I was looking over some of my old blog posts last night, and I couldn’t help but feel a real sense of achievement reading back on the experience of my first trip back to work after losing Avery.
Thinking back to when I was sat in the car park sobbing my heart out, my heart was pounding and I didn’t think I would be able to put one foot in front of the other to make it through the door.
It was genuinely one of the most terrifying encounters I’ve endured so far, my head had allowed me to build up the absolute worst case scenario – I felt weak and vulnerable – something I’d never experienced so far. I loved my job and by losing Avery, I felt I’d lost who I was and everything I loved before. I think part of me expected everyone to be weird around me and see me as weak; fear of the unexpected is a cruel thing. But, once I was in the office, I was relieved to see that everyone who I loved from my job treated me like me, and more than anything, were just delighted to see me.
Honestly, I went back to soon because I felt like I had to and that was silly and naïve of me.
It’s been over 4 months since I went back full time, and I won’t lie in saying that it’s not been hard, It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I’m just now starting to step back into my stride. There have been days when I’ve just slipped off to a meeting room and cried my eyes out, I’ve had breakdowns and there’s been times when I’ve just had to surrender to the stress and tell me boss “I can’t do this – I need help.” This has been the hardest part for me, I’m known for juggling and thriving under pressure, but it’s just impossible to do that when you’re at the core of your grief. A big part of my recovery has been admitting that I can’t do everything – the sooner you accept that you are drowning is the moment someone throws out a lifejacket and you start to dread again.
I imagine it’s not the same for everyone; the root cause of my recovery in getting back into the swing of things has been the incredible team I work with. My boss has been my shoulder to cry on and my pillar of strength – she’s brought me back down to reality on days when I was putting on a brave face, she can see through my bullshit and has helped me to come to terms with the fact that I have been through a tragedy and it’s not going to heal overnight. She’s given me the space and flexibility to get back into my groove on my own terms – I don’t know what I’d do without her. And, as for the rest of my team , they’ve not treated me like wounded soldier, they’ve made me laugh, they’ve offered me a tissue and shoulder when I’ve cried and they’ve constantly encouraged me and reminded me that I am conquering the impossible every day.
I guess in a sense, they all lost something when I lost Avery – you spend more time with your work family than your own and they were there from the start of my pregnancy. She’s now a physical part of our team and we acknowledge her every day, which is really important to me.
So, looking back to where I was to where I am now – I’m starting to love the hard work again. I wake up with enthusiasm rather than anxiety. My boss hit the nail on the head yesterday by saying that I’ve found my ‘balance’ again.
So, to anyone who’s not quite there yet and dreading going back to work – you will get through it, persevere because trust me I nearly quit numerous times, but I stuck with it and now I realise it’s been a huge part of me finding my new normal.
One day at a time .. XO Nicole
To read about what me and my team are doing to support future stillbirth parents, read about our fundraising mission here.