The following letters were written by Clinical Psychologist and Blogger Michelle. Michelle started writing letters to her daughter Orla, who heartbreakingly was born still at 37 weeks in May 2016. She wrote as a way of navigating through the grief and as a way of making sense of the thoughts and feelings that come with such a devastating loss. Some of the letters are available to read on her blog Dear Orla.
The following series of letters are written for her second daughter Esme who was born in April 2017.
What I wish for you
What I wish for you, is for you to be you. And that you can be whatever and whoever you want you to be.
Daddy and I have wondered so much about who you will be like: will you be an adventurous traveler? Will you be creative? Will you be bold and confident? Or reserved and thoughtful? We have fantasised about cherry picking what we perceive to be our best characteristics and personality traits and hoping that we have passed them on to you. But what about what you want? What about who you already are?
I hope that we can remain neutral and nurture whatever we see growing within you. Never to push or persuade, but to offer suggestions and opportunity. I hope that we can gently guide, to bolster your desires and confidence and to support the direction you take. Undoubtedly we will have and give advice, yet I hope that we can do this tentatively, and to tolerate it if you decide not to follow this. To be proud of your own intuition and opinions and to be there beside you if things aren’t as you hoped.
We wish for you to be you. And whoever you are, we will love and be proud of immeasurably.
Forever, Mummy xxx
Don’t be afraid to feel
It is a mother’s job to soothe your worries, you fear and pain. To try to take away the hurt that these feelings create. Yet I hope that I can show you with grace that it is okay to feel these things and not to run away from them. I want to show you how vulnerability can actually mean strength and growth. And that being vulnerable really means that you are allowing yourself the opportunity to feel joy and love.
Facing vulnerability will give you opportunities to travel, to meet new people, to create, to follow your hopes and dreams. And I too will need to face my vulnerability in letting you go ahead and do these things too. To allow you the chance to make mistakes and to feel the pain of disappointment when things don’t go as planned. I will model what it is to face fear and sadness, but carry on with hope and optimism. After all, this is what it took for you to exist: a leap into the dark hole of fear because you were so wanted and so loved.
But no matter what, I will always be there to walk beside you at times of pain. Not to take it away, but to help you to make sense of it. To learn and grow from it so that you will never feel afraid to feel. Because if we stop ourselves feeling fear and sadness, we will also block out joy. And I wish for you all the joy in the world.
Forever, Mummy xxx
Even before we knew of your existence, I was so worried about stealing your innocence. I wished for you to be born into a world where you knew nothing but joy; where Santa and the Tooth Fairy were real and your shoulders were free of the burden of fear, sadness and pain. Where ‘bad people’ were fictional characters in books and where death only occurred at the end of a long, happy and fulfilling life. But sadly we know all too well that this is not true. And that you would need to know this too.
Right now, I’m not sure how we will explain the complex matter of life and death with you. How we will find the right words. I am fearful of using terms that will confuse and upset you further. I never want you to associate the joy of ‘sleep’ with the fear of death; the fear that any one of us may go to sleep and not wake up. Without religion, and its ability to give those who have gone a place to exist, how do we give comfort about what happens once we are gone? We have our own thoughts and explanations, but are these right for you?
I worry about you going to school and what your friends will say; how your understanding of life and loss will correspond with their own. How they will respond when you talk of your sister who you were never able to meet. Your sister who is so very loved and so very missed.
And so it is, that in introducing you to death, we are further introducing you to love. A love that cannot be tainted by arguments and bickering. A love that is not conditional. A love that will not fade. And maybe that is gift rather than the stealing of innocence. Maybe knowing about how precious life is, in the knowledge of death, will help you to love more fiercely; to take more opportunities and to feel less fear. And it is my role to model this to you.
Forever, Mummy xxx