A Letter to My Son, Who Died, on National Son’s Day.

Dear Jensen,

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.

I love you and miss you always.

Love,
Your Mom

The Forgotten Kindergartener.

It’s back to school time.

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.

My Response to My Daughter Being an ‘Only Child.’

Grief is an ever-changing entity in my life.

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 Everlasting Flowers.

I always dreamed of Jensen picking flowers for me. We’d have a house filled with dandelion and wildflower jars.

Although I do have a house like that now, it’s not from Jensen. Mila brings as much love as she does flowers into our house. Our life is happy, but we will always be missing a piece.

For a long time, I’ve wondered how I could get the dream of flowers from Jensen. Then I got a random tattoo.

After that tattoo, I talked to the tattoo artist about Jensen and how I’d love a bouquet of forget-me-not flowers on me. I wanted to always carry them, just like how he always walks with me.

So, we scheduled another tattoo session.

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?

Jensen is FIVE.

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.

Of course we had dippin’ dots at the zoo!

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.

What Happened to Laundry Weekend?

It was supposed to be a laundry weekend.

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.

6 Ways to Help Your Child Grieve.

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.

It will.

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?

Full of You.

This morning was full of you.

It was so early, that I felt like I was the only person awake in the whole entire world. I didn’t feel alone though. You were with me. I felt your presence all around my body and inside my mind.

Some days I miss you more than any thing else. Those days, my grief runs deeply. It’s hard to have your child, that you love so much, be gone for so long. Other days your energy shines so bright. It’s like you’re not physically here with us, but your love and light is. Whether it’s while Mila plays, when we light your candle, or mornings like these, you’re always with us.

I drank hot tea from your ‘J’ cup. It warmed me and helped the calmness you bring spread throughout.

As I sit here, that warmth feels like you’re hugging me.

Even almost five years into this grief journey, I ache for everything I missed with you: your deep breathing while you slept, the look in your eyes when you saw me, and the sound of your voice. That’s the funny thing about grief. It doesn’t matter how far you’re out, it’s always right there.

In the calmness of the world and in myself, I can imagine all the things I wish I knew of you. It’s not the real thing, but it’s all we have.

I love you and miss you. I’m so thankful for this morning, full of you.

The Night the World Changed

The rhythmic beeping of the hospital machines kept the rush of the room grounded in one place. There are people surrounding me. All the faces I love keep looking at me, but none of their comforting smiles are here. The nurses and doctors have solemn looks on their faces. Their mouths are moving, but I can’t hear what they are saying.

I can’t move and the light above me is blinding. All my body feels numb except the pressure in my belly. It is time and I am terrified.

There is only one option that I have and it’s the not one I ever wanted to choose. Reality is coming back to me. Everyone’s voices are becoming clearer and the beeping isn’t the only thing I can hear. My doctor, the one I’ve been seeing for over six months now, is telling me to breathe and to push. I remember the classes, but they never told me this would be an option. How can I keep going when I don’t know what’s going to happen next?

My body is more in control now than my mind. I’m holding my breath and everyone is counting. I feel him, but it’s not really him anymore.

Somehow, I’m still taking deep breaths and pushing on to the next moment. I know this will all be over soon, but I’m stuck in a place where I wish this was just it. There was no way I could turn back time, but navigating the future will be too hard. I get lost in my head during the moments of breathing. The beeping brings me back to the present.

“I can see his head. Only one more push and you’re here.”

My partner is staring at me. I can tell he’s scared too. The light is just so bright and I have to close my eyes to gain the strength to do this last act of love.

I push and I feel him enter the world. The room is silent and I feel empty. Isn’t there anyone that can say anything? I need someone to talk, to break the silence besides that dreaded beeping. As I look, I see them holding him. The one person I had been dreaming about for months, but I’ll never have him again.

“Does he have all his fingers and toes?”

It’s the only thing I can think to ask. I need some normalcy in this moment that’s anything, but normal. I hear a tiny yes. Still, no one knows what to say. They take him away from me, to the room next door. I want to get up, but I can’t.

Everything is getting cold. My eyes feel tired and I am weak. The room around me goes dark and I do too.

The beeping rings in my ear. I wake up. There’s just one nurse in my room. She sees that I’m awake and asks me if I need anything. The sun is starting to peak through the blinds. Somehow the world has continued on. I look at her and tears begin to fall from my eyes.

I feel her arms wrap around me and her calming shushing fills the room. She tells me he is beautiful as my hand covers my flattened belly. I wanted it all to be a horrible nightmare.

Time is passing quickly and slowly at the same time. I’m still crying into my nurse’s chest as she describes every detail of him to me. He has blond hair and the shape of my face. His hands are big and toes are long. There were pictures taken of him, but she is telling me about his pouty lips.

The door opens and I feel her retreat. Somehow, it’s time for me to already go home. My family packs up my belongs and the grief bag that someone slipped in my room. There’s an elephant that’s poking out and I hold on to it as I get seated into the wheelchair.

I see the room that he’s still in. He’s alone and I’m leaving him. Maybe he’s with me, but in a different way. All I know is I’m leaving and the world is swirling around me.

There isn’t the steady beeping on the car ride home. I walk in my room and see baby stuff with no baby to bring home. Life has ended for him and me too. All I can do is lay in bed and try to sleep.

Maybe when I wake up, this will all go away and maybe when I sleep, I’ll see him.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just miss and love him so much.

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