A Simple Truth?

1:16 pm

For some months now I've been avoiding something, I've skirted around the issue, dipped my toes in the water, but hastily withdrawn again.

There is a fine line between grief and depression, I know from experience. My Dad died suddenly in his early forties while my brothers and I were at school.I was a month off my 18th birthday, my brothers were 16 and 15. My Mum was widowed at 35. None of us coped terribly well, but that's a whole other story.

I remember sitting in the hospital after Florence died, holding her in my arms and telling Woody I couldn't do grief again. I don't know if he remembers that or not.

For some months now I've been stepping carefully along that fine line, keeping, or so I thought, just this side of depression.

After Ernest was born, and I met our health visitor for the first time, before anyone had a chance to brief her on our history. I explained about Florence, ignored the head tilt, and tried to ignore the little alarm bells going off in her head. I vehemently denied I was a candidate for post natal depression. I had PND with Eden, I knew what it was, and it wasn't the same as grief. I reassured her, I would know if I was depressed, and I thought I would.

Am I now? I don't know.

I'm physically and emotionally exhausted, but show me a Mum of a baby that isn't?

I'm managing my anxiety better, the flashbacks are less frequent.

My house is as clean as you might expect, the children, are fed, and clean, and loved.

I shower, put on make up, blow dry my hair.

I make things.

To a casual observer I'm fine, I even smile and laugh, make eye contact and small talk....

....but inside I'm hollow, and I cry. I cry every day. Sometimes silent weeping, sometimes howling breathless sobbing. Mostly I cry in secret, when Woody is at work and the big ones are at school. I cry when I'm busy, and when I'm still...is that normal?

I admitted my secret crying to Woody the other day, a first step maybe? a first step to what though? Getting better? I'll never be better, I don't want to be. I have so very little of Florence, that this pain sometimes feels like the only connection.

I suppose I know I need to seek some professional help, but I'm not quite brave enough yet. I'm so terribly afraid of a diagnosis. I don't want to hear "post natal depression" , it seems too trivial to fit (And i know PND is not trivial at all, I've been there.). I want to hear "heartbroken", because that's what I am, even that phrase I hate so much, mentioned by my lovely friend in the early days, "complicated grief" would suit me better. (sorry K, you know I love you.)

But you see, I'm fine really. I'm crying now, but I'll dry my tears,re apply my mascara and head out to school. I'll smile and wave at the lollipop lady, I'll buy treats on the way home, then come home and hoover the floor, do the laundry...I'm fine.

But the simple truth? I miss her.x

Don't be shy, say hello!


  1. I think you are right and brave to face this possibility. I don't think Post Natal Depression would be the right diagnosis for you under the circumstances and I think being depressed would be an entirely reasonable reaction to what you have been through actually. My god if you can't be depressed when you have lost a child when can you?

    Maybe it would actually help to talk to someone? I have found bereavement counselling very useful, keep thinking about it. I have you in my thoughts often.

  2. Depression is depression. Call it by the simpler name instead of post-natal depression. Does it sound different to you?

    Depression is often part of grief. It's not about having a new baby, it's about massive life changes and being out of control of your life and so on.

    Love and hugs, and call someone.

  3. Tears and sorrow is all I could muster after this post. My heart breaks for you, for Florence, for your family. Heartbroken really does define this lose. Depression is part of the process don't you think. I completely understand not wanting to give up the "depression" and the pain as it IS what you have of Florence. I often feel guilty when there are moments without the pain/sadness - like I have forgotten.... Love, support, hugs, anything I can give across to miles to support you.

  4. I agree with Phyllis - please speak to someone. Did you have any help after your dad's death? I know when DH's mum died a few years ago,it triggered off a depression that had been hidden since his dad died when he was 17 (you may remember me mention it). Thinking of you as always xxx

  5. My Dad died suddenly (and also with hospital neglect involved), 3 weeks before Oscar was born. Previously my HV had said I would get little contact after the baby's birth, mainly due to being married, mature, stable and the cut backs. She was out to see us many many times when she found out about my Dad. I think I had both PND and obviously 'grief' As you say, they are 2 separate things. I was very aware of being 'allowed' to cry and feel pain, that's normal when you are grieving. I didn't want to be treated for the normal feeling of losing someone, but the anxiety I was feeling was an all too familiar dark cloud, I had PND with my older two (untreated). I am pleased to say I went onto medication and it helped. Two years on, I still burst into tears out of the blue and cry for my Daddy, so do my sisters. I felt it was too complex an issue for me to separate on my own, so from my own experience I would advise you to talk to your HV or GP. I think you are doing amazingly well, my place probably isn't half as clean as yours ;) I know its a difficult thing to talk over with professionals, but I was glad when I did.

  6. Reading this nodding and nodding yes at the comments too. My Dad died when I was 21, a month before my wedding, he took his life. My baby a girl died 10 years later to the day he died. Wierd, and it did set off grief, then I think I was depressed and I think also PTSD. Then miscarriage at 14 weeks in Sept. 2010. Something about feeling out of control was what pushed me to work on myself and happiness and health are my main goals. It's like you say, the kids are healthy and happy, home is clean and functioning. Depression is so difficult and mastering and finding happiness is one of life's most important skills. it is a skill for me, something to learn how to do. yes, talking to someone will help. thanks for this...

  7. We had some grief counselling after our son died and it really helped. So I would highly recommend it.

    Maybe you don't need a diagnosis, maybe you just need someone to talk to.

  8. Jeanette, I am ten months on from losing Freddie and I have no rainbow baby and no hope of one - and I don't cry every day. So honestly, darling lovely Jeanette, if that is how it is, you and your grief have been joined on the path by something else too.

    While I have railed against 'your baby died, you must be depressed', don't discount giving yourself a right to something else too. You have grief and you are tired AND you are depressed. Your chemical levels cannot cope. It happens to be post natal, but had Florence been one of your older children, you might be here anyway, without the post natal bit.

    PND, or even just D, causes people to reach to the depths. I was lower with PND after Fran than I have been with grief since Freddie. it is as huge as it chooses to be and as all encompassing and devastating and life stopping.

    Please go to a doctor. Go with PND or go with D - it doesn't matter. But please go before this is the thing you remember about Ernest being a baby.

    Lots of love.

  9. I think our situations are too complicated to be labelled as post natal depression. If a Dr looked at me and didn't know any of my history, I think they'd diagnose me with PND but it isn't that simple. I also don't think I can just put it down to grief any more either, or exhaustion for that matter.
    Like you, I think I just have a broken heart and I have no idea how to mend it.
    Big, big love to you, Jeanette. This is so bloody hard. Motherhood is hard enough, but deadbaby motherhood? Well that is a whole new level of hard and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

  10. And hey, I have all the symptoms of "complicated grief" from the link you posted but I'm not suicidal, not even close. Again, sometimes I think all these labels are just to easy to pin on someone.
    We just miss them, that's all.

  11. I don't have the right words or good advice. Do take care of you too...I understand the fine line. And the fact that you are aware of it is something important. All I really want to say is that you are loved and supported...be it grief or pnd or whatever else it could be called or combined with. Sending a big hug and loads of love.

  12. As someone who has suffered from episodes of undiagnosed depression, climaxing with a 4 year episode following a mmc and various family problems, my advice is simple - talk to your GP. At DD1's 9 month check all the problems I had were brushed under the carpet. At DD2's, the HV listened, and sent me to my GP. 14 months on, I'm a far better Mum, wife, friend and daughter than I was. Yes, you are grieving, but it sounds like that grief and the need to 'keep going' has lowered your serotonin levels.

    It took a loooong time for me to accept that I needed meds, and how that would fit in with bfing. In an ideal world, I wouldn't need to take them, but I do, and I'm a far better Mum than if I didn't. I'm also still bfing - at 24.5 months.

    PND and D are the same thing really - PND is just defined as occurring in the first 12 months after birth. The result is the same.


  13. such lovely and sensible comments; emotions are very complicated especially when exhausted and busy. It is hard to be objective about ourselves, what does your husband think? Take care of yourself and may you feel wrapped in love by those near to you. xxxx

  14. hello darling jeannette how i've missed being on here, i am really sad reading your post, i'm just so sad that you are so sad, i wish i could sit by you during the day and give you big hugs when the tears flow. i would say something really dorky that would distract you and let you laugh through your tears. i really don't know much about depression or post natal depression, just about grief, sadness, love, loss and sleep deprivation. holding you close to my heart today xxx anne

  15. Janette - I always hesitate before leaving you a comment thinking 'what do I know', but the birth of my second child was quickly followed by a number of sudden deaths in my family. Although everything looked ok to the outside world - I still cleaned the house, cared for the children, put on my make-up, made it to playgroup, etc - I was really struggling, but I didn't realise it until I picked up a leaflet at the baby clinic one day. Just realising/admitting that I was suffering from 'low mood' or depression was a big help for me.

  16. I feel it too honey, I dont know if it's normal, but its THERE, we cant ignore it. I suppose I have decided that nothing anyone can say is going to make me feel "better", so thats why I personally havent been to "see anyone". I dont know what the right thing to do is, let me know if YOU figure it out. Ha!
    in the meantime I am sending you love, and just know that maybe when you are crying in secret, I am too, you arent alone.

  17. Dear Jeanette, what a courageous post you wrote here. I second everything Merry said. And like Hope's Mama, I am not sure terms like PND or 'complicated grief' are a good fit for what you're describing, but I wonder if maybe the action to take is the same anyway: get help.

    If in a few months I find myself in your situation, I would probably resent the label of PND because I would feel like it doesn't convey respect for the depth of my grief, and the importance of my grief as a connection between me and Salome, when I have no other bugger bloody connections with her. And I think that is fundamentally illogical, and I would find it hard to explain to anyone else, but I think I would feel it none the less and I am not at all proud of that.

    I certainly don't think any of us need to maintain this enormous depth of sorrow for our dead babies in order to constantly affirm that our precious children mattered.

    I also agree with you that grief is different from depression, very much so. But sometimes they do overlap I think. And as Merry pointed out, sometimes the neurochemical levels can't cope with immediate demands.

    However you end up getting help, whatever labels people try to stick on you, whatever the outcomes are in terms of psychotherapy, support and possible antidepressants, the facts as I see them are:
    1) you have been to hell and back,
    2) you are doing the tightrope walk of loving living children and one child who has died,
    3) you are courageous and insightful.

    Sending love.


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