How does a person eat an elephant? 

I vividly remember being asked this question while planning Jensen’s funeral. Flabbergasted, I sat there and stared at the pastor who I had only met that day. He was looking at me, not with pity or sadness, but in a way where he really wanted me to learn from this moment. 

‘One bite at a time.’

Then he explained his story, it’s not mine to tell completely, but what I can say is he’s experienced child loss and being a widower. His words, at that time, felt like a lot to carry. I was in so much pain and didn’t understand how people can carry this grief for so long. It’s overwhelming to think of living the rest of your life with such a tremendous loss. 

Just as it would be if someone placed this huge elephant in front of you to eat. 

A grieving person doesn’t have to take their whole life at once, just one day (sometimes moments) at a time. Maybe some bites are easier than those others, but it’s still a lot. Grief is heavy, it always will. 

Then when we look up to see how far we’ve come, we really do see healing. Even in the worst days, I can see how I’ve healed. In the beginning I thought healing was bad. I didn’t want to feel anything else but the pain that drowned me. If I didn’t that way it  would make it seem like his loss didn’t matter. Of course we know this isn’t true. That elephant is always there. 

Sometimes, I wish I could go thank him for the elephant inquiry. It’s one constant question I’ve asked myself during this time. When he first said it, I didn’t get it. I mean how could I when just two days before I found out my son had died. He knew I couldn’t possibly grasp in the meaning in that moment. Maybe we never truly understand, but through life after loss we can continue learning about our grieving process and how to live our best for those who have gone. 

One. Day. At. A. Time. 

Never all at once. 

I was made aware of one part of my healing today. Last year, I posted this. It was a time where I was terrified for time to pass, I still don’t like it very much, but I know it’s the way of the world. Yesterday, I was relieved July was going to be over; it was a painful month for me. Then this morning when I woke up, my body welcomed August. 

Jensen met me in my dreams last night and was playing with balloons. It’s my birthday month, I’ll be twenty-four on the twenty-third. I think he wants me to celebrate me this month, hence the balloons. So, that’s what I’m going to do. 

There will be a few people sharing Jensen and I’s story this month and my first article on Still Standing will be out. I’m planning on writing frequently, since it’s my go to self care. With that, I’m going to do something special for myself each and every day this month. Maybe I’ll make a list and share it on here to give all you amazing moms (and dads) some self care inspiration.  We deserve it so much and our children think so too. 

Hello August, I’m going to take you on one bite at a time through grieving, loving, and celebrate. 

Allowing Myself to Feel Whatever I Need. 

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for an hour. There’s so much to say, but the words can never accurately describe the madness inside. Sometimes I wish I could let this pain consume me from the inside out, that it would eventually take over and be in charge for good. 

It’s been six weeks. 

Instead of wanting to drink my sorrow away, I should have a happy sixteen week baby bump. I wouldn’t know he was a boy yet, but I would be happy to find out soon. I looked in the mirror this morning, thinking of the grey shirt that’s hanging in my closet. The one I used to document his short ten weeks. If things went differently, I’d be wearing it today wondering if my anatomy scan would go more smoothly this time around. 

This isn’t fair. Six weeks ago, I still had hope everything was going to be alright with Huxley. He had his big brother watching from above. 

Miscarriage hurts. 

Damn it, it’s more than hurt. I’m drowning over here in what could have been. My longing for Jensen is even more intensified, I’ve never squeezed his Molly Bear more than I have since I miscarried. I’m literally gasping for air and it feels like my head is continually being pushed under. 

I’m supposed to be ‘strong.’

I should just get pregnant again to mask the pain. 

At least I’ve already went through the worst part of my life. Miscarriage should be so much easier after having Jensen. 

Focus on the good in your life, not the pain. 

It’ll get easier. 

I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want to feel anything but how I’m feeling right now. Another pregnancy does not take away that they lived and they matter. You’re right, I have lived through the tragedy of having my full term child die before he was born. I’ve cried everyday for him and it hasn’t gotten easier without him. 

Why does our society diminish pregnancy and infant loss of any gestation or age? It’s not easy and I know grief and death is uncomfortable, but this is my life. 

I should have a sixteen month old baby boy and be sixteen weeks pregnant today and because they’re not, I’m allowed to feel whatever I need to get by to the next moment. 

My Collection of Drawings. 

Tonight is a bad night. 

My heart feels so heavy and all I want is just one more moment with him. Maybe just one picture I haven’t ever seen of him. I want Jensen here with me. 

It might be the influx of rainy days we’ve had here or the anticipation of the beginning of my Jensen anniversaries, but it’s hitting me hard. The silence feel more real than usual and the sound of rain drops are coaxing my tears. I just want to sleep and never wake up again. Dreaming is the only time I get to see him moving. 

When I’m having moments like this, right now, it’s hard to see how far in my grief journey they I’ve actually come. I take for granted the things I can do now that I wasn’t able to just last year. Heck, just in the last six months. While looking through my Jensen album on my phone, I came across this picture that I just added a few days ago. 

My cousins daughter drew this for me, to put on my fridge of course. It’s of her (with the hair), me underneath her, then under me is her little sister. To the right of her is Jensen with his hat and her spelling of his name. When I see her, she asks me to spell Jensen’s name for her so she can write it down and I have a little collection of her Jensen drawings. 

It warms my heart to get her drawings of her and Jensen. I know she’s and all of my family think of him, but this is tangible for me to hold in my hands. On the other hand, it breaks my heart. She drew on picture of Jensen crying and said he was crying because he missed his mama. Then she says she misses Jensen. 

All I can say is I do too, then think of how it all should be different. 

Back to where I was going before. Last year, I could barely be around her and her siblings. It’s not that I wasn’t happy to be around them, it’s that I was sad for me. He was missing from the picture and it was too much (sometimes it still can be). Yet, I can play with them and talk about him now. 

If I hadn’t have got this far into my healing, I would never have my collection of Jensen drawings, nor would I have had the light moment tonight in the midst of this dark grief. 

Just when I needed to see something new of him, I did in the imagination of another missing him. 

How I’ll be Celebrating Jensen’s Twenty-First Birthday. 

This past weekend, my parents took my brother and I to Tennessee. It’s always bittersweet to go on family vacations or getaways; I constantly see the missing piece. Of course we find ways to incorporate Jensen when we go somewhere. At the beach we write his name or I’m taking pictures of his footprint. When we knew we were going to Nashville and Lynchburg, I was weary of how to make a new memory with him that was unlike I had before. 

In Nashville, we didn’t really have to opportunity to do anything besides walk around and eat (and drink). I was determined to do something special for him the next day in Lynchburg. When we first got there, I was so amazed by the Jack Daniels’ distillery. There was so much to look at and learn more about. Within the first twenty minutes, I found this huge visitor registration book. 

It was a perfect way to put Jensen’s name in the book and in their database. Other people could see and read his name. I scribbled our information down and was happy to leave his mark there. 

We began our tour shortly after signing this book. The grounds there were so beautiful. It was way bigger than I imagined and I had butterflies following me throughout the entire time. Everywhere I looked, they would be floating by my head. Jensen and Hux telling me hello, we’re always here with you. 

After our tour and tasting ended, a bunch of us went to their bottle shop. When I learned they could engrave on the bottle I wanted, I had an idea. This is another way I could incorporate Jensen, now and in the years to come. I picked out my favorite tasting whiskey and what I wanted engraved on the bottle. 

I bought my son his first bottle of whiskey at fifteen months old. That would sound like something a horrible parent would say, but knowing our story it makes sense. His bottle is to be open and drank on his twenty-first birthday. Not a drop until then either. Which seems like a long time from now, but this is how I can parent and keep his memory going. 

Honestly, it’s crazy to think I’ll be grieving for that long. That on his twenty-first birthday he won’t be here, or any until then. One year without him felt like a slap in the face. Missing him will be forever, but somehow by planning this one, tiny detail of that day made me feel loved but. 

In these little moments, I can do something for Jensen. They let me bring him alive again. This little bottle of whiskey will give me something to look forward to on his big day, twenty years from now.  

Life after loss has been a dysfunctional mess, but days like these are so much sweeter than I could ever have imagined. 

Fifteen Months. 

Another month is here without him. One more that I never thought I would survive, yet here I am trying to be strong. The anticipation of each month change has not gotten easier since the very first one. I feel its weight in my bones trying to make me crumble. 

This past month has been one of the hardest. Two weeks ago my second child’s lifeless body was taken straight from my womb. The grief of losing him or her ontop of what I feel for Jensen and his loss has been complex. Most of the time I don’t know how to describe what’s going on in my brain. Maybe this extra weight has made this month change so much worse. 

I went into his room today. Sometimes I have this strong pulling to just sit in there, more than my everyday look. 

Every time I step in there, it’s like I’m transported to another reality. I see his room what it would be like if he was here. Not at infancy, but right now running and testing his limits three months after his birthday. Toys are scattered along his rug and there’s clothes to be put away. There are projects we have done on the wall and all his books are on the shelves. I see this scene and him in there. Somehow I wish I could describe it better than just being transported to another reality, it’s literally like I step through another veil and there he sits. That’s how I picture Jensen and I’s heaven.

After snapping out of the world I want to be living in, I saw things I hadn’t paid attention to in awhile. The little details that I love that wouldn’t be exactly there if he was here. On his changing table lies a little racecar and my favorite sign I bought before he was born. ‘Just be awesome.’ There wasn’t any pressure on him to be something, just as long as he was happy and growing up to be a good boy. Then there’s the books I actually have in his room. Stuffed away with a lot of his things is his whole library, many of those books from the book drive we did during the baby shower. The ones in his room are my favorite though. Sometimes I pull them out on special days and read out loud for him to hear. I know he’s listening and sometimes Leo comes to listen too. 

Yes, I accidentally bought two of the same J’s…. oops. 

Fifteen months have gone by since I last physically felt Jensen. In that time I’ve picked up most of the pieces, dropped them multiple times again, and kept trying to place them back to a new normal. I’ve felt the biggest heartbreak, twice, but I’ve also learned how to love so deeply. 

To feel everything so deeply. 

I wish this wasn’t my reality, but I’m surviving and doing my best to thrive. Even if I knew what was going to happen, I’d still choose my little, blond hair boy born fifteen months ago.

A Little Light in the Darkness. 

Every month I try to do an outlook of what I have planned or what’s going on. Just four short weeks ago, I announced ‘June’s Name Project‘ and how I had a surprise for you all. Of course that surprise was the little baby inside of me and unfortunately I told you all, just not in the way I had planned. It’s cause the outlook for July to be a little different. 

Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on right now with me. It’s been less than two weeks since my surgery and I’m in am emotionally chaotic state, understandably. My doctor appointment this week will give me a better perspective of what’s going on with my actual body and hopefully brings me some sort of peace with the upheaval of losing this baby. On the other hand, I’m terrified of the possibility that there’s something more wrong with me. Something unfixable and that I actually hurt Jensen and his siblings. Maybe a mid-month update will be better this month when I have some more information, but only time will tell. 

I’m going off track of what I originally wanted to say…

A couple months back, Still Standing Magazine called out for writers to apply to be on their writing team. Since I backed out of Still Mothers due to my pregnancy, I really wanted to continue writing for a huge and incredibly helpful source for grieving parents. The timing was perfect and I knew I had to at least apply. 

For weeks I was so nervous. I’ve fought with anxiety since Jensen has been born and this was no different. Everyday I checked my email hoping to get good news. There were new writers being added to the writing team and I truthfully thought I was out. 

On the morning of my miscarriage, I received an answer. I was in. Although I didn’t know what was going on with me and my pregnancy when I read that message, I was so happy and excited to be able to share about my little family and more importantly to try and help others through their grief journey. My response was haulted with the tragedy I found myself in, but I finally was able to accept and today my bio went up. 

I’m truly honored to be writing for Still Standing Magazine. Being able to write about my grief has helped me heal in so many ways. My other hope in writing is to be ab to let someone know they’re not alone in their journey of loss and love.

May We All Heal | Wound

It felt like every second that day tore through me.

There was no physical wounds on my body, but on the inside I was all cut up. My arms ached. The pit in my stomach burned. My eyes were so sore from crying and wiping my tears all the time. Then there was my heart. It was completely broken, more like shattered. My whole body felt like a wound needing tending to. Where would I even begin to start taking care of myself?

I realized my pain and suffering would take a lifetime of healing, but would always be there.

When I first jumped into to learning about grief and what happens about loss, I found a really interesting metaphor towards it. This type of loss and grief acts like a deep wound. It’s not a scrape on the top layer of the skin that heals quickly. Those cuts went far deeper, almost all the way through the other side. We all know wounds of that caliber never completely go away. To start the healing, it has to be cleaned out, then stitched back together.

Slowly the wound heals, like any other type. Sometimes stitches come out and you have to put yourself back together again. Heck, that even shows how much you want to try and heal. There’s been many times I’ve fallen. Afraid I’d never get back up again. But I know he wouldn’t want that for me. Jensen would want me to keep going, to be the best mom to him I can be. So, you do whatever you can to try and make it better. There will always be lasting effects from a deep would like this, but you grow stronger and live.

I still feel those cuts from that day. Some have grown a little smaller and others have gotten bigger.  No matter what though, I want to still write and to talk about him at any chance. This is what helps me heal my wounds.

This is what I’ll continue to do.

Reliving the Moment.

Did you know a lot of women who have went through pregnancy loss also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Before Jensen was born, I only thought veterans or people who went through a really violent experience only had PTSD. The weeks following his birth, I knew I would be going through postpartum healing, grief, and probably depression. I didn’t really think it would be much more than being really sad. Honestly, I felt so strange and different when I was feeling so much more than that. It wasn’t until after I talked to my therapist that I realized that a lot of what I was going through was the same symptoms.

Before I go on, I just want to say I’m in no way comparing my situation to a veteran or person who’s been through a war. That doesn’t mean I’m downplaying the tragedy and trauma I faced though. They’re different types of PTSD, but they’re both very real and affect a person’s everyday life.

There are four general symptoms of PTSD that can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs:

  1. Reliving the event.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
  4. Feeling ‘keyed’ up or being on the lookout for danger.

At thirty-one weeks post loss, I’m constantly facing each on of these. Sometimes all of happen them in one second and other times it really just is one that I can’t shake off. It’s very unpredictable lately.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to refer back to this list in certain posts. I want to be able to focus on each on when it happens or when it’s feeling most raw to me. Even though I’m experiencing all these feelings, sometimes one hits more than others? Maybe that’s not the best way to explain, but I’m not sure how else to do it.

Anyways, I want to talk about the first symptom on the list: reliving the event.

This past weekend, my brain has been focused on a single moment. I’m not really sure what brought it on, but it’s demanding to be present. This moment is being freeze-framed in my mind over and over again. It’s different then any of my flashbacks that I’ve had before, since it’s not triggered by sight or sound. The moment is a feeling that consumes me and is hard to pull away from. My latest flashback is the moment Jensen was born.

My mind has completely blacked out the time I walked back to the delivery room to getting wheeled out of that room. The only break in the blackness is only ten minutes at the most that I have little pieces of. Before this weekend, it was the last few pushes, the guy beside me yelling out 4:25, and me asking if he had ten fingers and toes. That’s it. It’s all I had remembered until I held Jensen bear. Logically I know the moment he was born only lasted a few seconds. Not to get too detailed in hopes I don’t trigger anyone else, my brain knows I pushed, he came, and was delivered. My mind is now sending me the feelings I had, but shock blocked them out.

Holding on to hope.
Hopes being crushed.
Final confirmation he was gone.
Loss of him and myself.

When I look at these feelings wrote out, they just look like words. I can understand someone who hasn’t gone through stillbirth not really understand them or someone who isn’t me. I mean feelings are personal and each of these words bring tears to my eyes. These emotions and ‘words’ happened within seconds, it’s a lot to process. Obviously, since it’s taken thirty-one weeks for my brain to catch up with itself.

Wholeness and emptiness are really sticking out to me. At one moment, his weight was right there. There was still hope, that I knew couldn’t be true. It’s like Jensen’s body held hope, wholeness, and everything that I ever wanted. When he was born, it all went away with him. I first felt the emptiness of where his body had inhabited for months, then the deafening silence. It was all so final and happened too quickly for me to even process.

As the flashbacks keep happening, I can feel the emptiness again and I can’t catch my breath. I literally start hyperventilating, even now when I’m trying to recall it.

It sucks.

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Feels like I’m living a nightmare, which I really guess I am. I lived through my worst nightmare and it doesn’t seem real that I haven’t woke up yet. The moment he was born was the best and worst of my life. Jensen was perfect and his body was beautiful. My body let me deliver him, complication free. That moment brought his birth and it could have easily been just the best day of my life. I see the beauty in his silent birth, but the darkness of the nightmare overshadows that moment. I also relive that silence and release of the physical connection we had. Death is ugly. The loss of my son hurts, so does the loss of my identity as a person and the hope I had in the world.

Reliving his birth is hard. I’m triggered by silence, even now and probably for the rest of my life. There will be moments of hope, wholeness, and release that I will encounter again that will most definitely bring me back to this. But somehow I continue to survive. Somehow that release didn’t take me too. You can look at that good or bad because I’ll always have to live knowing that my heart didn’t stop when his did; that somehow the silence didn’t kill me…

If you’re around me or anyone that’s working through trauma, just know these little triggers bring them back to the worst moments of their lives. Don’t encourage me to just move on from them, let me talk them through with you. There will be tears and moments that I can’t say anything, this is when I need you the most.

Healing Therapies.

Breathe in, one, two, three, four.

Breathe out, one, two, three, four.

I remember when deep breathing and counting were going to help heal the supposed worst pain of my life: giving birth. Even during my labor with Jensen, I don’t think I needed anyone counting for me. The contractions didn’t hurt, but I wanted some normalcy while I delivered him so silently. After he came into the world my body started healing, but emotionally, I didn’t even know how to begin healing. I was in pain and my brain instantly went into shock trying to protect the influx of emotions. During that time, I had to focus on healing my body by sleeping and trying to eat. That was the best I could do.

When I had to focus on emotional healing, I was lost. I felt alone and didn’t even know where to start. For the first few weeks, I just sat and stared into the nothingness. Everything felt numb and black. Even now, I can’t recall those moments or it just spirals out of control. The second week I looked in Jensen’s hospital bag. A brochure fell into my lap about online and in-person support groups. From there, I found You’re Not Alone – Love Letters from Loss Mom to Loss Mom, so many blogs journeying through others’ losses, and support near me. I read and read through so many pages, learning about how other’s heal. I realized how much reading through their words had helped me.

Then I decided to write Jensen’s story and share.

It felt so healing to write his name. To let the whole entire world know about him and his impact on my life. I needed to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. There would be a lot of ugly, but love always paved the way for the good. Six months later, it’s one healing therapy that I do every single day.  Usually with hot tea in my mug and candles lit throughout the whole house. Sometimes I want to share with the world and others, I keep it between Jensen and I. I haven’t missed a day of writing since that two-week mark. Getting all my emotions out on paper, or laptop, has let me sort through it everything.

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As much as I wish writing could just heal me and I’d be perfectly back to normal, that’s not how grief works.

Talk therapy has done so much good for me.

One of the hardest things I’ve done post loss was making an appointment to a therapist. I did not want to ‘be weak’ and talk to a counselor. The first time seeing her, I was terrified. Then being able to say his name, talk about how I was feeling out loud, and not feel judged was healing. It encouraged me to go to my first in-person support group, then the second. I spend a lot of time with talk therapy, six times a month to be exact. Sometimes, like this month, I’ve gone to other groups or events where I could talk more about Jensen. It’s been one of the most healing therapies I’ve done in my life after loss. This journey is so lonely and knowing there’s so many people to support me is, well, bittersweet. It breaks my heart knowing these amazing, strong women have felt this way and are able to channel that to help me and so many other moms going through loss. Reaching out and letting others know you need help, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s helped.

There’s no rulebook on what to do after your child dies. That’s what makes finding these healing therapies so individual and hard for people to narrow down. I believe it’s trial and error. What works for me, might not work for the next person and that absolutely fine. I will say, if you are a support person reading this and wondering how to help your loved one, the most healing therapy someone can help with is saying their child’s name. It’ll open the line of communication between you two and might help find what the other person needs to heal.

I’d also like to say one more thing, losing a child takes a lifetime of healing. Please be patient with them or yourself and never feel like they or you need to put your grief on a timeline. Loss moms and dads are trying to figure out their new normal and how to move forward with their life. Be gentle with our hearts, we’re doing our best to find our healing therapies.

Even if it begins with breathing in and out.

Creative Heartwork.

“I need to have a part of Jensen on my forever. Everyone needs to see him on me.”

A few weeks after Jensen was born, I kept repeating those words. My heart hurt that no one could see my baby in my arms and I wanted to somehow prove to the world that I was his mother. That and I wanted to feel physical pain, there was so much emotional pain that I needed to focus it somewhere else.

So we got tattoos.

Even though the one I got wasn’t the one I originally planned, I’m so happy it worked out that way. The celtic knot for motherhood is forever on the back of my neck. It’s beautiful and to me, represents that Jensen will always be with me. The pain I expected it to bring wasn’t there. Instead, the humming of the machine relaxed every muscle in my body. After it was all done, I was so proud Jensen was honored there for the rest of my life. I loved that I was able to find the design and put his birthday underneath it.

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As much as I love sharing my first Jensen tattoo with everyone, I think a lot of creative heartwork happens behind the scenes. It’s sharing your story online and at in-person support groups. Or it can be the connection you make with other loss mamas and doing anything you can to be there for them. Maybe it’s writing your baby’s name hundreds of times in every font you know how to do. It could be framing your favorite outfit of their’s in your favorite spot, so you can see it everyday. If a baby is buried, you can be creative during all the holidays and anniversaries and decorate their spot. SO many things that is creative and comes from the heart.

For me, it seems like I share all the creative heartwork that I do for Jensen. I love showing how much he means to me and my creative side. Today i’m going to share something a little more personal. As I’ve said before, when people walk into my house, Jensen is everywhere. Most people wouldn’t even notice the stack of notebooks of letter, filled with love, that I have written to Jensen. It started when I was pregnant, I would write a verse and then tell Jensen all about my day. When he was born, I started drawing him pictures and adding color to every letter. It was my way to be creative with him while I let all my emotions out on the paper. Every single word filled with love and appreciation to him. These letters have became my favorite part of the day and are a huge part of my healing. It’s my favorite heartwork I do for Jensen.

In between all those love letters, are drawings and letterings of his name or anything that reminds me of him. Today, I keep writing his name over and over again. If you’ve been following along, you all know Tuesdays are hard for me. They’re even harder when I can’t be creative and do things for him. All I’ve been able to do is writing his name. Even finding the words to this Capture Your Grief prompt has been difficult. This Tuesday marks twenty-seven weeks since Jensen was born sleeping. All those weeks ago, I bought my first remembrance bracelet to remember him by. It was Aries constellation bracelet, that I wear everyday. I never imagined then, that six months from that moment my favorite heartwork would be the letters I wrote to him just two days before his birth.

Tonight, as I continue my private, creative heartwork for Jensen,  I’ll be thinking of the love we show to all our babies everyday. Even in our deepest pits of pain, we continue creating beautiful things to honor our angels; out of these dark pits, blossoms the loveliest flower.

Happy twenty-seventh week in heaven, Jensen. When you look down on me from heaven, I hope you see all the creative heartwork that I do all for you. I miss you. I love you.

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