How I Honor My Son on Halloween.


Halloween is most definitely a kid’s holiday. They get to dress up and be whoever they want to be, while they get all the candy their hearts desire. It’s full of fantasy and fun. Just what little ones love. 

For some, like myself, our children do not get to traditionally partake in the festivities. It’s the first holiday of the season and the start of complex grief. Even if a loss parent has living children too, they will always see their missing trick-or-treater. For mother’s without living children, it feels like they could hide away and avoid the entire night, which is perfectly fine if that’s what they choose. 

Last year was my first without Jensen. There was a lot of mixed emotions, but I felt like Jensen and I needed to be apart of the night. Honestly, I didn’t know how to pull it off. With a lot of thought I came up with an idea that I used again this year. 

Last year’s candy bowl including Jensen’s first Halloween ‘walk.’

I had a graphic made with Jensen’s name on a pumpkin that said, ‘Happy Halloween to Heaven.’ Above and below the picture says thank you for letting Jensen walk with your child and to check his story out here. It was a great way to give back to neighborhood children while sharing Jensen’s story. I felt like this was a perfect option for me to be involved. 

As I said above, this year I did the same concept, but a different graphic. My mom and I packed the candy with the slips. It’s a way we can feel closer to Jensen and not let this night overcome our grief. 

This year, I also decided to carve a pumpkin for Jensen. Of course I used a big J to represent him on it. I love that I’ll be able to sit near his pumpkin and be able to pass out a little of his light with the candy tonight.

It’s not a huge gesture, but it makes me feel a little more in control of my grief while making sure Jensen’s name never fades. 

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Reflect. 

I have a son that I carry in my heart. I am never without him. Anywhere I go, he goes with me. 

This October didn’t go as I originally planned. I wanted to write each day according to the Capture Your Grief prompts. Life had a way of cutting in. Through pregnancy and infant loss awareness events, my mom being hospitalized, and a lot of work, I wasn’t able to complete them all; and that’s perfectly okay. I did what my grief and I was able to do. For that, I am so proud of myself and the little boy who has motivated me to keep pushing through the days. 

Reflection is important when journeying through grief. Even if it’s just reflecting on the previous day. Since I’m halfway through my second year (which seems absurd), I find myself reflection from last year. I’ve found I’ve grown tremendously. This year, I wasn’t hard on myself if I wasn’t able to post a prompt or a picture. I know others see the love I have for my son and my motherhood is completely valid. Although, I would never say I’m comfortable in my grief or even with what has happened in my life, I’m thankful to see how far I’ve come. I wish with all my might Jensen was here to physically be apart of this journey. 

This month has been a beautiful healing one. It always amazes me how complete strangers can come together and be so supportive, even after all the loss. Before I began writing this post, I went through all my pictures from this month and the ones that moved me the most were the balloon releases and ones with my family. Every release is painfully healing. Each of those balloons mark a child gone too soon and those who grieve their loss. In all the photos I have from them, there’s way too many in the sky. What you don’t see in the picture is the tears and comfort by family and friends. 

I’ve also noticed a difference in myself accepting the change of the month. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know the change of the month has been very hard for me throughout my journey. This month, I’m ready for it to end. Which sounds weird since I was looking forward to advocating each day. The thing is I raise awareness about pregnancy and infant loss everyday as I know all parents do. It’s a nice month to come together, but when it ends it doesn’t mean we have to stop talking. With that being said, I’m not ready for the second set of holidays without Jensen. I don’t think that will ever get easier. 

Tomorrow is the first of the holiday season. I’m going to touch on some things then, but with reflecting comes looking towards the future. It’s going to be rough. I’m going into the day with high hopes and have plans to incorporate Jensen that I’ll be sharing. It’s going to be hard seeing kids his age, it always is. I’ve come to a point where I know when to step back and know it’s okay to succumb to that grief feeling. 

No matter what, I’ll make it to the next day. 

I’ll be thinking of those balloons in the sky and what they represent tomorrow. Instead of just seeing the kids trick-or-treating, I’ll also see the ones who aren’t physically there. 

I wish this awareness month didn’t exist and babies didn’t die, but I’m so glad I have you all to walk this journey with. Thank you for letting me share Jensen and I’s story this October and every other time. I’ll always remember the community who lifted me up when I didn’t feel like I’d ever stand again. 

Passion.


Photo by Shannon Karcher Photography for Jensen’s first birthday.

passion – a state or outburst of strong emotion

My definition of passion has changed throughout my life, as did the things I was passionate about. I never thought of passion as an outburst of strong emotion. For me it meant to care deeply about something or the desire to really work at what I loved. Passion, I guess, translated to a type of love.

In high school I probably would have told you it was basketball. College, either writing or traveling. When I was pregnant with Jensen, I was passionate about learning everything I could about what I could do best for him and being his mom. It always changed with what was going on in my life. I guess that makes perfect sense. After he was born, I didn’t feel any passion or much of anything else besides anger and sadness.

With Jensen went so much of me.

I would say passion was definitely hard to get back after his death, unless you’d call a fit of rage passion. Yes, I was still passionate about him and the love I have for him, but I couldn’t do anything with it. I was just there with all this love and pent up anger; I wouldn’t wish that feeling after losing a child on anyone. Truly, it is awful. There are days I marvel how I and so many other parents make it through those beginning days.

Slowly, passion did start to come back in my life. When I was able to be constructive with my grief, I could feel something more. Through writing and creativity I was able to share how much I loved Jensen and could help others too. Advocating and giving Jensen a voice became one of my greatest passions, this is the only way I can ever parent him.

Sometimes I think that’s hard for others to fully grasp or not think I’m completely crazy. I continue to write about him, my experience with grief, and memories of him because that’s all I have. Instead of taking him out for Halloween on Tuesday, I will find a way to incorporate him in the day. I don’t have that moment of people smiling when I tell them what he would be on his second Halloween, but I can share his story and hopefully reach out to someone who is walking through this journey and feels alone.

I’m passionate about my son and his story.

I’m passionate about helping others through their grief journey.

I’m passionate about living again.

Laughter Medicine. 

When I was in the hospital, all alone, after Jensen has been born, I wondered if his death was a horrible cosmic joke God or some higher being was playing on me. I was angry and sad. The thought of being able to laugh or smile wasn’t even there. 

That first week home, it felt like I had huge ear muffs on that mumbled the voices around me. My sight was narrowed like when horses have their blinders on. The world was tumbling inside me, yet it looked ‘normal’ on the outside. 

I didn’t know what being numb felt like until he died. 

On the day of his funeral… a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone crashed all over me. I didn’t want to believe I woke up and today was my child’s funeral. It’s not something you want to accept. I know I sure didn’t. With all my power, I tried to keep stopping time and even trying to turn back. When I got dressed and looked in the mirror, I realized this was the outfit I’d wear to say ‘goodbye.’ I hated it and I’m not even sure what happened to those articles of clothing. 

If someone would have told me in that moment I was looking in the mirror that I would laugh later that day, I probably would have wanted to punch them. 

His funeral was something I needed. There was a lot of singing, which Jensen would have loved. Our family was there. It felt comforting and horrible at the same time. I think you wouldn’t know this feeling unless someone very close to you has died. 

With all the people there, one who said he was coming wasn’t there. I didn’t notice it during the service, but afterwards I did. Obviously, I checked my phone and had missed calls and new text messages from him. There was a miscommunication between the both of us, I admit I wasn’t very clear because my mind was spinning so fast. I told him to come to the lunch that was prepared for us and we’ll talk when he got there. 

I heard the door open and my friend’s footsteps coming in. He sat down at the table I was at with my mom and dad, I’m not sure who else was sitting there. I told him the funeral was as nice as it could be and he was nodding intently, I could tell he felt really bad for not making it. 

Then he said, I went to the wrong funeral. 

He explained he thought Jensen’s funeral was at the funeral home, not the church. When he went there, there was a lot of people, but he didn’t see me or my family. He was confused, but just thought they were consoling me somewhere else. Through a conversation with someone who was there, he found out he was at a woman’s funeral who died of cancer and at that point he realized he was at the wrong place. 

After hearing the story, I just started laughing. I’m sure everyone who didn’t hear the story thought I was just snapping completely. How insane would it be to just end up at the wrong funeral? I just imagined how uncomfortable it would be to go to your best friend’s son’s funeral only to be at a completely different person’s. 

It was the first time I laughed since he was born and it did feel like a little bit of medicine. 

I’m not sure the next time I laughed, but with time I didn’t feel guilty. Guilt is one of the hardest things to juggle after losing your child, amongst the obvious. There was so much guilt about smiling, laughing, or even having a good day. It’s almost like if someone saw you in an okay mood, they might think you were ‘over it.’ 

The thing is Jensen wants me to smile and laugh; just like any child would want their parents. As soon as I realized I don’t have to explain or validate my feelings to anyone else throughout my grief journey, the more I was able to focus on what got me through the days and weeks and months. 

That first laugh helped and it still gets me to this day. 

The Grief Shift.

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.


I never thought being sick could have hurt Jensen in any way; I’ll attribute that to my innocence before loss.

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.

  1. She didn’t take the time to grieve her miscarriage because it felt like everyone was telling her it was ‘just a miscarriage.’
  2. Her miscarriage was isolating.
  3. 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.


My grief has shifted. That’s the only explanation I have for this.


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.

Conscious Gratitude.

 

I’m still reeling over last night’s Wave of Light.

As we all know, yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and the annual Wave of Light in all timezones at 7pm. Throughout the day, I saw the light beginning and spreading across the world on social media. When it was our time in Ohio (Eastern Standard Time), my newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram was flooded with pictures of candles from bereaved parents and support people!

Our children made their mark last night and their light shined so bright. I believe we raised awareness while celebrating our babies’ lives. It was truly beautiful.

Today’s Capture Your Grief prompt is all about gratitude. Last year, I wrote about the people I was grateful for that supported me and others who did not. Each experience had brought me to that moment and I was proud in who I was becoming. This year, I could go on and talk about my ever-growing support system. I am consciously grateful for them, but I wanted to talk more about yesterday.

I want to share with you all some pictures I received that honored Jensen and Huxley. Each message and picture I was constantly grateful. As I said in an earlier prompt, the power of their names is so strong. I am grateful for those who remember and aren’t afraid to grieve and celebrate with me. Last night, I truly felt lifted by those around me and I hope I was able to do the same for others.

For you reading this post, whether its your first one or hundredth, thank you. Your support keeps motivating me to share their stories and say their names. It keeps their memory alive. I am so grateful for that.

Secret Acts of Kindness.


I never knew the power of a name before I had Jensen.

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.

Eighteen Months.


One year and six months ago, Jensen was born.

My heart doesn’t know how to comprehend that this amount of time has passed. That my son has been gone for eighteen months and it’s nothing like it should be.

I didn’t know if I wanted to write again today. Something in me wouldn’t allow myself to write yesterday for Capture Your Grief. Belonging and Soul Therapy feels hard for me to express when I don’t feel like I belong anywhere but home and that my soul feels exhausted. Some days I feel like Im just falling apart rather than healing, today is one of those days. I don’t feel like I’m a mom of an eighteen month old boy. My surroundings don’t look like it. Outsiders don’t see him. Every cell in my body is just angry.

This anger began two nights ago. I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this, but I thought it was important.

Jensen bear’s leg is ripped. The seam between his leg and body is opening and I noticed stuffing falling out. This triggered me. I couldn’t even keep his bear safe, what would have happened if he was here? Of course, deep down I know it wasn’t my fault. I hold his bear a lot and carry him. Stuffed bears wear. All I need to do is get some grey thread and stitch him back together again. I haven’t went and got it, mostly because I’m jealous I cant go and get some special thread for my life.

Grief is such a lonely process. When I saw yesterday’s prompt, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere in the community. Melodramatic, I know. I’m just in a weird spot. Jensen is gone. I’m single and in a transition period. A part of me feels like others can understand where I am, then something like Jensen bear’s leg being ripped tips me over. SO, I didn’t get into it yesterday.

Today, healing therapies helped me get into a routine today. I didn’t have to work and sort of slacked on my college work. We all need days for ourselves. Jensen’s candle has been lit and I looked through all his pictures today. I drank chocolate milk this morning and have had kids movies on. The rain put me to sleep for a nap and I dreamed of him running around with his blond hair swept from how fast he was going. Tonight, I’ll put on a face mask and paint my nails. These are my go to’s for when my soul needs healed.

It’s just, I miss him.

These soul therapies only keep my mind occupied for a short amount of time. The weight of eighteen months feels so heavy today.

I wish it was all different.

For me.

For you.

For all of us who are living without our children.

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.*