It’s National Sons Day and parents are posting pictures of their favorite little guys.
When I see everyone’s post, I smile because every child is so special and worthy of being shared. They’re proud of their sons and when it was National Daughter’s Day, they were all proud of their daughters too. Just like I was when I posted Mila’s picture.
On that day, I paused and thought about all the grieving moms and dads whose daughters died. I know that sting of seeing other kids grow.
It helped me prep myself for this day, because I wish I had pictures of you at five.
Instead, I get to post my favorite pictures of you when you were born. It’s my day to share how proud I am of my son, of you. I get to talk about how you made me a mom and how even though you’re not here with me, I get to love you more and more every day.
You and Mila both know that every day in our home is kid’s day. In different ways, you and Mila are the focus of everything I do.
I still get to buy the ‘boy’ things and Mila brings them to your bear. She still talks to you all the time at home. Sometimes she even talks for you, with her deep Jensen voice. It always feels like you’re right there with us and I know you’re there. Just as much as Mila is celebrated, you are too, my sweet boy.
On this Son’s Day and all the future ones, I want you to know that you are never forgotten and that I’m so proud to be your mom.
You were the one to teach me how to love unconditionally and to show me the meaning of life.
Backpacks are filled up. Kids are excited to meet their new teachers and see their friends. Parents are watching their kids grow and learn. The elementary schools are getting a new group of students: kindergarteners.
They’re giddy and so cute. Moms and dads are snapping pictures with their kids walking into their school, in front of the door, or the school sign. It’s how it’s supposed to be.
Kindergarten teachers see their classroom fill up. Every desk is filled. They start to remember their students’ names and smiling faces. A huge classroom full of kindergarteners exactly where they’re expected, needed, and wanted.
But, I have the forgotten kindergartener.
There wasn’t a school list sent out to me. I didn’t get to prepare him to be away from me all day. No first day of school pictures or the last hug goodbye. There will never be ay more growth or learning or anything.
We don’t get to meet his teacher or have them remember his name or smiling face. He won’t get to run to my car in the pickup line and tell me all about his day.
He won’t wake up the next day and join his new friends for day two, three, or ever.
Because I have the forgotten kindergartener that I’ll always remember.
As much as I’m happy to see all the smiling back to school pictures this year, I’m really sad the one little boy’s pictures I want to see won’t be there. I’ll never get to see his smiling face or hear him talk.
Every day I know this fact, but it’s days like what was supposed to be his first day of kindergarten that it just hits a little harder.
Child loss and the grief that comes along does not just go away with time. You get stronger as a person, but it still is the most pain I’ve ever felt. Especially when you remember all that they should be and what you wanted for them.
Even though I didn’t really know how much I’d feel before Jensen’s first day of school, Mila and I did some positive things in his name.
We actually got the kindergarten supply list. A few days ago, we went out and bought what was on the list to donate a backpack. Mila helped pick out the different supplies and knew we were donating them for Jensen because some other little boy might need those supplies.
I packed them up with care, with Mila’s help and we went on our way to donate the backpack.
As hard and sad as it was, I’m always thankful to do things to honor Jensen and his life. This is definitely one that I hope to be able to do every year for him.
No matter what or how many years it’s been… I’ll always remember my baby boy.
Since losing Jensen, I’ve heard the wildest things in efforts to help me ‘get over’ his loss. Now since Mila is three, it’s evolved.
I’ve not been shy in talking about how things can come off as rude or intruding. Honestly, I don’t think that anyone means to come off that way. They mean to be helpful, but it’s just not.
Anytime anyone mentions me having one child, I always let them know “I have two.”
Here’s what I wish I could say…
“Don’t you want more kids so she’s not an only child?”
I have more kids. He just died.
She’ll never, ever be an only child because one came before her. I’m fact, Jensen will always be her big brother. Not even death can take that away from her, him, or me.
If you have a conversation with Mila, she’ll tell you who her big brother is. She’ll let you know he lives in her heart and she loves him.
When we have guests, she shows his pictures off and wants everyone to hold Jensen bear.
She is definitely NOT an only child.
“It has to be lonely for her not having a brother or sister?”
Just because her brother isn’t physically here, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a relationship with him. She talks to his pictures and bear. When I hold his bear for too long, she gets jealous. She misses him dearly and always wants us to read his book. Her relationship with him is beautiful.
Mila also has an amazing set of kids she’s with all the time. Friends and cousins love her and play with her whenever she asks. She is in dance classes and will be starting preschool too.
She’s not lonely.
“Don’t you want to give her another sibling?”
She has a sibling.
My daughter grieves her brother. She wishes he was here and could come to our house all the time. We talk about him because he’s a part of our family. Our family just looks different than most.
If she were to have another sibling, it wouldn’t take away that she misses Jensen. Just like how no other child could fill his spot for me.
When she talks about missing Jensen, Mila has never asked to have another sibling.
She already has one.
One other thing… don’t ask intrusive questions about private lives. If you were supposed to know what was going on, you would.
It’s rude to assume that everyone can have a child easily. For a lot of people, it’s not.
Some people are healing from abuse.
Some just like their family unit just the way it is.
My two-year-old says as she brings me three different sizes of stuffed animals. This concept of family, what a family is supposed to look like is new to her. After a few movies, she’s realized our little mother-daughter unit is not the same as her favorite characters.
Being a single parent, I didn’t think we’d have conversations like this for a long time. I tell her some families have a mama and a papa, others just have a mama or a papa, or some have two mamas or two papas. And no matter what a family consists of, all that matters is the family’s love and happiness. A lot of that information goes over her head and she reverts back to her mama, papa, and baby pretend play.
As I sit and watch her play like this, I worry about her future and if she will think it’s negative she doesn’t have a ‘dad’ in her life. I think she’s happy with just the two of us, but moms always worry.
With Father’s Day nearing and with my daughter noticing talk of dads, my worry for my fatherless daughter has increased… until I realized family is so much more than a mama, a papa, and a baby.
Through this journey of motherhood, I realize ‘father figures’ are not always biological dads.
My daughter is impacted every day by men in her life that choose her. By widening the scope of what makes a family, she has never missed out on having a ‘dad.’ She has a grandpa who protects and plays with her. An uncle that chases her around and helps her fix things that are broken. A great-grandpa that makes sure she has everything she needs and cheers her on. There are countless of other ‘uncles’ who watch over her, ask about her days, and continually want the very best for her. She might not be ‘theirs,’ but there isn’t a shortage of love and fatherly influence.
So on this Father’s Day and every day, I want to say thank you to all of them for showing my daughter what a dad is supposed to look like. Thank you for choosing her when hers wouldn’t. She has soaked that impact up more than I could have ever imagined.
Thank you to the dads the make a difference in their children’s lives and the others that aren’t theirs too.
To my daughter and other children who don’t have involved fathers, I hope you see that there are so many that love you and want the best for you. A family isn’t just a mama, a papa, and a baby, but a group of people who pick each other and support them unconditionally.
In a couple hours, I have my flowers picked by my Jensen. Every time I see blue forget-me-nots, I think of him. Now when I look at my arm, I think of him and the countless amounts of flowers he’ll have for me.
It felt a little radical to get a tattoo on my forearm that can always be seen, but I love it.
He and these flowers are a part of our story.
Most of my tattoos are in remembrance of Jensen. I love knowing that even though he’s not physically with us, I can always see him in my body. No matter if it’s on my foot, wrist, or arm, I can always catch a glimpse of him.
By the way, Mila likes this tattoo way more than the one on my ankle. She loves counting them and telling me how blue is for her brother.
What’s your favorite tattoo that you have? Or if you don’t have one, what would you get if you did?
In the beginning, I was stripped away from physically mothering Jensen. I will never be able to fully explain that pain and how it will always linger. I’ve tried hundreds of time, but there are no words.
As the months and years have went past, my motherhood has evolved.
I have Mila and we remember Jensen each day. With the two of them, I parent and honor them so different. I’ve changed the way I look at my motherhood too.
Here’s how I see my motherhood this year…
Through the grief and nakedness of losing the biggest part of me, planted a seed.
Out of that pain and emptiness came all the growth and beauty. Motherhood freed me.
I’m definitely not an artist, but I enjoyed painting and creating. When I look at this piece, I think of how far I’ve come and how much love I give every day.
Motherhood isn’t a pretty thing. It’s hard and is never perfect. Somehow through it all, it’s freed me.
I couldn’t imagine a life without them. Everyday I’m glad they chose me to be their mom.
I always need a few days after Jensen’s birthday to collect all my thoughts.
Five feels really big. He should be half a decade old. That realization is hard to wrap my mind around. Then I remember, I have to live the rest of my life without him. It’s a mix of seeing Mila grow older and knowing five holds so much that really brought me to a dark space this year.
Not that every year isn’t hard because having your child die really sucks.
Anyways, Jensen’s actual birthday was everything it needed to be. We still celebrate his birthday and I probably always will.
This year, I wanted to do an activity a five-year-old would love to do. So, we went to the zoo.
I want to go over how much we loved the Cleveland Zoo in a future post, but it was a huge part of Jensen’s fifth birthday. It would be silly not to share the highlights of the day.
My favorite part of going to the zoo was that all the animals were out. Since it was a cooler day, they were playing and being active. The big cats were all out and not napping. Even the bears were out of their caves and showing off.
Honestly, I thought of Jensen’s birthday eve book. We read On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. In the book, the animals were all dancing the night the baby was born. It felt like the animals were out at the zoo for Jensen. I know that sounds silly, but those little connections are my only ones to him.
As with anything during child loss, I also wondered what animal Jensen would like seeing the most at the zoo. At five, he’d definitely have a favorite. Part of me felt like he’d have liked the red pandas the most. I wonder if he’d want his face painted too. Just those little things that constantly pop up.
I’ve finally realized it’s okay to have those sad moments in a happy day. Grief and happiness coexist in the strangest way, especially on their birthdays.
After the zoo, we went out to eat.
There were a few birthdays that got celebrated and it was hard because Jensen didn’t get that. Mila is at an age where she wants to sing along with everyone else’s birthday celebrations when we go out. Yet, we didn’t get one for her brother at the restaurant.
I often wonder what Mila thinks of those types of things. It’s just our life, but it’s just something I think about.
When we got home, we had family over to celebrate Jensen and his birthday. There was ice cream cake, singing, and bubbles. Everyone said his name and that will always be the greatest gift of all.
Just knowing Jensen is remembered and loved brings me such happiness.
Throughout his birthday, I received so many birthday messages and love. I can’t thank everyone enough for that. The love that surrounds him and his memory is so beautiful.
I don’t know what this year of grief looks like. Whenever I try to plan something, it feels like it gets a little derailed.
One thing I want to do in honor of Jensen this year is a backpack drive to donate to a local school. Since he’d be a kindergartner this year, I feel like that would be a beautiful way to honor him. The closer we get to the summer, the more details and information I’ll have on this.
What I do know is that as we dive into year five, he is still so loved and missed.
I think about my little boy every single day. He is the reason I keep going forward and shapes the way I parent Mila. Jensen is a part of our lives in all ways. Even though he isn’t here with us doesn’t mean he isn’t in our hearts.
No matter how many years pass, I’m so proud to be his mom.
April is not an easy month for me and this year feels extra difficult too. On top of my intense grief with Jensen’s birthday only four days away, I’m drowning in my last semester of school, work, and Mila’s birthday too. It’s a dangerous combination. Breakdown probably imploding soon.
Through it all, I’m trying to remain positive, even when it feels really hard.
This morning, I didn’t know if I was going to blog today. Instead, I took the morning easy and painted with Mila. Since it’s National Poetry Month, I thought it’d be fun to write a poem too.
My plan is to write a poem a day, whether I share it or not. It challenges me to think inward and be expressive. In a month where I don’t have a ton of time to self reflect or do a lot of self care, this will be my time.
For the first one, I thought it’d be poetic to write one about April.
April. you hold so much of my heart, i don’t know where to start. you’ve brought me life and death, promise you won’t take my breath. your sun shines so hot, my son comes through forget-me-nots. you have flowers grow all around, while my daughter runs all around. you always tempt me to love you, and one day that’ll be true.
It may not be the best poem around, but I think it perfectly describes this month for me.
Here’s what’s coming up for the rest of the month. Again, it’s going to be really busy here, but I’ll be around… promise.
April 4 – Easter & Family Pictures
April 5 – Jensen turns FIVE!
Mila’s Birthday Party
April 14 – Mila turns THREE!
April 22 – Earth Day
April 27 – Last day of this semester.
When it’s listed out like that, it doesn’t seem like so much. Yet, behind every single one of those is a lot of emotions and time. So, I’ll be just a bit busy.
Let me know if I should share my daily poems. Maybe I’ll paint too!
Moms know what this means. We had a long weekend so all the clothes in the house were to be folded. Extra cleaning was to be done too. The chore list doesn’t just do itself. It was all supposed to be neat and tidy for the week ahead.
Even though it was supposed to happen, it didn’t.
All the clothes are still waiting to be folded. The floors are swept and the house is somewhat tidy, but not to the level it could have been.
Instead, I focused on the hardest job: being a mom.
Mila and I played outside most of time. We went to get dinner at a food truck and made new friends. When the weather was it’s nicest, we went on a hike. She made me wear silly headbands, pretending to be a pirate. I played along with all that she asked. At night, we cuddled and watched movies. I listened when she needed to be heard. She showed me her new superhero power. We did what we needed to as a family.
Even though there’s a to do list full of chores, it didn’t seem so important in the moment.
At this time next month four turns to five and two turns to three. Time is continuing on, even when I want to hit pause.
I’ll always think about the should be’s, the moments I missed, and the extra laundry too. The Jensen-size-hole in my heart is just aching a little more. It reminds me of the choices I make on weekends like these.
He reminds me of moments and why I soak them up with her. Things around the house will stay, but she’ll continue growing. I don’t want to miss any more.
So, if you ask how my laundry weekend went just know…
All the laundry that was supposed to be folded will always be there. These moments won’t.
When Jensen died, it was the first time I had ever felt that type of grief.
It followed me everywhere. No matter what I did, it felt tangled in my every day life. Honestly, grief is still present. Although it doesn’t control me as it did before, I can feel it deep down. It’s been creeping up lately, so have the tears, as we get closer to his birthday.
When I got pregnant with Mila, I wondered how his death would impact her. We’ve always said his name and she loves seeing his picture. Mila always says how much she loves and misses her Jensen. She’s not been the biggest fan of Jensen bear, but as of lately, she’s been more interested.
For the first time ever, I haven’t had to wonder when the first time she’d bring his loss up.
Before bed, Mila asked, for the first time ever, if Jensen bear could come and sleep with us. She picked him up and didn’t complain about how heavy he was. After she tucked him in beside me, she went and grabbed a book for us to read.
While reading it, she cuddled with Jensen bear and hugged him tight. As the story ended, she looked at me with her big eyes and asked why Jensen wasn’t with us.
I told her he was always in our hearts and when we missed him we could talk to him.
This answer wasn’t the one she wanted. Her mouth turned to a frown and I saw a familiar feeling. The heaviness of grief weighed her down. She misses him and doesn’t understand why she can’t have her brother.
I wish I could tell her why and make it all better, but this is the grieving process.
Instead of telling her it’d eventually be all okay, I held her tight and told her I missed him too. I let her know it was okay to be sad.
This is sibling grief.
I’ve been on this grief journey for almost five years now. It’s changed how I view the world and myself in it. There’s no question on if it’ll do the same to Mila.
Here’s some ways I’ve helped her grieve the death of her brother. Maybe it can help your child grieve too.
Talk openly about the person.
Let your child know it’s okay to talk about the person that’s not here anymore. By opening up that conversation, they’ll be able to express their feelings and memories about the loss and the person.
Get a physical way they can remember their loved one.
We love our Jensen bear. It’s a great comfort object that can actually help and squeezed. For toddlers and kids, I think a stuffed animal with a loved ones shirt would be perfect. Another idea would be a necklace or piece of jewelry they can keep on them too.
Start a journal with them.
Although Mila is a little young to be journaling, I plan on doing this with her when she starts to write. Sometimes kids don’t want to express their feelings through talking, a journal is a great way to get those feelings out without making them uncomfortable. There are a lot of ways to co-journal with your child too.
Encourage them to express their feelings through art.
Drawing and painting is a great way to have your child show you what they’re feeling. This could be incorporated as a journal or a weekly activity. Let them know there’s no wrong way to feel or express it.
Celebrate your loved ones.
I think one of the hardest things for people to grasp is there is joy in grief. As hard as it is to lose someone, there’s still all that love and happiness they brought too. For Mila, we celebrate Jensen’s birthday every year, we put up his Christmas ornaments, and include him in our family pictures. He is always celebrated with us and is included just as much as if he was actually here.
Let them be sad.
No one can make grief feel better. Sometimes you have to sit with that sadness. This goes the same for kids too. All you can do is listen and be there for your child. They’ll let you know what they need from you. Sadness is a healthy emotion when it can properly be felt.
If your child is depressed make sure to reach out to a therapist to best help their needs.
I’ll never claim to know everything about grief, but a lot of these things have helped Mila and I plan on continuing to incorporate them in our lives for a long time.
Do you have any other ways that can help a child through the loss of a loved one and grief?