At the beginning…

At the beginning,⁣
darkness was ever present. ⁣
Then, he showed me light. ⁣

It’s the start of a new month and with May brings a lot of different things. One, that I’ve tried to do since Jensen has been born, is May We All Heal.

Usually I end up starting strong, then something pops up and I get off track. Since we’re stuck at home, I’m hoping to be creative each day and maybe even have Mila join in.

Today, I wrote a haiku. I’m not the best at poetry, but I felt like this poem spoke to my heart. Losing Jensen was the hardest moment of my life and the grief after has been life changing. It was all darkness, but slowly, he’s led me to healing and becoming stronger through love.

I’ll forever be grateful for him.

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.

A Reminder that Healing Takes Time.

I’ll never forget this time last year.

My life had changed again and in a way I didn’t expect. I was hurt and confused and wondered how everything would turn out. Even though inside of me was going crazy, I had to keep everything together on the outside: for Mila and me.

It’s funny because in the beginning of the month I knew these memories would come back to me. If I learned anything from Jensen’s death, I learned how I grieve and heal. So although this was different experience, I still lost a big part of my life and myself. Mila lost a huge part of herself too and she’ll never get that back.

For months, I sort of put everything on myself. I was angry and upset. It wasn’t until the last few weeks, where I actually talked about my trauma and described it to other people where I realized how messed up everything was/is. Honestly, I can say, I’m healing and on the right track. I’m choosing not to put myself in vulnerable and damaging situations. This sounds like such an easy and clear minded thing for someone to do, but it’s been such a journey for me.

I saw this picture today and started crying…

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Last year I posted this on Facebook and Instagram with the caption:

Happy to be ME

Let me tell you, people are facing battles that they hide from the world. I can’t imagine my world without Mila’s ability to brighten any room she’s in with her smile or never hearing her laugh. No matter what she faces or who tries to bring her down, I hope she remembers that she continues touring me happens I never thought I’d have again.

I’ll never forget that day and how I felt. I was told that Mila wasn’t important and that person didn’t want to do anything for her or know anything about her. She was nothing. It was hard completely breaking down in front of her, when she was just trying to make me laugh. I can’t tell you how infuriating and heartbreaking it is to hear that about your own child. Obviously I know not everything thinks the world of Mila like I do. She’s one of the many children of the world, but in her own way she is special just like every other child.

But reading those messages and feeling that hurt in the pit of my stomach. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone either.

Last year, I heard more of this stuff about Mila and my mothering. I was told to put her up for adoption because I wasn’t a good enough mom. She’s been made into a bargaining piece and not valued as the person she is. All kinds of things were said and I listened. I internalized it all and let it surface when things pop up.

People face battles that they hide from the world. I said that last year and it’s still true to this day. No one can be completely transparent about their lives; it’s just impossible.

All I can say is, I’ll never let Mila be a game piece or let anyone steal her or her smile away. Never, ever, ever, ever.

But let me tell you, I’ve grown since last year and gotten so much stronger. I know when I look back on pictures taken this year, I won’t look back and feel sadness.

Progress is the best thing about growth and healing.

 

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.