I won this portrait from For A Moment Portrait last year during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. When I won it, I was so excited because I never win anything and everyday when I woke up I pictured what he would look like. I still wonder what he’d look like since.
She sent me Jensen age progressed to six/seven-ish months right before his birthday. I remembered being terrified to see what how it turned out. What if it wasn’t the way I had pictured him? Or what if my reaction was bad? It was the same feeling I had when Jensen bear arrived home. I built up the courage and carefully took it out of the envelope. My eyes were closed before I turned it over and saw him. No matter what it ended up looking like, I always had my image of him. So, I took the plunge.
It was him.
He had the curly hair inpictured and looked more like my mom than I had imagined, but it was definitely him. His eyes were opened, which I’ve never seen before. He looked happy and that brought me peace.
Sometimes I wish I would get an age progression drawing for every year. Just to peak my curiosity. If I was any good at drawing, I’d do it myself, but I wouldn’t give him the justice he deserves.
I’m not sure why I decided to share this image today.
His smiling face has been right in front of me for almost seven months now. It didn’t feel right until now to show it off.
Maybe it’s the time of year? Heading into the second holiday season without him and all I want is to see his face and how much he’s grown. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. My heart longs for him more and more as each day passes. I hate not being able to plan which presents he’d open up or decide when he should get a picture with Santa. And I wish for the everyday things, like making sure he was warm enough to go outside or wiping off food that missed his mouth.
Time doesn’t make up for all the moment I should have had with him. It’s been nineteen months and the pain hasn’t lessened. Has it changed? Of course. But the weight in my heart is stil there. The tears still come. I’m still dreading the holidays and the year change. And in less than six months, I should have a two year old.
Each day for the rest of my life, I know I’ll make it through. The smiling face I see in front of me now promises me that. I’ve lived the worst day of my life and I know it should be different, but I promise him and myself that I will be the best I can be.
I’ll continue sharing his story and never letting his memory fade away.
‘Tis the season for holiday cheer… or is it?
With November comes the wave of Christmas and holiday, well everything. No matter where you go from now until December 25th, the barrage of music, Target decorations, and Black Friday store ads can be overwhelming for any person. Especially when a person is grieving the loss of their child. I can already feel the pressure of being cheery for the snow to settle and to count my blessings for Thanksgiving day.
Here’s the thing, I’m not excited to make snow angels or say what I’m thankful for around the dinner table. I don’t want to see children my son’s age opening up their Christmas presents and sitting on Santa’s lap. On the other hand, I don’t want to feel like the Grinch stole this holiday season away from me honoring my son and how far I’ve come in my grief journey.
I’d like to share with you some activities I did in my first year of surviving the holidays that really helped me. Last year I shared this article about how to honor your child during Thanksgiving, but I wanted to branch out on how to make the most out of an extremely difficult season of grieving.
Reach Out for Support Online or in Person
Okay, I know this one is pretty much for all year around, but it is so crucial during this time of year.
Last year, I can remember feeling so bad when I would tell someone I was feeling down when they were so happy. I didn’t want to bring them down so I kept quiet. There were a lot of tears last year, but I eventually did let my family and friends know how I needed to be supported during this time. I also found online support and talking to other loss parents during this time beneficial in knowing my actions or thoughts weren’t ‘crazy.’
Share your child’s name during this time, let people know how you’re feeling, and don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re doing the best you can.
Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings Throughout the Holidays
Not all of us are writers or artists, I get that; you would too if you saw me try to draw. In my experience, I get all these negative thoughts and emotions stuck in my head. Writing or creating something has helped give me an outlet to clear my mind. A journal can be one where you write or one where you paint or do something artistic. Even if it’s just an angry scribble or random words you write over and over again, they’re going somewhere other than your head. Believe me, I know the weight of grief during the holidays. It needs to be out.
Don’t know what to write or create? There are many journal prompts on Pinterest and groups on Facebook or Instagram. Courageous Mothers is also providing a prompt a day through their program ‘Grief Journaling through the Holidays.’ The prompts began the first of November, but you can join through anytime. They also have a group on Facebook where you can share your thoughts on the daily prompts or just to go there for extra support during this time. Make sure to check it out and see if you would be interested.
Go to a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Holiday Gathering
I am always amazed when I go to Pregnancy and Infant Loss events. The amount of people that attend can be so… heartbreaking, but each individual there provides so much hope and support. Last year, I was able to attended two events. Both were completely different and just as healing. The one was an outside event by the Angel of Hope in Stow, Ohio. Here parents, families, and support people were invited to light a candle throughout the ceremony. During this time, poems were read and a speaker talked about holiday grief. We were also allowed to present flowers to the angel or place them on the child’s brick, while being able to say their names. I blogged about this night on this post. For my parents who went with me, they really enjoyed being able to celebrate Jensen there and felt connected to our community. It was healing for them and me, which is so important.
The other event I went to last year, was inside and more formal. It was in a huge church. They had a program and showed pictures of children gone too soon. The speaker there last year was absolutely amazing. It was a father whose son died from SIDS at daycare and just hearing him talk about his soon was heartwarming. He shared how tough the holidays are, but how they are able to honor him throughout them and their everyday life. I also blogged about this event, here.
Events like these are individual to where a person lives. If you’re involved in a local loss in-person support group, they might be able to point you to gatherings near you.
Join an Ornament Swap
Before last year, I had never participated in an ornament swap; unless you count the ones in elementary school. I’m not really sure how I was introduced to the one I joined last year, but I am SO glad I was. Pretty much, you sign up for a swap, which deadlines are coming up soon, and you give what you would like to have in an ornament. Of course you give details about your child, what holiday you celebrate (religious or not), and how you decorate during the holiday season. Oh! The most important thing is every ornament in the swap is handmade. A few days later, you’ll get who you’re making an ornament for and learn about their child. It’s so healing to be able to connect with a person and their child that you’ve never met before. You are presenting them a way to heal and honor their child. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is grieving. Your child is also being honored and remember by another family.
You don’t have to be super crafty to participate, just do the best you can do. This year and last year, I requested the ornament to be made with whatever came to them. It’s my belief that Jensen will work his magic in getting the perfect ornament for him. I also blogged about this experience and what happened when Jensen’s ornament arrived home, here.
Want to join an ornament swap, but don’t know where to go? Check these two out:
Include Your Child in Holiday Cards
When I was a child, we rarely sent out Christmas cards. I only did a few times when I worked at a retail store and gave them to my coworkers. Instead of taking one with my whole family, I took pictures of me with my dog (who still lives at my parents). I always wanted to be able to send cards when I had a family of my own. When the first holidays came, I wanted to do something to honor Jensen and I. No, I didn’t send them out to family and friends, but I did share on here and social media. It was so healing to represent my little family and be apart of a holiday tradition I always had planned on.
If you do take holiday pictures, feel free include your child. You can do this by holding their picture or Molly bear during your picture. If you don’t feel comfortable with those things, I have seen loss families add a certain symbol to all their pictures such as a butterfly or bird. When you sign from your family, add their name too. They are as much as a family member as anyone.
Donate a Gift in Your Child’s Name
I was pregnant with Jensen during Christmas time. That year, I was constantly in and out of the mall buying gifts for my family and of course, Jensen. Every time I would go to shop, I would pass a giving tree and he would start kicking. Eventually, I took a tag off the tree and decided to donate a gift in Jensen’s name to a child who wouldn’t be getting the Christmas I was always used to. So, that began my tradition of honoring him. Of course, I didn’t know that it would be a way I could honor him then, but I continued my tradition last year.
It felt really nice to be able to help someone in Jensen’s name. That’s what I try to do everyday. Knowing he is making someone smile after all the pain and heartbreak death caused, helps me keep going.
You can find giving trees in local malls or you can even donate to churches or homeless shelters in your child’s name. Some Pregnancy and Infant Loss holiday events even take presents and clothes to children’s hospitals that you donate too.
Make a New Holiday Tradition
After loss, life completely changes. The way you do things or see the world is altered in ways you didn’t think was possible before. This most definitely includes the holidays.
You and your family might have done a tradition since you were born and you don’t want to participate this year. Guess what? That’s perfectly okay. You are allowed to make your own new traditions. This means you might not feel up to going to certain holiday gatherings or putting up a tree. Instead of eating turkey for Thanksgiving, order pizza. No matter what you do, you’re doing what is best for your heart. That’s all you can ask from yourself. Don’t feel like you’re letting your child down or even your family members.
Some examples of new traditions I did last year and maybe they’ll change again this year is making an ornament for Jensen (I didn’t want to buy one and go into the mall), setting an empty plate for holiday dinners, putting up a tree that represents your child, decorating their headstone or special place in your home, and writing their name in the snow.
No matter how you decide to survive the holidays, know that there is a whole community ready to support and help you along the way. You are never alone in this journey.
Halloween is most definitely a kid’s holiday. They get to dress up and be whoever they want to be, while they get all the candy their hearts desire. It’s full of fantasy and fun. Just what little ones love.
For some, like myself, our children do not get to traditionally partake in the festivities. It’s the first holiday of the season and the start of complex grief. Even if a loss parent has living children too, they will always see their missing trick-or-treater. For mother’s without living children, it feels like they could hide away and avoid the entire night, which is perfectly fine if that’s what they choose.
Last year was my first without Jensen. There was a lot of mixed emotions, but I felt like Jensen and I needed to be apart of the night. Honestly, I didn’t know how to pull it off. With a lot of thought I came up with an idea that I used again this year.
Last year’s candy bowl including Jensen’s first Halloween ‘walk.’
I had a graphic made with Jensen’s name on a pumpkin that said, ‘Happy Halloween to Heaven.’ Above and below the picture says thank you for letting Jensen walk with your child and to check his story out here. It was a great way to give back to neighborhood children while sharing Jensen’s story. I felt like this was a perfect option for me to be involved.
As I said above, this year I did the same concept, but a different graphic. My mom and I packed the candy with the slips. It’s a way we can feel closer to Jensen and not let this night overcome our grief.
This year, I also decided to carve a pumpkin for Jensen. Of course I used a big J to represent him on it. I love that I’ll be able to sit near his pumpkin and be able to pass out a little of his light with the candy tonight.
It’s not a huge gesture, but it makes me feel a little more in control of my grief while making sure Jensen’s name never fades.
This October didn’t go as I originally planned. I wanted to write each day according to the Capture Your Grief prompts. Life had a way of cutting in. Through pregnancy and infant loss awareness events, my mom being hospitalized, and a lot of work, I wasn’t able to complete them all; and that’s perfectly okay. I did what my grief and I was able to do. For that, I am so proud of myself and the little boy who has motivated me to keep pushing through the days.
Reflection is important when journeying through grief. Even if it’s just reflecting on the previous day. Since I’m halfway through my second year (which seems absurd), I find myself reflection from last year. I’ve found I’ve grown tremendously. This year, I wasn’t hard on myself if I wasn’t able to post a prompt or a picture. I know others see the love I have for my son and my motherhood is completely valid. Although, I would never say I’m comfortable in my grief or even with what has happened in my life, I’m thankful to see how far I’ve come. I wish with all my might Jensen was here to physically be apart of this journey.
This month has been a beautiful healing one. It always amazes me how complete strangers can come together and be so supportive, even after all the loss. Before I began writing this post, I went through all my pictures from this month and the ones that moved me the most were the balloon releases and ones with my family. Every release is painfully healing. Each of those balloons mark a child gone too soon and those who grieve their loss. In all the photos I have from them, there’s way too many in the sky. What you don’t see in the picture is the tears and comfort by family and friends.
I’ve also noticed a difference in myself accepting the change of the month. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know the change of the month has been very hard for me throughout my journey. This month, I’m ready for it to end. Which sounds weird since I was looking forward to advocating each day. The thing is I raise awareness about pregnancy and infant loss everyday as I know all parents do. It’s a nice month to come together, but when it ends it doesn’t mean we have to stop talking. With that being said, I’m not ready for the second set of holidays without Jensen. I don’t think that will ever get easier.
Tomorrow is the first of the holiday season. I’m going to touch on some things then, but with reflecting comes looking towards the future. It’s going to be rough. I’m going into the day with high hopes and have plans to incorporate Jensen that I’ll be sharing. It’s going to be hard seeing kids his age, it always is. I’ve come to a point where I know when to step back and know it’s okay to succumb to that grief feeling.
No matter what, I’ll make it to the next day.
I’ll be thinking of those balloons in the sky and what they represent tomorrow. Instead of just seeing the kids trick-or-treating, I’ll also see the ones who aren’t physically there.
I wish this awareness month didn’t exist and babies didn’t die, but I’m so glad I have you all to walk this journey with. Thank you for letting me share Jensen and I’s story this October and every other time. I’ll always remember the community who lifted me up when I didn’t feel like I’d ever stand again.
Photo by Shannon Karcher Photography for Jensen’s first birthday.
passion – a state or outburst of strong emotion
My definition of passion has changed throughout my life, as did the things I was passionate about. I never thought of passion as an outburst of strong emotion. For me it meant to care deeply about something or the desire to really work at what I loved. Passion, I guess, translated to a type of love.
In high school I probably would have told you it was basketball. College, either writing or traveling. When I was pregnant with Jensen, I was passionate about learning everything I could about what I could do best for him and being his mom. It always changed with what was going on in my life. I guess that makes perfect sense. After he was born, I didn’t feel any passion or much of anything else besides anger and sadness.
With Jensen went so much of me.
I would say passion was definitely hard to get back after his death, unless you’d call a fit of rage passion. Yes, I was still passionate about him and the love I have for him, but I couldn’t do anything with it. I was just there with all this love and pent up anger; I wouldn’t wish that feeling after losing a child on anyone. Truly, it is awful. There are days I marvel how I and so many other parents make it through those beginning days.
Slowly, passion did start to come back in my life. When I was able to be constructive with my grief, I could feel something more. Through writing and creativity I was able to share how much I loved Jensen and could help others too. Advocating and giving Jensen a voice became one of my greatest passions, this is the only way I can ever parent him.
Sometimes I think that’s hard for others to fully grasp or not think I’m completely crazy. I continue to write about him, my experience with grief, and memories of him because that’s all I have. Instead of taking him out for Halloween on Tuesday, I will find a way to incorporate him in the day. I don’t have that moment of people smiling when I tell them what he would be on his second Halloween, but I can share his story and hopefully reach out to someone who is walking through this journey and feels alone.
I’m passionate about my son and his story.
I’m passionate about helping others through their grief journey.
I’m passionate about living again.
Life is full of important moments. Ones you never forget because they’re so happy and others that are so terrible that they replay in your mind over and over. There are ones where you don’t think you’ll make it to the next and feel so overwhelmed. Grief has put a spot light in them all.
I’ve learned that you have to take each head on. Once you get past the ones that bring pain, you will make it to the next. I promise.
The moment they told me Jensen was gone the world melted. I never thought I would catch my breath again and yet somehow my body forced air in my lungs. To be honest, I wish the moment before that one, where I was excited to see him, was my last one. I can’t describe the pain in the following hours, days, and weeks that followed. Each day they replay in my head. I wouldn’t wish loss on anyone.
For Capture Your Grief, I wanted to capture the moment I came back home. It’s right before I see Jensen’s pictures and his urn; both are things that bring me so much comfort.
My face isn’t important this month. I’ve wore Pregnancy and Infant Loss ribbons everyday in October to advocate and give babies our babies a voice. It’s before I take off my pin and feel as if I don’t have to wear it here to visibly represent the lives that touch me in every moment I have lived after he was born. I place it with my other ones, waiting to be worn tomorrow.
Collectively, our moments make up our lives. In them all, I am Jensen’s mom. I am an advocate for pregnancy and infant loss awareness. My voice will not be silenced in any moment that comes after this. For the rest of my life, Jensen will never be forgotten. As he is remembered and talked about, he will live and dance freely in those moments.
When I was in the hospital, all alone, after Jensen has been born, I wondered if his death was a horrible cosmic joke God or some higher being was playing on me. I was angry and sad. The thought of being able to laugh or smile wasn’t even there.
That first week home, it felt like I had huge ear muffs on that mumbled the voices around me. My sight was narrowed like when horses have their blinders on. The world was tumbling inside me, yet it looked ‘normal’ on the outside.
I didn’t know what being numb felt like until he died.
On the day of his funeral… a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone crashed all over me. I didn’t want to believe I woke up and today was my child’s funeral. It’s not something you want to accept. I know I sure didn’t. With all my power, I tried to keep stopping time and even trying to turn back. When I got dressed and looked in the mirror, I realized this was the outfit I’d wear to say ‘goodbye.’ I hated it and I’m not even sure what happened to those articles of clothing.
If someone would have told me in that moment I was looking in the mirror that I would laugh later that day, I probably would have wanted to punch them.
His funeral was something I needed. There was a lot of singing, which Jensen would have loved. Our family was there. It felt comforting and horrible at the same time. I think you wouldn’t know this feeling unless someone very close to you has died.
With all the people there, one who said he was coming wasn’t there. I didn’t notice it during the service, but afterwards I did. Obviously, I checked my phone and had missed calls and new text messages from him. There was a miscommunication between the both of us, I admit I wasn’t very clear because my mind was spinning so fast. I told him to come to the lunch that was prepared for us and we’ll talk when he got there.
I heard the door open and my friend’s footsteps coming in. He sat down at the table I was at with my mom and dad, I’m not sure who else was sitting there. I told him the funeral was as nice as it could be and he was nodding intently, I could tell he felt really bad for not making it.
Then he said, I went to the wrong funeral.
He explained he thought Jensen’s funeral was at the funeral home, not the church. When he went there, there was a lot of people, but he didn’t see me or my family. He was confused, but just thought they were consoling me somewhere else. Through a conversation with someone who was there, he found out he was at a woman’s funeral who died of cancer and at that point he realized he was at the wrong place.
After hearing the story, I just started laughing. I’m sure everyone who didn’t hear the story thought I was just snapping completely. How insane would it be to just end up at the wrong funeral? I just imagined how uncomfortable it would be to go to your best friend’s son’s funeral only to be at a completely different person’s.
It was the first time I laughed since he was born and it did feel like a little bit of medicine.
I’m not sure the next time I laughed, but with time I didn’t feel guilty. Guilt is one of the hardest things to juggle after losing your child, amongst the obvious. There was so much guilt about smiling, laughing, or even having a good day. It’s almost like if someone saw you in an okay mood, they might think you were ‘over it.’
The thing is Jensen wants me to smile and laugh; just like any child would want their parents. As soon as I realized I don’t have to explain or validate my feelings to anyone else throughout my grief journey, the more I was able to focus on what got me through the days and weeks and months.
That first laugh helped and it still gets me to this day.
To begin, I’d like to say I am not feeling my best today. I woke up with a sore throat and a fever and nothing has touched it going down. Sleep has been my friend. I even questioned if I should be writing this evening, but this prompt has motivated me to.
Why did I start off by telling you I was under the weather today? It’s not because I think we have a good rapport, even though I know we do. This morning I was triggered by my sickness.
Two years ago today, when I was in my second trimester with Jensen growing so perfectly, I was so sick: sore throat, fever, no voice, and I had my bits of chills. It’s like I’ve been taken back to two years ago with him. Instead of being stuck on my couch like I have been today, Jensen’s dad and I took a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to have a little get away before I started feeling the weight of and stress of getting further along. That was the last time I went away before Jensen was born. I can remember walking through battlefields and museums with water and tissues wishing I could feel better to properly enjoy what was going on around me.
When I was feeling the way I felt today and reminiscing on being pregnant this time last year, I wanted to go back in time and tell myself to go to the doctor to make sure he was okay. That the fever or sickness wasn’t harming him. I was thinking with my grief.
Grief feels like a living and breathing entity that lives within me.
Like all other living things, my grief has evolved or changed or shifted throughout the eighteen months I’ve had with it. I could go on and on with different examples about what’s shifted throughout my grief, but I just want to touch on two of them. It’s important to talk about this in our community and maybe someone has went through the same thing. They’ll know they’re not alone.
My grief completely changed when I lost Huxley this past summer at ten weeks. It has taken my last bit of innocence with pregnancy loss. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go through another pregnancy to hopefully have a living child at the end of almost forty weeks. I was completely drained when I started spotting. On that day, I had called my mom to come sit with me and I was going back and forth whether I should go to the ER or not. Grief and loss had also changed the way I viewed hospitals. I really didn’t want another negative experience at that hospital.
This morning while deciding how bad I felt, I read this blog from Roses in the Air. In this post, Aria’s mom Kimberly, discusses how her latest loss has affected her. She talks about three things that jumped out at me.
- She didn’t take the time to grieve her miscarriage because it felt like everyone was telling her it was ‘just a miscarriage.’
- Her miscarriage was isolating.
- She feels like she can’t grieve.
With each of these, I just kept saying yes, yes, yes! I have felt the exact same things since June and it hurts to feel this way, especially after receiving support after losing Jensen in the way I did.
This grief shift of isolation pertaining to my miscarriage has been troubling for me. I feel it everyday, but I don’t know how to express my thoughts and feelings without feeling like I haven’t been through something ‘worse.’ Maybe one day, I’ll get past this block and I’ll really be able to grieve the baby I never got to know.
Last night, I attended a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Walk. It was Toland-Herzig’s, a funeral home near me, twentieth walk. They have been servicing our community by honoring our children for TWENTY years.
In my first year attending, I only wanted my parents there. This wasn’t unusual. I spent a lot of time alone during the first year, my grief and I needed to process. For me, this couldn’t be done near a lot of people, even loved ones I cared for so much. During the holidays, I stayed home during family events. I couldn’t see people be happy when I felt like I did. It was like I bomb going off inside of me every single hour. I couldn’t keep up with my emotions.
There are still times where I just want to be alone, but my grief has shifted with this matter. This doesn’t mean when I feel like I can’t be around others that I have regressed, it’s just what my heart and grief needs to survive.
When I arrived to last night’s walk, something felt different. Along with my parents, my cousin, one of my friends, and their children all walked for Jensen and other angels. There we also fellow bereaved moms and dads who I have known that walked for their children. I felt like I belonged, supported, and loved. Not saying I didn’t feel that way last year, but I wanted more people there to be supportive.
The last little thing I want to leave off with is that even though grief shifts and evolves over time, it doesn’t mean I’m ‘all better.’ I’ll forever carry Jensen and his loss. There will be bad days ahead, as well as good ones. Grief will shift back and forth for as long as I live.
One thing is for sure though, the love I have for my son will never cease.
I’m still reeling over last night’s Wave of Light.
As we all know, yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and the annual Wave of Light in all timezones at 7pm. Throughout the day, I saw the light beginning and spreading across the world on social media. When it was our time in Ohio (Eastern Standard Time), my newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram was flooded with pictures of candles from bereaved parents and support people!
Our children made their mark last night and their light shined so bright. I believe we raised awareness while celebrating our babies’ lives. It was truly beautiful.
Today’s Capture Your Grief prompt is all about gratitude. Last year, I wrote about the people I was grateful for that supported me and others who did not. Each experience had brought me to that moment and I was proud in who I was becoming. This year, I could go on and talk about my ever-growing support system. I am consciously grateful for them, but I wanted to talk more about yesterday.
I want to share with you all some pictures I received that honored Jensen and Huxley. Each message and picture I was constantly grateful. As I said in an earlier prompt, the power of their names is so strong. I am grateful for those who remember and aren’t afraid to grieve and celebrate with me. Last night, I truly felt lifted by those around me and I hope I was able to do the same for others.
For you reading this post, whether its your first one or hundredth, thank you. Your support keeps motivating me to share their stories and say their names. It keeps their memory alive. I am so grateful for that.