A traumatic experience can unfortunately affect our mental health in so many ways but it is up to us to do something. Taking care about our wellbeing is so important even though sometimes our good willing is not enough or maybe we just feel stuck in a place. It is during those moments that professional help plays a key role and it certainly played it for me.
After coming back from the UK in 2017 I was trying to go back to my normal life but I soon learned that it was the hardest thing to do. The loss of Darragh was still so raw and the fact that we couldn’t be there for his funeral was adding so much pain to it. Grief brings out the weaknesses of a person and so many feelings, you might feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to react. I felt often scared as I wasn’t sure how to deal with those feelings. I was really struggling. I soon started to distance myself from Anthony because I could feel he was distant too. We stopped talking about what happened and we couldn’t express our feelings. I was so angry because it felt like I was the one who cared more about the whole situation than him. I couldn’t understand how we ended up like that. We were so supportive of each other since we had the news about Darragh and now that our baby was gone it was like we were strangers. The days were passing by and the situation wasn’t changing and I was really fearing that our relationship was over. We decided that we needed a professional help to overcome our emotions and to be a strong couple again. The hospital in Dublin gave us a list of counselling therapists on the day we had the confirmation about Darragh suffering with Patau Syndrome. We chose FirstLight a national charity (http://www.firstlight.ie), established in 1976 and formerly known as the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association. FirstLight provides free professional counselling, across all 26 counties to parents and families whose child, suddenly died, from 0-18 years of age. I remember I was so nervous on our first appointment. I still had to come to terms with the fact that we didn’t have a baby anymore so it was hard for me to think about talking openly with a complete stranger. The therapist that was assigned to us was amazing. I surprisingly felt at ease right away and it felt so good to open my heart and let some of the pain go. I really felt in good hands and understood. My feelings were valued and that was so important to me at that time as the feeling of guilt was still so strong. We had a weekly appointment from the beginning of June 2017 until around February 2018. I remember we were really looking forward to each appointment. During the meeting we would talk about how work was going for us, personal struggles caused by our loss and discuss tools on how to overcome those struggles and go on with our lives as best as we could. I loved the fact that Anthony and I would have the same space to talk about our feelings, I learned that grief can be shown in different ways, even with silence. The therapist would also assign us ”homework” to help us reconnect to each other. In more that one occasion we had to organize a date based on something that we would like to do with the partner. I found that part so funny and exciting and it really gave a boost to our relationship. We rediscovered the pleasure for the little things, from having a SPA treatment to going to a water park. We were able to find our path and we regained confidence in ourselves and our relationship. We finished with the sessions when our therapist was happy to let us go. I remember I felt happy because it was a great achievement, but I also felt sad and scared. Sad because the chemistry created with the therapist was strong, I was going to miss her. I felt scared because from that moment I had to be even stronger to keep the pieces together just using my resources, I was also pregnant with our rainbow baby at that time.
In 2020 I was referred to Aoibhin McGreal (http://www.viephysio.ie) a physiotherapist specialised in women’s health as I suffered from a pelvic prolapse after giving birth to my son. Her help came at the right time as I was really stressed. We were living in a house that we hated at that time and we were pretty much stuck with it especially as the pandemic had just started to hit Ireland. Being a stay at home mum and not being able to enjoy the spaces around me was very frustrating. Aoibhin didn’t just help me with my physical problem but also opened my mind to relaxation, meditation and yoga. Thanks to her I discovered the close connection that body and mind have. She made me appreciate physical exercise and I learned how it can be a valid stress and anxiety reliever. Session after session I gained back confidence in my body and also in my own abilities to succeed and feel better. She was also the one who introduced me to another important professional figure after I had an anxiety attack that really scared me.
In fact just after the summer I decided to meet Maria Saunders a birth trauma practitioner at Restorative Birth services. She also has a group on Facebook called Birth trauma support Ireland. I knew that my anxiety had been caused by Darragh’s loss but I felt that there was something linked to it that wasn’t solved in my mind. I felt like I had to relive in my mind that traumatic experience again so that I could move on. Maria has helped me so much through breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. There is so many aspects of my life that I was able to improve thanks to her. I’m currently seeing her every so often as there is some more work that we can do. She is very supportive and she taught me to accept my weaknesses and work on my strength, I learned how not to be hard on myself. After the first appointment I was able to concentrate more on things I enjoy. I created this blog and I started to work on projects which are making me feel proud.
Mental health is such a sensitive topic and most often not spoken about. Mental health is health and it deserves to be promoted like physical health. They both together contribute to a person’s wellbeing. Mental health can be affected at any stage in our lives. Through my experience I learned so many things about myself. I became resilient, more able to judge my actions and find solutions.