Meaningful Mantra. 

I’ll never forget the day his heart stopped being and my continued. 

After we heard the news, we rushed to the hospital. We weren’t in my car with the neatly packed diaper bag or the black and white striped car seat. All I had was the clothes on my back and my son still in my belly. I had to call my mom to tell her the news and to tell her she needed to get me some clothes. She asked what I needed for Jensen, I told her his coming home outfit was in my car, so he needed clothes. 

I gave her the task to pick out his first and last outfit. What a harrowing one it was. 

They told me what he was wearing, but I didn’t see him in it until a couple months later. He was absolutely perfect from the strands of his hair to the tips of his toes. Something else struck me too: the saying on his shirt. 

Greatness starts here. 

When I feel overwhelmed in my grief, I remember this. Greatness did begin with Jensen and it hasn’t ceased. It is within me and I have the choice whether grief or greatness wins. 

Death didn’t take away Jensen’s greatness; nothing will ever be able to. This mantra has gotten me through some of my darkest times and I know Jensen would want me to always believe in it too. 


Rise and Shine Mourning Ritual. 

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. 

Sunrise Blessing – Capture Your Grief 2017

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.*

What I Wish Society Knew About Stillbirth.

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.

Dear Beautiful Mother,

I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful child. I’m sorry you’re here and we have to meet in this way. The loss of a child at any age is devastating. It completely rips a person’s insides up. It feels like the world has turned its back on you and that no one understands. On top of all of that, your arms ache and you realize your child is really gone. Your whole life flashes in front of you in just and instance.

How am I going to do this?

Unfortunately, I can’t take all your pain away; if I could, I would and I’d bring your baby right back to you. But, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s let you know what has helped me…


In the beginning, I thought I had to take the rest of my life on all at once. The future I had with my son disappeared and there I was, alone and drowning. My anxiety heightened, which made my depression and grief deeper. Every emotion hit me then lingered. I was completely lost.

Life was like this for the first six months (and there are still days I feel like this). It slowed down one morning when I watched the sunrise. I was able to appreciate the beauty and warmth as different shades of orange painted the sky. It was a crisp October morning and it was like I was the only one awake. The moment the sun peaked felt like a hundred years. I felt my son, Jensen, was in every bird’s song and dancing all around me. It was like the sky was telling me to listen and feel what this moment brought.

So, I listened.

The elements soothed me and let me know he was right there with me. This moment also connected me with all the other bereaved moms in the world watching the sunrise. I didn’t feel alone and I didn’t feel lost.

It also told me…

There are light and dark moments.

There are moments full of love.

There are moments full of pain and agony.

There are moment of support and understanding.

There are moments where everything feels helpless.

No matter the moment you capture, you will power through. This is just one moment and I know you can make it to the next. I did.

Give yourself this moment. Right now.

Take a deep breath.

Feel any emotion you need at this second. Recognize if you’re feeling the sadness that pulls you down, the pain that cripples you, or the love that carries you through.

Then, breathe out.

Your survived this moment and I promise me and this tribe of mothers will help you through the ones you don’t think will ever end.

We remember your child with you.

We see your motherhood.

We feel the unending love that only a mother has for her child.

Always remember, you’re never alone in this journey of loss and love.

All my Love and light,

Danielle Ridgway

Forever Jensen’s mama

Want to purchase this book to read all the letters? Click here!

Sharing Jensen in Class. 

One of the scariest things about starting up school again is that dreaded question: do you have any kids? I’ll never not share Jensen to someone who asks. So my answer is always yes, I have a son. I am so proud of him and his life, I’ll share more about him if they press on. The part that scares me is their look of helplessness when I say he died. 

Admittedly, I’m just doing online classes right now, but it still gets brought up. Instead of not mentioning him, I tell our story. It’s shaped me into the person who I am today and he has inspired me to go back to school. 

I wanted to share with you all how I introduced Jensen to my classes. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to say, but maybe this will help someone else. 

Honestly, I was nervous that I would get negative responses. I didn’t really think I would, but there’s always a fear of hurtful words after you share something so vulnerable. Instead, I was welcomed with supportive comments. I was so thankful and happy I could share Jensen with others who don’t know his story. 

Somehow, I wonder how I’m strong enough to keep sharing and going on. I think of Jensen and what he’d want for me, but also being able to share here with you all. You’ve given me the strength to keep telling my story and advocating for all our children. Everyday I live hoping to change the world into a more sympathetic and understanding one. It starts with all of us sharing and letting others know it’s okay to grieve. Just like it’s okay to talk about our children (and family members) gone too soon. 

Learning to Give Into My Grief. 

I find moments full of him.

In the darkest of days, your colors shine through. I remember the strength of your kicks while music plays. You’re the first and last thought in my mind. With each step I take, I think of whom I keep going on for. 

Today someone noticed your footprint. They didn’t know about you, but I was so proud to tell them it was my son’s. I showed you off with pride and felt my heart swell. Your whole story wasn’t told, but you impacted someone’s life today. These are the moments full of you that I wish I had all the time. 

I’ve purposely been wearing blue and orange and my Jensen jewelry a lot lately. It’s been sort of a crazy two/three weeks. Sometimes, it feels like I haven’t even taken a breath. All I have been doing is studying, assignments, subbing, and working. It’s so draining. My grief is on overdrive and I know it’s because I haven’t been spending time with my heart lately. In those busy moments though, I find him. 

Today, I kept thinking how I haven’t blogged in awhile. Some part of me is trying to gear up for next month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  The other part is so tired from being busy, my mind just has no more words. I’ve been looking forward to this September. The two books I contributed come out this month, one day where you can find, here. I’m excited to be able to share Jensen and I’s story and to help other loss parents out. It’s huge. I wish my body and mind could let me be more excited. 

My energy is just so spent. 

Life after loss is give and take. Tonight, this Tuesday, Jensen’s day, I’m giving in and letting myself feel. We all need days like today and moments full of our little loves. 

Seventeen Months Without Jensen.

It’s almost two in the morning.

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.

September Wishes.

I wish you were back in my arms.

I wish for protection in the near future. 

I wish I didn’t need to wish for these things. 

September is the first month I ever saw Jensen. I was terrified in the days before my appointment. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. He was an upside down little peanut, but I fell even deeper in love with him as I watched his heartbeat gallop on the screen. I’ll never forget how my heart skipped a beat (or ten) while my eyes were peeled on the ultrasound screen. When I left, all I could wish was for April to get here quick.

Somehow two years ago feels like a lifetime. I’ve lived so much in these twenty-four months that most people will never understand unless they’ve lived it too. The world I wished for was right in my grasps, then stolen away from me. It’s so much easier to type that in short, than to live it. Last September… was difficult. Jensen’s dad had left and I felt like everything in the world was against me. I didn’t deserve love and why would Jensen have chosen me. At this point, I had felt the depression and grief of losing my son, but I fell deeper into the rabbit hole.

Depression is always talked about loosely by those who’ve never battled with it every. single. second. It’s not something you can just snap out of or wish for it to be gone. I can remember hearing that depression was ‘fake’ and just a cry for attention, but it sure didn’t feel fake.

I’ve grown and made countless wishes for Jensen to be back with me and for me to heal in the best possible way I could. Wishes always were ones that seemed impossible, you know like being a princess or finding a briefcase with a million dollars in it. Not wishing for my dead child to be back in my arms and help to struggle with my depression. Maybe these are my impossible things now.

Stillbirth has changed everything. 

This September is much better than last. I’ve started back to college, with my Master’s Degree. Let me tell you, its way harder than I thought it was three years ago. I know it’s only the second day in the month, but yesterday when I was doing my coursework I felt Jensen cheering me on with every word I wrote for my tasks. I’m always back subbing, which has brought me more joy than I thought I could ever have before. That sounds sad. I love being in the school and I know I have a tiny insignificant role, but I wish I could be there everyday.

And now I’m all emotional and crying.

It’s so difficult to find something to be genuinely happy about when you think all your happiness is stolen from you. Then when you really think about it makes you sad. I used to be so happy and thankful. Every dandelion I’d see, I would pull and wish for whatever popped in my mind. Now, I only do it when they call out to me because I know wishes don’t normally come true.

But I had hope yesterday when I saw this one. Hope that I will see Jensen again and hope that he will guide me to where I need to be.

I know I’m rambling on and I haven’t blogged in a while. There’s just so much happening behind the screen that I’m processing and afraid to share. Bereaved parents don’t get a guidebook of how to journey through life after loss, but I’m just doing my best.

On Turning Twenty-Four.

Yesterday I turned twenty-four years old. It marks the third year I knew about Jensen’s existence. I can remember being so excited when I turned twenty-two, just waiting for this huge change to happen. Last year, I hated turning another year older. This year, I’m sort of embracing the change. I don’t like getting older and knowing Jensen will never age, but I know it needs to be special. These big days will forever be bittersweet. His absence is deafening, but I’m to a point where I need to celebrate these victories. 

That’s what he’d want me to do too. 

I wanted to give you all a big recap of my day. To be honest, it was boring to most. A lot of much needed self care and a big dinner with my family. The day was just what I needed it to be and I felt Jensen all around me. 

In my twenty-four years, I’ve realized what is most important in my life. I wanted to share my ‘wisdom’ that I’ve gained in old age with you all…

  • Love Yourself 
  • Family Over Everything 
  • Live in the Moment
  • Breathe 
  • You’re Only Human 
  • Smile When You Can
  • Be Authentically You 
  • Don’t Take Anything for Granted 

I feel like they’re all mantras you see on a bumper sticker, but, for me, it’s what keeps my world turning. Losing Jensen and life after loss has showed me what’s important. I hate thinking that just because he died I realized these things, but in tragedy eyes are opened. 

The one thing I’ll always miss on my birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas is cards and gifts from Jensen. I looked forward to having handmade crafts from school or my parents taking him to the store to get a card. There would be a collection of cards from him and seeing how time effected his handwriting. It would be like a time capsule. 

Last night, my parents presented me with a gift. I knew they had bought me clothes (they had me pick them out) and a candle. When I reached in the bag though, I discovered not one, but two cards. Danielle on the first and Mommy on the other. Although I have never told my mom and dad my longing to get something from Jensen, they gave me a gift that touched my heart. 

Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday this week. It was filled with peace and hope for this coming year.