A few years ago I found myself in one of the loneliest places in the world. I found myself in a situation where it felt as if only I had ever experienced what I was going through and the very nature of it meant that I was silenced, wordless and largely alone. Where I was there was little pity to be had and even that which was offered I found hard to accept. It was, without doubt, the very worst time in my life, the most solitary, achingly empty, most desolate experience.
That I’m talking about more than four years ago as being that time is saying something, given that this year I’ve found myself experiencing the tragedy of losing a child; this year though, the help and support from the world at large is just a little more palpable, a little more easy to access and even if the every day world would prefer not to know that little boys of 11 days old sometimes just die, at least I can say it out loud and demand some acknowledgement. All too often, someone will lay their hand on my arm and say “it happened to me”. Had I only known it, I was surrounded by people who could have done that too four years ago, only we were all silenced by convention and so none of the understanding I needed was on offer to me in my everyday real life. I had to find support online or from more distant friends.
This year I’ve had cause to meet and share grief with people from across the world. People gravitate to one another in small groups; 17 babies a day die in the UK and yet the forum I love has, relatively speaking, only a few people in it. We all need different things; some of us need church, some need new age healing, some of us speak of angels and some of us think that gone is gone and all that is left is a memory. Some of us have husbands who cry with us, some of us only have our friends and family to speak of the memories with, only those people to say “and then he did this…” to. Not everyone is the same; the key to healing and recovery seems to be in finding people who manage as we do and who will listen. Sometimes it is just as necessary to feel that we are giving back so that we can ask for support when we need it.
I’ve never been a person who copes well with large support organisations. I’ve not felt the need to find a huge network of people in my situation. I don’t want to wallow, I don’t want to hear endless stories of pain and loss but what I do want is to be able to connect, personally and relatively intimately, with people who have been through what I have been through. I want to look in the eyes of a woman who looked into the eyes of her son and watched him go – just as much as women who experience miscarriages want to share with those who have been through that or women who have experienced stillbirth need the understanding of people who have been through just that very experience. I don’t want to measure my grief against another one, I want to be with someone who just knows how I feel and can touch my arm and give and take comfort in that personal exchange of experience.
There is relatively little locally that offers me what I want; I don’t want soupy sympathy from someone sent to assess me who thinks grief must be spoken of in hushed and bitten tones and I don’t want the NHS to send out an assigned health visitor to me, I don’t want to go to a meeting or a group. If I could create a project in my local area, it would be a place and a network that offered a personal connection between women without their children. I would love a garden that was not affiliated to church or creed or charity. I would love to create something that reached out to the grieving mothers in my area and put them in touch with each other, gave them the right to take time in a place of healing and remembrance, encouraged them to always speak to other women who they met there and offer a touch on the arm, or a hug, or a word of comfort, even if it was only “hold on, it will not always hurt so much as it does now.” I would like to set up a mentoring service that meant that women would be given the name of someone ready to talk, that they would be given a number to call as they left hospital without their baby, a card with single lines of wisdom and encouragement, a wristband to wear if they wanted that meant that one day they would meet eyes with someone in the supermarket and both would think “she knows, I am not alone.” A service that provides something like a doula does for birth, only for people experiencing death at birth.
I would like to connect mothers without their babies together in a local, real and actual way, not affiliated to a large organisation with rules and criteria and methods – just women, a place, a connection, a communal thread of having nothing in common except that one dreadful thing which has emptied their hearts so completely. I would like to create a space where I could go and, meeting someone, know for certain that she knows exactly how I feel.
If you can think of a project that could be done locally in your area and which would benefit the wider community, you can apply to The Co-operative Community Fund . The fund is made up of donations from their members who have chosen to give a percentage of their twice-yearly share of the profits. This year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to local community groups across the country
Cooperative Membership Fund is a registered charity and is governed by The Co-operative Community Investment Fund (CCIF). This board of trustees are responsible for ensuring funds to projects are given in line with the Charities Commission guidelines.
The Co-operative Community Fund operates on a truly local level.Â The money each region has to give is the money that members have donated in their area. Projects are allocated by postcode..
Grants vary from a minimum of £100 to a maximum of £2,000.
– To be successful a group must:
- Carry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply)
And the project must:
- Address a community issue
- Provide a long-term benefit to the community
- Support co-operative values and principles
- Ideally be innovative in its approach
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