This is us. Me (Tom), Laura and our wolfpack of a gorgeous family, celebrating the news that our baby, due early 2020, was going to be a little boy blue. Tommy Blue Barnes.
This was early Summer 2019. By November we were in Dereford Hospital Plymouth, after Laura suffered severe abdominal pain, which they deemed that she was showing signs of early labour. Our little boy was delivered by an early C Section on World Premature Day, 25+6 gestation and although everything went a lot better than we were prepared for, sadly after 13 hours, he had somehow developed a bleed on his brain and passed away. Our relationship very nearly died the day he did.
It was an extremely dark and debilitating place. The months that followed took us to our mental limits and in one way or other we both experienced a mental breakdown. But after extensive study and putting theories in to practice, we discovered the wealth in healing outdoors in nature. It isn't about relaxing. Its about disconnecting from the noisy busy aspect to 'normal' life and tuning into the trees and plants that emit aromatic compounds called phytonutrients that, when inhaled, can spur healthy biological changes in a manner similar to aromatherapy, which has also been studied for its therapeutic benefits. In his studies, Dr. Qing Li, a professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, concluded that when people walk through or stay overnight in forests, they often exhibit changes in the blood that are associated with protection against cancer, better immunity and lower blood pressure. Recent studies have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety and attention disorders.
We now want to purchase a UK woodland, where we can set up an off grid getaway. The site services itself. Not a campsite. No intrusion. Not Center Parcs. Not a prefab factory built cabin next to a man made gravel pit lake. A woodland paradise and sanctuary that offers that opportunity to come to terms with the trauma. It's not about offering up a space to relax. Relaxing won't ever fix trauma. It will only paper the cracks and mask the issue. Relaxing isn't repairing, although disconnecting from the proverbial rat race is step one.
We want to place couples into a position where they have to communicate. If they're cold they need to get out and grab fire wood. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will come fresh from the earth, daily. It won't pick or cook itself. We want to remind couples they're not broken. We also want to help deliver the realisation that they're not going to be the same. Society reminds you, you haven't been yourself or you will soon get back to being your old self. You won't. There's no default or factory settings to reset. The old you is gone. The new you will forever be in some way, a product of the trauma experienced. But so many, think that means you're inevitably setup to fail. When it can be the catalyst of every positive step taken, herein. It's about adapting and adjusting. Imagine 2 siblings who's parent struggles with life, leans on a vice of some kind and loses their life. 1 sibling could very well take the same path, end up with addiction and blame their parent. 1 sibling could take a completely opposite path towards success, yet STILL blame the same parent as to why. The trauma doesn't have to continue with a negative narrative because of it being a negative experience. It's about direction and seeing the way. Which is where we want to help.
Not only will the space be available to help with counselling but it's about the planet too. Massively. Forever Young Forest will be constantly replanted by couples starting new, green life, in memory of the life they lost. But alongside, we also want to teach all about self. How we can harvest sun, rain and air and turn it in to energy. How to live sustainably. How to grow your own food. How to NOT consume. Soil ecology and how to build on top of soil and not to till and cut into the earth. Feed don't eat the planet basically. Give back what it gives you. And be grateful of it. Because there are children on life support trying to survive and go on to live healthy lives. For what? We should be doing more to make sure this planet is still here for them when they do make it.
It's not necessarily the therapy but more so the setting and surrounding. We ourselves and any other professional we may feel supportive to a specific need, will use most mainstream models of counselling. It is the specifics of that counselling taking place within a woodland.
One thing to realise is that nature isn't demanding. It asks little of us and gives abundantly if respected. It takes little effort to sit on the ground and tune in the senses to the surrounding aromas, scents, sounds and beautiful sights. They will all charge the battery with absolutely nothing asked of in return.
Laura herself as a young teenage girl, returned from school to find her Mom traumatised, having to home deliver her baby brother, after being sent packing from the hospital, who hadn't bothered to react to her request at the desk to get checked over, also due to abdominal pain. He didn't make it and neither did the relationship and that is the conclusion to many instances of baby loss. The family also doesnt survive. As in a unit as one! We are hoping this charity will be the glue in keeping people like us, families like us, together!
We both know, from the hardship and experiences shared, how it truly feels to be stood in that storm. But we chose love and chose to work together to find a way to heal. The difficulties that couples tend to face, is that, throughout the relationship, if one were to get sick or down, the other is always in place for support. With child loss, the trauma and debilitation is shared. So it's hard for one to be the strength for the other, inevitably someone ends up masking and 'putting on a brave face' and that only builds and ends in a much more impactful negative conclusion.
We have also spoken to many couples like us, and its a fairly exclusive opinion that the after care is far too clinical, within a clinical setting. Bristol University conducted a study into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and they discovered that people from a higher economic background tend to use CAM more, which suggests there is more of a cost to this kind of therapy. Those from lower economic backgrounds use the free health care service provided by the NHS, which is always stretched. So those seeking after care are faced with box ticking, in a sense, in an office type room, with a person who has a diary overspilling and a mountain work load. Its near impossible to provide the level of service required to support the trauma.
Laura has been a student to holistic healthcare and I have studied nature and ecology extensively, we have managed our own orchard and luckily for us, that space last year amongst lock down, became our sanctuary and saviour. Again it wasn't necessarily conscious, in terms of realising that being out in that natural space, working with nature, was glueing our family back together. It was only afterwards when we began to take note of its effects, and also the effects we had experienced, by studying the theory of healing in nature, and putting our findings into practise and spending nights atop one of Dartmoor's famous Tor's, wild camping. We would pull out of the car park feeling like our battery was once again full, and that connection and moment to actually feel quite insignificant in relation to the surrounding open landscape, was a grounding experience which really helped us to be able to put one foot in front of the other.
We have decided to use crowdfunder to raise the funds for the land and materials needed to setup an off grid escape. The choice to make it off grid is down to keeping the charities costs down but to also help towards location. Needing to be on the grid for services, inhibits where we can set Forever Young Forest up. Asin we would always need to be within reach of connecting to mains supply if we wasnt to take this approach. By using Sun, Wind and Hydro approaches to energy, we can really offer proper peace and seclusion and in terms of costs, the site is powered by nature.
The fund raising starts right now. We really need your help to make this a reality. The benefits to those using the service are life changing. Even to the point of it being a matter of life and death to a certain degree. We really do see it as drastic as that. Its like going into a coma. Theres a heartbeat, but no signs of life. Many get to that point on the back of losing their baby. With this space, we can help remind them, their heart still beats and there is goodness in abundance in front of them. The clouds will clear.
Can you help us?