In just over two weeks it will be one year since we met our darling Holly. It doesn't seem possible that a year has passed. I feel like although the days have passed and seasons changed, I have just been living the motions, somehow not really being present. Of course, this can't be completely true as I remember, vividly, so much of what has happened this year. It just feels impossible that somehow the world keeps on turning whilst I keep on grieving. I have survived almost a year without my daughter, a piece of my heart missing and that brings its own level of guilt and confusion.
Upon entering the dreaded 'one month until Holly's birthday' I felt completely terrified. I didn't feel ready for it to be a year and I still don't. It is the fear that there will be a sudden expectation for change in my grief for Holly. Will people now expect me to talk about Holly less, find her death less painful and 'move on' (all of which I find a common thought within some people who have never been exposed to baby loss). How could I possibly do all these things when Holly's death remains so raw and vivid in my mind, as if it was only yesterday?
I have come to realise though, that a year is no length of time when compared with a lifetime of loss. It may be the anniversary, her birthday but it is also just a number. An important number on many levels, as it represents a year of my Holly inspiring me to help others but it is also, another day. No magical healing will happen, no 'closure' and no 'moving on'. Instead, it is a day to celebrate and honour my daughter before then continuing to spread her story as her legacy intends.
It is very hard to understand how to even prepare for your child's first birthday, when they aren't here. Do I honour the day as an anniversary of her death, an 'angelversary' or do I celebrate it as her birthday? I have decided on the latter. More than anything, I want the day to be a celebration of my daughters birth. Holly may not be here in person but I think the way her story has helped others, more than deserves a celebration and a recognition that on this day she was STILL born.
So then, how do we even go about celebrating Holly's birthday? It almost feels like arranging her funeral again. There is no guidebook, there is no right or wrong but yet a complete feeling of being out of our depth. My husband and I have decided on putting together memory bags, filled with items that are inspired by our daughter, to give to the hospital on the her birthday. These memory bags will be given to other parent experiencing loss, in a hope to show them that they are not alone. We felt that as Holly isn't here to receive gifts (that we would have undoubtedly spoiled her with) instead we will give gifts of kindness to other families experiencing loss, in her name. The memory bags are not yet complete but I will be sharing these in my next blog.
There are a few other personal touches that we have decided on for Holly's birthday. At her funeral, Holly had the most beautiful flower arrangement. I have discussed recreating this in bouquet form with the florists. They can forever be Holly's birthday flowers and it brings so much comfort that it links to her special day on her funeral. We then plan on holding a balloon release, as we also did on Holly's funeral. There is something quite special about releasing balloons into the air, moving freely, like I imagine our Holly does.
More than anything, I just want Holly to be remembered and to be celebrated. Prior to losing Holly, I wouldn't have known how to act or what to do if I knew someone whose baby had died. So I want to share that for us, please do not be afraid. Share with us, the celebration that she existed. For her existence has been so important, for so many people. Wish her a Happy Birthday, send her a card (if you want to) we would love nothing more than being able to read her messages of love.
Holly has shown me that life can be lived in two ways, with love and with hate. Whilst I do have my fair share of moments filled with hate that she isn't here, I try to live this life of grief with the love she has given me. And so we chose to spend the 7th of September with how Holly deserves to be remembered, celebrating with giving gifts of kindness and with love.
On the 7th September 2016 at 25 weeks gestation, Holly was born sleeping after a battle with complete heart block.