A Letter To Bereaved Mother’s Day Past.

Dear Danielle,

It’s been almost exactly four years since your first Bereaved Mother’s Day. I know… it hurts. You’re not sure what happens next or how you’re even supposed to go on after everything has happened. If I could somehow go back in time and just sit with you, I would. I’d listen and let you talk about Jensen, letting you cry or smile or however you felt in those moments. It’s what you needed then and you still need it now.

I’m sorry we had to find out what loss and grief was all about; especially losing him. There’s been so many times in the last year where I’ve thought how I wish I could go back and take those moments for you.

If there’s one thing I’ll always be thankful you did, it’s starting this.

Our memory is awful now; four years of grief will do that to a person. Its been awhile since I went back and read anything from that first year. The way we write… I can read through it now. We’re harder now. When we talk about Jensen or how bad death hurts, it’s a lot more blunt. There’s a blog post we listen to now and they say, “fuck politeness,” pretty often. We’ll get there, I promise. Anyways, I read this post: “Honor Your Motherhood.” Twenty-five whole days of being a mom… you’re doing your best and that’s all that matters.

I remember this was the first time in our life that it was hard to order my thoughts. They rushed around and I couldn’t ever catch them, that doesn’t go away, fyi. So finding a prompt really helped order everything. I’m going to answer them again. Mainly to show future Danielle who’s going through whatever how much we’ve grown and how much she’s grown too.

What does it mean to you to “honor your motherhood?” 

Motherhood has changed since that first year… We have Jensen, and we always will. We’ve experiences loss again. We have Mila now too. Since it’s grown and changed, we honor it differently too.

I’m not sure how it is for people with more than one living child, but for us it’s like having a bigger heart. We have Jensen times and we have Mila times. Mila takes up a lot of our time. When she’s awake we’re focused on her and cleaning and taking care of ourselves and keeping up with family and friends and whatever else there is to do. In some ways, the craziness is a way I honor my motherhood with Mila and Jensen. I know this is how he would want us to keep going. It’s funny because even in the craziness of our life, we can always picture where Jensen would fit in.

Honoring our motherhood with Jensen is still one of the most special things. On that first Bereaved Mother’s Day, you did the things to remind you of him. I love that. You helped put Jensen in every room of our home and on our body too. See, that’s a lot in four years. We were a lot more literal in those early days. It was our way to scream to the world that we had him and he means so much. He still does. We honor our motherhood with him by still saying his name, sharing him with Mila (the way she says his name, the cutest thing), and including him in ways that are special to use, but in quieter ways.

Mixing both parts of our motherhood and just by simply moving onward is honoring our motherhood. There’s been so many setbacks in this time period, but you keep going. If that isn’t a strong mother, I don’t know what is.


What would help you feel like your motherhood is being honored?

I remember being so afraid everyone would forget about Jensen. When we first saw this prompt, we wanted everyone to know about Jensen, not necessarily that we were a mom. I think all moms put their child ahead of their wants and needs, but when there isn’t a child physically there, it’s hard to do that. It’s hard for other’s to see and understand that you’re still constantly thinking about your child and wanting the best for them. Honoring our motherhood then felt like making sure our motherhood was concrete. It was, even without him there in your arms. You’re still a mom. That space you hold in your heart and mind for him make you one.

I’m so sorry he wasn’t there to hold and love on. Just like I’m sorry he’s not playing around the house right now.

Honoring motherhood now… gosh, it’s changed so much, but the core of it remains the same. I think we honor it every day. We show up and do our best, mostly with a smile on our face. Mila’s happy, Jensen will never be forgotten, and we have grown. In the calm moments, we take a step back and realize what we have, what we’ve lost, and where we want to go. Wanting to go forward and keep doing better is the best way we honor our motherhood now.


What can you do today, on Bereaved Mother’s Day, to honor your motherhood?

Since Mila’s been born, it feels like Bereaved Mother’s Day is a day to honor our grief in motherhood. I think the best way to honor and connect with that part of motherhood, I’m setting time aside to sit outside and take in the moment. We’ll say his name and look through his pictures with Mila. Maybe I’ll read more of your posts to honor us and this crazy journey we’ve been on.

If I could end with anything or scream through time, I’d let you know that the version of us that you’re living right now is the strongest one. I think future Danielle would agree too. You, we, I, or whatever is easier to conceptualize, will always be Jensen’s mom. Your motherhood will always be valid and honored. I’m sorry that this had to happen to us, but I’m so thankful he’s ours.

You’re doing amazing.

Love,

Danielle

Dear Fellow Bereaved Mothers,

I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I see all of you and your babies gone too soon.

Whether this is your first Bereaved Mother’s Day or fiftieth or somewhere in between, I want you to know that your child and the way you mother them is not unseen. I know some days are harder than others and maybe you’re in a long line of hard ones, but you are doing the best you can do. Please reach out on this day or any of the difficult ones you have. There are so many of us here to remember our babies with and to lift each other up when we need it most. And if you’re having a good, gentle day, I’m so happy those moments are here for you. You are so deserving of them.

I’m so sorry that we know this deep of a loss and the tidal waves of grief that comes after. There’s nothing quite like it. On the other hand, there’s love. That love you feel for them, oh, it’s so powerful. This love powers through death, not that anything could tear apart the love a mother has for her child.

Like everyday, say their name. Share a memory about them with someone who knew them or someone new. I know how proud you are of them. They’re proud of you too.

So today, and everyday, I want you to know, I see your motherhood and your child matters and is loved by many. And you, beautiful mother, for as much love as you pour out, there is so much coming your way.

Love,

Danielle

Forever Jensen’s Mom

Its just an inch, but feels like a mile.

Today we made a memory. One that isn’t going to go away any time soon either. I marked Mila’s height on one for the doorways in our house.

Through this little mark, I learned two things. The first, Mila is actually pretty tall. I didn’t realize it until I stepped back and saw how high it was compared to a door. When I see her running around, I still see a little girl. I know she’s getting tall, but wow. The second thing… how much I’ve healed in four years.

I know that probably sounds silly. How does a little mark show growth? For me it’s the permanence of the mark. When I was pregnant with Mila and for so long, I thought I was going to lose her. I thought she was going to die so many times during pregnancy and that first year. Then I thought she’d be taken away with the psychological mind games that were played with me.

It sounds dramatic and overboard, but it’s true. She’s mine and no one can take her away, but I never believed she could stay. I felt like if I let myself believe it, something would happen. It’s been an awful battle. But she’s not going anywhere.

When I look at that little mark, I can picture the next sixteen years of measuring her. You know if she lets me and all. But I’ve never been able to see past so many years ahead. I’ve always thought I just had today. Those intrusive thoughts with parenting after loss are hard and can suck the joy out of everything. I’m really trying though.

We made a memory today and the physical memory is about an inch long. I know when I look back on those hashes, I’ll see Mila wanting me to remeasure her and the shock in her face that mama drew on the wall. I’m sitting here picturing how tall she’ll be next year and thinking I’ll write what she wants to be when she grows up beside them too.

I’m so happy about her growing and progressing. There are so many moments I wish I could pause, but I want her to keep getting older and growing as big as she’ll get. I know what it’s like to not have my child grow and have their hashmark on the doorway. Jensen has taught me so much about life and myself and Mila is teaching me how to move forward and grow. One piece of information doesn’t shadow the other. The light and heavy are always present in my life. I’m just doing my best juggling the both of them and making sure they both know how much I love them.

April… We Meet Again.

Amidst everything happening in the world and the personal things too, I’ve not been looking forward to April. It’s the fourth one since everything changed. That feeling of grief climbing out of my chest is present.

Some part of me thought this April would be different with the coronavirus, Mila being a lively almost two year old, and dealing with things happening closely to me that I can not control. Yet, here I am. The last few days, it’s weighed on me more heavily. I just can’t believe it’s been another year without him.

I’m trying to be positive, but it’s just unfair. All the things I ‘should’ be doing for Jensen are more present around these days. I keel thinking about how much different quarantine would be with him. Life in general just would be… different. It’s so hard to explain. There’s no word or explanation that would make sense to other people. Here we are almost four years later and I can’t quite find the words to describe how sucky it is to not have your kid with you.

Mila helps. I’m weary of typing that because it’s unfair to her and parents who can’t or choose not to have more children; but she helps me. She makes me smile and I remember April is her month too. Jensen wouldn’t want her to be sad or for us not to celebrate how beautiful this month is even though it’s filled with sadness too. I know Mila senses the sadness. She’ll come over and flash her smiles, stroke my face, and just give me a kiss. I know deep down he picked her out for me.

One thing I’ve learned through it all is we’ll make it. Somedays you just have to take it second by second, but we’ll survive.

Like I’ve said in the past, the days leading are always worse than the actual day. Grief makes anticipation feel like dread. This past weekend, Mila hasn’t felt well and I was scared that it’d roll into April. So when she woke up fever free and happy, I knew it’d get easier.

We actually went and picked up a picnic table/bench that we’ll probably use frequently in the next few months (social distancing was practiced). She’s immediately taken a liking to it and it just makes me feel better. Finding happy moments when everything feels heavy makes the day a little nicer.

I’m hopeful April’s will get easier. I’m hopeful that I’ll start celebrating them again. I’m hopeful that Jensen’s day will be seen as happy and I won’t be as sad. I know I’ll always carry the grief and heaviness of losing him, but I’m getting to a part in my journey where it can coincide with happiness simultaneously.

Today I’m just grateful for Jensen, Mila, and watching her cheesy fingers throw Cheetos to Max. I’m hopeful for peaceful April’s and breakfasts our on our new picnic table. This year, I’m ready for April and going into year five of grieving.

Dear Jensen,

I’ve really slacked this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you so much.

Your mama.

Family Portrait – Capture Your Grief

This is my family: Mila, Jensen, and I.

Our family portraits will never look ‘normal,’ but they’re perfect to me. They’re still full of love and an actual representation of who we are as a family.

Story time.

I was being brave today. This whole month I’ve felt exhausted. In the middle of potty training Max AND Mila (yes, I will post those adventures soon), doing school work, and trying to get back in the swing of subbing, plus everything else, I found myself neglecting what actually means a lot to me… Capture Your Grief. Every October I’ve done my best with it and this one, I just have been doing what I can do.

When I saw today’s prompt, I told myself I was 100% participating and going to get a picture of us. I picked out Mila and I’s outfit and Jensen’s bow. We grabbed our fall stuff and a big blanket to take outside. For like 15 minutes, I was in the backyard finding the perfect spot while rigging a stand up for my phone to sit…

I wanted it to be perfect with a fall background and all of us looking in the camera. Let’s just say… that didn’t happen.

Toddler’s aren’t the best at taking direction and Max wouldn’t sit still and Mila kept taking Jensen’s bow off and it seemed impossible to run back and get us all set up in time in a matter of ten seconds.

Did I feel a little defeated? Yes. But, I looked at Mila and held Jensen bear close to me and realized the most important people in my life didn’t care about a picture. They cared about me and know I’m doing my best. I let grief and stress and feeling like a bad mom get the best of me. It happens to all of us and that’s okay.

After my moment, I squeezed Jensen bear again and got Mila to come sit with us. I was going to get this picture no matter what and what’s wrong with a selfie?

This is our life. It’s three and a half years of grieving and a year and a half of parenting after loss. It’s one full of love and craziness. One that the only thing I’d change is having Jensen physically here with us.

I love our little family portrait today. My littles are in my arms and close to my heart. I’m smiling and everything is going to be just okay.

Kisses for Jensen.

Distractions.

My body knows April is approaching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Untitled on July 4, 2014

Miss my hummingbird

She is everywhere I look

But nowhere I am

Untitled on August 22, 2014

The mirror reflects

A face I don’t recognize

Have you seen my ghost?

Untitled on August 29, 2014

Another first day

Lost in empty yellow space

Haunted by echos


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

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

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

Mother.

Dear Mila,

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you.

Mama

Isolation.

Dear Jensen,

Portraits by Dana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama

Anxiety.

Dear Mila,

If a person could feel their mother’s emotions in the womb, you’d know all about anxiety.

I never used to be an anxious person before. Of course I worried about trivial things all children and teenagers face, but nothing like I’ve experienced now.

The first time I had an anxiety attack is when we found out Jensen had Down syndrome. I didn’t expect any ‘abnormalities’ in any of the tests with him. In my naive mind, nothing bad ever happened to babies or pregnant women. You probably think that’s crazy since you know how paranoid I am about pregnancy in general. Anyways, after those results, I couldn’t catch my breath and it felt like the world was sitting on my chest. After a few days, that anxiety went away. He was mine. I would do anything in my power to give him the bed of everything. So, I did what I do best and prepared.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I had my second ever anxiety attack. When we found out Jensen was gone, I fell apart. I guess it was like a major life attack. My blood pressure spiked, my vision went black, and I couldn’t catch my breath. Life felt like that for months after abs sometimes still does…

Nothing traumatic had ever happened in my life before that. I didn’t have any reason to worry about things before. My mind didn’t overwork. Then, as with everything, my world flipped upside down.

I worried every time my phone rang or if someone didn’t text back quick. Then I went through a stage where I didn’t care about anything. My anxiety flipped-flopped like that until I got pregnant with you. Then a new type of anxiety slapped me in the face: pregnancy after loss.

Everyday I woke up wondering if this would be the day you would be gone. When you hit big enough, I’d poke my belly until I felt you moving, then could breathe for a little while. I didn’t sleep much. My mind went through every horrible scenario. At every appointment, I asked my doctor if this anxiety was good for you and that I just needed you to be born alive. They knew all about Jensen so they didn’t think I was extra crazy for bringing it up each time.

With your birth, the anxiety of my body failing ended. You were here and in my arms. The longer you looked at me, the less I felt that anxiety.

Now that your here, I worry about other things, but it’s different. I’m not sure how to explain it.

As a mom and especially a loss mom, I’ll always have anxiety. I worry about you when you sleep, when I’m in the shower, or anytime I’m not holding you. It’s just because I love you so much and want you to be safe.

I hope you never experience the trauma and anxiety I went through with stillbirth. Even though I would never trade your brother or my time with him, I wouldn’t wish the aftermath of the mental madness of child loss on anyone. With that being said, when you are feeling anxious about whatever you’re going through during your life, I’ll help you make it through. I’m always here to listen and if you want my advice I’ll give it to you. One of my jobs for the rest of my life is to comfort you, even when you’re a grown woman facing this big world.

One of the things Jensen taught me that I’m able to teach you is that we can make it through anything. All it takes is a lot of love and a little patience.

I love you.

Mama