This week we are would like to introduce you to Jenni Richards and her story
The 19th of May 2016 was the worst day of my life. Right there in the shock of it all, I didn’t realise how lucky I actually was. That might sound like a weird thing to say considering that was the day that I gave birth to my first son, Henry, at 18 week of pregnancy. He was sleeping – that’s what they say.
I was lucky because I gave birth in a special suite designed for my sort of births, out of the way of the crowds and out of earshot of the normal full-term births in the maternity ward. We had an excellent midwife who handled our situation with amazing kindness and competence. All the NHS staff were respectful of our loss. There was an appropriately sized basket, blanket and hat for him to rest in.
A memory box with thoughtful gifts was given to us. We were allowed to spend as much time with him as we wanted and offered a full investigation into why what had happened had happened.
A bereavement midwife was available for advice; the hospital arranged the funeral and supplied a chaplain; the costs were met. These provisions gave me the permission to treat the situation with the importance it deserved, otherwise I’m not sure I could have made the right choices and I certainly didn’t have the strength to fight for any of this at the time. But all these things made it so much easier to cope afterwards.
A few of my friends told me that counselling had helped them through some tough times and suggested it might be a good idea for me. This hadn’t really occurred to me because I assumed that what I had been though didn’t really warrant counselling. Counselling seemed big and scary too; my friends, well they had been through really much more awful things than me so they needed it, but me? It’s hard to accept that you need help sometimes. I now know that there is no linear scale of awful, there is just the highs and low of everyday life – then there are things that break you. And counselling can help you heal (although of course you never fully recover). Once I again I was lucky that the bereavement midwife told me about Charlies Angels, which was local to me, and I went to the next support meeting. I got one of Ruth’s big hugs and we sat and talked. I was referred for counselling and set up the sessions.
Grief affects everybody differently and I feel so lucky to have had an expert to know this and help to navigate me through the process. I was unable to know at the beginning just how long and painful my journey through grief would be. The counselling was the only thing that got me through at the beginning and then supported me through my subsequent pregnancy (which was thankfully went without a hitch). It wasn’t the cost for me, though I realise it is prohibitive for others. If I’d known the value of it, I would have paid that ten times over. For me it was the normalisation, the recognition, that these things can break you and it’s normal to need help to heal properly. The practicalities too: the ease of setting it up, not having to ring around or have the first awkward conversation, not even knowing a ballpark figure for how much a session would cost!
Why do I want to be involved in Charlie’s Angel in the future?
Because I know that this ‘luck’ I had wasn’t really luck at all. It’s down to the hard work and determination of those people who had been in the same situation, who had a very different experience to mine. An army of people who thought ‘I want to make it better for anyone else who goes through what I went through’, and then went out and changed things for the better. And my experience isn’t necessarily the norm. There are gaps in the provision of bereavement care throughout the UK, and these are only growing. I want to be part of the protection and expansion of these vital support services, so that anyone who goes through any child bereavement is given the respect, the support and the care to keep going to the better days.