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.

Dinner Date at the Lake.

I feel like I just talked about how quickly summer is coming to a close, but it really feels like the days are going faster. Even though there isn’t really any pressure to get the remaining bucket list items done, I’m still trying my best.

Last night, I thought would be a perfect night to combine two of them: lake day and go on a picnic. It sort of turned into lake evening and eat our dinner on a picnic table. Either way, it was a beautiful night.

Mila’s ate outside before, but she was loving the picnic bench. She thought it was cool that the seats and table had holes in it. Then we got to eat Subway for the night, which meant she got a juice box and a cookie. Absolutely wild for her.

It’s not a normal night without Mila falling or getting hurt some way… she did fall off the bench once and bit her cheek. No ER visit thankfully!

One thing that was persistent throughout the night was feeling Jensen with us. It’s a feeling I don’t know how to describe other than just knowing he was there. First it was in the cookie to make Mila feel better.

He always shows up in orange and blue. His colors showed up in the sunset too. It felt like he was surrounding us and watching Mila and Max play while letting me know it was all going to be okay.

Even though we didn’t get a full day at the lake, Max and Mila were loving it. They got their feet in the water and climbed in the rocks. I showed her how to skip rocks, which she thought throwing them was just as fun too.

I know I keep saying I can’t believe how big she’s gotten, but it’s crazy. She’s so strong and smart. Her independence is mind blowing to me. She soaks everything up around her and seeing the world through her eyes is something I’ll always be thankful for.

Through everything we go through life like loss and situations you can’t see the end to, these moments are the ones that keep you going. I miss Jensen so much and can see where he’d be everyday. This bucket list was something to give us things to do for the summer, but it really turned into so much more. I know that probably sounds lame, I just see all these items as memories that’ll never go away.

I’ll never regret the time I get to spend with Mila and I’ll always wish Jensen was here with us. Sometimes dinner at the lake puts everything in perspective… and a lot of beautiful pictures.

The Toddler Bed.

I would love to say Mila has finally graduated from crib to toddler bed, but I’d be fibbing a little. Mila has never spent a night or nap in her crib. I know there will come a time where she sleeps in her new ‘big girl bed,’ but we haven’t gotten there yet.

One of the hardest things I had to do when I was pregnant with Mila was to put Jensen’s crib up in her room. It was always his. I remember picking it out for him and pairing it with orange and blue. His bedding fit perfectly with it too. So a little over a year and a half ago when I put the crib up with pinks and golds, it was hard. It was even harder seeing it up, wondering if a baby would ever make it to sleep there.

The answer to that was no. When she finally came, I couldn’t let her out of my sight. I didn’t listen to typical ‘safe sleep’ and we co-slept.

I did get to see her in it though. From the first pictures I took of her at home, to her learning how to stand, and eventually jumping every time she got in there. Jensen’s empty crib gave Mila a safe place to grow. Now it’s transformed into a toddler bed. A toddler. A stage I never thought I’d encounter after Jensen died and even those first months after Mila was born.

She really is a ‘totally amazing sister’ and an ever better daughter. Even when I had my moment of looking at his/her toddler bed, she flashed her infectious smile at me letting me know it was all going to be okay.

Jensen truly handpicked her for me. No one could ever tell me any different.

These moments of parenting after loss can really knock me down, I’m just glad I can be mom to both of them.

Intention.

Each day, I wake up with the hope to make each day the best it can be.

Four days into the new year, I’ve really thought of resolutions and goals for myself to achieve. The problem is since I’ve had Jensen huge chunks of time feel completely overwhelming. For me to set a resolution for the whole year is not possible. It causes me more anxiety than motivation and quite honestly, I don’t need anymore of that in my life.

When I was pregnant with Jensen as 2015 turned to 2016, I only made one resolution: to be the best mom I could be to him. I never imagined leaving the year without him physically with me. My goal for the year seemed impossible since I couldn’t mother my child the way I wanted. As everything with loss, this changed my outlook on how I would ‘celebrate’ all the following new years. Last year, I didn’t even make any. I stayed at home by myself and cried the entire night. Nothing could bring me the happiness I once had and it felt silly to even try to plan for a year knowing how differently they can end up.

This year, I wanted it to be different. I wanted to feel different to how I approached the upcoming year and take control. It’s the one thing I haven’t had throughout this journey, and a huge part of me wanted to take it back. So, since Christmas I’ve taken the time to really think about what I needed out of the year or even just through the day. The word that kept popping up in my head was intention.

Now this may seem like a broad word when it comes to a resolution or word for the year, but it’s what I need to live this life after loss. Each day I want to set my intentions and commit to them. No matter how small or big they seem.

Intention. 

I intend to be the best mom to Jensen I can be.

I intend to be the best person I can be.

I intend to find moments full of him.

I intend to do great things.

I intend to try to find something to smile about every day.

I intend to say his name and share his story whenever I can.

I intend to be.

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Photo by Roxana Soriano Rebolledo

Christmas Traditions.

Throughout the year, I love being able to go to different events that support parents who are journeying through pregnancy and infant loss. The holidays can prove to be very difficult and isolating; especially since Christmas is mainly focused on children and New Years marks a different time (or more time away from your child). I am so thankful there is a rich support community near me to offer Christmas and holiday programs.

Last year, I found two that really called to me. One through a children’s hospital that has an amazing support group and the other through the Angel of Hope Christmas Box organization. Both are very different, but still so meaningful. I know it can feel very nerve wrecking to attend an event like this, so I want to share my experiences to give an insight of what happens.

Akron Children’s Remembrance Service

The first service I went to of the holiday season is a more formal one. It was in a theatre with quite a bit of seating. Before the actual day, parents are encouraged to preregister their child’s name and send in a picture so they can be presented in the program and on screen.

There is a huge range of ages in children, which I think is really special. For me, it brings confirmation of other for my motherhood. My son is grouped with children who are young adults. In the service they’re not valued any less or looked on differently just because of their time on Earth. They also have one set of parents each year share their story of loss and love. The past two years, I’ve uncontrollably cried throughout this time. It’s something about being able to connect with another person and know how they’re feeling throughout it.

This year’s was about an hour to an hour and a half long. Every baby’s name was read out loud with a bell that chimed after. It’s grounding to see the big list of name and to see their faces on the screen. So many stories and so much love that remains.

During the service, I sat with my mom. We got there a little late and by that time they had already ran out of candles that were to be lit during one of the songs. Well, my mother decided Jensen couldn’t be the only one there without a light, so she pulled out her lighter and had it shining instead. Little moments like these really let me see how much my family cares. Of course I know deep down they do, just making sure she felt like he wasn’t left out made my heart smile.

Overall, I really enjoyed this service and to see the fact that I’m not alone throughout this.

Angel of Hope

This is my favorite event of the year. Every second Sunday of December this group gets together to honor our children gone too soon. This is where Jensen’s brick is too. The idea is the angel protects those around her while providing hope to those that need it most. I absolutely love reading all the names on the bricks and the little sayings. It’s heartbreaking to see them, but somehow it makes me feel like they’re all connected and together. Since Jensen is cremated and I always have his urn, it’s actually nice to have a place to go too.

The event is outside, so yes it was very cold and windy. My mom and dad went with me, which is always awesome to have both of their support. They need these days as much as I do. Everyday they grieve Jensen’s loss too.

We all meet right in front of the angel and are giving candles to light. This is actually a task in its own to keep them lit with the wind. They go through their program of their background, poems, and stories. I can’t even remember what was said because I was so in the moment. All their words just settled inside. There were tears shred, lots of hugs, and of course flowers given to the angel.

I know I always say this, but seeing the amount of people there and feeling what I am in that moment makes me feel less isolated. It was beautiful seeing everyone’s light too. Lets me know that when they looked down over us, they could see the light just for them.

On Jensen’s brick, I left him flowers. Which I leave because I know he would have always picked them from me. My dad leaves pennies every time he visits too. These are the traditions we have started because of him and I know he will forever be remembered.

Reflect. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laughter Medicine. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he said, I went to the wrong funeral. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Space Reimagined. 

There were only two places Jensen’s body was housed after he was born. One was the funeral home and the other is the wing of the hospital pictured above. Every time I drive past the funeral home, my stomach flip flops. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to go back in there without the waves of memory hitting me in the face. That’s how I thought my visits to this hospital would turn out too. 

When I was bleeding at ten weeks pregnant this summer, we went to this ER. I was terrified to get bad news and couldn’t believe it when I did. Then a few days later, I had my D&C. I had left without my babies in this hospital, twice. 

I have yet to return to the labor and delivery wing. There are so many memories from the day Jensen was born there that I’ve revisited over and over. They’re hard. I’m terrified to go back and see those same sights or maybe to see a happy experience knowing mine was everything but. After my D&C, I promised myself I wouldn’t come back here unless it was an emergency or if I was ever lucky enough to have another child. 

It’s only been four months since my surgery and on this Tuesday, I got a call that was completely unexpected. 

My mom had to get emergency surgery today. 

Her room’s window faces the labor and delivery wing. I’ve faced it head on and know exactly what room I had Jensen in. Facing that place felt like the scariest thing I could handle today, but it wasn’t. When I had Jensen, although I felt completely hopeless, I was in control of my breathing and physical pain. I’ve never thought of how it would feel to be my mom or dad watching me go through labor knowing Jensen was already gone. Today I know how it feels to be helpless when someone is in pain. 

This hospital was a space reimagined in these moments. The wing that holds my nightmares is just a part of the hospital today. I’ve stared at it and waited for those memories, but the intense feeling of wanting to help my mom not feel pain overrides my fear. Plus, I know Jensen knows his way back here. I feel him and people have mentioned his footprint on me. That’s my sign that she’s going to be alright. 

A place where I have so fear for has shifted in helping heal my mother and I hope it’s much sooner than later. 

Clear + Let Go. 

I didn’t deserve him. My body failed him. I am alone. Love didn’t save him. I’m not enough.

These thoughts have crossed my mind more than a few times during the last eighteen months. They lead to self-doubt about my motherhood and grief journey. I wonder what Jensen would tell me if he knew I had these thoughts. What would I tell my mother if she had said these things to me?

When I saw today’s Capture Your Grief prompt, I wondered what I needed to let go? My space, my home, is pretty much where I need it to be. I don’t feel cluttered here. Yet, sometimes I feel trapped. I remembered this weekend and feeling anxious on the day of the walk. There were times Saturday where I felt all of those statements. That’s when I knew my mind needed to let go of the negative and clear space for the positive.

Today I held a little cleansing fire, on my dining room table. It’s raining out so it really wouldn’t have worked out there. I took the risk. On a piece of paper, I wrote down every negative thought that came to mind about me, my motherhood, and this grief journey. It was a longer list than I wanted.

I read them all, out loud. Each word stung and my tears felt cold on my cheek. It felt like I needed to feel what I thought they meant; yet they felt strange as I heard them. I crumbled the paper up as forcefully as I could then put it in my makeshift fire pit. Then I lit my match, watched the fire take over the words, and the smoke cleared them out. As I watched the paper burn, I felt those words leave my head. I was able to clear and let go.

I did deserve him. My body didn’t fail, it grew a perfect little boy for thirty-eight weeks. I’m never alone. Love keeps his memory alive. I am more than enough. 


Although I wouldn’t suggest doing a fire cleanse on your dining room table, the fire is such a healing element. Every few months I have a fire in my backyard and burn letters to Jensen so the smoke delivers it to him. I would suggest anyone to try doing this, it has felt like a weight has been lifted since I did this morning.

Tribe Circle. 

Technically today’s Capture Your Grief prompt is ‘Sunday Tribe Circle,’ but my Sunday has revolved around self reflection, healing, and resting. This is because yesterday was all about my tribe circle at one of the annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness walks I go to. 

If you’ve never been to an awareness walk like this, it’s full of conflicting emotions. You’re surrounded by a ton of people who have had similar experiences to you. The room is full with bereaved parents and their support people. In this journey, it’s hard to feel like you belong anywhere or that you’re the only person who’s walking this path. At events and walks like these, you realize you’re not alone at all. On the other hand, it’s devastating. When I arrived yesterday, the line to just get registered was SO long that they had to have two separate ones. It dawns on me that each person has felt this immense loss. All that pain. Yet, somehow they’re able to keep living and moving forward with their child always in their hearts. 

To mark our second year of walking for Jensen, I made another pin. Last year’s was the ‘J’ button with all his colors. This year’s was my meaningful mantra, greatness starts here. (Both pictured above.) It’s a way I can share a little about Jensen with someone just looking at me and the pins. I think it’s also nice for people to see where I am in my grief journey and maybe it will help them out. 


Through my journey, my tribe circle has gotten larger. The group walking for Jensen this year all dawned his mantra ans have helped me heal with each step of my journey. Not only do I have the support of my family and friends, my tribe circle continues online through Facebook and Instagram. Most of these women and men, I would never have met if our children didn’t die. We were complete strangers, but have learned to lean on each other because we all understand. Awhile I go, I posted a graphic that said, ‘find your tribe, love them hard.’ Sometimes I don’t know where I’d be without my support system. It makes me think of all the mothers in the past who were silenced and didn’t know who to turn to. Projects like Capture Your Grief and so many others help the bereaved across the world not be silenced like those before us. 

During the walk yesterday, I was hot and wanted to complain about it feeling like it was constantly uphill. Then I saw all the children walking for their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunt, and uncles and I realized I’m walking for Jensen and the steps he’ll never take. We’re so lucky to be living, even when life and losing our children feels like anything but luck. So, I carried on with Jensen forever being held in my heart. 

When we arrived back to our starting place, we were prompted to take balloons to release to the heavens. I love balloon releases. They are so relaxing and feels like a little part of my grief and sadness is being lifted. It’s such a beautiful sight too. Blue, pink, and white flooded the skies; each representing a child the releaser was walking for. This also visually represents the tribe circle the bereaved community has. We all walk and advocate from our different experiences, but for the same cause and love.