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.

A Letter To Bereaved Mother’s Day Past.

Dear Danielle,

It’s been almost exactly four years since your first Bereaved Mother’s Day. I know… it hurts. You’re not sure what happens next or how you’re even supposed to go on after everything has happened. If I could somehow go back in time and just sit with you, I would. I’d listen and let you talk about Jensen, letting you cry or smile or however you felt in those moments. It’s what you needed then and you still need it now.

I’m sorry we had to find out what loss and grief was all about; especially losing him. There’s been so many times in the last year where I’ve thought how I wish I could go back and take those moments for you.

If there’s one thing I’ll always be thankful you did, it’s starting this.

Our memory is awful now; four years of grief will do that to a person. Its been awhile since I went back and read anything from that first year. The way we write… I can read through it now. We’re harder now. When we talk about Jensen or how bad death hurts, it’s a lot more blunt. There’s a blog post we listen to now and they say, “fuck politeness,” pretty often. We’ll get there, I promise. Anyways, I read this post: “Honor Your Motherhood.” Twenty-five whole days of being a mom… you’re doing your best and that’s all that matters.

I remember this was the first time in our life that it was hard to order my thoughts. They rushed around and I couldn’t ever catch them, that doesn’t go away, fyi. So finding a prompt really helped order everything. I’m going to answer them again. Mainly to show future Danielle who’s going through whatever how much we’ve grown and how much she’s grown too.

What does it mean to you to “honor your motherhood?” 

Motherhood has changed since that first year… We have Jensen, and we always will. We’ve experiences loss again. We have Mila now too. Since it’s grown and changed, we honor it differently too.

I’m not sure how it is for people with more than one living child, but for us it’s like having a bigger heart. We have Jensen times and we have Mila times. Mila takes up a lot of our time. When she’s awake we’re focused on her and cleaning and taking care of ourselves and keeping up with family and friends and whatever else there is to do. In some ways, the craziness is a way I honor my motherhood with Mila and Jensen. I know this is how he would want us to keep going. It’s funny because even in the craziness of our life, we can always picture where Jensen would fit in.

Honoring our motherhood with Jensen is still one of the most special things. On that first Bereaved Mother’s Day, you did the things to remind you of him. I love that. You helped put Jensen in every room of our home and on our body too. See, that’s a lot in four years. We were a lot more literal in those early days. It was our way to scream to the world that we had him and he means so much. He still does. We honor our motherhood with him by still saying his name, sharing him with Mila (the way she says his name, the cutest thing), and including him in ways that are special to use, but in quieter ways.

Mixing both parts of our motherhood and just by simply moving onward is honoring our motherhood. There’s been so many setbacks in this time period, but you keep going. If that isn’t a strong mother, I don’t know what is.


What would help you feel like your motherhood is being honored?

I remember being so afraid everyone would forget about Jensen. When we first saw this prompt, we wanted everyone to know about Jensen, not necessarily that we were a mom. I think all moms put their child ahead of their wants and needs, but when there isn’t a child physically there, it’s hard to do that. It’s hard for other’s to see and understand that you’re still constantly thinking about your child and wanting the best for them. Honoring our motherhood then felt like making sure our motherhood was concrete. It was, even without him there in your arms. You’re still a mom. That space you hold in your heart and mind for him make you one.

I’m so sorry he wasn’t there to hold and love on. Just like I’m sorry he’s not playing around the house right now.

Honoring motherhood now… gosh, it’s changed so much, but the core of it remains the same. I think we honor it every day. We show up and do our best, mostly with a smile on our face. Mila’s happy, Jensen will never be forgotten, and we have grown. In the calm moments, we take a step back and realize what we have, what we’ve lost, and where we want to go. Wanting to go forward and keep doing better is the best way we honor our motherhood now.


What can you do today, on Bereaved Mother’s Day, to honor your motherhood?

Since Mila’s been born, it feels like Bereaved Mother’s Day is a day to honor our grief in motherhood. I think the best way to honor and connect with that part of motherhood, I’m setting time aside to sit outside and take in the moment. We’ll say his name and look through his pictures with Mila. Maybe I’ll read more of your posts to honor us and this crazy journey we’ve been on.

If I could end with anything or scream through time, I’d let you know that the version of us that you’re living right now is the strongest one. I think future Danielle would agree too. You, we, I, or whatever is easier to conceptualize, will always be Jensen’s mom. Your motherhood will always be valid and honored. I’m sorry that this had to happen to us, but I’m so thankful he’s ours.

You’re doing amazing.

Love,

Danielle

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.

FOUR.

Jensen is officially four years old.

Four years of loving, grieving, and learning who I am post-loss. It’s also four years of wondering what he would be like through every stage and how amazing of a big brother he’d be. I wonder about small details like his smile, the sound of his voice, and how deeply I could look into his eyes. Of course, I wonder about the big things too. Every day I think about him and what we’d all be doing. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

Instead of being sad, I just got angry.

Maybe it’s a mix of what’s happening in the world and just the constant realization he’ll never be here… or maybe it’s because it’s just sad and hard. We’re not supposed to talk about how angry we get. Anger is such an ugly emotion. It can show the worst in a person and it’s hard to control. Usually, it’s reactive and not the deeper emotion, but it’s hard to let go once you have a hold on it. I’d go through bits of being angry and then weeping. Honestly, I just miss him and I think my brain didn’t know how to cope with grief this year. This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

I’m scared about going into year five. It’s insane to think that it’ll be half a decade since he’s been born. Before I started writing this post, I wrote my annual letter to Jensen. While writing, I kept remembering the last time I felt him; to the point where I felt like a residual movement in my body. I wondered when they would go away and realized I wanted to keep that feeling forever. It’s hard to think one day I’ll lose that and I don’t want to lose any more of him.

The day did lighten up a bit as it went on. We had cake and sang to Jensen. That made me so happy. When I get to hear and say his name out loud, my heart feels at peace.

So, a little fun fact. On Jensen’s first birthday, I baked him a cake from scratch. It was cute. All blue and two or three-tiered and I tried so so hard. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tasting cake, but I loved that I made it for him. For the last two years, I’ve bought a cake for his little party. They’ve been much tastier and better looking, to be honest.

Well, this year, with COVID, I decided to make another cake for Jensen. I could’ve ordered one or whatever, but I’m glad I didn’t because I needed the space to create instead of being mad. This time, I had the help with a box cake but spiced it up a little bit. I put chocolate chips in the batter and decided to use fresh strawberries in between the layers and on top of the cake. Well, I didn’t have my two circle cake pans and had to use a rectangle one. I planned to cut it in half to make two layers… it crumbled while I was getting it out of the pan. The horror right?

I made it work. It might not have been the prettiest cake… but it tasted AMAZING. I feel like I redeemed myself from year one and that Jensen would have approved of all the chocolate. Mila sure did.

I’m happy I could celebrate Jensen and his life.

Four whole years of loving this amazing little boy who never ceases to amaze me. I wish he was here every day and in so many ways he is. This year of grief is going to be different than in previous years. I don’t know this part of my journey. It feels like a new ‘step’ or part that I’ve not encountered before. Maybe shock has finally worn off? Or reality has cemented in? Grief is so hard to explain, especially with it being different for everyone.

I just know I’m trying my best to be a good mom to Jensen and Mila. I know how much I love them both and miss my little man. I’m ready to evolve and have Jensen guide me through this next stage.

He’s always right here with me.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Jensen! You are so very loved and missed. Thank you for always being the light in my life.

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.