‘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.
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.
There came a time in my early grief where the people around me stopped saying his name on a daily basis. This just happens, I understand that now and don’t hold any anger towards them. Yet, I longed to hear his name and talk about him as much as I could. I would say it out loud to myself whenever I could and filled my house with it and J’s. During this time and even now, I want to be surrounded by him because I miss him and he should be here. Still, I felt like I needed to share his story, say his name, and remember him with others who understood what losing a child felt like.
Finding the baby loss community so early in my grief has helped me heal and know I’m not alone. I remember not even a month into my grief, I was sitting on the couch, and watching Carly Marie write names on Christian’s Beach. Each time she wrote a baby’s name, I felt the mother and father’s name. As I saw others write their child’s name in the comments, I wanted to do the same and see his name clear on the other side of the world. So I did and within a few moments, there she started his cursive J. My heart felt easy, which was a crazy juxtaposition to how I felt beforehand. Then the waves, trickled up, and washed away his name. He and his memory was forever on that beach and then in the ocean.
I didn’t think of it as an act of kindness in that moment. It was a gift. One that I needed, but didn’t know I did.
Since then, members of this community and even those who are not, have sent me secret acts of kindness: his name. I have hundreds of pictures of Jensen travels from around the world. For his birthday, I even made a scrapbook of them. Seeing and hearing his name are the greatest gifts I can ask for post-loss. Just recieving a text from a friend saying they’re thinking of Jensen can completely turn my day around.
This is a gift, an act of kindness, you can easily give to your friend, family member, or someone you know who has experienced loss. As a loss mom, I’m thankful to have been able to help other moms by making name wreaths and writing their child’s name on the beach. We all need support and sometimes it’s as simple as knowing the power of a name.
Thank you Avery’s mom, Tara from Avery’s Garden, for including Jensen in your Leaves of Love Tree for your Wave of Light project. You do so many beautiful projects for our community, I’m thankful to know you and Avery.
Yesterday I wasn’t able to post for Capture Your Grief. My mother was released from the hospital and I was able to get her settled back home. It has been a tiring four days. It’s taught me lessons I didn’t know existed and calmed worries I thought I would have forever. I honestly thought for the rest of my life if someone was in the hospital for a dire reason, they would die. That’s my past experience. Although my mom was/is in pain, she’s here. I’m so thankful for that.
During our stay, Jensen did really shine. I wore my pregnancy and infant loss awareness pin and people were asking what it represented. There was also a ton of comments on his footprint tattoo. I felt so proud to tell anyone who asked about him and felt like I was the lighthouse opening up the conversation on his life and this month.
Jensen will always shine.
This prompt has also got me thinking towards the Wave of Light happening on Sunday. Last year I felt so connected to the community and throughout the world. It lets all our babies shine collectively. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing. There’s an event in Ohio that I’m thinking about driving to, but it depends on how my mom feels. I might also be speaking on Still Standing’s Facebook page, I’ll make sure to share if I do. If you’re unaware of what the Wave of Light is, in short, it’s on October 15 and whatever your time zone is, you light a candle for your baby/ies at 7pm. There will be a continuous wave of light light that spreads across the world as a result. Make sure to share your pictures on social media.
Also, a big thanks to Kerstin, Mathilda’s mom, for creating this beautiful graphic for Jensen and I. This community constantly warms my heart and gives me hope.
Good morning, I love you, Jens.
I say after I roll over and kiss my son’s urn. This has been how I’ve woken up for about a year. Once I do this I can get up and get ready for my day. For some reason I can’t, let’s say on vacation, my day just feels off.
Mornings have always been the worst after losing Jensen. The unwelcoming silence made me realize that this was still my reality. In the early days, I relived his birth and the silence that followed. This wasn’t the way I should be starting my days. Instead, all I wanted is to be picking Jensen up, changing his butt, feeding him, and putting him into one of his outfits.
I felt lost in what I needed to be doing.
Slowly, I started to touch his urn when I woke up. It felt nice to be close to him. Then I needed him close at all times, that how his urn ended up beside me when I slept. It helped break the silence. Telling him good morning brought me back into the present and let me keep moving forward, with Jensen always with me.
Mourning rituals come when they need to while grieving. I have never tried to force myself into something that didn’t feel comfortable. What works for me, might not work for the next person, but making sure to do what’s right and helpful for your heart is most important.
Gnadenhutten, Ohio – 7:22am
My alarm went off a little earlier than I had wanted it to. All of last night, I tossed and turned. I knew when I woke that I’d be in my second year of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and what should be Jensen’s year and a half monthday, coming up on the fifth. After pressing a hundred buttons to quiet my phone, I threw on a sweatshirt, and made my way on my front porch.
Fall welcomed me. This might sound silly, but it’s been so warm here lately. The cement was freezing on my feet and the sun had just started to show itself behind the wall of trees. I whispered, ‘Good morning, Jensen. I love you so much,’ then started snapping.
It hit me that one year ago at this exact minute, I was sitting on my porch waiting for the sun to rise again. I waited for the perfect shot and had my props ready. The sun had risen and the sky looked beautiful. Then I stared at the sun and the picture I had taken today; it was so much different from last year.
Instead of a pink and blue skyline, I captured darkness and a perfect orange light. The trees look so rigid and dark. I wondered if I should have waited a little while longer out there. That’s what I would have done before.
But, that’s not how my grief is right now.
This sunshine blessing let me know I’m right where I’m supposed to be and if that’s rigid and raw, then so be it. Jensen’s life and legacy is still beautiful. My grief journey is still evolving. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Capture Your Grief isn’t about showcasing the perfect moment, it’s about sharing our babies gone too soon and letting other parents know they’re never alone, no matter where they are in their journey.
*If you would like to follow along with CarlyMarie’s Capture Your Grief, here’s the photo with the months prompts.*
A couple days ago I found this prompt on Pregnancy Loss Journey‘s Instagram account. Instantly, I was flooded with reactive thoughts, but thought I would think about it more in depth. Since then, I’ve encountered a very uncomfortable conversation that left me emotionally distraught and the fact that I’m coming up on a HUGE milestone day for Jensen.
Since I knew I wanted to respond before Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I’ve narrowed it down to five things.
Grief doesn’t magically end or subside with time.
Long ago and still to this day, some person or group decided there was an appropriate length of time a person should grieve for their child or for any person. Whether this be in the short three to five day grievance time employers let employees take off or as long as one year. In the early days, I remember being told grieving will pass in a year and you’ll start to feel normal again.
This is a lie.
At least it is in my situation. I’m about a year and half out from losing my first born and I still cry almost everyday. His absence in my house is felt in the bones of my house. He is constantly missing from my day-to-day life and big family get-togethers. The grief of losing a child never ends. I will carry losing Jensen till the day I die. What I wish society would know is that it does change in time. It might seem like a person is doing better or smiling more, but that doesn’t mean they stopped grieving the loss of their child.
Another child wouldn’t erase the pain from loss.
Stillbirth is defined as a loss after twenty weeks gestation, in the United States. I had Jensen at thirty-eight weeks pregnant. He was full term and everything was ready for him to come home. That was his entire lifetime, just as it is for any child who was stillborn. During the time a mother (and father) has with their child, they plan and dream of years beyond the present. They don’t just see this baby as a baby, but a person who they will raise and help achieve all their dreams. When that child dies, there is so much pain from losing them now and the future they very much wanted.
In the midst of this pain and realization, others outside the situation might suggest the couple or mother just have another child.
This is a very complex idea for a person after pregnancy and infant loss. For starters, it’s not always ‘easy’ for people to just get pregnant. Infertility is common and there might have to be intervention to help a couple achieve pregnancy. If a person does get pregnant, there’s the stress and worry of pregnancy after loss. Everyday could feel like the last with their child. Some might lose more babies. Even if the subsequent pregnancy results in a living child, they still have lost their other baby. Another child does not erase what they have been through or make them forget about the child they hold in their heart.
I monitor what I say to make those who haven’t lost comfortable.
This is a hard one for me to admit. I wish society knew all that I held back in my head. There have been many times where I’ve been in an uncomfortable conversation or situation regarding pregnancy, birth, or infants that I wanted to scream or run away. Instead, I have to mentally calm myself to make sure I don’t completely break down or snap.
I know, I know. The world can’t bubble wrap me from being around pregnant women and newborns, but I also can’t erase my experience and knowledge with what can go wrong. Yet, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for me to talk about my child and time being pregnant without looks of grimace. I understand complaints about children and pregnancy are just how life is, but I am so jealous of the ignorance around them. Stillbirth has opened my eyes to how cruel the world really is and how every baby is a miracle whether they live or not.
Although I won’t get into intricate detail, I just was involved in a conversation about birth stories that had me biting my lip the whole entire time. I was battling with myself whether to just blurt out how lucky anyone with a living child should feel because it could be so, so much worse. Instead, I kept quiet. Afterwards, I felt ashamed I didn’t stick up for Jensen, myself, and all women who have experienced stillbirth.
Stillbirth has changed me into the person I am today.
A year and seven months ago, I didn’t know stillbirth still happened. I didn’t think a baby could just die. Nor did I think it could happen to me and my child.
When I think about my life, I see it in three different zones: before, during, and after. My pregnancy transformed me into being a mother and not thinking of myself first. Then, when Jensen died, when stillbirth robbed me of my future, I changed again. Grief has morphed me into this person I was so unfamiliar with, at first. I’ve grown into my new self (I fought it for a long time) and although I will never completely accept what has happened to me and my son, I’m thankful for my strength, kindness, and independence I have gained after Jensen was stillborn.
I would give it all away to have Jensen back with me, but I will not let his death be seen in a negative aspect. His life has inspired me to be who I am today.
There are no reasons why a child should die.
Stillbirth taught me that some things are unexplainable. I’ve always been a person who has to see the reason why a certain situation happens, but I never got any answers as to why Jensen died. In fact, most families will never get an answer to why their child was stillborn. That’s absolutely terrifying.
It’s sort of difficult to explain how I feel when I have pregnant women ask me what they can do to prevent what happened to me for them. Sometimes I feel like it’s a slap in the face or like I have ‘FAILURE’ tattooed on my forehead.
The fact is and what I wish society would take away from any pregnancy or infant loss, not just stillbirth, is there’s really no reason a baby dies or how you can prevent it from happening. Again, another scary statement. During my pregnancy, I did everything my doctors told me to do, I had extra monitoring, and I prayed everyday for his safe arrival. Society makes us believe since they died in their mother’s womb, somehow moms should have this instinct knowledge something is wrong. It shames anyone who has experienced pregnancy and infant loss and it’s completely untrue.
A mother who has lost her child didn’t do anything wrong and there is no reason there child isn’t with them.
I’m in bed, under my warm blankets. Outside, the rain is falling, hard. I can smell it through my open windows and hear it syncing up with the song I have on repeat. During their breaks, the sound of my keyboard rhythmically tapping catches my ear. The light in my bedroom is broken, so the only light that brightens this dark room is from my screen and lightning escaping through my curtains.
Deep down, I know I should be asleep. I have to be up early tomorrow morning and will be busy most of the day. Yet, somehow my body is revolting against me and wants me to take in every moment of today. It’s the fifth and a Tuesday: a combination that I don’t take lightly. That’s why my mind won’t shut off. The words keep flowing even through the piano playing and the thunder rumbling my house.
I feel like I’m apart of the storm raging outside.
Jensen would be seventeen months old today. I miss him. My brain is overworking and focusing on everything else going on in my life because losing him and battling my grief is an unending battle I haven’t learned how to win. I know it’ll never be one that I can be victorious. Grief is so exhausting. You’d think I’d be in a constant slumber and wouldn’t have this surprise insomnia.
The fear of falling apart.
Nights like these, I think about how time has moved like sand through my hands and at the same time how it feels to watch paint dry. I wonder if time would feel the same if he was here or if the thunder would scare him? I always said I wouldn’t let him sleep in my bed, but maybe I would have bent if he was scared and wanted to be close. If I could have him in my arms right now, I’d never let go.
I don’t know if I’m writing to actually say something meaningful or to just… get it all out. In the grand scheme, do these grief and loss ramblings amount to anything? I hate when I question myself. It makes me go back further and further to the weeks leading up to his birth.
Whoever said grief was linear obviously never lived with it.
Oh, this is the beat of my heart; this is the beat of my heart.
How many tears does a person get in their lifetime? I wonder if they’re allocated differently or maybe they just run up. Eventually, my tear ducts will go on strike and decide their job is too much, especially tonight. I’ll have to look that up one day.
Seventeen months ago I had a baby. I felt him enter this world and that was it. How the hell is this my life? Who signed me up for this? I would never wish this feeling of falling into the deepest, darkest pit on the most evil person in the universe.
No one deserves to know what it’s like to bury their child or choose to have their perfect little body turned to ashes. Another decision I had to make seventeen months ago that still haunts me.
There are so many things I don’t talk about here, which sounds absolutely insane since I’m fairly open about my journey. I know I’ve said this frequently though. Some parts of the story never come to light. They’re too hard to process and write for everyone to know. I hate talking about the decision to cremate Jensen or to never see him. More recently, I’ve been so backward talking about my miscarriage. The most common type of loss and I’m afraid to talk about it. It’s a shame. If I’m afraid to talk about it, how many other women are in the same place? Then I think about women from the past, having to stay quiet and for people to act like their child never existed. I know they carried the love for their children all their lives, but to be shamed by something that had no control over…
Why do I feel like that sometimes?
How is it in 2017 we’re still afraid to talk about ‘sad things.’ I cannot tell you how many people have came into my house, looked straight at Jensen’s pictures, and never say one word. They see a baby in the pictures, but there’s no baby home. No sign of one anywhere, besides on the walls. Yeah, I know it’s uncomfortable. I’m so damn sick of hearing that.
Let me shove his picture in your face. I’m so proud of that little human I made. A little over seventeen months ago, you’d be asking all about him when you saw my big belly…
I shouldn’t complain. I’m sorry.
‘Cause I won’t give up without a fight.
It’s after two now. The storm has settled outside and inside my mind. Each month Jensen has been gone, I try to think of something/anything I learned from another month of grieving. I’d like to believe they’re all deep and meaningful lessons, but in truth, most of the time they’re just reminders of how I survived the previous month. They’re all probably extremely similar to one another too. It’s just how it goes.
This month, with seventeen under my belt, I’ve learned my child, this journey, and I am significant. There’s been so many times (even in this post alone) where I question my worth or think I don’t matter. Jensen, he matters the most to me. No matter if no one person reads my crazy, after midnight scribbles, I wrote it for him and I. I wrote to help me because I matter. My mental health is important and to do my best to keep Jensen’s memory alive, I have to do what is right for me. Not everyone is going to ‘get’ this journey or my process. In seventeen months, I’ve seen the such opposite ends of how people ‘deal’ with you after your child dies, that all that matter is Jensen, this community of beautiful parents and their children gone too soon, and me.
If you made it to the end, thank you. The sound of the crickets chirping and the piano playing will guide me to my dreams. Hopefully he’ll be there to meet me.
hope – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
During pregnancy mothers and fathers hope for so many moments. They want to make sure everything goes smoothly and that they’re child has everything they would ever need. When a child dies, it feels like there is no more hope left. A person’s worst nightmare has happened. Nothing would ever feel as sweet as the before.
I have been in that place. Hope had been completely drained from my soul and darkness took its place. I’ve also survived life after loss for over sixteen months. Each day, I have felt the hope build back inside of me. Maybe it doesn’t feel as grand as it did before, but the promise of a new day to share Jensen’s story and for me to keep moving forward with his memory gives me hope. I have to celebrate the little victories. That’s what they would want me to do.
This day, the Day of Hope – They Prayer Flag Project, brings our community of bereaved parents together. It helps show all of us there is hope after loss. We are able to celebrate the lives of our children and share little parts of them. I cannot think of a more perfect way to spread hope.
There are three main colors: blue, orange, and grey. Of course, right? Blue and orange are forever Jensen’s colors. When I see them, I instantly smile and it brings me back to when I was pregnant and all the hope I had decorating and planning his nursery. The other color, grey, is his middle name. It felt like a strong color to use for the background. It’s what holds the flag together and his name felt so strong while we were choosing.
When I was pregnant with Huxley, I started collecting buttons; a little fun fact. I had this craft I was so set on doing for him for his nursery. The mason chair in my closet is a quarter of the way full with different sizes and colors of buttons. When I was decided on how I was going to make this year’s prayer flag, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went into the craft store and was lead straight to the button aisle. Then it all fit together.
Last year, Jensen’s flag had a huge J on it. I knew I wanted to include Jensen and Huxley’s initials somewhere this year. They seem like such simple letters, but for some of us, that’s all we have from our babies. I added them close to the heart because they’ll forever be in mine.
I could go for the literal translation here and say I’m wearing my heart on my flag, but I promise there’s a little more meaning here. The heart is made of a ton of little buttons (sadly, I didn’t count them to give you an exact number), this resembles the pieces of my broken heart. In the same sense, they are all together, which resembles my healing process and the hope to keep waking up and doing my best every morning.
And yes, there is the literal translation of a heart representing love and my favorite poem from e.e. cummings.
Ribbons and Tassels
Mainly used for decorative purposes, I wanted to bridge a connection from last year’s flag to this year’s. Although I have grown tremendously since this day on year ago, I am still on the same journey of loss and love. What better way to represent this than some pretty ribbon and getting my aggression out by cutting fabric?
Thank you all for allowing me to share this year’s prayer flag with you. It has been such a healing activity and a great day to connect to other loss moms and dads. I hope you enjoyed my flag as much as I enjoyed making it and that you learned something more about Jensen and Huxley.