Yesterday I saw the news that the organisers of The Butterfly Awards have taken the decision to not run them again. This is the post they put up on their Facebook page.
The Butterfly Awards were founded by Mel and Baz Scott in memory of their son Finley. Although I have not been to the awards in the last few years it is a beautiful event which exists to honour and remember those who have lost a baby through stillbirth, neo-natal death or in early pregnancy and awards organisations and those who work tirelessly to help others who have been affected by baby loss.
I was shortlisted in the “Inspirational Mother” category in 2014 and 2015. My husband was shortlisted in the “Most Inspirational Father” category in 2014. Neither of us won, but we didn’t WANT to win. In our eyes every single person shortlisted in those 2 categories was an inspiration for going through the worst thing that life could throw at them – the loss of a much loved and much wanted baby. I know that pain only too well.
When my much loved and much wanted son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura was born sleeping on 29 November 2019 I was desperate to do as much as I could in his memory. I was going to change the world; I was going to fund-raise, and I was going to make sure that Frankie would never be forgotten. I set about this by founding a small charity called “Frankie’s Legacy”.
Little did I know what awaited me.
On the internet various “communities” and “groups” exist. Most of them are welcoming and the people within them are lovely. Unfortunately, and it pains me to say it, but I can honestly say that I have never come across a community with such nasty and horrible people in it as the baby loss community.
I had vitriol aimed at me every day. For example, there was another charity that saw fit to try and destroy me and my efforts. I endured nastiness from them online on a regular basis, although I hid it well and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. I can only conclude looking back that they saw me and what I was trying to do as a “threat” to their own existence.
Not only did I go through losing my Frankie, but a succession of other close family bereavements followed. Eventually I could take no more of the nastiness that was directed at me and my efforts online. It affected me greatly, and my mental health took a huge battering. Of course, there were and still are some lovely people in the baby loss community, and I kept those people on my Facebook friends list and want to give them a huge shout out (Cath Doughty, Michelle Channon and Sian Coopey to name but a few). On top of that, my husband and I went to some support groups, and we decided that we didn’t want to be stuck in a cycle of always grieving for Frankie. I know that he wouldn’t have wanted that.
I realised that there was only one thing I could do for my sake, for the sake of my mental health and for the sake of my family. I had to close “Frankie’s Legacy” and come away from the baby loss community altogether. In 2016 that is exactly what I did.
It was not an easy decision to make as I felt as if I had failed my son. But the relief of coming away from the baby loss community online was incredible. Despite all the death, loss and bereavements I had been through I finally began to make sense of what happened and to start healing. It is a slow process, and I don’t think I will ever be fully healed. However, the one thing that I kept going so that I had an avenue to write about Frankie and how I navigate life being and “empty armed mother” was this blog. I don’t write for “Frankie’s Legacy” very often these days (and I should write more for it) but it is there if I ever need. It. Like I do today, by writing this.
I chose to focus on my work and went back to the cyber security industry. I entered this industry in 2009 through my ex-husband, and I had missed being in it. I teach businesses of all sizes about the importance of cyber security, what all the cyber risks are and how to be as secure as possible. My goal is to ensure that all business owners and employees know that they need to do their part in staying safe online to protect themselves. I also educate the general public to be more cyber aware and how to spot cyber scams by email, text, phone or online. If I can help just one person not to lose their life savings to cyber-crime, I will be happy. Through all this, I founded the UK Cyber Security Association.
I’ve done so much since founding the UK Cyber Security Association. I’ve won SC Awards Europe’s “Outstanding Contribution to Cyber Security” award, the UK Cyber Security Awards “Cyber Security Professional” category and Women in Cyber Awards USA “Supporter of Women in Cyber Security category. I work for an amazing company delivering thought leadership reports, white papers, blogs and other content to grow awareness of their clients worldwide. I run a thriving cyber security community through the UK Cyber Security Association. I am an author, blogger and keynote speaker at conferences and events. I am part of a thriving infosec and cyber security community. I’m writing a book entitled “The Rise of the Cyber Women”. I’ve made amazing friends and learnt so much, and I am ALWAYS learning. And I heard last week that I am one of SC Magazine’s Top 50 Women of Influence in Cyber Security. I am very proud of all of it.
One thing that has struck me since making the move from the baby loss community to the infosec/cyber security community is how much nicer, kinder and helpful everyone is in it. There are more men than women in the infosec community, which is to be expected, but apart from one person who I had to block on my social media channels (sadly it was someone who I looked up to in the cyber security industry) I can honestly say I’ve had nothing but support and kindness. In turn, this has had a huge positive impact on my mental health. The difference is incredible.
Reiki healing has helped me stay grounded and navigate through all grief, loss and trauma that I’ve been through since 2012 which started when my ex-husband left me. Yesterday I took another huge step in my Reiki journey by gaining my Reiki Healing 1 certificate (to heal myself), my Reiki Healing 2 certificate (to heal others), Reiki Healing for Animals and Spiritual Guidance certificates through Kay Wilkinson, who runs a holistic therapy business. Something that Kay said to me yesterday made me realise that I am still honouring Frankie’s memory by educating and helping businesses and individuals be more cyber aware, that he is “showing me the way”. It may sound crazy, but I believe that Kay is right. I wasn’t meant to stay in a community where I am getting beaten and battered by nastiness, which was what was happening to me in the baby loss community.
Seeing the news that The Butterfly Awards is ending yesterday didn’t surprise me. It didn’t surprise me because having had such nastiness and vitriol aimed at me it transpires that Mel and her team has endured the same with The Butterfly Awards. A few years on, and it seems that nothing has changed within the baby loss community. If anything, it seems to have got worse. The Butterfly Awards coming to an end is another casualty of the nastiness that is prevalent in the baby loss community. I would imagine the mental health of Mel and her team will have taken a huge battering.
I know Mel Scott and she gave me a beautiful plaque a few years ago which I still have when she came to one of my fund-raising events with one word on it – “hope”. Mel and the Butterfly Awards team, if you read this, here is a message for you.
Please don’t ever lose hope. Hold on to it and treasure it. Don’t ever think that you have failed, or that you have failed Finley. You haven’t. Those who were nasty to you and your team over the Butterfly Awards have failed him – not you or your team. You may feel that the Butterfly Awards is not the right thing for you anymore with which to remember and honour Finley, just as I felt that “Frankie’s Legacy” was not the right thing for me to continue doing to honour my Frankie. You, your family and your mental health must be your top priority above anything else. You have not failed, and you have not failed Finley, by choosing to not run the Butterfly Awards anymore – if that is indeed what will happen. All those who were nasty to you and your team, who sent you feedback about the awards that was nasty, and who offered unhelpful advice should all be ashamed of themselves.
The Butterfly Awards would be a great loss and I know that I speak for everyone who attended and all the organisations who took part in it. But what would be an even bigger and greater loss would be losing you. Don’t lose yourself in all this Mel. Stay strong and stay true to yourself. You’ve got this.
I for one will never, ever forget your kindness Mel, and the plaque that says “hope” will always have a special place in my heart and my home. As do you. Whatever you decide, whatever you do, look after yourself and your family first and foremost – and be happy. But never, ever, ever let those nasty people win. They should never win.
With much love always,