I got a custom painting done and here was my experience.

If you would walk into my house, you would be able to tell a few things:

  1. A toddler and a dog reside here.
  2. There’s a lot of plants.
  3. I love art.

My walls are covered with art, pictures, and things that make me happy. Art comes in so many different types of forms and it’s a great way to represent what’s going on inside my head… just on my walls.

I’ve always wanted to get something custom done for just me, but the opportunity never arose. Until a few weeks ago.

On Instagram, someone I followed shared this one-line artwork and I was obsessed. The artist’s name is Ami Pruett and I dove deep into her website. Her paintings and prints really struck me, but one stuck out. She has a mother, baby – rainbow edition that I thought was beautiful. I was just about to put it in my cart, until I saw she did custom paintings.

Instantly, I reached out and sort of told her my family’s story and how much I longed to have an image of me, Jensen, and Mila all represented the same. All our family pictures we have, Jensen is represented in his bear or a picture, which is amazing and I love doing.

But… thinking there was some way we could be interconnected and together really spoke to me.

Ami got back to me a couple days later and we went for it.

She seriously was amazing to communicate and work with. Obviously, I feel comfortable sharing Jensen and our family’s story with others, but Ami was so genuine in just her website and Instagram, that I felt SO comfortable trusting her with something that meant so much to me.

The process was pretty simple.

Again, I told her my idea of what I wanted the art to portray and we bounced ideas off of each other. She came up with two designs to show me and we both agreed on the one.

Honestly, seeing both of the designs was intriguing. I think just having something custom for me on paper felt surreal.

Anyways, after I picked the design, it went quick.

I could’ve customized it with different paint, but I stuck to black. She gave me different options. So, it was nice to know that people have choices in what works best with their own individual decor style and personality.

While I knew she was working on it, I stalked her Instagram for updates. I felt like a kid on Christmas when I saw her working on it.

After approving the pencil work, she painted. Seeing it completely done for the first time made me cry. It’s absolutely beautiful and perfect; even better than what I had envisioned in my head.

This isn’t the painting’s forever home, I want to get the perfect frame for it. It deserves the best.

I would 100% recommend Ami to anyone who loves her style. She just dropped new prints for Valentine’s Day, which showcase love perfectly. I definitely scooped one of them up.

Ami, if you’re reading, thank you SO much again. You have no idea how much this painting fills my heart. It helps bring my family together in a way we can never be. I’ll have no way to truly thank you for that feeling.

Have you ever gotten a custom painting done before?

The Moon and the Sun.

I wonder if the Moon ever aches for the Sun.
For the Sun gives the Moon its light from afar,
Letting it shine brighter than all the stars.
The Moon and Sun will never be one,
But they are always connected together.
Just as you and I, forever.

I watch as the Sun gives life to all.
Each night she lets the world go dark,
But her nurturing light leaves a mark.
She has to go to make a special call.
On the side of the world she’s searching,
Yet, her beloved moon is just now perching.

I see the Moon wandering every night.
His movements make the waves crash,
And the world feels their splashes.
The Moon doesn’t know how this is right.
All the wandering, but always too late.
Why does this have to be their fate?

I feel the Moon aching for the Sun.
The wandering and waves aren’t bizarre,
It’s just the way the Moon and Sun are.
Their distance isn’t fair to none.
But they are always connected together.
Just as you and I, forever.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan declared the month of October to recognize the grief of parents who have lost a child. October 15th became the day to remember them. Since then, at 7pm no matter where you are in the world, a wave of light is held in honor of all the babies gone too soon.

All growing up, I didn’t know about pregnancy and infant loss. I didn’t realize there was a whole month dedicated to parents who were hurting and grieving their children. It wasn’t until Jensen had died that I even knew what grief really was. Since then, I know this heartache and I’ll never forget what October means to so many of us parents.

On this day and every day, I will continue to say his name and tell his story.

His name is Jensen. He was born April 5, 2016 in a quiet room, full of people who love him. Although he never made a sound, his life and presence here has always filled my heart and the space around me. He loved music and showing off on scans. I loved reading to him and wondering how he would look.

He may not physically be here, but he’s ever present in our lives. We continue to say his name and hang his picture. There are continued bonds that let us never forget his impact. It’s sad that he’s not here anymore, but I’m so happy that we had him in our lives for just a little bit.

I wish I never knew this type of loss. Some part of me wishes I was the naive girl I was before, but I’ll never be her again. I’ll always wish for a world full of Jensen. The questions that have circled my head over and over again continue to do so. I can picture him at the age he would be and wonder if he would have been a good baby and toddler and now child.

Every day I wish I could see Mila play with her big brother. She has so many questions about him and it breaks my heart every time I have to tell her he can’t come home. Sibling grief is difficult and they feel so deeply at a young age. I know he’s guiding her and loving her from afar, just as she does him.

We just miss and love him so much.

So, tonight, at 7pm, we’ll be lighting our candles at home to keep the wave of light going. If you’re home, i’d urge you to light one too. If not for Jensen or a child that’s close to you, for all the other babies that were taken far too soon.

Grief: Four and a Half Years Out.

Why does it seem like every time I come to write here it feels like forever since the last time that I have? Maybe because it has been.

In the last few weeks, I’ve turned a whole year older, started back college classes, and am working full time. So, technically I haven’t had a lot of time to write, but I’m missing it. My goal for twenty-seven (how old I am) was to blog three times a week. Guys, I already failed! But, you can always start fresh.

The last time I wrote, I shared that I started back with therapy. I’m still going strong with it and it’s been helping in a lot of ways. In others, I still have a lot of work. Rome wasn’t built in a day though. Therapy has given me a lot to think about: past traumas, my grief, and my future. I should say, it’s given me constructive ways to think about all of it. Anxiety forces you to think of all those things, but I’m starting to see how I can still function and think about those things too.

Two weeks ago, I sort of had a full circle moment. My therapist and I are going through my trauma timeline. It sounds a lot more… scary… than it actually is. It’s still a little scary though. On that particular day, we talked about Jensen.

I found out… it’s still really hard to talk about the events of that day and the weeks following.

Duh, right? You don’t just wake up one day and are completely healed when your child dies. It doesn’t work like that. Shouting that to everyone that thinks it does. I’ve told Jensen’s story to so many times: out loud, writing it down, and in my head. Earlier in my grief, I was getting more comfortable with used to talking about his death and all my emotions after to other people. It’s been a little while since I have and I didn’t realize how big of a difference it was.

When my therapist asked if I was alright sharing about Jensen, his death, and how I handled things after, I told her yes with no inkling that I would be… weeping during it all. Yes, weeping.

I told her about my pregnancy and how hard it was emotionally on me. When we got to the day we found out he died, I went into detail about how my stomach just dropped and it felt like I was dead inside. I skipped around on the actual details of the birth because I felt my throat closing up. The post emotions of his birth and funeral and life after were hard to talk about too. It was just so difficult to bring back all those feelings and put myself back in that place again. That talk and just thinking about how traumatic his death was and still is has really.. re-affected me?

So many times parents are told they’re going to be better with time after losing their child. I’m not going to disagree in the fact that everyday life gets easier. It does. Your routine changes and life still goes on. That sounds harsh and I wouldn’t have wanted to hear that in the first few months after, but it’s true (for me). I think when outside people see parents after loss reemerging into their routine or job or whatever, they think it’s all ‘better.’ On the outside, they’re complying with society and not being outwardly upset.

For me, I can see my switch. I have to do what I have to do to work and do school and parent Mila and whatever else may need done. When I’m out in the world, I’m not as quick to snap that my son’s dead to people that say things. I’m more aware that the world isn’t really… sensitive to dead babies or uncomfortable grief. It’s not a settling thing at all, so I get that. I don’t bring Jensen up in every conversation anymore. When someone leaves him out or forgets him, I internalize it. I still feel the hurt, but I try to make others feel.. better.

BUT (!!!) it still hurts. I’m functional, but I still miss Jensen with every ounce of me.

I can tell you certain comments sting and having someone not mention or forget about him feels so awful. Talking about it all with my therapist made me realize what I (and so many people) went through was the worst thing ever.

The silence. The decisions. The hollowness. The tears. The solitude. The grief.

I think I got into the routine of being a mom to Mila and life, that I put those emotions on the back burner. I let the outside, ‘it gets better,’ get to me. Letting everyone else be comfortable in my child dying has put my real emotions, trauma, and heartbreak in an unaccessible place; until it has to come up.

Through the teary session and the last two weeks, I’ve definitely given myself more credit for all I’ve endured through losing Jensen. Our minds try to protect itself from all that pain. I’m thankful for that, truly. I guess I just wanted to say through this whole thing is I miss him and I’m proud of where I am today.

I think it’s also been a productive thing to feel all of these emotions again. Jensen would be starting preschool this year, which I haven’t talked about with anyone. I’ve been suppressing a lot of things lately (thanks exhaustion). Sharing Jensen with someone new and showing my love for him and how I care for him now has helped this stage of healing. I know I’ll always feel this emotional response when talking about him and it’s okay. It’s okay to be sad he’s not here, just like it’s okay to celebrate his life.

There isn’t a rule book about losing a baby or child at any age. If you haven’t been through it, you know nothing about it. That loss and hole in your heart doesn’t get easier, it just gets lighter to carry through time.

Here’s Jensen’s story if you’ve never read it or would like to read it again. I wrote it in 2016 and have been thinking about rewriting it again to see how I remember it almost five years out. If I do, you can bet I’ll share it here.

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.