Jensen is turning one in eight days.
This is how I always pictured Jensen and I near his birthday…
Encouraging him to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I never imagined he’d be teaching me how to do the same.
How time passed so quickly completely eludes me. It feels like just yesterday I saw him dancing across the ultrasound screen just five days before. In another sense, it feels like forever since I’ve been able to catch my breath. From the moment I found out his heart had stopped beating to this one right now, and all the moments for the rest of my life, I will never fully grasp that this is my reality. That I will forever be physically without Jensen. The fact that I have to face his big day is overwhelming.
With almost a full year of grief under my belt, I have an understanding of what I need during these huge grief and trigger days. This list is compiled from what has helped me and my support group during the last year. It hasn’t been an easy process to find out what worked and what didn’t, but I am so thankful for my support circle that have been so willing to learn and swim through the waves with me. Although I can’t speak for every loss parent, these do’s and don’ts are with the bereaved hearts and their support in mind.
Offer support/ask how you can help.
Honestly, this one is a little tricky. Most of the time I don’t know what I want or need in terms of support. It’s frustrating because I know there has to be something. Whether that be someone to listen to me or to sit with, to actually helping with events or plans concerning that day. Big grief days are exhausting. On top of not knowing, (for me) reaching out seems difficult because I’m exhausted and deep down, I know this is the only way I can mother Jensen.
A big thing I’m going through with his birthday party is telling people I have everything planned. In my mind, that’s true. As of today, there is a lot I need help with and my family and friends have asked and I said no. Deep down though, I know those people want to help me and will if I ask. Like I said, this is in my experience, planning his birthday is how I’m able to parent Jensen and heal my heart.
Even if there isn’t any way you can help, just by asking if a person needs support or help, they know you’re there for them. You’ve opened up a doorway that will positively impact that next moment and interaction.
Listen to their stories, feelings, and emotions.
Even if it’s the same story you’ve heard a thousand times, this is all we have. It could be about the first kick or their birth story. Of course there’s sadness, confusion, and anger towards loss. On the other hand, there is so much beauty in their son or daughter’s life. Their lives, although short, were full of love and happiness. For most of us, having them grow and finding out we were parents was the best time of our lives.
This is another form of support. To me, it’s so important to be able to share Jensen’s story. and not just his death. In fact, his birthday will be a celebration of his life. There will be cake, laughter, and his lifetime of memories. Now, I’m not going to lie to you all, the day before will be a day of mourning. On each day, I hope and know that my support circle will be there to listen to it all.
Say their child’s name.
Always. Even if you’re miles away, write their child’s name down and send them a picture of it. This seems way simpler than the others, but it means the entire world to a loss parent. It lets us know that our child is not being forgotten. For me, it is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.
Embrace their child(ren)’s life and memory.
Sort of like some of the previous ones, but it goes a little deeper. When you’re listening to their stories about being pregnant or other memories they have, tell them something you remember. Maybe it was the day they told you they were going to be parents or a memory you have of feeling the baby move. Don’t be shy to bring these moments up. We haven’t forgotten.
Also, if there’s something they want you to do, try your best to do it. Usually it won’t be anything too huge, but something like lighting a candle on their hard days. Do a random act of kindness in their child’s name. This embraces and keeps their memory alive.
Be afraid to ask questions.
This can be different for everyone depending on where they are in their journeys. It is hard to talk about certain parts, for both parties. But, if you want to see pictures of their child or know what time they were born, just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask about those memories. I know for a lot of moms (sorry dads) facts and moments are constantly playing through their minds. It helps get the information out and, again, it helps to know you want to be there to support us even through the messy part.
Personally, I’ve always been one to tell people to ask me questions. I would rather them know from me and the truth about it all. Like I said though, this is completely different for other loss parents.
Get angry if the plans for the day change.
If you get a text a few hours before you’re supposed to meet up for a lunch or self-care day on one of these grief days, don’t be mad. No one really knows how they’re going to be until the day comes. It could be they woke up that morning and the waves are crashing down. This isn’t anything personal against you, this is a way they’re helping their heart.
Downplay their pain, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Grief and loss hurt like hell. There hasn’t been a moment of comfort I’ve had since April 4, 2016. Believe me, I know it’s hard to hear your loved one is hurting, but that’s why they’re talking about their grief. Please, please, please don’t downplay or cut someone off. They’re talking to you about the hardest and most tragic event that they will ever go through in their life. Opening up to another person about these raw feelings is extremely brave for a person to do. It is terrifying to start talking about emotional times to only be told that what their feeling isn’t really that intense.
We live in a society who do not really know how to grieve. I’m thankful that not every person in the world knows what it’s like to lose a child. But I am telling you, that releasing these emotions to the outside world is so healing. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Imagine how that would be like every day.
Tell them that it’s time to stop grieving OR any hurtful comments.
Just please don’t do it.