Six Ways to Honor Your Child this Thanksgiving.

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, there are a lot of anxious and sad feelings for loss parents. Many of us feel there isn’t much to be thankful for after losing our children. This results to a lot of people not participating in any previous holiday traditions and making their own. No matter what a person chooses, their decision should be welcomed with love and acceptance.

Although this is just a short list, I hope that it will allow me to feel Jensen’s presence and maybe help another mom and dad cope on Thanksgiving.

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Thanksgiving Day Craft or Graphic

When I was pregnant, I pinned a lot of crafts to do with Jensen on all of his first holidays. For Thanksgiving, I always planned on getting his footprint and making it into a turkey. It makes me sad that I can’t get Jensen’s seven month footprint for this craft, but I’m thankful to have his footprint from when he was born on my laptop. As much as I love free graphics offered in online support groups, I wanted it to be a little more personal. I was able to make a turkey with Jensen’s footprint using PowerPoint and some help from this website. It’s really adorable and I can’t wait to share it on Thanksgiving! (Maybe I’ll post a little sooner so you all can see.) Although you’ll see it then, it’s a clipart turkey with Jensen’s feet as feathers. Really personal and really cute. It’s important to me to still do all the crafts and things I had planned for his first year. Also, it’s a fun way to be creative and take your mind of things for a little bit. I’ll be looking forward to using that feature on PowerPoint to do more crafts for some upcoming holidays as well.

You could also do this craft with printing out their handprints or footprints and drawing/gluing feathers on the paper. There are no right or wrong ways with crafts and there are a ton of ideas on Pinterest.

Donate Food to a Local Food Bank or Food Drive in You Child’s Name

I imagined Jensen being a little gentleman and wanting to help. As I’ve said many times, I wanted him to volunteer his time and be able to help others in need. To honor a value I wanted to instill in my son, I’m going to donate food to the local boy scout food drive in his name, which is actually going on a few days before Thanksgiving. There are a lot of different food drivers going on this time of year and local food banks are always in need of food. So many people are not fortunate enough to be able to eat on Thanksgiving Day and how special would it be to give back in our child’s name. It brings happiness to the receiver, you, and your child’s memory. No matter how big or small your donation is, you’re able to help out at least one person. If you’d like to be able to include your child’s story, you can always add a graphic you did for Thanksgiving and put your story on the back. It’s just another way to talk about stillbirth, miscarriage, infant loss, and child loss in general.

Make Child’s Favorite Food for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thinking ahead to actually getting ready on Thanksgiving brings me a lot of anxiety. I’m not even sure if I’ll be brave enough to go to dinner. To bring Jensen in on the meal, I think it’d be really interesting to make one of his favorite foods. Whether that being macaroni and cheese or just drinking chocolate milk with dinner. It brings Jensen to the table and probably a lot of laughs with the crazy cravings a lot of us have during pregnancy. If you’ve lost an older child, you can make their favorite and talk about the times you made it for them. This idea can be carried out whether you’re going to a big family dinner or just having a small dinner with you and your partner (or for me, Leo and Poe). Also, it brings comfort. Speaking from my experience, whenever I’m feeling a little down I go and make chocolate milk. It reminds me of Jensen kicking and ends up making me smile. I feel like having that little part will bring that experience to everyone else as well.

I can imagine everyone drinking chocolate milk out of wine glasses during my family dinner. It’d definitely be a light moment.

Set an Empty Place Setting

My family doesn’t really have a formal Thanksgiving dinner, but I really like this idea. It actually shows to the people around us what we’re seeing in our minds. I know for me, I always am imagining what Jensen would be doing and although he’d probably just eat off my plate, he would still be there and eating with us all. This is very symbolic and I think like the previous idea, would be able to bring your child into everyone’s hearts that day. I know this one is kind of sad to think about that missing place setting, but it’s just another idea I liked and have heard about before. It’s really hard because it makes it ‘more real’ for everyone else. Just the image of loss is hard to grasp, but I think it would promote family members being supportive. This could also be a plate for all family members that are gone in case there are others that are grieving on this holiday.

Family Picture Including Your Child

Years ago, my family took a big family picture. Since then, there’s been more people to come into the family and obviously we’ve all grown. It’s nice to document those days, especially when everyone’s all together. After child loss, it’s hard to gather everyone when, again, we know there’s a huge part of our family missing. Our child can’t physically be there and have their picture taken, so it’s difficult for a loss mom and dad to want to take these pictures. But, I think it’s important to have them. If this is an option for you family, include your child in the ways you can. Whether it be their Molly bear, a framed picture, or any other remembrance item, include them in this. They’re present right there and I know it’s not the same as them being there, but they’re being remembered in that moment. It’s also another way to open conversation about how you’re doing on your grief journey and to talk about our children. We want them to be included on these big holidays and this one way to document it.

Plus, I love showing off Jensen bear. It would be the first time my family will feel Jensen’s weight. It’s special to be able to share that with everyone.

Start an “I’m Thankful For…” Conversation

Another challenging moment for loss parents on this THANKSgiving, is what we’re thankful for. Yes, I’m so thankful for Jensen and the thirty-eight weeks and two days I had with him, but he died. I mean there’s really no other way to explain. Other than the time and memories I have with him, I haven’t been thankful for much else this year. There’s little things like bluebirds and dancing flames, but it’s hard. I’ve heard it doesn’t really easier during the holidays years out as well. Yet, this is a moment we can honor them. Say out loud we’re thankful for our child and death cannot spoil everything. Death cannot take away the time we had with them and I’m thankful for that. Going along with the theme, this is a way to talk about our child without adding death and grief in, which lets our support people know we still are happy to talk about them. That it’s okay to talk about our children and there’s way more to their lives than death. It could be another way of talking about the community and the others ways you’re honoring your child during the holiday season. I think our families might surprise us and let us know that they’re thankful for our babies too.


I hope you’re able to use some of these ideas or come up with new traditions this Thanksgiving. If you do, please share with me. I’m always looking for ways to honor Jensen and survive the holidays without him.

I’d also just want to let you all know, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need support this coming week (and anytime really!), that I’m here for you. We’re a strong community that are always supporting each other. Especially when we need it the most.

As much as I’m thankful for Jensen, I’m thankful for all of you too.

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Empathy.

Before I begin this post, I want to show the difference between empathy and sympathy. I think a lot of people think they’re the same thing, but they’re very different from each other.

empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

sympathy – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

The first time I thought I understood what empathy really meant was in college. I remember the professor telling us her sister’s story; I won’t tell her story, but it deals with the loss of a child. My professor said to feel empathy you had to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and somehow understand those feelings.

Then she said, ‘I could never imagine losing a child, therefore I can’t have the full understanding of empathy for her situation.’ Continue reading

In the Ashes of September.

I’ve never been one to wish away time.

Even when I was super pregnant with Jensen and my feet were so swollen. I happily waddled around and was so blissfully happy that everything seemed so perfect. Honestly, I didn’t even have a countdown for his arrival. His due date, April seventeenth, was always in the back of my mind, but each day was so special with him.

For the first time in my life, I wished time away. I wished September would have ended two weeks ago. It’s been a month full of pain and change. There were many days I just sat and thought of loss and death. I’ve had my darkest thoughts this past month; times I wanted to literally rip the skin off my body to feel some relief. Tears fell so freely and there were only bits of relief. As bad as this month was, no month, from forever on, will ever compare to April, but this September comes in second.

At the beginning of the month, I posted a blog: The Promise of September. I wish I would have listened to my gut instincts that I had on that day. The words I wrote even doubted good things to come. They were full of fear for the future. It’s like I knew deep down that this month would be another month that would change my life, just in all the ways I never thought.

“The promise of change scares the living hell out of me.”

Those words are ringing in my ear. September kept its promise of change and I’ve felt that living hell each day.

But I’m going to let you all in on a secret, no matter what happens to me in the months to come, nothing will compare to the pain of losing Jensen. I am a survivor. No matter how hard it is to be left or hurt or beat down, if my heart can still beat after Jensen’s stopped, I can take everything else. Death has creeped inside of me and stolen away the one person who I would have given the whole entire world. If I could survive that, I can survive whatever else this cruel life has to throw at me.

Once another beautiful mother told me, us loss mommas were like phoenixes. I might have posted about this before, but it holds true during these bad days and months. My soul and insides have caught on fire and burned out, just leaving ashes behind. But I’m rising from those ashes. For Jensen, for me, and for our story, I will rise and wish away the remaining hours of September to be stronger for October.

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Just another reminder that tomorrow is the beginning of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! I will be posting every single day with the prompts from Capture Your Grief. Hopefully, you all can follow along and share your stories as well.

 

Twenty-Five Weeks.

It’s the twenty-fifth Tuesday.

One-hundred and seventy-five days since Jensen was born.

Jensen’s big day of the week and honestly today was busier than any other Tuesday I’ve had since he’s been born. The morning was really rushed and stressful. Leo and Poe were being trouble makers, we were in a rush to work out, and then I had therapy. Even when that was done, I was only home for a bit to go get supplies for the house and then finally eat. Today was just more rushed than I like my Tuesday’s to be. I honestly didn’t know if I’d write tonight since I posted a lot my feelings yesterday. I know I have a lot of Jensen and grief feelings going on write now, but I can’t make sense of them. Maybe at the end of this.

Then I figured everyone would have heard enough from me after my video chat with Emily Long, from Invisible Mothers, about love, loss, and figuring out life through grief. Which if you didn’t see and would like to, you can see it here. It was nice to be able to talk and actually speak what’s on my mind with words coming out of my mouth and not just directly on the screen. I am so very thankful she asked me chat with her to share with other loss moms and just feel what we’re feeling. Honestly, I didn’t re-watch it. I’m so afraid to hear my voice. I promise there’s good stuff on there and if you want to see me talking, it’s the perfect video to see.

But BIG things are happening.

This Tuesday is also the last Tuesday of the month of September, which means October is almost here. As I said in yesterday’s post, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Awareness Month, which is a pretty big deal. Especially since this is my first October without Jensen and knowing what else October holds besides Breast Cancer Awareness. It’s going to be an emotional month in general. October fifth is also Jensen’s six monthday, which I just cannot fathom. I’d do anything to be playing and picking out Jensen’s, at six month old, Halloween costume….

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Broken.

The majority of time I hear a lot of phrases that are supposed to be helpful, but usually do more harm. I’ve written about it many times before because it really does hurt and those words just swirl in my brain. On top of all those things, I’ve had a really horrible week with Anthony moving out and adjusting to being alone.

I want to be very candid with you all; week twenty-four sucked. The majority of the week was spent in bed, under my covers. There were moments I wanted to rip my skin off to feel relief. Seriously, physical pain would have felt so much better than this mental and emotional anguish. I feel so bad and I know Jensen sees this. What kind of mom sits there and loathes herself? I guess someone could answer with, you’re really not a mom. This week I probably couldn’t have even defended myself and my motherhood…

The very person who would do anything for her son wouldn’t have had the energy to defend my motherhood. Grief has completely broken me.

Today I heard one of the best things since Jensen’s been born:

“He’ll always love and remember you.”

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Twenty-Four Weeks.

When I decided to start blogging about Jensen and life after loss I promised myself I would always do two things:

  1. To honor Jensen by sharing his story and the positive impact he brings to me each and everyday.
  2. Be completely raw and honest no matter how hard.

Today, I unfortunately have to share news that hurts and is ultimately life-changing. Before I begin, I’d like to say this is not wrote in an ill tone or manner. This is real life and a fairly common thing to happen after losing a child.

Anthony and I have decided to go our separate ways to be able to focus on ourselves through our different grief journeys.

It hasn’t been an okay time for me and although I can’t speak for Anthony, I know he’s hurting too. The reality is grief does awful, awful things to a person and their relationship. I don’t think we’re going into this next stage of our lives with a bad taste on our tongues. We’ve been able to identify how each other needs to be able to better themselves and it’s hard, but in this time we have to be apart.

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Painfully Beautiful.

Let me tell you, this month is horrible. The majority of days are filled with heartache and sadness, but in those days I’ve tried my very best to see the light and good. This weekend, I couldn’t see anything but the top of the waves crashing on top of me. I would say the mix of the oncoming six month mark and all the other troubles going on in my life have not helped with my grief. Those stories are for another day. I’ve felt that I haven’t been able to write about what’s going on with me and my grief. Every time I sit down to write the words, they just fly right out the window.

But, I wanted to share with you what happened yesterday. It all started last month when I got an invitation in the mail about a memorial put on by the hospital. Now it feels like that was forever ago, but I had made sure to make sure I planned today for the ceremony. I thought I had everything ready to go, until life happened. There were unforeseeable events that happened this weekend that made me not want to go. Made my grief so much more intense and wanted to stay in bed all day long. Somehow I dragged myself out of bed, put on my most favorite dress, and went to celebrate my Jensen’s life.

When I got there and saw the three big tents and all the chairs, I instantly started crying. I kept thinking about how many babies aren’t with their families. Then it hit me. All the pain I was going through without Jensen. How he wasn’t there with me looking up at me from his carseat. All the memories I wanted to have with him physically here. When did my life involve going to a memorial remembering my child that died?

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Twenty-Three Weeks.

The memories of the day before and the days following Jensen’s birth have slowly been coming back to me. It’s almost like water coming from the faucet. My brain tries to let a steady stream come out, but sometimes it just comes flooding. I’ve been getting used to the constant flow, yet this past month, it’s came back so fast. Certain things come out of nowhere and it breaks me.

That and the fact that time refuses to stop. I know that probably sounds silly because how can time stop? It’s just going too fast. Me finally getting on a somewhat regular sleep schedule hasn’t helped slow time down. I used to not sleep until three or four then wake up by nine or ten. It felt like the day lasted and I could actually think. No I wake up and go to sleep fairly early so I have more time in the day to get work and life things done. Maybe it’s good for grief, but I hate the fact that I don’t have a five month old baby waking me up.

Which brings me to today. Another Tuesday without Jensen physically getting another week older.

It’s actually a really weird time because the outside world has moved on. A lot of people think I should be ‘moving on’ by now. Almost a half a year and I’m still ‘stuck’ on him. Or when I just post about him because nothing else seems relevant to my life right now. Some days I almost feel bad about revolving my life around Jensen and his time here with me. Then I think, if Jensen was here would I be moving on from him right now? Would I move on from him at a year? Or five years? Or twenty? You can’t move on from a child and I hate that I’m supposed to feel bad about being sad.

Yesterday was a bad day. Monday’s I’m usually in a bad mood anyways because I just don’t want the day to end. So, I didn’t have a good day to start out with. Then I got bad news and I couldn’t stop crying. To try and make me feel a little better, I tried to go shopping. I was met with an associate who told me to ‘turn my frown upside down’ and ‘nothing could make your day bad on this beautiful day.’ Except when your baby dies and you hear things aren’t going they way you thought they would be, you’re allowed to have bad days. Not just one, but a lot. Long story short, I told her my baby died, she gave me an appalled look, and I ended up tears while walking out of the store.

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In the past, I’ve shared pictures of what a bereaved mother looks like a various stages of grief. I believe it’s important to see this rawness; especially when I try to keep it together a good percentage of the time. I will admit, I wiped most of my tears off so I could see where to press the button. But, when I walked out of that store, I knew I had to capture that moment. It’s vulnerable to sit in a car crying as people are walking by looking in. Being told to cheer up because there shouldn’t be bad days on such a beautiful day outside is wrong. I know I wasn’t having the best okay day after loss, but the harsh reality someone was having the worst day of their life. Someone’s baby died yesterday and I don’t know them or how many families were effect by loss yesterday, but I do know they’ll be going down this path. There’s days where the sunshine will not heal you. Days where you don’t get to sit at dinner with your partner and attend an amazing support group like I did after this moment. Most times, you can’t pull yourself out of this moment. You don’t know yet that just writing your angel’s name down on paper over and over again can help you. You’re lost and spiraling and an associate trying to do her job ruins your day even more. The point is death happens and people are sad. That’s the unfortunate promise of life. Why should we shame others in sadness when they already feel horrible? Why do we feel the need to fix the unfixable?

But I want to tell you, yesterday taught me an important lesson in my twenty-three weeks post loss. When it feels like the world is turning it’s bad on me, I don’t have to hide those feelings and I can work through them. I’m learning how to catch my breath when I’m drowning. In times of feeling like others look down on my grief or think I’m not ‘moving fast enough,’ I can tell them it’s their opinion and I’m doing what’s best for me. Grief is selfish and I need to continue being selfish for Jensen and I.

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There’s Jensen’s name.

Today I shared, “The amount of times I’ve written his name already today is mind-blowing. It’s very therapeutic to just see it over and over again.” One hundred and sixty-one. That’s how many times I wrote his name today. It’s also the amount of days Jensen has been gone. I wrote how the amount of times I wrote his name was mind blowing, but it never crossed my mind that the amount would end up being the number of days he’s been gone. It’s a crazy amount any way you look at it. But it is written and no one can erase his name from that paper. Just like they can’t erase the memories or the impact he continues to bring to my life and the world around me.

Jensen, the second thing I told you this morning will be the second to last thing I tell you again tonight. Happy twenty-three weeks in heaven my sweet, little boy. You are so loved and missed everyday. Your momma will never, ever forget you. The strength you bring to me each and everyday is what keeps me treading. I hope you played with all the other babies and are now being rocked to sleep as the day comes to a close. Let me love swaddle you as you sleep and dance in the clouds.

I miss you.

I love you.

 

The Story Behind the ‘Yellow’ Nails.

There are a lot of days in grief where there is no lightness. Most times I’m drowning in the waves of loss and depression. It’s a dark time in my life, but as always I keep treading. I have to keep going and living life for me and Jensen. Even in the ever-present darkness, there’s moments of light. I’d like to share my latest light moment with you all…

“What color nail would you like?”

“I’m thinking a deeper, yellow color. Still clinging on to the last of summer.”

“Okay, I have the perfect yellow for you then!”

As I washed my hands, I was looking forward to see the beautiful, mustard-yellow color I had envisioned on my nails for the remainder of September. There isn’t one part of me that wants fall to arrive. I kept thinking, I could still see glimmers of summer on my hands. I didn’t have to move forward right now and I was perfectly fine staying in the summer months. After I dried them and walked back to the station, the technician presented me with his perfect ‘yellow.’

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I’ll pause for laughter here. No, they’re definitely not yellow. No one that sees color would ever tell me they were yellow. Even if they’re not, this color is so special to me.

This man’s ‘yellow’ was Jensen’s bright orange. When he asked me if I loved the color, I couldn’t tell him no. Of course I love the orange; my Jensen’s color. Was it the yellow I wanted? No, but there it was. It was my sign from Jensen. Him letting me know he’s right there with me and really wanted his mom to have bright orange nails. It’s the color a little boy would most definitely pick out. My little love’s bright orange that’s painted on the wall, that his crib would still be filled with.

Maybe you could say it was a confidence that this guy picked out this orange when I told him to pick out a yellow. Or maybe it’s not? I believe in the feathers, blue and red birds, and dragonflies he sends me. Why would it be ridiculous to believe that this bright orange was anything else other than a sign from Jensen. It made me smile. It still makes me smile as I see them while I type. It’s a good moment. A good moment that will span over the next two weeks.

These ‘yellow’ nails, that some would see as a mistake, are happy little reminders that Jensen is here with me, always.

Five Months.

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I usually don’t talk about Jensen’s big hands, just his perfect feet. Sometimes I don’t have the words to describe each of his features, in my mind they’re each just so perfect that there are no words to encapsulate him. This past week, I dove into Jensen’s drawer and looked over his hospital folder. These big, bear hands just reached for me to look more closely. I never realized how ginormous they were until the last time I saw them. We also printed off a few of his pictures to hang around the house and the one that sits next to Anthony really shocked me. His hands looked bigger than they do on his prints. They’re chubby and really long actually. You can’t see that in the prints, so you’ll just have to trust me. Those hands would definitely be bigger than mine. I hope he’d give better high-fives than me too.

Five whole months. He would’ve been using his hands so much by now. Holding his bottle, gripping my fingers hard, and probably flailing them around. I’m sure they’d be right by his face all the time, just like he had them during all the ultrasounds. He would for sure be a thumb sucker, but that’s okay. I can just imagine how he would have grown by now and I would be seeing this beautiful boy with his hand in his mouth and slobber everywhere. Then when he’d get our attention he’d just give us this ornery, big, gummy smile with his hand still stuck in there. I can just picture it…

Honestly, I didn’t imagine me being able to make it to the five month mark without Jensen with me. Sometimes I think my heart is so broken that it’s going to stop too. Kind of like how older couples die just months between each other. I feel like that’s going to be me. Everyday I’m amazed that I wake up, feel it beating, and can get out of bed. The pain of outliving my child stings with every breath I take. I try to fill the house with him each day so I have a reason to smile. Most times I wish I could just stay on my couch curled up in my blanket with all my candles on and just be. Not doing anything, but being warm and present. Those days are necessary most of the time, but I have to get up. I have to work and try to keep living the fullest life I can.

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