Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan declared the month of October to recognize the grief of parents who have lost a child. October 15th became the day to remember them. Since then, at 7pm no matter where you are in the world, a wave of light is held in honor of all the babies gone too soon.

All growing up, I didn’t know about pregnancy and infant loss. I didn’t realize there was a whole month dedicated to parents who were hurting and grieving their children. It wasn’t until Jensen had died that I even knew what grief really was. Since then, I know this heartache and I’ll never forget what October means to so many of us parents.

On this day and every day, I will continue to say his name and tell his story.

His name is Jensen. He was born April 5, 2016 in a quiet room, full of people who love him. Although he never made a sound, his life and presence here has always filled my heart and the space around me. He loved music and showing off on scans. I loved reading to him and wondering how he would look.

He may not physically be here, but he’s ever present in our lives. We continue to say his name and hang his picture. There are continued bonds that let us never forget his impact. It’s sad that he’s not here anymore, but I’m so happy that we had him in our lives for just a little bit.

I wish I never knew this type of loss. Some part of me wishes I was the naive girl I was before, but I’ll never be her again. I’ll always wish for a world full of Jensen. The questions that have circled my head over and over again continue to do so. I can picture him at the age he would be and wonder if he would have been a good baby and toddler and now child.

Every day I wish I could see Mila play with her big brother. She has so many questions about him and it breaks my heart every time I have to tell her he can’t come home. Sibling grief is difficult and they feel so deeply at a young age. I know he’s guiding her and loving her from afar, just as she does him.

We just miss and love him so much.

So, tonight, at 7pm, we’ll be lighting our candles at home to keep the wave of light going. If you’re home, i’d urge you to light one too. If not for Jensen or a child that’s close to you, for all the other babies that were taken far too soon.

Grief: Four and a Half Years Out.

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 comfortable with 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.

FOUR.

Jensen is officially four years old.

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.

April… We Meet Again.

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.

Dear Jensen,

I’ve really slacked this year.

There was a time I wrote a letter to you every night. They were what I depended on – for so long. It felt like my one connection to you. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t write my day or thoughts down, then you wouldn’t know what was happening. When Mila came and I didn’t have a moment to write to you everyday, I felt broken. Like such a failure, but I started to realize… you were with us, always.

My ‘slacking’ hasn’t just been with your letters, it’s been with writing in general. ESPECIALLY for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I used to post and write every.single.day but this year has been so different with what life has in store. Maybe next year will be another story.

As the days, weeks, months, years have passed, there have been constants. I miss you every single day. Sometimes I just find myself wondering what color your eyes were and how you would be with Mila. When I get overwhelmed with her antics, I think of how much I wanted them with you to settle myself. That’s another constant, picturing you. Always. The longing and wondering can hurt, but they bring me comfort too. Most of all, my biggest constant is loving you.

I’ll never be able to accurately describe my love for you. It’s different form loving Mila or family or anyone really. There’s so many levels. The memories. The loss. The remembering. The surviving. The… you. Through it all, you affect every aspect of me and how I handle situations I find myself in. It’s sort of insane how one baby, one son, the one you have changed my life, forever. And all of it’s centered from the love I have for you.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I couldn’t imagine my life without the time I spent with you. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for showing me how deeply I can love. Thank you for helping teach me how to hold on to the good moment and breathe through the bad.

I promise to keep doing the best I can do, while holding you in my heart everyday. I wish I could’ve had more time with you. I wish I could see your eyes looking into mine and feel your hand holding mine.

You are one of my favorite parts of myself and I’m so proud to call you my son.

I love you so much.

Your mama.

Distractions.

My body knows April is approaching.

Honestly, it’s like I have this internal clock that just relives these last weeks I had with Jensen. They’re all happy memories, but the build up to the big day is still so dreadful. It feels like something else bad is going to happen or my body and mind dealt with the worst trauma during this time that triggers everything to be… weird.

I can remember in the early days, I always heard how everything would be better with time. A part of me wanted to believe it. How could someone live with that intense of grief for their entire life? Another part of me thought it’d be awful to lose that connection with Jensen. It’s not that I wanted to be a zombie like I was, but I didn’t want to let go of any of the pain. So, where are we almost three years out? It’s not better. It’s different, but not less. I wonder what he’d be doing or looking like everyday. It’s hard when people ask me if Mila has siblings and I’m unsure if I want to see the look of horror on their face or not. Losing a child isn’t just a thing that happened in someone’s life, they carry it with them everywhere they go.

Lately, I haven’t been sleeping. It’s sort of a new March tradition in my life. Near his first birthday, I had a lot of nightmares. I don’t remember if I wrote about any of them here, but they still haunt me. I’d wake up in a cold sweat and would just not go back to sleep. I haven’t had a nightmare about Jensen since then, but they were awful. It had to be a mix of not knowing what to expect on his big day and just the fear of time moving on. Then last year, when I was pregnant with Mila, I didn’t sleep for like an entire month. I would only get like two to four hours a day. I was processing another year without Jensen and trying to manage my grief with this new life inside me. Then I was in constant fear of her dying. I kept reliving how it felt when he died in my stomach. Anytime I felt like she had gone limp (she was probably sleeping), I’d nudge her and just tell her to move so I could relax for five minutes. I hope she never has to feel that panic or fear in her life.

Somehow now I’m three years out and still not able to sleep. It’s almost one now and Mila’s fast asleep beside me as I type away. Since last week, I felt myself staying up longer and waking up through the night. I think deep down I’m terrified of those nightmares coming back. It’s been two years since I had them and I can still see them play out. I’m also trying to be so positive with her first birthday coming up. She deserves a happy mom and I am a good majority of the time. I just hate knowing my child died and there are days when her smiling face doesn’t even put a dent in how badly that hurts. It’s a terrible feeling and makes me feel like a bad mom to them both.

Now that I think of it, it’s not like I’ve been physically tired during this time when I haven’t slept. My body just turns on autopilot and does what it needs to. If only I could figure out how to do that with my thoughts.

Anyways, I wanted to write today because noticing the lack of sleep and realizing I was distracting myself from thoughts made me realize this is how my depression/grief plays out. Every year, it’s the same. The only outlet I’ve had is this right here. Instead of making something for Mila’s party tonight, I’ve been trying to connect and do what’s best for my mental health… easier said than done.

I don’t know about other loss parents, but finding an outlet and some healthy distractions have helped get from day to day. Writing has always helped me. That’s why I have a stack of journals beside my bed and I’m writing now. When I heard that Jeremy Richman, a dad who lost his daughter, Avielle, in the Sandy Hook school shootings, committed suicide this morning, I just felt it. It being his pain and just feeling out of control. I feel for his wife and other child. My friend, Amber, actually told me about what happened and to check out his haikus too. I read through all the ones he had pictures for and they just echoed through me. Like, how many people just suffer and feel like they’re losing grasp of it? I mean, I do. If I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be awake right now and distracting myself even further from going to bed…

There were three that stuck out to me the most, you can find all of them on his Facebook page, here. I’m going to copy and paste his words. I didn’t know this person, but I don’t think he’d mind if I shared his words on here (mostly because they were public on his page, but I think he’d like to know his thoughts really made an impact on someone who is also grieving).


Untitled on July 4, 2014

Miss my hummingbird

She is everywhere I look

But nowhere I am

Untitled on August 22, 2014

The mirror reflects

A face I don’t recognize

Have you seen my ghost?

Untitled on August 29, 2014

Another first day

Lost in empty yellow space

Haunted by echos


Since Jensen’s been born, I’ve always said I wish I could live on an island with a community of people who’ve lost a child. Everyone would understand. There would be someone to always listen if you needed and if you were having days like the ones I’m having, they’d be patient and help you get to the next day. I know that’s impossible. Maybe this online community is our virtual island where we get to do our best from afar.

And maybe, I’m just distracting myself from feeling what I need to feel and giving my body the rest it deserves.

Mila reading her big brother’s book. She helps heal me in more ways than she’ll ever understand.

Mother.

Dear Mila,

Early on in your life, you’ll learn that not everyone’s journey to motherhood looks the same. You’ll know that there are moms everywhere around you, even when you can’t see their children. There are some babies us moms carry in our hearts.

You wore one of your ‘little sister’ shirts today. It’s something I am so proud you get to wear because your big brother means the world to me; and so do you. Death cannot steak these titles from you both. You are always connected and have an angel watching over you. Even though we talk about Jensen everyday and integrate him in our daily routine, there is an extra special reason you wore this shirt… today Bereaved Mother’s Day.

I think it’s hard to explain why Bereaved Mother’s Day is important. Why not just ‘celebrate’ everything next weekend? Well, in the past I’ve done that too. Today, for me, is when I can allow myself to grieve. I cried when I woke up, when I put that onesie on you, and now as I’m writing this watching you sleep in my lap. Grief is hard, but this is apart of my motherhood. If I never lost your brother, I wouldn’t know about this day. I wouldn’t know about the many different paths to motherhood. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but this is how life is now. Loss moms everywhere can share their stories, let each other know we’re not alone, and help educate others.

Being your and Jensen’s mom is my favorite title for myself. Motherhood is the most rewarding and sometimes heartbreaking experience I’ve been through. On this day, I get to mother Jensen in a way that can help others and myself. I also get to mother you on these Jensen days to make you a more compassionate person.

I promise to always mother you in the best way I can. Just as I promise to mother your brother in the ways I can too.

Thank you and Jensen for giving me this title and allowing me to be your mother.

I love you.

Mama

Isolation.

Dear Jensen,

Portraits by Dana

Today’s May We All Heal prompt needed to stray away from the letters in writing your sister. It’s actually not the prompt, more as the actual day. I need to share you.

The fifth of every month will forever be yours in my eyes. Today’s monthday marks twenty-five months or two years and a month since you’ve been born. It also shares your sisters three week mark. But today, I needed to write to you.

You’ve seen me throughout this entire journey: the good, the bad, and the ugly. There have been times of complete isolation. It felt like no one in the world knew what was going on in my brain. No one had ever lost you of the relationship we had, so in my mind they’ll never understand. But around this time two year ago, you helped me find the loss community. That isolation turned into healing because I realized there were people grieving their child and I wasn’t this crazy person.

Since your sisters been born… there’s a different type of grief isolation. I try to be my happiest for her and live in each moment. Although it’s only been three weeks with her, I haven’t been able to write your nightly letter. That’s so hard on me. Once I get this routine down, I’ll be able to start up again. I’ve noticed myself keeping my emotions down too. When I put your sister down to sleep and I try to, they all come up.

Maybe it’ll be this way forever. I just want to find a good medium with it all and for you to know you’re always being thought about.

I hope heaven is a celebration everyday and that you stay close to your sister and I as we honor you and motherhood this weekend. You’re always walking with me. I know you make yourself known to Mila too.

I love you, Jens. You’re the light of my life.

Mama

Beginnings.

Dear Mila,

This is how we began this morning. A walk around the big block before it got too hot. You love being outside and I love hearing the birds, that reminds me so much of Jensen, all around us.

Beginnings used to be one of my favorite things. They mark the start of a new adventure. A way to learn more about the world and yourself. Beginnings were awesome.

The beginning of my motherhood is my favorite. When I found out I was pregnant with your brother, I was full of joy and hope for the future. Of course I was scared about certain things, like how crazy different my life would be after he was born and if I was going to be good at the whole mom thing. My heart told me I’d be just fine though and your brother always made me feel so calm. He made this beginning so sweet, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

What I didn’t realize about beginnings was they sometimes were born out of really horrible situations.

The end of my pregnancy and Jensen’s birth was the start of my grief journey. I didn’t expect my motherhood to lead me to this point, but I was thrown in to this world where babies died and moms had to live without their children for the rest of their lives. It’s so hard.

In that beginning, you wouldn’t have recognized your mom. I know you’ve felt me sad or when I’ve had an anxiety attack, but this was different. Nothing could make me smile. A cloud of grief and shock clung to me everywhere I went. My days and nights meshed together by sleep and tears. I wouldn’t wish the beginning on any person in the world. I hated that my wonderful beginning with your brother brought me here, but I fought not to let grief and depression and everything else I was feeling stop me from remembering him with the light he brought to my life.

A little over a year after Jensen was born, a new beginning happened: pregnancy after loss. When I found out I was pregnant last spring, I felt like I could hope for the future again. Unfortunately, this hope lasted for a short amount of time. This beginning and end sort of go together. But it brought me to the next one, which gave me you.

I wish Jensen could physically be experiencing the beginning of your life here with us. A big part of me thinks he was there picking you out before I even knew you’d be with me.

If he’s taught me anything I could pass down to you, it’d be that no matter how hard things get, you have to keep moving forward. You don’t ever have to move on from something, ignore any of your feelings, or forget, but you have to keep going for whatever reason. You have this beautiful gift of life that so many don’t even get a chance to have. I know that probably sounds like a lot of pressure, but I want you to know how special and lucky you truly are, so would your brother. Take it from your mom, who has encountered some of the worst beginnings, that you are going to do great things in this world. When things go wrong in life (and they sure will) you can start a new adventure or begin again.

You always have me and your brother cheering you on. And I promise you’ll never be alone through any of your beginnings.

I love you.

Mama

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The 2018 May We All Heal prompt list:

Jensen’s a Big Brother!

On April 14, 2018, Jensen’s little sister, Mila Rae, came in the world at 1:14am, kicking and screaming. Hearing her cry was one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard and the moment they placed her on my chest is indescribable. The first hour of her life was surrounded by family and full of love. She was introduced to her big brother in that first hour by seeing his picture and his Jensen bear.

I never wanted that hour to end.

Pregnancy after loss has been the second most anxiety/paranoid-filled journey that I’ve been on, only behind losing Jensen. I tried not to take a moment for granted with her. There were a lot of ups and definitely downs, but we made it. Jensen has another thing to check off his to-do list. I truly believe he sent her to me.

They are the only ones who know the sound of my heart from the inside. I made them with all my might and will love them for the rest of my life and beyond.

Although there is so much more I want to say, I’ll write on a different day. Today I wanted to introduce you to my rainbow, Mila Rae, little sister to Jensen Grey.

Mila & Jensen.jpg