A life tinged with heartbreak prompted one mum to take up the pen – and Baby Loss Awareness Week marks the launch of her latest book tackling the subject.
Angel Warrior is Sharon Luca-Chatha’s touching and personal account of the past eight years of her life, following the stillbirth of her son at 36 weeks.
It comes just a month after the launch of her illustrated children’s book Why Did Grandad Die? – geared at helping three to ten-year-olds understand bereavement.
In a life plagued by trauma, including domestic violence in a previous arranged marriage and crippling illness which has left her unable to walk unaided, grieving for Luca is described by Sharon as her ‘darkest and most devastating time.’
But none of it has got in the way of her sheer determination to keep his memory alive. As well as changing her surname to Luca-Chatha, Sharon, from Coventry, has gone on to establish a charity in his name which has already raised thousands of pounds.
It’s agonising for Sharon and her husband Jas to know they’ll never have the answers they crave as to the cause of their son’s death eight years ago. But it was six years later after suffering a breakdown on the anniversary of Luca’s death, that Sharon vowed to help other parents suffering the same tragedy.
The Luca Foundation, which counts among its ambassadors Poldark actor Christian Brassington and retired Hollywood screenwriter Marie Rowe, raises funds for the purchase and repair of refrigerated cuddle cots which allow grieving parents precious extra time with their ‘angel babies’ – time the couple desperately wish they themselves had had.
Sharon, 44, said: “A parent’s worst nightmare is to lose their child. We were beyond devastated, our world had fallen apart. From the moment he died on the Monday inside my womb, to the Thursday when I gave birth to him, everything was in a daze.
“ ‘Growth restriction’ was eventually given as cause of death. When we got the post mortem results, I was hoping it was going to say they’d found some sort of defect that would have shortened his life and that he would have suffered – something to give me some sense of closure.
“We had exactly the same danger alert for our second son Ky who came up small on the growth chart at 24 weeks exactly as Luca had and that did scare us. But from then on I was monitored weekly and, on my persistence, he was induced early. I couldn’t bear the thought of him going past 36 weeks in the pregnancy because that’s when we lost Luca.
“He was delivered exactly a week before Luca’s birthday and the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, so if he had gone any longer he would have suffocated in my womb and we’d have lost a second child.”
Her second book Angel Warrior, which took a year to complete, relives the last eight years of Sharon’s journey. But she admits it was hard going at times.
She said: “While it was a cathartic experience getting my feelings down on paper, I struggled to get through the first couple of chapters because they made me emotional.
“The title came to me when I was grieving for Luca. The definition of a warrior is to keep fighting on and find your inner strength.
“My son up there in the sky is the angel and I’m the warrior down here, having to live my life without him. I’ve thought for a long time, why don’t bereaved parents have a title, like a widow or an orphan etc. Why can’t angel warrior be the title for bereaved parents?
“We have to live with such strength to get through the rest of our lives because we’ve gone through the most horrific kind of loss that you can.”
Meanwhile, Why Did Grandad Die? is receiving positive feedback following its release on September 4th.
Sharon’s ambition for the book, which features illustrations by Exhall artist Phaedra Elson, is to one day see it in every classroom in the country.
Sharon explained: “When my son Ky was at school and he would tell his classmates ‘I have a brother in the sky’ and said some of them laughed because they didn’t understand that so it would have been nice for the teacher to then pull a book out and say ‘this is what Ky means.’
“The book explains death in a very child-friendly way and I would like it to end up in all primary schools so it can aid a real life conversation as a tool for bereavement, and so the rest of the class can understand why that person is upset.
“People touched by loss and ex-teachers are saying it is a wonderful book and much needed and something that has been missing from the bookshelves for a long time.”
Why Did Grandad Die? is available, priced £9.99 from The Luca Foundation website where 100% of the proceeds will go back into the charity. It is also available on Amazon.
Sharon recently commissioned a glass memorial containing the remnants of Luca’s ashes which is now in pride of place in her home.
She said of the angel memorial, from Harmony Glass (www.harmonyglass.co.uk): “I think it’s important for people to understand that there are options as to what people can do with their baby’s ashes.
“When I was presented with the angel it blew me away. I was so emotional. I couldn’t believe that my son is in the glass.”