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.

The Blanket of Grief.

Almost five years after losing Jensen, grief feels like a blanket of snow.

It comes out of no where and all of the sudden. There’s a sense of beauty to it mixed with the coldest you’ve ever felt. Once you start to get used to it, it melts away and the season changes. Grief is complicated and is always reshaping itself.

I’ve never thought of it as snow or the winter season, usually just the ocean waves as it comes and goes. This year feels different though.

Somehow, it doesn’t feel like all this time has passed. Maybe the weight of time and the part of life I’m in has made me feel this way. When I saw Jensen’s angel covered in this literal blanket of snow, I somehow felt the instant beauty and cold at once.

Grief, for me, has its seasons. I can tell when I’m close to important dates or I’m beginning to feel it more heavily now with his upcoming birthday.

It’s beautiful to look at the love I will always have for Jensen. Mila adores talking about him and seeing his picture. The way he touched our lives in such a short amount of time will always be so touching. Love and grief are so intricately intertwined.

Then when it all comes down and lingers, the weight of the cold and loss settles.

His absence is so heavy. I cry knowing I’ll never have him again or Mila will never be able to play with her brother. Then, five years feels like such a short amount of time compared to how much longer I have without him.

These thoughts make me feel cold and alone. There’s no real protection from the cold and snow. You can put layers on or go inside, but it’s still out there until it’s time to go away.

Just as you start tackling it, the sun starts to shine a little. The world gets a little warmer and the weight of that season of grieving lightens up. Grief is always there. Always. Somehow you get stronger and can carry it through what’s going on then.

You always remember the sting of the cold, but you can live in the warmth of summer.

At this point in my grief, I go through my seasons of heaviness. I think about his loss and the hurt surrounding it. When I can move forward through the coldness, I still always carry him with me. I think about him walking through life with me and picturing his smile. He would want me to smile when I think about him.

I miss Jensen every single day, but the love and guidance he brought me is something I’ll always treasure. Five years later, and I’m just starting to get to this new season of grief.

It takes time and a lot of work, but summer will be here again. Then you don’t have to feel the constant, overwhelming weight of the blanket.

Here’s to 2021

Did anyone else think 2020 was going to last forever or was it just me?

To be completely honest, 2020 wasn’t all that awful in our household. There were so many victories that are worth celebrating. I’m so close to reaching my goals and last year was a big step towards those.

Of course, there were troubles. Besides the obvious ones everyone went through, my personal issues were hard to get through. I’m glad I did and I know with them in the past, the future is so bright for my family. Will there be future hiccups? Of course, but I’m doing the very best I can to prepare.

Anyway, I thought I’d check in today to again wish everyone a happy new year and I hope this first week back from post-holiday madness is going smoothly.

Last year, I tried to come up with a word for the year. It failed miserably because I can’t even remember the word. For 2021, I wanted to come up with a word I could really get behind and stick with. Something that would be relevant to all my life’s situations and wouldn’t be too out of grasp.

My word of 2021 is…

Heal.

I know. It’s simple. But with the chaos of the last five years of my life, it’s the only word that felt right. In every aspect of my life, i could use a little healing. That’s why it’s my word for 2021.

Honestly, I have no idea what this year holds; besides healing and growing. I’m hoping the world will calm down a little so we can go to the beach. It holds my last semester of college (for now) and maybe a new job at the beginning of the next school year. For writing, I hope I can get back to feeling comfortable about sharing certain things. Maybe that will be a post for the near future.

Jensen will turn five. Yeah, year five feels really big, but here we are. It’s sort of scary knowing he’s been gone for half a decade. This grief journey has been… so many things. I’d like to explore that more this year since I’ve lacked the ability to do it the last two years.

Mila will be three and will most likely start preschool in the fall. I know we’ll continue doing all our activities and I’d like to write a little ahead of time to help others who follow along with our activities.

And me… I’ll be healing and trying to figure out this part of the journey.

Do you choose a word for the year? If so, let me know what yours is in the comments.

The Moon and the Sun.

I wonder if the Moon ever aches for the Sun.
For the Sun gives the Moon its light from afar,
Letting it shine brighter than all the stars.
The Moon and Sun will never be one,
But they are always connected together.
Just as you and I, forever.

I watch as the Sun gives life to all.
Each night she lets the world go dark,
But her nurturing light leaves a mark.
She has to go to make a special call.
On the side of the world she’s searching,
Yet, her beloved moon is just now perching.

I see the Moon wandering every night.
His movements make the waves crash,
And the world feels their splashes.
The Moon doesn’t know how this is right.
All the wandering, but always too late.
Why does this have to be their fate?

I feel the Moon aching for the Sun.
The wandering and waves aren’t bizarre,
It’s just the way the Moon and Sun are.
Their distance isn’t fair to none.
But they are always connected together.
Just as you and I, forever.

The Next Stage of Toddlerhood.

Potty training… a journey that’s not for the weak.

Last year, I introduced Mila to her little potty. She did okay on it, but would rather go outside like Max. It’s okay. It’s funny and you can most definitely laugh. She’d sit on it through fall and most of winter, but she really was not interested.

Around when COVID hit and when she turned two, we really hit potty training hard. I bought her underwear and she did a good job of letting me know when she had to go. All summer, she’s been amazing with it. When I started working full time at the end of August, she had a few mishaps, but is back to no accidents. She can nap without having one and has slept through the night a few times too.

I’m so proud of her.

The last time I bought diapers, I told myself this was it. It’d be the last time I ever bought them and I’d only buy pull ups from then on. Honestly, I thought it was a lot of wishful thinking. Then, last night she wore her last diaper and were in the land of panties and pulls ups for night time and long periods away.

This is a huge deal. She got a coloring book today to celebrate and a popsicle after school. I tell her she’s my big, good girl so she knows how good of a job she’s doing.

Lasts of anything are hard, even the last diapers.

Ever since losing Jensen, the first and lasts with Mila have been monumental. I know they have a bigger meaning, but I try not to put it all on Mila. I just hope she knows how proud I am of her and all that she does.

Tonight, we’re celebrating being diaper free and the next stage of toddlerhood. I’m so happy to be her mom and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Adapting to Different.

This summer has been different from all others.

I mean, we all know this. We’re living in a COVID world where we wear masks, constantly are sanitizing, and are stuck home. It’s a huge difference to spend summer this way for me. I’m used to concerts, beaches, and adventures.

When I realized summer wasn’t going to be the same as I had in my head, I worried about Mila. She wasn’t going to experience summer in the way she had the previous two years. Last year we had a bucket list and constantly were on the go. We went to the beach, quite a few times and I wondered if she’d be sad. Like most things, she’s helped show me the bright side of things.

Summers different in many ways, but not all just bad.

We still get to jump in the pool and she’s learning how to swim. I’ve found a new appreciation for dirt; probably because Mila looks so cute with it smeared across her face and it’s constantly stuck under her fingernails. Vacations have been (safety) visiting friends and the lake has became the beach. Home cooked meals are much better than going out to eat, although we still love to go get ice cream or slushees.

It seems to be a lot different, but summer has still felt the same. If she’s taught me anything during this time, it’s to adapt.

One more month of summer until my last year of classes begin. I’m not sure what the worlds going to be like in the near future, but we’ll adapt and take it as it comes.

For now, we’ll be soaking up these last few weeks of dirt and pool filled days.

Dear Fellow Bereaved Mothers,

I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I see all of you and your babies gone too soon.

Whether this is your first Bereaved Mother’s Day or fiftieth or somewhere in between, I want you to know that your child and the way you mother them is not unseen. I know some days are harder than others and maybe you’re in a long line of hard ones, but you are doing the best you can do. Please reach out on this day or any of the difficult ones you have. There are so many of us here to remember our babies with and to lift each other up when we need it most. And if you’re having a good, gentle day, I’m so happy those moments are here for you. You are so deserving of them.

I’m so sorry that we know this deep of a loss and the tidal waves of grief that comes after. There’s nothing quite like it. On the other hand, there’s love. That love you feel for them, oh, it’s so powerful. This love powers through death, not that anything could tear apart the love a mother has for her child.

Like everyday, say their name. Share a memory about them with someone who knew them or someone new. I know how proud you are of them. They’re proud of you too.

So today, and everyday, I want you to know, I see your motherhood and your child matters and is loved by many. And you, beautiful mother, for as much love as you pour out, there is so much coming your way.

Love,

Danielle

Forever Jensen’s Mom

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.

Mom Tip of the Week: Grazing Boards

Sometimes it’s a struggle to get Mila to sit down and eat a meal. She’s always been an on-the-go snacker, which definitely blurs lunch and snack times so much. We do sit down for breakfast and dinner everyday, but between then, it’s a free for all.

I worry as a mom… Is Mila getting what she needs? Is she eating enough? Is she eating too much? I’m constantly questioning her food intake and it’s honestly something I don’t want to stress about on top of everything else.

A couple weeks ago, I saw some Instagram posts and pins about grazing tables. It’s a way people can have a spread of different kinds of food and be able to eat at their own pace. I was excited to try it with Mila to see how she responded to it.

Top row: grapes, baby carrots, cheese, goldfish

Middle row: pretzel sticks, ham, pistachios, pear

Bottom row: M&M’s, Cheetos, turkey, green olives

I picked things Mila LOVES and asks for all the time, as well as, healthier options that I convince her to eat. Obviously, you can customize the food options to what best works with your child or even themed trays with the cheese and fruit being cut out in fun shapes. I’d love to do a rainbow board!

When Mila first saw her grazing board, she was definitely curious and picked at every item. The longer it was out, she ate her favorites first. I liked that I could pick at it too and since it wasn’t just on ‘her plate,’ she was happier to share.

I think this would be perfect for multiple kids and at all ages. It’s easy to put together and didn’t take long either!

If I get really creative, I’ll have to share if I make a fun board. But the grazing board is here to stay.

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.