Today is World Mental Health Day. It’s also the second day of Baby Loss Awareness Week.
This tells me a) that there are a lot of awareness days – and lots of them are important and b) that it might be an appropriate time for a post about both subjects.
Earlier this year, I attended a festival with a group of friends I didn’t know very well. It was a great event, and I got to know lots of new people, who do similar work to me, have similar interests, and were generally a similar age.
This meant that I got asked the question I fear the most, quite a lot.
And what is that question?
“Do you have any children Ian?”
On the face of it, it’s a simple, straightforward question, and it’s obviously not one designed to offend or cause a sinking feeling in my stomach.
When I am asked that question, there are two possible answers – the long one or the short one. Or the truth or not the truth.
The short answer is the easier one:
“No, I don’t.”
But of course, that really isn’t the truth. The honest answer takes longer to explain and is quite a lot to tell people who I don’t know.
The reality is that I struggle to choose which answer to give, and I then struggle to get the words out.
Telling people, I don’t have a child sticks in my throat – it feels like I am denying the existence of Tilly. But choosing to tell people about her means I must find the words. That can be hard enough at the best of times, but it’s especially so with people I don’t know very well or when I or they don’t have much time.
Whenever I make what I consider the right choice, and tell people about Tilly, their reaction is positive. People are supportive and happ that I’ve chosen to talk about her. They all agree that I am a father and that I should never forget or choose not to talk about Tilly.
So that’s what I will do.
After all, how I can I say that baby loss shouldn’t be a taboo subject if I avoid it myself?
I know that my mental health receives a bounce when I do mention her, and people want to listen.
Thank you to everyone I’ve had this conversation with at work and everyone I met at Comms Unplugged. You’ve all been so supportive. It means the world.