Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This year, I’m trying to start a new tradition with my family: a DIY Thanksgiving Gratitude Sign.
Since there’s been so many events, people, and things in general that have happened in our family, I thought it’d be special for everyone to write it all out. It’ll be a snapshot of gratitude.
Who doesn’t need a little dose of that?
Like this year’s Christmas Bucket List, our DIY Gratitude Sign only uses craft paper and markers. To make it a little more special, I used some left overs fall elements from a centerpiece.
Then, just add tape to the back and it’s ready to go.
I added the first three items to the list: family, health, and laughter.
After looking at it, I decided to add my name to the sign too. Hopefully all my family will so we can all see what everyone says.
I think this will be a beautiful tradition for my family. It’s something I want to do with Mila as she gets older. Even if she’s not in a positive space, I want her to know that I’m always thankful for her. Plus, sometimes the things you’re most thankful for are ‘small.’
This simple and easy to make gratitude sign will make a big impact on Thanksgiving Day.
I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and holds their loved ones close this year and for as long as they can.
With that, I know so many people grieving through the holidays. They are so hard. I miss Jensen everyday and am so thankful that he was in my life. No matter if you can’t think of anything else to be thankful for, I know a name can be powerful. Write and say your loved ones names.
I know anytime I hear Jensen’s name, I’m so thankful others are thinking of him. I’ll never be able to thank him and Mila for choosing me to be their mom.
How do you talk about gratitude during the holidays? Do you have a tradition like this? Let me know in the comments.
Backpacks are filled up. Kids are excited to meet their new teachers and see their friends. Parents are watching their kids grow and learn. The elementary schools are getting a new group of students: kindergarteners.
They’re giddy and so cute. Moms and dads are snapping pictures with their kids walking into their school, in front of the door, or the school sign. It’s how it’s supposed to be.
Kindergarten teachers see their classroom fill up. Every desk is filled. They start to remember their students’ names and smiling faces. A huge classroom full of kindergarteners exactly where they’re expected, needed, and wanted.
But, I have the forgotten kindergartener.
There wasn’t a school list sent out to me. I didn’t get to prepare him to be away from me all day. No first day of school pictures or the last hug goodbye. There will never be ay more growth or learning or anything.
We don’t get to meet his teacher or have them remember his name or smiling face. He won’t get to run to my car in the pickup line and tell me all about his day.
He won’t wake up the next day and join his new friends for day two, three, or ever.
Because I have the forgotten kindergartener that I’ll always remember.
As much as I’m happy to see all the smiling back to school pictures this year, I’m really sad the one little boy’s pictures I want to see won’t be there. I’ll never get to see his smiling face or hear him talk.
Every day I know this fact, but it’s days like what was supposed to be his first day of kindergarten that it just hits a little harder.
Child loss and the grief that comes along does not just go away with time. You get stronger as a person, but it still is the most pain I’ve ever felt. Especially when you remember all that they should be and what you wanted for them.
Even though I didn’t really know how much I’d feel before Jensen’s first day of school, Mila and I did some positive things in his name.
We actually got the kindergarten supply list. A few days ago, we went out and bought what was on the list to donate a backpack. Mila helped pick out the different supplies and knew we were donating them for Jensen because some other little boy might need those supplies.
I packed them up with care, with Mila’s help and we went on our way to donate the backpack.
As hard and sad as it was, I’m always thankful to do things to honor Jensen and his life. This is definitely one that I hope to be able to do every year for him.
No matter what or how many years it’s been… I’ll always remember my baby boy.
Since losing Jensen, I’ve heard the wildest things in efforts to help me ‘get over’ his loss. Now since Mila is three, it’s evolved.
I’ve not been shy in talking about how things can come off as rude or intruding. Honestly, I don’t think that anyone means to come off that way. They mean to be helpful, but it’s just not.
Anytime anyone mentions me having one child, I always let them know “I have two.”
Here’s what I wish I could say…
“Don’t you want more kids so she’s not an only child?”
I have more kids. He just died.
She’ll never, ever be an only child because one came before her. I’m fact, Jensen will always be her big brother. Not even death can take that away from her, him, or me.
If you have a conversation with Mila, she’ll tell you who her big brother is. She’ll let you know he lives in her heart and she loves him.
When we have guests, she shows his pictures off and wants everyone to hold Jensen bear.
She is definitely NOT an only child.
“It has to be lonely for her not having a brother or sister?”
Just because her brother isn’t physically here, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a relationship with him. She talks to his pictures and bear. When I hold his bear for too long, she gets jealous. She misses him dearly and always wants us to read his book. Her relationship with him is beautiful.
Mila also has an amazing set of kids she’s with all the time. Friends and cousins love her and play with her whenever she asks. She is in dance classes and will be starting preschool too.
She’s not lonely.
“Don’t you want to give her another sibling?”
She has a sibling.
My daughter grieves her brother. She wishes he was here and could come to our house all the time. We talk about him because he’s a part of our family. Our family just looks different than most.
If she were to have another sibling, it wouldn’t take away that she misses Jensen. Just like how no other child could fill his spot for me.
When she talks about missing Jensen, Mila has never asked to have another sibling.
She already has one.
One other thing… don’t ask intrusive questions about private lives. If you were supposed to know what was going on, you would.
It’s rude to assume that everyone can have a child easily. For a lot of people, it’s not.
Some people are healing from abuse.
Some just like their family unit just the way it is.
Almost five years after losing Jensen, grief feels like a blanket of snow.
It comes out of no where and all of the sudden. There’s a sense of beauty to it mixed with the coldest you’ve ever felt. Once you start to get used to it, it melts away and the season changes. Grief is complicated and is always reshaping itself.
I’ve never thought of it as snow or the winter season, usually just the ocean waves as it comes and goes. This year feels different though.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel like all this time has passed. Maybe the weight of time and the part of life I’m in has made me feel this way. When I saw Jensen’s angel covered in this literal blanket of snow, I somehow felt the instant beauty and cold at once.
Grief, for me, has its seasons. I can tell when I’m close to important dates or I’m beginning to feel it more heavily now with his upcoming birthday.
It’s beautiful to look at the love I will always have for Jensen. Mila adores talking about him and seeing his picture. The way he touched our lives in such a short amount of time will always be so touching. Love and grief are so intricately intertwined.
Then when it all comes down and lingers, the weight of the cold and loss settles.
His absence is so heavy. I cry knowing I’ll never have him again or Mila will never be able to play with her brother. Then, five years feels like such a short amount of time compared to how much longer I have without him.
These thoughts make me feel cold and alone. There’s no real protection from the cold and snow. You can put layers on or go inside, but it’s still out there until it’s time to go away.
Just as you start tackling it, the sun starts to shine a little. The world gets a little warmer and the weight of that season of grieving lightens up. Grief is always there. Always. Somehow you get stronger and can carry it through what’s going on then.
You always remember the sting of the cold, but you can live in the warmth of summer.
At this point in my grief, I go through my seasons of heaviness. I think about his loss and the hurt surrounding it. When I can move forward through the coldness, I still always carry him with me. I think about him walking through life with me and picturing his smile. He would want me to smile when I think about him.
I miss Jensen every single day, but the love and guidance he brought me is something I’ll always treasure. Five years later, and I’m just starting to get to this new season of grief.
It takes time and a lot of work, but summer will be here again. Then you don’t have to feel the constant, overwhelming weight of the blanket.
It was so early, that I felt like I was the only person awake in the whole entire world. I didn’t feel alone though. You were with me. I felt your presence all around my body and inside my mind.
Some days I miss you more than any thing else. Those days, my grief runs deeply. It’s hard to have your child, that you love so much, be gone for so long. Other days your energy shines so bright. It’s like you’re not physically here with us, but your love and light is. Whether it’s while Mila plays, when we light your candle, or mornings like these, you’re always with us.
I drank hot tea from your ‘J’ cup. It warmed me and helped the calmness you bring spread throughout.
As I sit here, that warmth feels like you’re hugging me.
Even almost five years into this grief journey, I ache for everything I missed with you: your deep breathing while you slept, the look in your eyes when you saw me, and the sound of your voice. That’s the funny thing about grief. It doesn’t matter how far you’re out, it’s always right there.
In the calmness of the world and in myself, I can imagine all the things I wish I knew of you. It’s not the real thing, but it’s all we have.
I love you and miss you. I’m so thankful for this morning, full of you.
Why does it seem like every time I come to write here it feels like forever since the last time that I have? Maybe because it has been.
In the last few weeks, I’ve turned a whole year older, started back college classes, and am working full time. So, technically I haven’t had a lot of time to write, but I’m missing it. My goal for twenty-seven (how old I am) was to blog three times a week. Guys, I already failed! But, you can always start fresh.
The last time I wrote, I shared that I started back with therapy. I’m still going strong with it and it’s been helping in a lot of ways. In others, I still have a lot of work. Rome wasn’t built in a day though. Therapy has given me a lot to think about: past traumas, my grief, and my future. I should say, it’s given me constructive ways to think about all of it. Anxiety forces you to think of all those things, but I’m starting to see how I can still function and think about those things too.
Two weeks ago, I sort of had a full circle moment. My therapist and I are going through my trauma timeline. It sounds a lot more… scary… than it actually is. It’s still a little scary though. On that particular day, we talked about Jensen.
I found out… it’s still really hard to talk about the events of that day and the weeks following.
Duh, right? You don’t just wake up one day and are completely healed when your child dies. It doesn’t work like that. Shouting that to everyone that thinks it does. I’ve told Jensen’s story to so many times: out loud, writing it down, and in my head. Earlier in my grief, I was getting more comfortablewith used to talking about his death and all my emotions after to other people. It’s been a little while since I have and I didn’t realize how big of a difference it was.
When my therapist asked if I was alright sharing about Jensen, his death, and how I handled things after, I told her yes with no inkling that I would be… weeping during it all. Yes, weeping.
I told her about my pregnancy and how hard it was emotionally on me. When we got to the day we found out he died, I went into detail about how my stomach just dropped and it felt like I was dead inside. I skipped around on the actual details of the birth because I felt my throat closing up. The post emotions of his birth and funeral and life after were hard to talk about too. It was just so difficult to bring back all those feelings and put myself back in that place again. That talk and just thinking about how traumatic his death was and still is has really.. re-affected me?
So many times parents are told they’re going to be better with time after losing their child. I’m not going to disagree in the fact that everyday life gets easier. It does. Your routine changes and life still goes on. That sounds harsh and I wouldn’t have wanted to hear that in the first few months after, but it’s true (for me). I think when outside people see parents after loss reemerging into their routine or job or whatever, they think it’s all ‘better.’ On the outside, they’re complying with society and not being outwardly upset.
For me, I can see my switch. I have to do what I have to do to work and do school and parent Mila and whatever else may need done. When I’m out in the world, I’m not as quick to snap that my son’s dead to people that say things. I’m more aware that the world isn’t really… sensitive to dead babies or uncomfortable grief. It’s not a settling thing at all, so I get that. I don’t bring Jensen up in every conversation anymore. When someone leaves him out or forgets him, I internalize it. I still feel the hurt, but I try to make others feel.. better.
BUT (!!!) it still hurts. I’m functional, but I still miss Jensen with every ounce of me.
I can tell you certain comments sting and having someone not mention or forget about him feels so awful. Talking about it all with my therapist made me realize what I (and so many people) went through was the worst thing ever.
The silence. The decisions. The hollowness. The tears. The solitude. The grief.
I think I got into the routine of being a mom to Mila and life, that I put those emotions on the back burner. I let the outside, ‘it gets better,’ get to me. Letting everyone else be comfortable in my child dying has put my real emotions, trauma, and heartbreak in an unaccessible place; until it has to come up.
Through the teary session and the last two weeks, I’ve definitely given myself more credit for all I’ve endured through losing Jensen. Our minds try to protect itself from all that pain. I’m thankful for that, truly. I guess I just wanted to say through this whole thing is I miss him and I’m proud of where I am today.
I think it’s also been a productive thing to feel all of these emotions again. Jensen would be starting preschool this year, which I haven’t talked about with anyone. I’ve been suppressing a lot of things lately (thanks exhaustion). Sharing Jensen with someone new and showing my love for him and how I care for him now has helped this stage of healing. I know I’ll always feel this emotional response when talking about him and it’s okay. It’s okay to be sad he’s not here, just like it’s okay to celebrate his life.
There isn’t a rule book about losing a baby or child at any age. If you haven’t been through it, you know nothing about it. That loss and hole in your heart doesn’t get easier, it just gets lighter to carry through time.
Here’s Jensen’s story if you’ve never read it or would like to read it again. I wrote it in 2016 and have been thinking about rewriting it again to see how I remember it almost five years out. If I do, you can bet I’ll share it here.
I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I see all of you and your babies gone too soon.
Whether this is your first Bereaved Mother’s Day or fiftieth or somewhere in between, I want you to know that your child and the way you mother them is not unseen. I know some days are harder than others and maybe you’re in a long line of hard ones, but you are doing the best you can do. Please reach out on this day or any of the difficult ones you have. There are so many of us here to remember our babies with and to lift each other up when we need it most. And if you’re having a good, gentle day, I’m so happy those moments are here for you. You are so deserving of them.
I’m so sorry that we know this deep of a loss and the tidal waves of grief that comes after. There’s nothing quite like it. On the other hand, there’s love. That love you feel for them, oh, it’s so powerful. This love powers through death, not that anything could tear apart the love a mother has for her child.
Like everyday, say their name. Share a memory about them with someone who knew them or someone new. I know how proud you are of them. They’re proud of you too.
So today, and everyday, I want you to know, I see your motherhood and your child matters and is loved by many. And you, beautiful mother, for as much love as you pour out, there is so much coming your way.
Four years of loving, grieving, and learning who I am post-loss. It’s also four years of wondering what he would be like through every stage and how amazing of a big brother he’d be. I wonder about small details like his smile, the sound of his voice, and how deeply I could look into his eyes. Of course, I wonder about the big things too. Every day I think about him and what we’d all be doing. I don’t think that’ll ever change.
This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.
Instead of being sad, I just got angry.
Maybe it’s a mix of what’s happening in the world and just the constant realization he’ll never be here… or maybe it’s because it’s just sad and hard. We’re not supposed to talk about how angry we get. Anger is such an ugly emotion. It can show the worst in a person and it’s hard to control. Usually, it’s reactive and not the deeper emotion, but it’s hard to let go once you have a hold on it. I’d go through bits of being angry and then weeping. Honestly, I just miss him and I think my brain didn’t know how to cope with grief this year. This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.
I’m scared about going into year five. It’s insane to think that it’ll be half a decade since he’s been born. Before I started writing this post, I wrote my annual letter to Jensen. While writing, I kept remembering the last time I felt him; to the point where I felt like a residual movement in my body. I wondered when they would go away and realized I wanted to keep that feeling forever. It’s hard to think one day I’ll lose that and I don’t want to lose any more of him.
The day did lighten up a bit as it went on. We had cake and sang to Jensen. That made me so happy. When I get to hear and say his name out loud, my heart feels at peace.
So, a little fun fact. On Jensen’s first birthday, I baked him a cake from scratch. It was cute. All blue and two or three-tiered and I tried so so hard. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tasting cake, but I loved that I made it for him. For the last two years, I’ve bought a cake for his little party. They’ve been much tastier and better looking, to be honest.
Well, this year, with COVID, I decided to make another cake for Jensen. I could’ve ordered one or whatever, but I’m glad I didn’t because I needed the space to create instead of being mad. This time, I had the help with a box cake but spiced it up a little bit. I put chocolate chips in the batter and decided to use fresh strawberries in between the layers and on top of the cake. Well, I didn’t have my two circle cake pans and had to use a rectangle one. I planned to cut it in half to make two layers… it crumbled while I was getting it out of the pan. The horror right?
I made it work. It might not have been the prettiest cake… but it tasted AMAZING. I feel like I redeemed myself from year one and that Jensen would have approved of all the chocolate. Mila sure did.
I’m happy I could celebrate Jensen and his life.
Four whole years of loving this amazing little boy who never ceases to amaze me. I wish he was here every day and in so many ways he is. This year of grief is going to be different than in previous years. I don’t know this part of my journey. It feels like a new ‘step’ or part that I’ve not encountered before. Maybe shock has finally worn off? Or reality has cemented in? Grief is so hard to explain, especially with it being different for everyone.
I just know I’m trying my best to be a good mom to Jensen and Mila. I know how much I love them both and miss my little man. I’m ready to evolve and have Jensen guide me through this next stage.
He’s always right here with me.
Happy Fourth Birthday, Jensen! You are so very loved and missed. Thank you for always being the light in my life.
Amidst everything happening in the world and the personal things too, I’ve not been looking forward to April. It’s the fourth one since everything changed. That feeling of grief climbing out of my chest is present.
Some part of me thought this April would be different with the coronavirus, Mila being a lively almost two year old, and dealing with things happening closely to me that I can not control. Yet, here I am. The last few days, it’s weighed on me more heavily. I just can’t believe it’s been another year without him.
I’m trying to be positive, but it’s just unfair. All the things I ‘should’ be doing for Jensen are more present around these days. I keel thinking about how much different quarantine would be with him. Life in general just would be… different. It’s so hard to explain. There’s no word or explanation that would make sense to other people. Here we are almost four years later and I can’t quite find the words to describe how sucky it is to not have your kid with you.
Mila helps. I’m weary of typing that because it’s unfair to her and parents who can’t or choose not to have more children; but she helps me. She makes me smile and I remember April is her month too. Jensen wouldn’t want her to be sad or for us not to celebrate how beautiful this month is even though it’s filled with sadness too. I know Mila senses the sadness. She’ll come over and flash her smiles, stroke my face, and just give me a kiss. I know deep down he picked her out for me.
One thing I’ve learned through it all is we’ll make it. Somedays you just have to take it second by second, but we’ll survive.
Like I’ve said in the past, the days leading are always worse than the actual day. Grief makes anticipation feel like dread. This past weekend, Mila hasn’t felt well and I was scared that it’d roll into April. So when she woke up fever free and happy, I knew it’d get easier.
We actually went and picked up a picnic table/bench that we’ll probably use frequently in the next few months (social distancing was practiced). She’s immediately taken a liking to it and it just makes me feel better. Finding happy moments when everything feels heavy makes the day a little nicer.
I’m hopeful April’s will get easier. I’m hopeful that I’ll start celebrating them again. I’m hopeful that Jensen’s day will be seen as happy and I won’t be as sad. I know I’ll always carry the grief and heaviness of losing him, but I’m getting to a part in my journey where it can coincide with happiness simultaneously.
Today I’m just grateful for Jensen, Mila, and watching her cheesy fingers throw Cheetos to Max. I’m hopeful for peaceful April’s and breakfasts our on our new picnic table. This year, I’m ready for April and going into year five of grieving.
I still screenshot every time I see 11:11 pop up on my phone.
After almost FOUR years, it’s still Jensen’s way of saying hello; amongst many others. I take that moment and just look at his face and tap it to my own. It might not be every day, twice a day this time jumps out at me, but it is most of them. I imagine he’s right next to me and I feel a sense calm fall over me.
When I look through the screenshots on my phone, a good amount of them are of Jensen with 11:11 over his head. Four years of screenshots and countless minutes that were just him and I even after he’s been gone.
Recently, I saw an Instagram post from another loss mom that described how it was hard to write about their child now than it was when it was still so raw. I found myself agreeing with everything she said. During that first year and a half, words flowed so easily. I tried my best to put what I was feeling into words and it helped. It helped me heal and remember Jensen in the best way I could.
Since Mila’s been born, it has been hard to write. She fills my day and each time I think I get a minute to write, she either wakes up or finds my laptop extremely interesting to inspect. The words seem to still come to me but get stuck in my head. They jumble up, and when I go to actually get them out, they stop flowing like before.
It’s so hard being without him. Even when it feels like Mila and I are doing good, I know he’s missing. He’ll always be missing and that fact will always make my little family feel incomplete.
I wish I could finish those blog posts that I’ve tried so many times to write. About when I found the notes to Jensen and me from his baby shower or how I already feel the weight of my grief crashing down as April draws nearer.
I really can’t believe he’s going to be four. Just knowing how much I’ve missed out on all things Jensen for four years. I wish I knew his likes and what movie he’d have Mila and me watching 800 times. I wish I could see him be a big brother for Mila and play all day, every day with her. I wish I could hold him tight and never let him go.
Gosh, I miss him.
Anytime I hear Usher, I think of Jensen’s movements. I think of seeing him on the ultrasound screen and watching him cover his face when the wand was over him for too long. I think about this time four years ago about how excited I was to meet him, wondering what kind of mom I was going to be. Now it feels like I’m always waiting for those moments I thought I was going to get with him.
In some ways, I think he still gives me the moments I needed. That’s why I have hundreds of screenshots of 11:11 and the feeling of him giving me an Eskimo kiss during that minute.