I wanted to post this yesterday, but, like this story, my Christmas was filled with Mila. This was my final story for my creative writing class this year. I’m proud of it and I wanted to share it with all of you.
I hope all of you had a very, merry Christmas. Enjoy.
My eyes blink open and everything seems so bright. The morning air feels chilly as I search for her in bed.
I realize she’s not here. Being alone can be so scary.
In the mornings, I typically love to cuddle up beside her. She is my safe place. Anytime I’m cold, she warms me up. When afraid, she shows me there’s nothing to fear. The mornings she’s not here, I try to tell myself she hasn’t gone too far.
The longer I wait in her big bed, the more I worry she’s forgotten about me. I let out a little whimper, then I call her name wondering if she’ll hear me.
I hear the sweetest voice coming from the bedroom. Her footsteps start silently and get louder the closer she gets. All morning I’ve been up preparing for this moment.
It’s still snowing outside, as it has all night. My coffee has long been cold, but the hot chocolate on the stove is at the perfect temperature. There are only crumbs on the Santa plate and the milks all gone in the reindeer cup. All her presents are wrapped in shiny, red paper with big bows on top. The fairy lights around the living room and the Christmas tree are shining bright.
There will never be a perfect moment, but this is as close as it’ll get.
She’s running through the doorway at this point and there’s only one thing I can say.
I can’t believe my eyes. Santa came and left presents at my house, just for me. The cookies Mama and I made are all gone and it looks like he loved the milk we left him too.
Mama is smiling at me as she holds her arms open for a hug. This is the safety I was looking for this morning. I look up at her and smile. She looks beautiful with the lights twinkling in her eyes. I tell her Merry Christmas back. I’m still in shock. Santa brought presents and I can’t wait to rip this paper off of them. Mama and I are going to play all day.
When she puts me down, she pours us hot chocolate and I guess I should take a drink first. It tastes extra chocolatey with peppermint! Maybe Santa left some for us.
“Santa brought me presents and hot chocolate!”
The only thing I can do is smile at her. Her innocence and awe of everything in the world has impacted me more than she could ever imagine. She sees the magic around us and I wouldn’t want it differently.
I wonder if she notices the dark circles under my eyes or that my hair hasn’t been brushed. Wrapping presents all night while trying to be quiet was no easy task.
She asks if she can open them up and I nod at her.
With every quick rip of the wrapping paper, she smiles even bigger. The presents she wanted and circled in the Amazon toy book are now in her hands. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile bigger.
I pull out my phone to capture this moment.
Mama pulls out her phone again. I don’t know why she’s been on it so much lately. We have plenty to do here, but I say cheese as loud as I can. Can’t she understand that Santa has brought me these presents.
I go back to unwrapping. In the background, I hear her tell me if a present is from her or someone else I know. Between each gift, I look want to figure out how I can get them out, but Mama just tells me to give them to her.
We’re back to being a team.
She gets the first present open and it’s something I’ve never seen before. There’s still presents under the tree, but when Mama explains what this thing does, I want to play with it.
I run to get my snow coat, pants, and shoes. Mama gets my gloves and hat. She puts them all on me and I run out the back door.
The cold air stops me in my tracks. No wonder why I was so cold this morning.
There’s more snow than there was yesterday and it keeps falling. Where is my mama? She will love all this snow.
“Come on, Mama!”
This surprise gift caught her off guard. It’s one I don’t think she’s even ever seen one before. Her face when she saw it out was priceless.
She hurried outside and I have to get warm quick.
I’m moving more slowly than normal; the tiredness form the night is wearing me down. She’s yelling for me as I slip some boots on and wrap my big, winter coat around me. I rush out the door as she’s saying my name more.
It’s so bright out. The fresh snow is crisp under each step. There’s beauty all around me, but I can only look at her.
I lay her gift down and almost naturally she jumped on top of it. The rope feels rough in my hands, but I hold on tight. Its blades cut through the snow and her laugh somehow fills our whole backyard.
Who knew an old school sled could bring a toddler so much fun?
Time went by so fast. All I could hear was her yelling to go faster. I went as fast as I could for as long as I could. When I looked back, her cheeks were red and I knew it was time to go in.
“Let’s go get warmed up.”
My cheeks hurt from smiling and maybe cause it’s cold outside.
Mama scoops me up from my new toy, a sled. Instantly I’m warm again. We go into home and I remember something important.
I try to squirm out of my mama’s arms, but she’s holding me tight. Somehow, I kick enough for her to let me down. She’s saying something to me, but I don’t listen. This is way more important and my mama needs it right now.
Santa didn’t forget about me this morning, but I didn’t see him bring anything for her. She needs to know she’s been a good girl too.
In my room, under the rainbow Christmas tree, I uncover a pretty box. Then I run out to her.
She’s so impatient. As soon as I get her in the house, she has to run off. Now she’s running back in here. There’s something in her hands.
Quickly, she pulls my hand to the couch and as I sit, she puts a box in my hands.
There’s a tag addressed to me in her writing. The present is wrapped with a lot of tape. She looks so proud of her little surprise to me.
I don’t even need to open it. Whatever is inside will be my favorite gift of all time.
This Christmas morning has been full of perfect moments. The dark circles under my eyes feel like they have vanished and the cold has left both of our bodies. I never want to forget this.
She is my safe place and always makes me feel warm. Anytime I’m afraid of what’s going to come next, she helps me realize there’s nothing to fear. She’ll never know how thankful I am for her.
I open the present from her and without even seeing it, I wrap my arms around her and she squeezes back.
It’s finally Christmas break! That means packing Mila and I’s Christmas activities in a few short days.
Here’s a fun one that includes a movie and cuddles afterwards.
Mila absolutely loves the Grinch. We’ve watched the three different movies and I figured I needed to get her the book too. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!
I came up with this activity after seeing a similar one on Pinterest. Obviously, I’m sure others have done this before, but I wanted to share what we did.
What I used:
‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss book
Craft Pom Poms (preferably green, but we used rainbow colors and it turned out adorable)
Clear plastic bulb
Grinch movies – Netflix and YouTube
I started off the activity by talking to Mila about the Grinch. She told me he was mean. We then talked about how Christmas made us feel. Then I asked why Christmas would make the Grinch want to be mean.
Then, I read her the first page about the Grinch’s heart being too small. At this time, I took the bulb and drew a small heart in the middle.
With the empty bulb and small heart on it, I told her the Grinch is mean because his heart is this small and empty. BUT, we could help him out by filling it up with love and Christmas cheer.
After this, I asked her to fill the ‘heart’ with the pom poms every time she thought the Grinch needed some love.
I continued reading her the book and she filled the heart. The moment I flipped to the last page, she put the last pom pom in the bulb.
Then, I reread the part of the Grinch’s heart growing three times it’s size. With that, I painted a bigger heart over the smaller one to visualize this.
Mila and I talked about how Christmas isn’t about presents, but I still think she’s looking forward to that most of all. She hung the ornament up on the tree and we watched two of the Grinch movies to end our night.
It was a fun night and the activity could be modified by the questions and painting for older kids too!
I thought it was a fun and easy one to share, especially with Christmas right around the corner.
If you happen to do this activity, let me know on the comments!
Not only do I appreciate everything my mom did for my brother and I growing up around this time and everyday, trying to make that magic happen for Mila has been exhausting but so worth it.
To keep the Christmas magic rolling, Mila, my mom, and I all made cookies. Every time we make cookies I have it in my head that they’ll be beautiful, Pinterest-worthy creations. We’re not the best at cookies, but I was feeling confident. Mostly because we bought pre-made cookie dough!
Mila was so into looking at the different shaped cookie cutters and even snuck a bite of cookie dough. She seemed pretty proud of that. We only cut a dozen or so cookies, which was plenty because she was ready to watch movies instead.
While they baked, I made hot chocolate and Mila ran my mom and dad around my house. Laughter and smiles filled the house. It started to smell like fresh baked cookies too. My confidence was skyrocketing.
When mom pulled the cookies out of the oven though, all I could do was laugh.
Our nicely cut out shapes, turned into blobs you could hardly make out what they were intended to be. One pan of cookies wasn’t even baked all the way. More laughter. I definitely wasn’t going to have the Pinterest worthy plate of cookies for Santa.
The thickest candy cane I’ve ever seen.
We totally failed at making beautiful cookies, but we didn’t on the memory front. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Anyways, I don’t think Santa will mind our Thiccmas cookies one bit.
Let’s just take a moment to celebrate the fact I’m finally done with this semester of school! The last few weeks to two months, I’ve been writing nonstop trying to get everything done. It’s been one of the hardest semesters, but I made it! If I’ve learned anything throughout my life, it’s been that I can get through anything.
Usually, I have all my Christmas stuff up Thanksgiving weekend. Even with all my pain the year Jensen was born, I still decorated my house before December started.
This year, well… it eventually got done.
Since I’ve loved doing bucket lists for Mila and I the last two seasons, I thought it’d be a lot of fun to make a Christmas-specific one. There’s a ton I want to share on here of what’s been happening, but I thought it’d be nice to share our Christmas season goals with you all. In case you’d like to do some of them too.
We have a busy few weeks ahead of us, but I can’t wait to make this Christmas special for our family.
And yes, we’re going to Aruba! If you’ve been there, I’m all for tips and tricks for taking Mila on a plane, out of the country, and to a resort!
This week, I’d love to make a post about how I include Jensen in our holiday traditions. Almost all of these items on the bucket list, he’s present and since it’s the fourth without him here, I’ve found ways to help have him close.
As always, please feel free to share any traditions you do with your family that might be fun for others.
One of our family Christmas pictures by Stein Creative Co.
Last year, Jensen woke me up with his kicks that grew stronger each and every day. I can vividly remember talking to him while rubbing my belly and imagining how very different the next Christmas would be. My thoughts went to him standing with the help of the couches while he tried to stumble over the lights of the Christmas tree. We would make cookies and he would lick the icing. The rest of our family would come over and he would play with his second cousins. I would read to him in a whisper when his bedtime would come. Prompting him to dream so very sweetly for when he would wake, he would find Santa had carefully placed presents under the tree he had been so amazed with the week before. Each present would wait for him to try to open them. I imagined this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with so much happiness and love just as I had while I grew up.
Instead, this Christmas Eve is nothing like that.
I knew this year would mark a change of how I would celebrate Christmases, but I never could imagine them being filled with tears. Honestly, I didn’t know there could be this much sorrow through the holidays. My brain would never have been able to wrap itself around the fact that babies could die and instead of a house with a bustling eight month old, it would be empty. Stockings were not hung and there are no presents underneath the tree for Jensen or I.
For the past eight months, I almost always say how hard this is on me and for all the people who are missing their loved ones. It is so exhausting. My body is completely run down and this morning I woke up with no voice and a sore throat. Awesome. I’ve been a little sick since I’ve been home from vacation, which makes me feel horrible since I haven’t downloaded all the beach pictures and the babies names in the sand. Seriously, I feel like a hole in this tightly woven net of the moms in the baby loss community. I don’t want to blame this on Jensen and his absence, but it’s engulfing me. There isn’t anything I want more than to have him in my arms and since I can’t have that, I just want to sleep for years on end. Hence why I haven’t got much done this week.
In my last post I said that grief makes a person broken, but still functional. Then I ate my words. I’m not functioning right now. Autopilot has taken over so I don’t feel the sting of all these emotions at once. It’s why my body is run down and I haven’t gotten those pictures downloaded. My mind is focusing on the pain on my body and not how sad I feel. The names, although so beautiful and I feel so blessed to have helped all these mamas, it breaks me seeing all of them. I wanted to write a post about it when I posted them, but I feel like I have to say this now. With each name that I wrote and saw the waves take away, I kept thinking of the untouched sand after. Their names made such an impact while everyone walked along and read, but when it was empty…. It just bothered me. I wish I could engrave their names everywhere I go. Each are so important to me and knowing how much love is behind them all.
It just hurts. I hate that his name and his friends names were erased with the next wave. The erasing of his name reminds me of the lack of presents under the tree. How many times would his name be written if he was here? During December I had thought of just getting empty boxes, wrapping them up, and writing his name on the tag just to have there. Like it should be. It’s so hard to know how I envisioned it, but no one else can see. I’m stuck in these two realities.
I don’t like to talk about religion on here, but I want you all to know I’ve been praying for each of us. My heart is so heavy and just knowing my heart isn’t the only one that’s this heavy breaks me sometimes. I pray for us to have seconds of this pain easing. I pray for us to always see the light our children have shown us. I pray for us to feel the love we have for them and know they continuously send us their love as well. I pray for some peace of mind. There’s so many of us with questions that will always go unanswered and it really can drive you mad. Lastly, I pray for Jensen. I pray and pray and pray that he sees me doing my best. That even though I’ve cried enough to fill all the oceans in the world, it’s all because I love and miss him so very much.
As always, if any of you need to talk or just anything, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m always just a message away. I’d also like you to know that I’ll be thinking of you and our angels through these hard times. I promise you all that they will never be forgotten. And remember, do what you need to do for you! You are the one who has to go through this holiday season without your child. That is the hardest task anyone can go through. Be gentle on your heart and mind. You are never alone.
Admittedly, I have been going back and forth if I’ve wanted to write about this or not. Over and over again I have told you all that I want to be completely honest about everything in my life that grief effects. So here I am with this little story.
To have this little incident makes sense, I have to give you guys a little background. Last month sometime, I signed up to be apart of a remembrance ornament swap. I thought it would help me be creative and keep my mind off the dark clouds surrounding upcoming holidays. It honestly gave me a lot of joy knowing I would be helping another mama out. I poured my heart into the ornament made for a little girl. It had pinks and polka dots on it. Something completely different from I had prepared for with Jensen. While I was creating, I thought of how the person making mine would connect with Jensen in a different way.
It makes me heart warm when I know he’s touched another person’s life.
Anyways, when I went to the post office yesterday, I knew the package in the mail was from the ornament from the swap. I rushed home to open it. There was white tissue paper that surrounded the smaller box inside. I ripped all of it out and proceeded to open the little on. Then came even more tissue paper until I felt it. The sparkly, white, glass bulb had Jensen’s name scripted in red on one side and a beautiful quote was on the other. I was in awe of how much love was put into this ornament. It would fit perfectly on my tree and I knew I had just the right spot.
Carefully I picked it up and crept over to the tree. I adjusted the branch to be in the right position. Just as I was about to put the ribbon over the tree branch, the bulb slipped right out of my hands. It was the longest fall to the floor, but I couldn’t catch it in time. His brand new ornament laid on the ground with the top right completely broken.
At first I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. How is this my luck? It was so carefully delivered and just as I was going to give it a spot on the tree, it crashes on the floor. My thoughts instantly went to getting down on myself. I couldn’t believe that right there was another thing I had broken. It was just another way I had let the person who made the ornament and Jensen down. There was so much guilt and anger raging inside me… until it turned into something else.
I had to start laughing.
This is my life. Sometimes it feels as if everyday has so much uncontrollable chaos that I just have to embrace it. In that moment, that ornament signified me more than anything else had for a while. There was a huge chunk missing from it, but it was just as pretty as it had been just moments before. It was still made with love and Jensen was present. Instead of its outside being smooth, it was jagged and could cut you. It’s insides were shown from the outside. You could see the brokenness at first glance. Broken, but still functional. What better way to describe me in the past eight months than that. Instead of putting it in Jensen’s drawer for safe keeping, I swept up the broken pieces and put it in its rightful spot. The brokenness makes it even more special that I will never hide it, just as I will never hide my grief and pain.
Thank you so much, Michelle, for this beautiful ornament. Jensen would have loved the glitter and seeing his name in bright red. He would be reaching for it now and wanting to see how the light makes it shine. I am so terribly sorry a big piece of it is missing now. Just know, that it will always have a place on my tree during this time of year and will always remind me of how far I’ve come. Your ornament has touched my heart, but has also taught me even more about my grief. I hope you have the gentlest of holidays.
It has been such a crazy week of vacation that I’m glad to be back to the peace that is my little house. Not writing for this whole time has been strange. I’ve felt all these words and emotions built up. I plan on expanding on some of them in the next few weeks, but today is a little catch up.
Tuesday has quickly snuck up on me this week as I figured it would. Thirty-seven whole weeks have passed since Jensen’s silence birth. Even though I had the past few days to relax, I woke up with great anxiety again. I’m missing him so very much. Walking into my house last night, I was glad, but my heart was so heavy knowing I wasn’t coming home to him. I wouldn’t be seeing his excited face as I went to pick him up after a week of not seeing him. Grief didn’t take a vacation as I did. I can’t say it welcomed me home, but it changed and felt different while I was gone and came back.
Today has felt even faster for me. I woke up late and had to start getting things done around the house. My mailbox was full of beautiful Christmas cards from other loss mamas, two new ornaments for Jensen and our tree, and of course bills. It was such a happy welcome home. Each card that was sent to me warmed my heart and the ornaments, they were so perfect. I kept thinking about their warm wishes and the comments and messages I received while I was gone. My tribe of mamas are always showing me they care and Jensen will forever be remembered.
Along with my vacation, I wanted to update you all with all the angel names I wrote on the beach. Well, my phone didn’t take the trip very well. Not to go into great detail, but I wrote all the names and took the pictures in the first few days. Then, all of a sudden, my phone had deleted ALL my pictures from December and eventually factory reset the last day. Frantically, I had my mom and dad help me with all the baby names. I wrote and wrote and wrote as my mom took the pictures and my dad checked them off the list. It was such a rush, but I am 99.9% sure I have all the names as I did before. The pictures are on my mom’s phone and I am going to download them tomorrow and hopefully will have everything on Jensen’s page by Friday.
With all the names, I am going to post about my experience with others while I wrote them. It was an interesting process and there were a lot of reactions from others. There was nobody that came and said they had lost their child, which I am thankful for. But there was a lot of people who went and said your children’s names out loud as they walked across the beach. I said them with them proudly each time. They were very taken care of and the waves washed their names peacefully away.
I just want to again, thank you all for trusting me with their names so I could write them along with Jensen’s.
Since there’s only five days left till Christmas, I wanted to share a very special ornament I received today. Especially since I’ve been slacking off on sharing all the ornaments I wanted to with you, I blame vacation. This ornament is from Lachlan’s mommy and my very best friend, Melissa.
This beautiful blue and orange sparkly ornament has Jensen’s name on the front and 2016 on the back. It’s personalized just for him and holds so much meaning in my heart. Lachlan and Jensen were born just days apart in April. They should both be eight months old and getting spoiled during their first Christmas. I hate the way Melissa and I met, but I am so thankful for our friendship and to know Lachlan and his family. Friendship in the midst of grief is hard to come by, but here we are finding some kind hope and walking with each other in this unknown future.
Although I haven’t told Melissa yet, when I opened her Christmas care package today on Jensen’s thirty-seventh week in heaven, I broke down in tears. It’s not only an ornament for me to remember him by, it’s one that he would’ve absolutely loved. He would have been amazed that the blue and orange that decorates him room would be on our tree. I see it as a little present for my son, the first I have received for him during Christmas. My heart is truly touched.
Thank you, again, Melissa for this beautiful ornament. It will be one of my favorites to put up every single year. You have been such a great support system for me and I will never be able to thank you enough. Although I know we both would have rather this holiday season to be so much different, I’m glad we’re able to be here for each other.
Jensen Grey, I love you so very much. Happy thirty-seven weeks in heaven. You are the light of my life. Thank you for protecting your whole family through our travels and vacation. I felt your presence as I wrote your friends’ names on the beach. My mind let me know how much you loved playing on the beach and watching the waves come in and out. You give me more strength than I ever though possible. I miss you. I love you.
All of Jensen’s Christmas presents should be bought by now. Even though I know I would keep finding more and more to get him.
The freshly, fallen snow should have fascinated him all throughout the weekend.
I should be watching him grow each day.
He should be here, but he’s not.
There are times during the day where I’m just grief-stricken and in utter disbelief of my life. In fact, all of these should moments are completely different that what I ever intended. I haven’t bought one Christmas present for anyone so far this year. The cold and snow are just annoyances to me. The only growth that surrounds me is my growing strength to face another day and soon, another year.
Quite frankly, I’ve been negative about all that’s happening around me. Frustration has taken root deep down. I know it’s just my mind trying to navigate grief throughout the holidays and it trying to conceive that Jensen isn’t here for his first earthly holidays. Each day I instantly think of all the ‘shoulds’ I thought I’d have. Reality has a funny way of telling me that they are not happening, but there are beautiful moments that happen because Jensen did live and is very loved.
As I’ve been writing this, I was sure I had introduced Jensen’s brick in Stow protected by the Angel of Hope. Turns out, I haven’t written about this beautiful memorial that was built by pure love. If I end up finding a post where I talk about the first event, I’ll hyperlink it here. Long story short, there is a book written called The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evan which is about a mother’s grief of her child. The book was a really big hit among grieving parents who wanted to honor the story, their grief, and children, by bringing an Angel of Hope statue to their town. Eventually Stow, Ohio saved up and was able to also get an Angel of Hope to honor all children gone too soon. You can find out more on their website, here. On that link you can also buy a brick for the Stow location. If you’re not by me, there’s a ton of different amazing locations where the angel is. That list can be found, here.
Shortly after Jensen was born, I stumbled across the Angel of Hope. Since he was cremated, I don’t have a spot to go for him. I knew I wanted to though. Being able to buy a brick right in front of the statue was a way I could get out of my house and visit Jensen in a spot. I’m able to take flowers to lay on his brick and also on the base of the angel. I know I’ve just said this, but the location is breathtaking. It’s quiet and solemn. Every time I’ve been there I’ve just been able to let my tears flow. And, there’s something about seeing your child’s name that makes you pause.
Here is Jensen’s brick. Flowers from his mama and pennies from his grandpa.
Well, yesterday we were invited to go to the Annual Candle Lighting Ceremony to honor Jensen and the rest of the children who do and don’t have bricks. It was so frigid outside. The snow slushed under my feet and I had to really watch that I didn’t fall. Once we made it to the group, I was just in awe. The amount of people there was so overwhelming and not in the way you’re thinking. My world really shakes when I know there’s so many other people feeling how I do. Obviously, everyone is in their different stages of healing, but to grieve a child through the holidays… there’s really no words of comfort.
When we a lit our candles, it was just a wave of light that warmed me even through the freezing weather. I always say Jensen is my light and constantly have candles burning in my house. Every time I see flames, I feel his presence. We felt it so much last night, that my dad’s cup lit on fire and he had to throw it down. Laughter is sometimes much-needed in these moments. To be able to smile through the tears and not knowing what to say really shows something.
Of course the parents who put on the ceremony were able to share and talk. One thing really stood out to me. They lit five different candles and one of them was lit for the love parents have for their children, even through death. He said, something to the effect of, look how much each and every single person there loves the child they are there for. That even through the freezing cold temperature, we stand there to show our love. To show that no matter has happened, this love is so strong. It’s unbreakable. My first thought while standing there was, I would stand out here every night if that’s what Jensen needed. Then I thought, I would do anything for Jensen. There is literally nothing that would stand in my way if it was something I had to do for him.
You can’t see this, but I’m sitting here just crying and having to keep pausing to wipe my eyes so I can see. It is crazy for me to think what I would do for him even though he’s not here. It’s like I challenge myself to an even more outrageous act and there’s not even a second of doubt that I wouldn’t do it. Often I wonder how that would be if he was actually here. Would it be more or less? Or would it just be different? Most times I think it would just be different…
Back to where we were originally.
All those ‘shoulds’ are never going to go away. Even when Jensen is supposed my age now, I’ll try to imagine what challenges he would be facing and how it would be so fulfilling to see him overcome them. It’s hard for me to think of what I’ll actually be doing in twenty-three years, but it’ll never be what it should have been. No matter, with each candle I light, whether it be in ceremonies like last night or in the comfort of my home, I do it as a promise. A promise of love and to keep doing everything in my power to show him that. Right now, that’s to get keep living and doing the best I can.
Dearest Angel of Hope, keep Jensen and all the children taken to soon safe in your reach. I look to you for hope, love, and the will to keep pushing on from day to day, month to month, and year to year.
Just wanted to add, I will be going on vacation this week. If you haven’t put your child’s name on this post, please do before I close the comments on Tuesday. In case you didn’t hear, I will be going to Punta Cana this week and offered to write baby names on the beach. I already have a lot of names which is heartbreaking, but I’m happy to help and to remember Jensen and all his friends. After I get back, I will be posting an album of all the pictures Jensen’s Facebook page.