The fifth of every month weighs heavy on my heart, this month is no different.
I didn’t know if I wanted to write today, maybe this would be the first fifth I didn’t write on. For the whole morning and most of this afternoon, I laid on the couch crying. Sixteen months. Time hasn’t soften the loss of you like everyone thinks. In fact, it’s done quite the opposite. I hate that there’s this distance between the last time I felt him, not knowing when I’ll finally see him again.
Those thoughts are haunting. They take me to a place I don’t like to travel often. I get lost in them, trying to figure it all out and wonder where I go from here.
As I sat there, I didn’t want to write and tell you all this. I want everyone to know this hurts and it’s not how it should be.
If he was here today, I’d make him funfetti cupcakes to celebrate another month of growing. He’d have blue frosting all over his face and just laugh. People would think I was crazy for celebrating each month and maybe we wouldn’t if I didn’t know what losing him was like. I do now and if I had that knowledge, we would celebrate.
It’s a dreary day, but no rain, so we would have went to the zoo to walk around. He would know what sounds the animals made and mimic them. I can imagine him pointing then making their noise, then look back at me with that look. The look that only children give their parents. A look I so desperately wish I could’ve got from him.
I would buy him an animal book to read for bedtime. He already has so many books as is, his collection would have only grown in sixteen months. That book would be read at bedtime, after our nighttime routine. On the drive home and listen to music he’d dance in his car seat to, until he fell asleep. Then I could shut the music off and listen to him breathe as I drove. That would be my most favorite noise in the world.
Maybe we’d stop by grandma and grandpa’s house to show him our adventures to the zoo. Who knows, maybe they would have been the ones to take us, but we would all be together. A family should always stay close.
When we got home, we would be together. He would tear through the house and want another cupcake that I would probably give him. Sixteen months is something to celebrate. After his face was all blue again, it’d be time for a bath. All his favorite toys would be brought in to help him get clean. He’d get dried off in his little robe, then into his pajamas. Slowly, he’d grow more and more tired until it was time to read the animal book we got earlier that day. With each word, his blinks would get longer until dreamland welcomed him. I’d lay him in his crib, shut off the light, and tiptoe quietly out of his room.
As I would prepare for bed, I would get ready for the next day. There would be no worries, no death, no grief. Just him and our life.
That’s how this day should be as he turned another month older.
How to walk, talk, read, count, ride your bike, drive a car, talk to girls, and everything else in between. In a lifetime, you would have learned so much from me, maybe even a few things I didn’t want you to like biting nails and the occasional bad word. Seeing you soak up all the information you possibly could, would give me such joy.
When you were in my belly, I thought about this often; the basic things to teach you. I did this by reading to you and making sure I was constantly talking out loud. Yet, I daydreamed of you holding my hand as you stumbled across our living room floor and how you wouldn’t quit talking once you found your voice. Honestly, I thought we would have so much more time. I didn’t expect you to be gone before I got to do any of these.
As I look back on the sixteen months without you, I realized what the most important thing I could teach you…
There is no greater force to know and feel than love.
Of course you would have known how loved you were. You knew that from the thirty-eight weeks you were safely tucked inside my belly. All you ever felt was love. But, this is something different though. I would want to teach you how it feels to be loved by someone who means the world to you. That no matter what the circumstance you’re in, that love will be your saving grace and nothing could ever take that away.
It took me twenty-two years to completely grasp how it felt. My parents always loved me like that, but you, my sweet son, opened my eyes and showed me what I was blinded to my whole life.
You taught me the very thing I wanted to teach you.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to teach you this and all the other things too. In your short life, you already had so much wisdom that I couldn’t possibly understand. For that, I thank you.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Since my son, Jensen, was stillborn last April, I’ve found myself living with a heart that has been hastily taped together. There have been so many moments I didn’t believe I would be able to make it to the next. My heart felt like it was going to collapse and it still does to this day.
Lately, I’ve collectively felt what has been happening around the world. This could be you reading right now whose baby has tragically died. I know this journey you’re facing because I’m living it every second. This past few months I’ve seen so much loss. From the tragedy that happened in Manchester earlier this week to the person in school that doesn’t think their life is worth living. Even the people who are being mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexual abused. I feel like I’ve been extremely empathetic to every story I hear.
I’m sorry to each person this has happened or is continuing to happen to. I see you. It breaks my heart that you’re feeling this pain.
I will never be able to take your pain away, but if talking helps ease it, I’m right here. There have been times I’ve felt lost, but knowing there was someone who listened, that wanted to help strengthen my heart made me feel less afraid. Less fragile. It is terribly vulnerable to talk about your demons, but opening up and releasing those feelings can let someone know how to be there for you.
Please don’t ever feel alone in this world.
Here’s a little secret. To some, I’m a fellow loss mom or a substitute teacher or the girl down the street. In each of these roles, I’ve heard your story and feel everything that’s going on in your life. When I see you struggling with your relationship, loss, or even yourself, I want to run up and comfort you. The worst is or has happened and left you broken. Each time I see you I want you to know you can come to me because ultimately we have lost part of the same thing.
Through each and every of our difficult unbearable journeys, we have lost a huge part of our innocence. Nothing will ever change or bring that back. We now see this fragile world for how it actually is: broken.
The glue holding the world together is you and me and our relationships we build to strengthen each other. We’re able to help each other pick up the pieces. We are each others shoulder to cry on. when we are connected we become stronger. We fit in this beautifully, fragile community of survivors.
It’s early in the morning here. I couldn’t sleep last night and found myself staring at the clock.
The time that ended all other times flashes across my bright phone screen. My body is telling me to go back to sleep, to get lost in my dreams and push it aside. Of course, I didn’t listen to my body. I woke up, made tea, and looked at today’s prompt. Timeless.
Funny how the universe works right? Or maybe it’s the mind, constantly working and trying to make everything connect.
In the past two days I’ve been in a serious battle with my depression. Nothing I can’t handle, but it hurts. It’s impacted everything I’ve written and drawn for May We All Heal. Today is no different. The pessimism in my drawing taunts me.
Timeless. Any other millennial would have thought of an infinity sign. Just think of all the pretty synonyms: unending, forever, and vastness. This page could have truly been beautiful and filled with positive thoughts.
Instead, a clock flows out of me. Although this clock looks broken, it really isn’t.
Time stopped at 4:25am on April 5, 2016. It was the exact minute Jensen was born into this world. At that same time, he was taken away; breaking our physical connect forever. This very minute, halted my world. It stopped so hard and quick that all the minutes and hours fell from the face of the earth. Just like my world crumbled around me. All I could do was watch and feel the sharpness of the pain. Time felt like it would never go on again.
Then I asked about him.
Just a mother trying to learn all she could about her son. In the same day my son was stillborn and it felt like nothing would ever make me smile or feel anything but gasping for air, I learned he in fact had ten fingers and ten toes. That made me smile and feel a blanket of warmth cover me that I hadn’t felt since I heard he was gone. Hearing about Jensen… feeling the unending love I had for him… somehow it made the sting of everything lessen in that minute.
So the clock’s gears started back, slowly. Some would say barely visible in the first few months. They couldn’t see the littlest one though, its way in the middle working overtime. This gear doesn’t tire or need greased. It keeps moving, even when the others don’t want to budge.
This gear will infinitely turn. It never even stopped when the world did. One day, it’ll almost coax all the others back to as they did before. A part will always be missing and there’s no numbers to even tell how long or judge how long the clock takes to make its way around.
And that’s okay.
Because love is timeless.
Love does not judge. Love motivates. Love keeps turning, no matter if it’s the only one doing so.
Jensen is my love. He does not judge his mama and only motivates her to do better. The love I have for him and I know he has for me will always be.
During the last few months, I’ve been talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it affects me a loss mother. I am the type of person that has to make sense of everything that is going on with me. Probably a little controlling on my part, but that’s how I’m wired. Depression, anxiety, and grief have flooded my life the past (almost) ten months and I thought there was something more going on with different experiences I’ve had since Jensen was born. That’s when I started researching. I came across Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and rolled my eyes thinking only people who’ve went to war or are in horrible accidents have this disorder…
But the more I was researching, here, about PTSD, I found a lot of the symptoms I had were very similar to what was being described. Even when as I read the fourth one just now, it’s exactly how I am in certain situations. Again, I am not a therapist or psychologist. The symptoms I researched just made sense to me and my situation. It is a way I can understand my grief and what I’m feeling. Speaking to other loss moms, I know I’m not alone in feeling these different things. This little four post series is just letting you know that if you do have these feelings, there are others that are facing them as well. For a symptom refresher, here is the list one more time.
Feeling ‘keyed’ up or being on the lookout for danger.
With each on of these posts about another symptom, I find myself just marveling how I am facing each one when I’m writing. I pulled of the VA’s website again to really see what feeling ‘keyed’ up is like. Two things jumped out at me immediately, having a hard time sleeping and not being able to concentrate. This would make much more sense if you were sitting with me at this moment. Although this will be posted in the afternoon, I’m writing at 1:30 in the morning. I never sleep. It’s so hard for me to really settle down and relax. Honestly, I’m afraid of having horrible nightmares and I’m just on edge. There’s a fear that something bad is going to happen tomorrow. Because why wouldn’t it? The paragraph also talks about being jittery and always alert. This really distracts me from sleeping. I’m constantly moving while laying in bed. No wonder why I can’t peacefully fall asleep. Then comes the concentration… I can’t think long enough to make myself just sit still. Like me writing right now, there’s a hundred different places I want to go with this post. Yet, my train of thought gets cut off and something else jumps in its place. Which causes me to get angry and irritated myself; I guess that means ‘keyed’ up.
Maybe that just my severe anxiety?
But, another part of this symptom talks about outside triggers. They talk about being surprised by a loud noise or a surprise. For me, it’s babies crying and a rhythmic beeping. Although I am thankful there are babies crying out in the world and that another mom doesn’t have to deal with silence, it hurts. It sends me up the wall because all I want to know is what Jensen’s cries would sound like. I want to be able to pick those babies up and just cuddle them and make them feel better. But then I don’t. It sends me spiraling to all the what ifs and sadness. Then I get mad at myself because I want Jensen. Panic ensues and this is all triggered by one cry. The beeping noise is a little weirder. Let’s say when I’m at the grocery store and the cashier is scanning all the items, that beeping morphs into a heartbeat sound. Just thinking about those beeps and the silence of that last ultrasounds triggers me. It’s not something I’ll ever be able to prevent, but I can feel it coming. Sometimes they’re louder than the other, but that’s real.
It also talks about sitting with your back to the wall at a restaurant or anywhere you go. For me and my situation, I would say I’m hyper aware of where I sit or stand in public. I’m always scanning. In those moments, I’d be able to tell you how many babies are there and where they are. It’s almost like I’m trying to prepare for that cry. I want to have all my guards up so I don’t feel like I’m spiraling to a complete panic attack. It’s rough. I know it’s not really a lookout for danger, but it is a lookout for a trigger. A baby is harmless. They are innocent, sweet, and deserve all the love in the world. But for me, it’s more complicated than that. I see all those things in a child, but I also see the space Jensen should occupy. Feeling that loss every time you see a beautiful, little baby breaks my heart. I don’t want to see them and instantly go into a panic attack, but I can’t control it. Now that I’ve really thought about being keyed up in situations, it’s perfect to explain it.
Living with PTSD after loss is a part of my life now. I face almost every symptom every day. There are days where I can try to be so strong and only let a few get to me, but I’m working on it. Losing Jensen has a ton of different layers of pain and healing. These four symptoms of PTSD are four big ones. It’s impossible to tackle the realization that my life will never be what I planned, grief, anxiety, depression, PTSD, secondary losses, and so much more all at once. If you’re going through all of this, please know that you’re not alone in this. I know how overwhelming losing a child is and everything else that we have to face. Sometimes it feels that no one will ever understand all of this feeling, but there will be people (like me) that can relate and just listen.
If you’re reading this and you’re a support person… first of all, thank you. You have no idea how much it means to be there for a your loved one. Second, be patient. As I said above, we can’t tackle this all at once. No matter if its weeks, months, years, decades, or even a lifetime, the best thing is to just have someone listen. If you see your loved one is struggling and are being triggered, ask them what they need. Everyone is different in that way and sometimes they just need to escape that situation.
This concludes this four-part/symptom discussion about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There’s a huge possibility that I come back to this or even symptoms of depression and anxiety in the future. I think it’s crucial for people to talk about mental health and how it’s normal for people to battle. It helps us know that these aren’t crazy thoughts, in the most crazy time of our lives.
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
I don’t know what I want to say today. My mind is fuzzy and, quite honestly, I’m exhausted. Some Tuesdays make me feel like this. The past weekend, I haven’t felt like I have succeeded. My depression was telling me that I was worthless and no one could ever help me. That I was alone and feeling all of these emotions because I deserve it. I thought of Jensen and could only think how poorly he would be thinking of me. I wouldn’t be the role model I had always wanted to be for him. And there were moments this weekend that remind me of those first few days after getting back from the hospital. Ones where I didn’t feel good enough to keep fighting… to keep living.
It’s scary to feel like ‘A Great Balancing Act’ isn’t tipping in the right direction. Maybe I’ll be the unlucky percentage once again.
Then there are moments and decisions that bring the scale back with a great force. Ones that make you smile and feel so strong that you’ll actually move the biggest mountains. They’re the ones I feel I could hear Jensen cheering for me. I don’t have to watch my step carefully, I can blindly jump in these times and take the good feelings in. It’s when I actually feel like I’m doing my best for him and that these bright moments will always outshine the dark ones. Just like love overpowers grief.
Yesterday I had this moment. But instead of blindly jumping, I was intently focused on one little boy’s foot.
At forty-two weeks, Jensen would most definitely be experimenting with standing and trying his very best to stumble walk. I would encourage him to keep standing and have him practice walking with me by putting him on my feet. We would take big steps together. He would learn to walk and I would beam with pride. Before, when I looked down, I saw my naked feet and the empty floor. I don’t have him looking up at more or I can’t help him learn to walk. It was empty just like everything else feels. Now, and forever, he’ll be walking with me through life.
I will always take the steps that he was never able to.
Just as he would be getting to a point where he would start learning how to walk, I’m at a point in this grief journey that I’m starting to get better with my stumbling. I never expected it to be a straight and narrow journey. In fact, I thought it would just go downhill from the second he was born. How would there ever be a way I could smile when my child died? I’m not saying I’m full of smiles all the time. Heck, I was just at a spot on Friday where I thought my life didn’t matter. But I will tell you, if there is anything that gives me strength it’s Jensen and knowing that I’ll forever be his mom.
Now, with this new tattoo (which is my third for Jensen), I feel that with each of my decisions that the scale judges, I can literally see him making them with me. I can see those steps. He’ll be on the upward hills and the downward spirals. Through each, he’ll be there with every step, cheering me on. Yesterday and today, I find myself just staring at my feet and marveling his footprint. Of course it makes me laugh because he had my feet. I can see my little mini-me mimicking my every move. But it’s heartwarming to know this is just another way I can honor him. It’s another way I can bring just a little more of him into this world and leave his footprint everywhere I go.
Cue all the feet pictures in the future.
Happy forty-second week in heaven, Baby J. You are beyond loved and missed every second of the day. All I wish I could do is pluck you from heaven and hold you in my arms. I hope with the big decisions I’ve made today that you are cheering me on. My soul feels you close to me and now I can see it with each step I take. And oh, the places we’ll go. I miss you. I love you.