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Love and Loss: Four Years On

The unimaginable story of a mother who lost her child at birth tells her story of life after loss

By Natasha Hatherall-Shawe

They say there is a type of love we only find in loss and four years into my own grief and loss journey, I believe this is very much the case.

As May 18th approaches and we mark 4 years since we lost our much longed for daughter Aya at birth, I find myself reflecting on the time that has passed and what I have learnt about loss and love and ultimately myself during this time.

It’s fair to say it’s been quite the journey and a bloody bumpy one at that, but from hitting rock bottom you can also come back up and find beauty and magic, and ultimately live a life you love again.

Here’s what I have learned four years on…

4 years on and life does go on

It may never be exactly the same again and you may be changed to your core for it, but it does indeed go on. I remember back then when it happened that I could not see past each day and it was one day at a time, one footstep at a time and I wasn’t sure how I’d get through any of it or “live” again full stop. Those who had gone down this awful path before me told me this would be the way, but I didn’t see it back then. I mean, how could life go on after this? But slowly day by day you do get back to some semblance of normal and you find a new way through. You laugh again, you love again and everything almost seems possible again. Only it’s not the same. And you’re not the same either. But it’s ok as life goes on with this new version of you.

4 years on sometimes I feel a rage inside like no other

This whole experience has left me angry. I mean not all the time, but red rag to a bull angry when it strikes. I’ve had a lot of therapy and I’ve worked through it all, but sometimes when I see another pregnancy or birth announcement, or as Mother’s Day rolls around again or the Back to School photos come out, I find the rage rise in me and it burns so hard it’s intolerable. As someone who never considered herself angry or rageful, it’s been a difficult emotion to go through and I’ve really had to find new coping mechanisms, but I’m navigating it the best I can and so far I’ve not killed anyone or ended up on the wrong side of the law.

4 years on and people will have come in and out of your life

Relationships and friendships will have been formed and lost during this time and I can testify to this for sure. I went from wanting someone who “understood” me and what I was going through to not wanting to surround myself with friends in this “shittiest club ever” and only hang out with people who knew “loss”. People came in to counsel and support and they played a vital role and you’ll forever be grateful, but they also went again when their “job” was done. Then there are the “friends” who did not know what to do or say and that didn’t deal with it very well and you’ve not heard from them since – yes, that happened. Maybe it was their own baggage or guilt if they had their own healthy children, I’m not totally sure, only that all of a sudden they weren’t there.

4 years on and I’m a totally different person than I used to be

Grief does things to people. I can see how easy it would be to let it eat you up and consume yourself with anger or sadness with that taking over your life. I’ve sat in that place a little bit and it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay. I am so profoundly changed there’s no doubt, but it’s not all been bad change. For me, I found a new purpose and path, one that I’d never have found otherwise. I discovered a voice in myself I never knew I had and I chose to use it. And whilst I hate even saying this – maybe it did all happen to get me to where I needed to be and to fulfil my life purpose. Truthfully, I quite like the person I’ve become. I didn’t always like myself, so I’ll take this win.

4 years on I don’t think about her every day

I feel awful even saying that out loud and admitting this to you, but it’s true. I’ve gone from every minute of feeling the loss and the pain, to having days, even a few days, where I don’t think about her at all. It makes me scared that one day it may be months or even worse when I don’t think about her at all. Maybe this isn’t the same for everyone going through this time, but this has been the way for me. With this comes a lot of other emotions, but mostly guilt at not thinking about her every day.

Ultimately if I’ve learned anything during the last four years it is that there is no one path to grief or how you should feel one year, two year or four years on. The path will vary person to person and it will change daily too. Some days it will feel like yesterday and other days like twenty years. Everyone is different and everything is normal when it comes to grief and that’s just the way it is.

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