Rowena Mabbott is a Life & Loss Coach, writer, speaker, mum and consultant. In 2008 her second son was stillborn. Now, through her coaching practice JoyHopeLove, she works with mother’s who have lost a baby and want to honour their child by confidently living their best life; one that is full of joy, hope and love and legacy. Rowena is based in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband and two living sons. She has a free e-book you can download from her website, where you can also learn more about her. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome Rowena & Thomas
(little Thomas who has gained his angel wings)
Natalie: Welcome Rowena. Can you share with us how your journey began and how you became a life and loss coach?
Rowena: Sure, thanks Natalie. In 2008, my second son was stillborn at 35 weeks. This was a sudden and unexpected loss, as my pregnancy had been completely routine and uneventful until that point.
When we lose a child, as many of your readers are likely aware, the grief we feel is complicated. It’s not simply the loss of that longed for and very much loved child, our own flesh and blood. It’s also the loss of that child’s future, and our future with that child. The grief is therefore compounded by the additional losses we feel – no first words, first steps, no starting school, no first love, no wedding day and so on. All the life experiences we subconsciously, or consciously, look forward to when we first get that positive pregnancy test; we then experience a deep sense of loss and grief about those experiences as well as the little person we will never get to watch grow up.
This experience led me to want to help other mother’s who, like me, had lost a child. And so, with my corporate HR background, and a lifetime of informal coaching and mentoring behind me, I embarked on the Beautiful You coaching course. It’s heart-centred approach felt right for the type of work I now knew I wanted to do. Working with mum’s to help them find, or rediscover, the joy in their life after the loss of their child is what I am passionate about. Knowing I can help other mums live a life that honours their angel baby is the best, most beautiful feeling.
Natalie: It must be extremely isolating for a Mother who has experienced child loss, and family and friends can struggle with how to best respond. Do you have any advice?
Rowena: It is and was very isolating to lose a baby. And yes, family and friends can struggle to know what to do or say. Not immediately, as there is much to be done in the days after such a loss, with funerals to arrange and the like. Months later, when everyone else has gone back to their normal day-to-day lives, that is when it starts to feel much more isolating and the grief can be compounded by lack of support.
To overcome that feeling of isolation and aloneness, finding other mums who have been through the same experience was one the best things I did, and something I would recommend for all bereaved parents. Talking to others who have had a similar experience, and connecting with them helps ease the burden of grief. Knowing there is someone outside of your immediate family and friends who ‘gets it’ can alleviate the pressure on your close friends and family too. It’s invaluable to have the support from others who have been through what you are going through.
Natalie: How did it affect your son(s), what helped them through their experience of the loss of their brother?
Rowena: My eldest was 22 months old when his brother was stillborn. He felt it very keenly, and was incredibly aware of the loss. Mostly because we’d prepared him for his new baby brother, and then there was no baby at home. He was also very aware of how sad his mum and dad were. My third son, who was born 2 years after, also misses his brother but in a different way.
The most helpful thing we’ve found in helping the boys deal with their grief is talking openly and honestly about Thomas. Speaking his name often, referring to him as part of our family – these things made and continue to help normalize the loss and yet also reinforce his presence.
The other significant thing we did to help the children acknowledge and be okay with their grief, is have a family day each year on Thomas’ anniversary. We each take the day off (from work or school) and do something special. It could have been a somber day, but instead we decided to make his anniversary a day of fun and celebration. We celebrate Thomas and his role in our family. By taking this approach the boys feel very connected to their brother, and are comfortable talking about him with us and anyone else too.
Natalie: I’m passionate about self care connection during Motherhood. How do your fill your cup? Are there any self care practices that helped you?
Rowena: Definitely! The best advice I was given immediately after our loss was to be kind to myself. I really didn’t know what that meant, but in essence, it was all about self-care.
In the weeks and months after the loss of Thomas, my self-care was limited to making things easier for myself. So, being kind to myself around expectations that I placed on myself. Accepting that things were different now, and would always be so. Even getting to that place was an act of self-love, self-compassion and self-care.
Now, with my boys at school, I know the value and importance of self-care as a mother. Without my daily self-care practices, I know I am not always the mother I want to be. To fill my cup, I ensure a daily walk in nature and some quiet time. Sometimes that quiet time is meditation, other times it might be as simple as taking my cup of tea outside and listening to the sounds of the garden. Being present in the moment.
These very simple, small acts of self-care help me stay calm and happy, and be present to my own needs as well as those of my loved ones.
Natalie: What are some lessons and blessings you have learnt since becoming a Mum of three boys, two living and one angel.
Rowena: There are two lessons I return to each and every day.
The first, “The days are long but the years are short”. I feel this deep within me – both around the experience of grief, and as a parent.
For grief, it can feel like a mere moment has passed since Thomas was with us. Yet there were, and still can be, days when the grief was/is overwhelming.
As a parent, it reminds me that the challenges I feel at any given time are not necessarily significant when I recall that our children are small for such a short time. Before we know it, they are grown and asserting their independence. It’s a reminder to embrace the moments we have, when we have them, and enjoy those precious years with our children.
The second, that life is short and so precious.
And therefore, it’s too short to waste doing things that don’t bring you joy.
This is it – our one life. Let’s spend it doing things that bring joy to ourselves and others, and that make a difference.
I aim to embody this for myself and to role model it for my boys – live every day with joy.
Natalie: Is there anything you would like to share with other Mums who are experiencing grief after child loss?
Rowena: It will always hurt and you will always mourn your child. The grief never goes away, but it does get easier to live with. You adjust, evolve and transform, but you are still you. The best way to honour the child you’ve lost is to show up in the world the way you know they would want you to.
Natalie: Do you have a favourite quote, prayer, or piece of miracle inspiration that you would like to leave us with?
“As you focus on the joy in life, the joy expands”.
It’s a beautiful reminder we have choice – we can choose how we view the world. It’s simple, yet so effective. Focus on the joy in your life, for even in the terrible, tough and grief-stricken times, there are glimmers of joy. The more we keep that focus, the more joy we will feel.
Natalie: Thank you Rowena for sharing your story, it’s a delicate topic yet one that is so important to share. I feel very privileged to share your story and I love how you honour Thomas in living in joy. JoyHopeLove sums it up so well and your ability to coach, support and inspire women is incredible. Thank you for all the love, care and support you offer so many.
I met Rowena via The Beautiful You Coaching Academy course and her story resonated with me instantly. Whilst our circumstances are different, the grief overlaps with the losses. Rowena is such a grounded, intelligent and beautiful woman and I feel blessed to know her.
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