it could be lashing rain outside yet my sunglasses were always part of my run. The truth is they hid my tears, out on a run I cried a lot and released a lot of the grief I must have looked like a mad woman wearing sunglasses running in the rain. They became part of my everyday dress attire and an essential piece of kit that enabled me to carry on with my day to day responsibilities. The thing about grief is this - It comes in waves. One minute you are drifting along hanging onto a piece of driftwood and the wave would come, the grief would come and all you can do is hold your breath and hang on tight until the wave passes. Sometimes several waves come together one straight after another and it's hard to hold on, keep your head above water you feel like you are drowning in your own sorrow. It can be triggered by a smell, a place you once visited a memory or music. Once triggered you braced yourself for the tsunami, held your breath and held on tight hoping against hope it was a single wave and not a serious of waves. Over time the distance between the waves grew further apart. The timing of them would change and I noticed between the waves I was beginning to live again. During these 18 months, I had turned inward into myself. I was functioning, not living.

Our daughters 1st birthday was horrible, how could we celebrate when we are reminded of our loss. I thought it unfair her birthday was such a sorrowful time and I feared her birthday would be tarnished for the rest of her life with my sorrow. I made a decision after her first birthday that she was going to have the birthday she deserved each and every year of her life. I didn't know at that point how I was going to do it, I just knew it had to be done. Her 2nd birthday wasn't as bad and with each passing birthday, I am getting better at being cheerful and giving her the birthday she deserves. It's six years now and I won't tell you it's easier, just that I've learned to deal with the grief and loss a little better with each passing day. Welcoming a new baby into the world is such a joyous momentous occasion, it's a new birth, a chance of a fresh start for the whole family, you get to re-write the book, create new memories and we were robbed of that gift, that joy.

People always ask me how I got through that, those first few days, writing the eulogy and attending his funeral. The truth is that was the easy part. I found it most difficult afterwards the months after he was buried. People expect you to be "normal" and yet you feel anything but "normal" and you have changed, boy have you changed. Now you know that life can take away as quick as it can give.

I learned to be grateful for my family and friends and for what I had. I was well aware it could be snatched from me at any moment without warning. We booked a family holiday, a cruise 6 months after Jason died. We went on a Caribbean cruise because we knew we might never get the chance, we start living for the moment, in the moment. If there is one thing Jason's death taught me it is to be "present" and "grateful". Live for the moment, live in the now. Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today because tomorrow may never come. It's a luxury afford to us and an opportunity to start a fresh, begin a new chapter in our lives. Don't take the people you love for granted, pick up the phone, make that call, tell them you love them. Tomorrow it could be too late. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, we only have today. Every day we get a fresh new opportunity to write a page in the book of life, our life. Don't ever waste that opportunity. Live each day as if it's your last. That was Jason's parting gift to us.

My Top Tips For Dealing With A Challenging Time In Your Life.

1 This too shall pass. Whatever you are going through, keep on going. This is just a cycle, accept it for what it is. Acknowledge it, let it go and think positive. In a year's time maybe two you will look back and wonder how you got through this challenging time, you did, you are brave, strong and wonderful, you will ALWAYS get back up! Life cannot keep you down, you are a warrior, a child of the universe and God, your angels and guides will light the way - Trust and believe.

2 Stay Positive. It does not matter what life throws at you, in this moment you are safe, secure and loved. Surround yourself with positive people, sayings and things. I had an air freshener in my car that read "Think Positive And Positive Things Will Happen" I firmly believe this. I couldn't prevent my brother's death, it was simply his time. If I was to ever heal from the grief, hurt and pain, I needed to find something positive to focus on, in this case, it was our daughter. She needed me to be strong and to do that I needed to stay positive - Always.

3 Start exercising, running, swimming something to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing, exercise releases the happy hormone serotonin and during challenging times we need serotonin more than ever. Even if you have to go out for a walk, start walking faster until your heartbeat rises and the serotonin is released. This will also help prevent depression setting in. Get active, stay positive and healthy. Eat foods that nourish your body and feed your mind. In challenging times we need to really look after both our mental and physical body.

4 Accept help when offered, don't try to be Super Woman or Superman. No one is going to write in your eulogy "she was a great person, never accepted help of any sort" accepting help does not make us weak, it just shows we have been strong for too long are courageous and humble. Practice being humble. I am very humbled and grateful my mam came up every day to bathe and clothe our daughter. I had to accept the help and sometimes when we accept help from another person we are actually giving that person what they need. A reason to feel needed and wanted.

5 Book a holiday, spa break, a weekend away - Something in the future to look forward to. When we booked the cruise my mum and I sold some old gold jewellery. We rocked up to "Cash For Gold" and she sold her wedding ring (she is divorced) and I sold some old jewellery lying in a box on my locker that I never wore. Whatever we got between us went towards the cruise, be resourceful. Start a fund and begin saving. Boarding that ship was a great feeling for us all. We left our troubles at the port and when the boat set sail we were free, for a time and it was heaven. If you cannot afford a breakaway and you feel out of sorts simply seek out nature. There is healing to be had by being outdoors breathing in fresh air and being one with nature and the environment. Listen intensively to the sounds of nature, raindrops on leaves, a bird's song, insects, the rustling of leaves, the wind whistling. All these sounds are powerful with healing capabilities.

The thing is, you have the tools deep within your soul to deal with anything life has to throw at you. I firmly believe God and the Universe only sends us what they believe we can overcome. My mam once said to me "God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers" and I replied, " we must be bloody admirals in Gods army so". That my friend is what living is all about, overcoming life's challenges and trusting that it's all part of the life you chose while here on earth. I had to go through all of this to get where I am today. I am still here despite those dark times and the heartache. There was much more before and after Jason's passing and there is more to come in the future, that I am certain because I am alive. Only now I am equipped to deal with life's challenges because I am working on #creatingalifeoffreedom.

The most challenging times bring us the most powerful lessons, in my case it was gratitude.

The greatest challenge is trusting and believing that there is a higher power at work, the outcome has already been decided. Worrying will only rob you of today's happiness and not change the outcome. Hand it over to God, the Universe and trust it is resolved. Good luck on your journey. Namaste.

If you would like guidance and advice on how to progress through challenging times and situations simply join our #createalifeoffreedom community and participate in the 7 steps to achieving your goals. Here is the link your new life begins with a single step.

Photo - Our daughter hours after she was born, a new soul, a new beginning, a new life, a new way of living for all of us.

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