We’re back! We had an awesome vacation and I can’t wait to share more pictures and stories soon, but Christmastime is here and there’s so much to tell.
After a fun filled vacation to Aruba, I thought it’d be a perfect time for Mila and Santa to meet again. Mom and I found this outfit, which was my moms when she was a toddler, this fall and I knew Mila had to wear it for her Santa pictures. She loved strutting in her little outfit and gave us the weirdest look when we told her Gigi wore it at one point. That big smile lights up the room and I had hope she would flash it in front of Santa too.
While we were gone, Mila was a social butterfly who gave others hugs and kisses and wanted to talk to anyone who’d listen. I didn’t think it’d be any different with Santa…
Like before… I was WRONG. Obviously.
Well, sort of half wrong. At this initial meeting, Mila did give Santa a hug and said hello. I thought the camerawoman told me she was ready for pictures to start… she was not. The hug would have been the perfect shot and she held on for just long enough to capture it, but the person was on their phone. She caught the moment after Mila realized I had walked away.
Although I may have giggled a little bit, I scooped her up and asked if she would take a picture with me in there too.
And that’s the best one we got.
The Santa actually thanked me after Mila ran straight to my mom when I let her down. He said more and more people get angry at their littles when they start crying and can’t get the perfect picture. I think it’s crazy that he thanked me for not getting mad at Mila because she didn’t take the ‘perfect picture.’
Motherhood is anything but perfect. Why would a picture be?
As much as I hated seeing her cry, I know she’ll look back and laugh and wonder why she was so scared of Santa. After the pictures were taken, she gave him a high five and told him bye bye. No, it’s not the smiling picture I wish it could have been, but it’s real.
Tears or not, Mila is loving this time of year and so am I.
Let’s just take a moment to celebrate the fact I’m finally done with this semester of school! The last few weeks to two months, I’ve been writing nonstop trying to get everything done. It’s been one of the hardest semesters, but I made it! If I’ve learned anything throughout my life, it’s been that I can get through anything.
Usually, I have all my Christmas stuff up Thanksgiving weekend. Even with all my pain the year Jensen was born, I still decorated my house before December started.
This year, well… it eventually got done.
Since I’ve loved doing bucket lists for Mila and I the last two seasons, I thought it’d be a lot of fun to make a Christmas-specific one. There’s a ton I want to share on here of what’s been happening, but I thought it’d be nice to share our Christmas season goals with you all. In case you’d like to do some of them too.
We have a busy few weeks ahead of us, but I can’t wait to make this Christmas special for our family.
And yes, we’re going to Aruba! If you’ve been there, I’m all for tips and tricks for taking Mila on a plane, out of the country, and to a resort!
This week, I’d love to make a post about how I include Jensen in our holiday traditions. Almost all of these items on the bucket list, he’s present and since it’s the fourth without him here, I’ve found ways to help have him close.
As always, please feel free to share any traditions you do with your family that might be fun for others.
One of our family Christmas pictures by Stein Creative Co.
Christmas has snuck up on me this year. All the days a jumbling together and I feel like the world is spinning way to fast. Jensen’s stocking is hung and all his ornaments are adorned on the tree. I have a new book to read on Christmas Eve, which I scribbled, ‘Christmas 2017 – Jensen’s Second Christmas in heaven.‘ The lights are twinkling throughout my house and his candle shines bright in front of me. Yet, even though I’ve tried to make this time of year a little more gentle on my heart, I can’t help but focusing on how he’s not here.
I would love to have him sit on Santa’s lap and immediately framed the picture when we got home.
I would love to see him get excited for ‘Ho Ho’ to come and put presents under the tree.
I would love to see him around his whole family tomorrow evening, playing and smiling like he should be.
I would love to just hold him and tell him how much I love him every second of the day.
Grief during the holiday season is not talked about a lot outside of the bereaved. It is so hard to be surrounded by joy when you feel like your insides are breaking down and dying. This time of year will never be the same again. The memories of his time in my belly and opening up his first Christmas book on Christmas morning will always be bittersweet. I just wish it was different for me and so many others.
One of the things that’s gotten me through the last month has been the amazing community that continues to support us loss parents. We all feel so broken, but so many of us are there to help each other power through.
It was my intention to share an ornament the last few days, but obviously I didn’t get to that. I wanted to share the ones I received this year today. They each have touched my heart differently, but have filled my heart. I also want to say, thanks to everyone who has sent Jensen a card. The cards I sent out will probably be late, like I said, it’s been a rough time. But, you are all in my hearts every day. I know there are so many others feeling the way I am, just wanting to make it to the next day.
Without further ado, here are this year’s ornaments to honor the little boy who has my heart:
My favorite mistletoes, handmade by me.
From Xander’s mom, Hayley. From Scared Sidless ornament exchange.
Made by Kathleen. From the Remembering Together Ornament Swap.
Throughout the year, I love being able to go to different events that support parents who are journeying through pregnancy and infant loss. The holidays can prove to be very difficult and isolating; especially since Christmas is mainly focused on children and New Years marks a different time (or more time away from your child). I am so thankful there is a rich support community near me to offer Christmas and holiday programs.
Last year, I found two that really called to me. One through a children’s hospital that has an amazing support group and the other through the Angel of Hope Christmas Box organization. Both are very different, but still so meaningful. I know it can feel very nerve wrecking to attend an event like this, so I want to share my experiences to give an insight of what happens.
Akron Children’s Remembrance Service
The first service I went to of the holiday season is a more formal one. It was in a theatre with quite a bit of seating. Before the actual day, parents are encouraged to preregister their child’s name and send in a picture so they can be presented in the program and on screen.
There is a huge range of ages in children, which I think is really special. For me, it brings confirmation of other for my motherhood. My son is grouped with children who are young adults. In the service they’re not valued any less or looked on differently just because of their time on Earth. They also have one set of parents each year share their story of loss and love. The past two years, I’ve uncontrollably cried throughout this time. It’s something about being able to connect with another person and know how they’re feeling throughout it.
This year’s was about an hour to an hour and a half long. Every baby’s name was read out loud with a bell that chimed after. It’s grounding to see the big list of name and to see their faces on the screen. So many stories and so much love that remains.
During the service, I sat with my mom. We got there a little late and by that time they had already ran out of candles that were to be lit during one of the songs. Well, my mother decided Jensen couldn’t be the only one there without a light, so she pulled out her lighter and had it shining instead. Little moments like these really let me see how much my family cares. Of course I know deep down they do, just making sure she felt like he wasn’t left out made my heart smile.
Overall, I really enjoyed this service and to see the fact that I’m not alone throughout this.
Angel of Hope
This is my favorite event of the year. Every second Sunday of December this group gets together to honor our children gone too soon. This is where Jensen’s brick is too. The idea is the angel protects those around her while providing hope to those that need it most. I absolutely love reading all the names on the bricks and the little sayings. It’s heartbreaking to see them, but somehow it makes me feel like they’re all connected and together. Since Jensen is cremated and I always have his urn, it’s actually nice to have a place to go too.
The event is outside, so yes it was very cold and windy. My mom and dad went with me, which is always awesome to have both of their support. They need these days as much as I do. Everyday they grieve Jensen’s loss too.
We all meet right in front of the angel and are giving candles to light. This is actually a task in its own to keep them lit with the wind. They go through their program of their background, poems, and stories. I can’t even remember what was said because I was so in the moment. All their words just settled inside. There were tears shred, lots of hugs, and of course flowers given to the angel.
I know I always say this, but seeing the amount of people there and feeling what I am in that moment makes me feel less isolated. It was beautiful seeing everyone’s light too. Lets me know that when they looked down over us, they could see the light just for them.
On Jensen’s brick, I left him flowers. Which I leave because I know he would have always picked them from me. My dad leaves pennies every time he visits too. These are the traditions we have started because of him and I know he will forever be remembered.
The upcoming holidays can seem like a daunting task to anyone who participates in them. They’re even more so when you’re grieving the loss of your child or children. I know just thinking about spending another Thanksgiving and Christmas without my son, Jensen, brings me such heartache. In my first year of grief, I wished there was a guidebook in how to journey through the long winter days.
We all know this book doesn’t exist.
What helped me tremendously was reaching out to other loss parents to talk, vent, and just share about my child and what was going on around me. Sometimes, I found myself in vulnerable positions without being able to reach out. Grief had tested me again. Through a lot of tears and running out of family-filled rooms, I learned a routine to help combat the mix of my grief and the holiday cheer.
These are my 5 tips to tackle grieving this season.
This may sound like a simple task, but in the heat of the moment it can be hard to catch your breath. For me, not seeing Jensen at Thanksgiving dinner or opening up presents really let reality hit me square in the face. I felt like I was hyperventilating in those moments. The world was spinning around me and grief was the one pushing it faster and faster. Then, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out.
I was still living in the nightmare that is my reality, but focusing on my breath allowed me to take care of my mental and emotional needs.
Recognize what you’re feeling.
Grief has made me feel more emotions than I ever thought I had. I used to want to hide away some of the forceful ones like anger and envy. They made me feel like an ugly person. By ignoring those feelings, they were more likely to come back and in a much stronger wave.
Recognize what you feel. In that moment, you’re feeling what you need to and maybe it will help you understand why. When I saw the little ones in my family with food all over their face, I was so angry. I wanted to project it on them, but I wasn’t angry at them. As I took my feelings in, I was able to understand I was angry Jensen wasn’t here with food all over his face.
The more a person is in situations like these, the better it is to recognize the emotion and tackle grief before it snowballs.
Take the moments as they come.
This has always been my biggest challenge. When I think about living through the holiday season, I don’t see the days in-between the big ones. Everything is weighing down on me and I feel like I have to live through two months in one moment.
Obviously, this isn’t true.
We have lived through the worst days of our lives. No matter how different our stories are and how time feels when we look back on those days, we each took the moments as they come. That’s how we get through each and every day, before and after loss. Don’t take on these next weeks all right now. Take them as the moment comes.
Small victories make big differences.
Celebrate when you can and break down if needed.
As hard as it seems, don’t feel guilty to celebrate or break down.
It feels hard to think we’ll ever truly celebrate after loss and if we do, it’s not as full as it used to. That’s perfectly fine. Just don’t be afraid to smile or attend an event because your child isn’t there. Take something that reminds you of him or her and talk about them when you can. Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy a day.
On the other hand, don’t feel as if you have to attend every holiday event or get-together. You are the only one who knows your exact grief. Don’t mistake this as a sign of weakness. If you do decide to attend and feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember to breathe, but it’s okay to breakdown too.
Always know you’re doing the best you can.
If none of these tips to tackle grieving this season help, I hope you can take away this very last one. You are doing the best you can. It might not feel like it in certain moments, but it’s true. No matter if you decide to stay in bed untilJanuary 2 or go to every get-together possible, you are a super hero.
Wishing you all a gentle holiday season from my grieving heart to yours.
With November comes the wave of Christmas and holiday, well everything. No matter where you go from now until December 25th, the barrage of music, Target decorations, and Black Friday store ads can be overwhelming for any person. Especially when a person is grieving the loss of their child. I can already feel the pressure of being cheery for the snow to settle and to count my blessings for Thanksgiving day.
Here’s the thing, I’m not excited to make snow angels or say what I’m thankful for around the dinner table. I don’t want to see children my son’s age opening up their Christmas presents and sitting on Santa’s lap. On the other hand, I don’t want to feel like the Grinch stole this holiday season away from me honoring my son and how far I’ve come in my grief journey.
I’d like to share with you some activities I did in my first year of surviving the holidays that really helped me. Last year I shared this article about how to honor your child during Thanksgiving, but I wanted to branch out on how to make the most out of an extremely difficult season of grieving.
Reach Out for Support Online or in Person
Okay, I know this one is pretty much for all year around, but it is so crucial during this time of year.
Last year, I can remember feeling so bad when I would tell someone I was feeling down when they were so happy. I didn’t want to bring them down so I kept quiet. There were a lot of tears last year, but I eventually did let my family and friends know how I needed to be supported during this time. I also found online support and talking to other loss parents during this time beneficial in knowing my actions or thoughts weren’t ‘crazy.’
Share your child’s name during this time, let people know how you’re feeling, and don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re doing the best you can.
Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings Throughout the Holidays
Not all of us are writers or artists, I get that; you would too if you saw me try to draw. In my experience, I get all these negative thoughts and emotions stuck in my head. Writing or creating something has helped give me an outlet to clear my mind. A journal can be one where you write or one where you paint or do something artistic. Even if it’s just an angry scribble or random words you write over and over again, they’re going somewhere other than your head. Believe me, I know the weight of grief during the holidays. It needs to be out.
Don’t know what to write or create? There are many journal prompts on Pinterest and groups on Facebook or Instagram. Courageous Mothers is also providing a prompt a day through their program ‘Grief Journaling through the Holidays.’ The prompts began the first of November, but you can join through anytime. They also have a group on Facebook where you can share your thoughts on the daily prompts or just to go there for extra support during this time. Make sure to check it out and see if you would be interested.
Go to a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Holiday Gathering
I am always amazed when I go to Pregnancy and Infant Loss events. The amount of people that attend can be so… heartbreaking, but each individual there provides so much hope and support. Last year, I was able to attended two events. Both were completely different and just as healing. The one was an outside event by the Angel of Hope in Stow, Ohio. Here parents, families, and support people were invited to light a candle throughout the ceremony. During this time, poems were read and a speaker talked about holiday grief. We were also allowed to present flowers to the angel or place them on the child’s brick, while being able to say their names. I blogged about this night on this post. For my parents who went with me, they really enjoyed being able to celebrate Jensen there and felt connected to our community. It was healing for them and me, which is so important.
The other event I went to last year, was inside and more formal. It was in a huge church. They had a program and showed pictures of children gone too soon. The speaker there last year was absolutely amazing. It was a father whose son died from SIDS at daycare and just hearing him talk about his soon was heartwarming. He shared how tough the holidays are, but how they are able to honor him throughout them and their everyday life. I also blogged about this event, here.
Events like these are individual to where a person lives. If you’re involved in a local loss in-person support group, they might be able to point you to gatherings near you.
Join an Ornament Swap
Before last year, I had never participated in an ornament swap; unless you count the ones in elementary school. I’m not really sure how I was introduced to the one I joined last year, but I am SO glad I was. Pretty much, you sign up for a swap, which deadlines are coming up soon, and you give what you would like to have in an ornament. Of course you give details about your child, what holiday you celebrate (religious or not), and how you decorate during the holiday season. Oh! The most important thing is every ornament in the swap is handmade. A few days later, you’ll get who you’re making an ornament for and learn about their child. It’s so healing to be able to connect with a person and their child that you’ve never met before. You are presenting them a way to heal and honor their child. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is grieving. Your child is also being honored and remember by another family.
You don’t have to be super crafty to participate, just do the best you can do. This year and last year, I requested the ornament to be made with whatever came to them. It’s my belief that Jensen will work his magic in getting the perfect ornament for him. I also blogged about this experience and what happened when Jensen’s ornament arrived home, here.
Want to join an ornament swap, but don’t know where to go? Check these two out:
When I was a child, we rarely sent out Christmas cards. I only did a few times when I worked at a retail store and gave them to my coworkers. Instead of taking one with my whole family, I took pictures of me with my dog (who still lives at my parents). I always wanted to be able to send cards when I had a family of my own. When the first holidays came, I wanted to do something to honor Jensen and I. No, I didn’t send them out to family and friends, but I did share on here and social media. It was so healing to represent my little family and be apart of a holiday tradition I always had planned on.
If you do take holiday pictures, feel free include your child. You can do this by holding their picture or Molly bear during your picture. If you don’t feel comfortable with those things, I have seen loss families add a certain symbol to all their pictures such as a butterfly or bird. When you sign from your family, add their name too. They are as much as a family member as anyone.
Donate a Gift in Your Child’s Name
I was pregnant with Jensen during Christmas time. That year, I was constantly in and out of the mall buying gifts for my family and of course, Jensen. Every time I would go to shop, I would pass a giving tree and he would start kicking. Eventually, I took a tag off the tree and decided to donate a gift in Jensen’s name to a child who wouldn’t be getting the Christmas I was always used to. So, that began my tradition of honoring him. Of course, I didn’t know that it would be a way I could honor him then, but I continued my tradition last year.
It felt really nice to be able to help someone in Jensen’s name. That’s what I try to do everyday. Knowing he is making someone smile after all the pain and heartbreak death caused, helps me keep going.
You can find giving trees in local malls or you can even donate to churches or homeless shelters in your child’s name. Some Pregnancy and Infant Loss holiday events even take presents and clothes to children’s hospitals that you donate too.
Make a New Holiday Tradition
After loss, life completely changes. The way you do things or see the world is altered in ways you didn’t think was possible before. This most definitely includes the holidays.
You and your family might have done a tradition since you were born and you don’t want to participate this year. Guess what? That’s perfectly okay. You are allowed to make your own new traditions. This means you might not feel up to going to certain holiday gatherings or putting up a tree. Instead of eating turkey for Thanksgiving, order pizza. No matter what you do, you’re doing what is best for your heart. That’s all you can ask from yourself. Don’t feel like you’re letting your child down or even your family members.
Some examples of new traditions I did last year and maybe they’ll change again this year is making an ornament for Jensen (I didn’t want to buy one and go into the mall), setting an empty plate for holiday dinners, putting up a tree that represents your child, decorating their headstone or special place in your home, and writing their name in the snow.
No matter how you decide to survive the holidays, know that there is a whole community ready to support and help you along the way. You are never alone in this journey.
Last year, Jensen woke me up with his kicks that grew stronger each and every day. I can vividly remember talking to him while rubbing my belly and imagining how very different the next Christmas would be. My thoughts went to him standing with the help of the couches while he tried to stumble over the lights of the Christmas tree. We would make cookies and he would lick the icing. The rest of our family would come over and he would play with his second cousins. I would read to him in a whisper when his bedtime would come. Prompting him to dream so very sweetly for when he would wake, he would find Santa had carefully placed presents under the tree he had been so amazed with the week before. Each present would wait for him to try to open them. I imagined this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with so much happiness and love just as I had while I grew up.
Instead, this Christmas Eve is nothing like that.
I knew this year would mark a change of how I would celebrate Christmases, but I never could imagine them being filled with tears. Honestly, I didn’t know there could be this much sorrow through the holidays. My brain would never have been able to wrap itself around the fact that babies could die and instead of a house with a bustling eight month old, it would be empty. Stockings were not hung and there are no presents underneath the tree for Jensen or I.
For the past eight months, I almost always say how hard this is on me and for all the people who are missing their loved ones. It is so exhausting. My body is completely run down and this morning I woke up with no voice and a sore throat. Awesome. I’ve been a little sick since I’ve been home from vacation, which makes me feel horrible since I haven’t downloaded all the beach pictures and the babies names in the sand. Seriously, I feel like a hole in this tightly woven net of the moms in the baby loss community. I don’t want to blame this on Jensen and his absence, but it’s engulfing me. There isn’t anything I want more than to have him in my arms and since I can’t have that, I just want to sleep for years on end. Hence why I haven’t got much done this week.
In my last post I said that grief makes a person broken, but still functional. Then I ate my words. I’m not functioning right now. Autopilot has taken over so I don’t feel the sting of all these emotions at once. It’s why my body is run down and I haven’t gotten those pictures downloaded. My mind is focusing on the pain on my body and not how sad I feel. The names, although so beautiful and I feel so blessed to have helped all these mamas, it breaks me seeing all of them. I wanted to write a post about it when I posted them, but I feel like I have to say this now. With each name that I wrote and saw the waves take away, I kept thinking of the untouched sand after. Their names made such an impact while everyone walked along and read, but when it was empty…. It just bothered me. I wish I could engrave their names everywhere I go. Each are so important to me and knowing how much love is behind them all.
It just hurts. I hate that his name and his friends names were erased with the next wave. The erasing of his name reminds me of the lack of presents under the tree. How many times would his name be written if he was here? During December I had thought of just getting empty boxes, wrapping them up, and writing his name on the tag just to have there. Like it should be. It’s so hard to know how I envisioned it, but no one else can see. I’m stuck in these two realities.
I don’t like to talk about religion on here, but I want you all to know I’ve been praying for each of us. My heart is so heavy and just knowing my heart isn’t the only one that’s this heavy breaks me sometimes. I pray for us to have seconds of this pain easing. I pray for us to always see the light our children have shown us. I pray for us to feel the love we have for them and know they continuously send us their love as well. I pray for some peace of mind. There’s so many of us with questions that will always go unanswered and it really can drive you mad. Lastly, I pray for Jensen. I pray and pray and pray that he sees me doing my best. That even though I’ve cried enough to fill all the oceans in the world, it’s all because I love and miss him so very much.
As always, if any of you need to talk or just anything, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m always just a message away. I’d also like you to know that I’ll be thinking of you and our angels through these hard times. I promise you all that they will never be forgotten. And remember, do what you need to do for you! You are the one who has to go through this holiday season without your child. That is the hardest task anyone can go through. Be gentle on your heart and mind. You are never alone.
Admittedly, I have been going back and forth if I’ve wanted to write about this or not. Over and over again I have told you all that I want to be completely honest about everything in my life that grief effects. So here I am with this little story.
To have this little incident makes sense, I have to give you guys a little background. Last month sometime, I signed up to be apart of a remembrance ornament swap. I thought it would help me be creative and keep my mind off the dark clouds surrounding upcoming holidays. It honestly gave me a lot of joy knowing I would be helping another mama out. I poured my heart into the ornament made for a little girl. It had pinks and polka dots on it. Something completely different from I had prepared for with Jensen. While I was creating, I thought of how the person making mine would connect with Jensen in a different way.
It makes me heart warm when I know he’s touched another person’s life.
Anyways, when I went to the post office yesterday, I knew the package in the mail was from the ornament from the swap. I rushed home to open it. There was white tissue paper that surrounded the smaller box inside. I ripped all of it out and proceeded to open the little on. Then came even more tissue paper until I felt it. The sparkly, white, glass bulb had Jensen’s name scripted in red on one side and a beautiful quote was on the other. I was in awe of how much love was put into this ornament. It would fit perfectly on my tree and I knew I had just the right spot.
Carefully I picked it up and crept over to the tree. I adjusted the branch to be in the right position. Just as I was about to put the ribbon over the tree branch, the bulb slipped right out of my hands. It was the longest fall to the floor, but I couldn’t catch it in time. His brand new ornament laid on the ground with the top right completely broken.
At first I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. How is this my luck? It was so carefully delivered and just as I was going to give it a spot on the tree, it crashes on the floor. My thoughts instantly went to getting down on myself. I couldn’t believe that right there was another thing I had broken. It was just another way I had let the person who made the ornament and Jensen down. There was so much guilt and anger raging inside me… until it turned into something else.
I had to start laughing.
This is my life. Sometimes it feels as if everyday has so much uncontrollable chaos that I just have to embrace it. In that moment, that ornament signified me more than anything else had for a while. There was a huge chunk missing from it, but it was just as pretty as it had been just moments before. It was still made with love and Jensen was present. Instead of its outside being smooth, it was jagged and could cut you. It’s insides were shown from the outside. You could see the brokenness at first glance. Broken, but still functional. What better way to describe me in the past eight months than that. Instead of putting it in Jensen’s drawer for safe keeping, I swept up the broken pieces and put it in its rightful spot. The brokenness makes it even more special that I will never hide it, just as I will never hide my grief and pain.
Thank you so much, Michelle, for this beautiful ornament. Jensen would have loved the glitter and seeing his name in bright red. He would be reaching for it now and wanting to see how the light makes it shine. I am so terribly sorry a big piece of it is missing now. Just know, that it will always have a place on my tree during this time of year and will always remind me of how far I’ve come. Your ornament has touched my heart, but has also taught me even more about my grief. I hope you have the gentlest of holidays.
It has been such a crazy week of vacation that I’m glad to be back to the peace that is my little house. Not writing for this whole time has been strange. I’ve felt all these words and emotions built up. I plan on expanding on some of them in the next few weeks, but today is a little catch up.
Tuesday has quickly snuck up on me this week as I figured it would. Thirty-seven whole weeks have passed since Jensen’s silence birth. Even though I had the past few days to relax, I woke up with great anxiety again. I’m missing him so very much. Walking into my house last night, I was glad, but my heart was so heavy knowing I wasn’t coming home to him. I wouldn’t be seeing his excited face as I went to pick him up after a week of not seeing him. Grief didn’t take a vacation as I did. I can’t say it welcomed me home, but it changed and felt different while I was gone and came back.
Today has felt even faster for me. I woke up late and had to start getting things done around the house. My mailbox was full of beautiful Christmas cards from other loss mamas, two new ornaments for Jensen and our tree, and of course bills. It was such a happy welcome home. Each card that was sent to me warmed my heart and the ornaments, they were so perfect. I kept thinking about their warm wishes and the comments and messages I received while I was gone. My tribe of mamas are always showing me they care and Jensen will forever be remembered.
Along with my vacation, I wanted to update you all with all the angel names I wrote on the beach. Well, my phone didn’t take the trip very well. Not to go into great detail, but I wrote all the names and took the pictures in the first few days. Then, all of a sudden, my phone had deleted ALL my pictures from December and eventually factory reset the last day. Frantically, I had my mom and dad help me with all the baby names. I wrote and wrote and wrote as my mom took the pictures and my dad checked them off the list. It was such a rush, but I am 99.9% sure I have all the names as I did before. The pictures are on my mom’s phone and I am going to download them tomorrow and hopefully will have everything on Jensen’s page by Friday.
With all the names, I am going to post about my experience with others while I wrote them. It was an interesting process and there were a lot of reactions from others. There was nobody that came and said they had lost their child, which I am thankful for. But there was a lot of people who went and said your children’s names out loud as they walked across the beach. I said them with them proudly each time. They were very taken care of and the waves washed their names peacefully away.
I just want to again, thank you all for trusting me with their names so I could write them along with Jensen’s.
Since there’s only five days left till Christmas, I wanted to share a very special ornament I received today. Especially since I’ve been slacking off on sharing all the ornaments I wanted to with you, I blame vacation. This ornament is from Lachlan’s mommy and my very best friend, Melissa.
This beautiful blue and orange sparkly ornament has Jensen’s name on the front and 2016 on the back. It’s personalized just for him and holds so much meaning in my heart. Lachlan and Jensen were born just days apart in April. They should both be eight months old and getting spoiled during their first Christmas. I hate the way Melissa and I met, but I am so thankful for our friendship and to know Lachlan and his family. Friendship in the midst of grief is hard to come by, but here we are finding some kind hope and walking with each other in this unknown future.
Although I haven’t told Melissa yet, when I opened her Christmas care package today on Jensen’s thirty-seventh week in heaven, I broke down in tears. It’s not only an ornament for me to remember him by, it’s one that he would’ve absolutely loved. He would have been amazed that the blue and orange that decorates him room would be on our tree. I see it as a little present for my son, the first I have received for him during Christmas. My heart is truly touched.
Thank you, again, Melissa for this beautiful ornament. It will be one of my favorites to put up every single year. You have been such a great support system for me and I will never be able to thank you enough. Although I know we both would have rather this holiday season to be so much different, I’m glad we’re able to be here for each other.
Jensen Grey, I love you so very much. Happy thirty-seven weeks in heaven. You are the light of my life. Thank you for protecting your whole family through our travels and vacation. I felt your presence as I wrote your friends’ names on the beach. My mind let me know how much you loved playing on the beach and watching the waves come in and out. You give me more strength than I ever though possible. I miss you. I love you.
All of Jensen’s Christmas presents should be bought by now. Even though I know I would keep finding more and more to get him.
The freshly, fallen snow should have fascinated him all throughout the weekend.
I should be watching him grow each day.
He should be here, but he’s not.
There are times during the day where I’m just grief-stricken and in utter disbelief of my life. In fact, all of these should moments are completely different that what I ever intended. I haven’t bought one Christmas present for anyone so far this year. The cold and snow are just annoyances to me. The only growth that surrounds me is my growing strength to face another day and soon, another year.
Quite frankly, I’ve been negative about all that’s happening around me. Frustration has taken root deep down. I know it’s just my mind trying to navigate grief throughout the holidays and it trying to conceive that Jensen isn’t here for his first earthly holidays. Each day I instantly think of all the ‘shoulds’ I thought I’d have. Reality has a funny way of telling me that they are not happening, but there are beautiful moments that happen because Jensen did live and is very loved.
As I’ve been writing this, I was sure I had introduced Jensen’s brick in Stow protected by the Angel of Hope. Turns out, I haven’t written about this beautiful memorial that was built by pure love. If I end up finding a post where I talk about the first event, I’ll hyperlink it here. Long story short, there is a book written called The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evan which is about a mother’s grief of her child. The book was a really big hit among grieving parents who wanted to honor the story, their grief, and children, by bringing an Angel of Hope statue to their town. Eventually Stow, Ohio saved up and was able to also get an Angel of Hope to honor all children gone too soon. You can find out more on their website, here. On that link you can also buy a brick for the Stow location. If you’re not by me, there’s a ton of different amazing locations where the angel is. That list can be found, here.
Shortly after Jensen was born, I stumbled across the Angel of Hope. Since he was cremated, I don’t have a spot to go for him. I knew I wanted to though. Being able to buy a brick right in front of the statue was a way I could get out of my house and visit Jensen in a spot. I’m able to take flowers to lay on his brick and also on the base of the angel. I know I’ve just said this, but the location is breathtaking. It’s quiet and solemn. Every time I’ve been there I’ve just been able to let my tears flow. And, there’s something about seeing your child’s name that makes you pause.
Here is Jensen’s brick. Flowers from his mama and pennies from his grandpa.
Well, yesterday we were invited to go to the Annual Candle Lighting Ceremony to honor Jensen and the rest of the children who do and don’t have bricks. It was so frigid outside. The snow slushed under my feet and I had to really watch that I didn’t fall. Once we made it to the group, I was just in awe. The amount of people there was so overwhelming and not in the way you’re thinking. My world really shakes when I know there’s so many other people feeling how I do. Obviously, everyone is in their different stages of healing, but to grieve a child through the holidays… there’s really no words of comfort.
When we a lit our candles, it was just a wave of light that warmed me even through the freezing weather. I always say Jensen is my light and constantly have candles burning in my house. Every time I see flames, I feel his presence. We felt it so much last night, that my dad’s cup lit on fire and he had to throw it down. Laughter is sometimes much-needed in these moments. To be able to smile through the tears and not knowing what to say really shows something.
Of course the parents who put on the ceremony were able to share and talk. One thing really stood out to me. They lit five different candles and one of them was lit for the love parents have for their children, even through death. He said, something to the effect of, look how much each and every single person there loves the child they are there for. That even through the freezing cold temperature, we stand there to show our love. To show that no matter has happened, this love is so strong. It’s unbreakable. My first thought while standing there was, I would stand out here every night if that’s what Jensen needed. Then I thought, I would do anything for Jensen. There is literally nothing that would stand in my way if it was something I had to do for him.
You can’t see this, but I’m sitting here just crying and having to keep pausing to wipe my eyes so I can see. It is crazy for me to think what I would do for him even though he’s not here. It’s like I challenge myself to an even more outrageous act and there’s not even a second of doubt that I wouldn’t do it. Often I wonder how that would be if he was actually here. Would it be more or less? Or would it just be different? Most times I think it would just be different…
Back to where we were originally.
All those ‘shoulds’ are never going to go away. Even when Jensen is supposed my age now, I’ll try to imagine what challenges he would be facing and how it would be so fulfilling to see him overcome them. It’s hard for me to think of what I’ll actually be doing in twenty-three years, but it’ll never be what it should have been. No matter, with each candle I light, whether it be in ceremonies like last night or in the comfort of my home, I do it as a promise. A promise of love and to keep doing everything in my power to show him that. Right now, that’s to get keep living and doing the best I can.
Dearest Angel of Hope, keep Jensen and all the children taken to soon safe in your reach. I look to you for hope, love, and the will to keep pushing on from day to day, month to month, and year to year.
Just wanted to add, I will be going on vacation this week. If you haven’t put your child’s name on this post, please do before I close the comments on Tuesday. In case you didn’t hear, I will be going to Punta Cana this week and offered to write baby names on the beach. I already have a lot of names which is heartbreaking, but I’m happy to help and to remember Jensen and all his friends. After I get back, I will be posting an album of all the pictures Jensen’s Facebook page.