Day of HOPE Prayer Flag Project 2017

hope – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

During pregnancy mothers and fathers hope for so many moments. They want to make sure everything goes smoothly and that they’re child has everything they would ever need. When a child dies, it feels like there is no more hope left. A person’s worst nightmare has happened. Nothing would ever feel as sweet as the before.

I have been in that place. Hope had been completely drained from my soul and darkness took its place. I’ve also survived life after loss for over sixteen months. Each day, I have felt the hope build back inside of me. Maybe it doesn’t feel as grand as it did before, but the promise of a new day to share Jensen’s story and for me to keep moving forward with his memory gives me hope. I have to celebrate the little victories. That’s what they would want me to do.

This day, the Day of Hope – They Prayer Flag Project, brings our community of bereaved parents together. It helps show all of us there is hope after loss. We are able to celebrate the lives of our children and share little parts of them. I cannot think of a more perfect way to spread hope.


Now, I’ve been extremely excited to share this year’s prayer flag with you all. My flag represents both Jensen and Huxley in different ways that I am happy to explain to you all.

Colors

There are three main colors: blue, orange, and grey. Of course, right? Blue and orange are forever Jensen’s colors. When I see them, I instantly smile and it brings me back to when I was pregnant and all the hope I had decorating and planning his nursery. The other color, grey, is his middle name. It felt like a strong color to use for the background. It’s what holds the flag together and his name felt so strong while we were choosing.

Buttons

When I was pregnant with Huxley, I started collecting buttons; a little fun fact. I had this craft I was so set on doing for him for his nursery. The mason chair in my closet is a quarter of the way full with different sizes and colors of buttons. When I was decided on how I was going to make this year’s prayer flag, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went into the craft store and was lead straight to the button aisle. Then it all fit together.

Initials

Last year, Jensen’s flag had a huge J on it. I knew I wanted to include Jensen and Huxley’s initials somewhere this year. They seem like such simple letters, but for some of us, that’s all we have from our babies. I added them close to the heart because they’ll forever be in mine.

The Heart

I could go for the literal translation here and say I’m wearing my heart on my flag, but I promise there’s a little more meaning here. The heart is made of a ton of little buttons (sadly, I didn’t count them to give you an exact number), this resembles the pieces of my broken heart. In the same sense, they are all together, which resembles my healing process and the hope to keep waking up and doing my best every morning.

And yes, there is the literal translation of a heart representing love and my favorite poem from e.e. cummings.

Ribbons and Tassels

Mainly used for decorative purposes, I wanted to bridge a connection from last year’s flag to this year’s. Although I have grown tremendously since this day on year ago, I am still on the same journey of loss and love. What better way to represent this than some pretty ribbon and getting my aggression out by cutting fabric?


Thank you all for allowing me to share this year’s prayer flag with you. It has been such a healing activity and a great day to connect to other loss moms and dads. I hope you enjoyed my flag as much as I enjoyed making it and that you learned something more about Jensen and Huxley.

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Five Tips on Making a Prayer Flag for Your Child. 

The Day of Hope – Prayer Flag Project is coming up, in one week (August Nineteenth) to be exact!

This is my second year participating in the project. Last year was definitely a learning process for me in participating with the community and making something that reflected my grief, motherhood, and of course Jensen. I wrote a little post to introduce my flag and explain the meaning behind it, here. This year, I’ve been a little more relaxed with my flag. I had one design in mind, but when I went into the craft store, that idea went out the window and I came up with something so fitting. 

I’m not going to share the whole flag and it’s meaning until next week, but I wanted to show some snippets of the flag while I was creating today. Also, I wanted to give you all some tips if you’ve saw the project, but have been weary of committing. Hopefully this can inspire you to be apart of this great project and day. 


Check Out CarlyMarie’s Page for Information 

CarlyMarie is a beautiful loss mom who has been in the community for ten years now. She does all sorts of projects through the year to helped bereaved parents with their grief and honoring all our children. This page is going to give you the complete background of what the project stands for and how it came to creation. It also gives you a great starting place when it comes to purchasing items for your flag. Such as, the dimensions of the fabric you’ll use and videos of how others have made prayer flags. 

Also, it includes event links and social media hashtags to connect you more to the community and see what everyone else made. 

Get Creative 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating a prayer flag for your child. Whatever you can think of, you can create. I know it. 

Last year, Jensen’s ‘J’ initial was the highlight of the flag. Incorporating their name or their initials is a perfect way to add a big touch of them. I also used his colors, blue and orange to focus on. These colors were used in his nursery and for my baby shower. You could possibly use a color you identify your child with or any theme. Another item I incorporated last year was flowers. I always picture Jensen sending me flowers and it was so peaceful adding them. If you get signs from your child, such as feathers or butterflies, add them. This is the fun part of seeing how all our babies are different. 

This year, I’m mainly using his colors and buttons… so excited to share what everything means next week. 


Don’t Overthink Your Design 

I was guilty of this last year. Sometimes (most of the time) I can be a perfectionist; I’m a Virgo, enough said. 

You know your child better than everyone else. Whatever you choose to add to your flag will be perfect no matter what. Everyone is in different stages of their grief too, which will be apparent in each and every project. Listen to that creative voice in your head and jump in. 

Here’s something else not to worry about, if you don’t find an item that you had pictured in your mind, don’t compromise, but don’t let it drag you down. You will be surprised of what you can create. For me, it’s always way better when it’s done than what I had originally planned. 

Have Fun 

The hard fact is we never wanted to be in this position of making a prayer flag for our child. There are hundreds of things we should be doing for them instead. Sometimes projects like these can be overwhelming depending on where you are in you’re journey. Believe me, I understand. 

I urge you to try it though. 

It is so heartwarming to be making something for them. This is one way we can still parent them and show our love. Working with your hands is so healing and, for me, it’s fun to actually hold items that remind me of Jensen. I put on some Jensen jams and rocked away with my glue gun in hand. Try to smile and even have fun while creating. 

Embrace the Community Cheering You On

Whether you decide to share you flag publicly or keep it private, we’re all here for you, always. There are times when we don’t feel confident in what we’re doing, especially after loss. There are people, like me, that are here to encourage you to keep going and just to listen. 

As I mentioned above, there’s usually an event page on Facebook that participants can share their flags with each other. It is such a supportive space to share and hear others stories. I would recommend joining in on this; when I find the event page, I will definitely post on Jensen’s Page. Another social media platform I recommend for the Day of Hope and just with grief in general is Instagram. Last year there were hundreds of moms (and dads) posting their flags and everyone had such kind words.  

Just some ending reminders… 

  • The Day of Hope – Prayer Flag Project is on August 19th. 
  • If you want to know more information, check out the event page, here.
  • There’s still time to participate and make a beautiful prayer flag. 
  • Check out some inspiration on social media. 
  • You got this!

Grief Stares Back. 

I broke down in the shower this afternoon. 

There wasn’t any specific trigger, besides just missing him. No one has said his name out loud to me, there hasn’t really been a reason for everyone to mention him today. I was just standing there, letting the hot water pound on my back. Then I realized how long I’d stood there. This wouldn’t have happened if he was still here. 

That’s when I lost it. 

It’s these moments in grieving that people don’t see. Where I’m sitting on the shower floor and I  can’t differentiate the water from my tears. No one sees me trying to stand up and wishing I never had to. Then when there’s enough courage to stand, I feel like there’s so much weight on my shoulders. The tears didn’t do anything but put sadness more in my head. All I keep repeating in my head is why. 

Somehow I get up and look at my mirror. Instead of just wiping off the steam, I write his name. I take it in and say it out loud. 

His name deserves to be said. It’s such a strong, sounding name. He fit it perfectly. Then I look at it all written out.  I take in the curves in each of his letter, then savor this moment. The calm in the storm. 

As it slowly evaporates, I’m faced with myself: a bereaved mother. My eyes are all puffy and there’s some mascara left under my eyes, even with the heavy stream of water I just was under. I wish I could smash it to pieces and never have to look at myself after a breakdown again. It’s painful to see myself in such distress. I feel it constantly, but rarely see it staring back at me. 

This is grief. 

The Curiosity of Dreams.  

I had a dream.

Honestly, I was afraid to tell a lot of people because I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazier than I already am. It was two nights ago and although it was comforting for me, I tried not to look at it as a sign. In it, I dreamed about a man who told me Jensen was happy, always with me, and loved laying in bed when I was there. The man was so real and sure of what he was saying, I have never met him before, but I trusted him. When I woke, I remembered every detail of what I dreamed, the room I was in when he told me, what he looked like, and most of all his words.

As I laid in bed thinking of what had just happened, I finally decided to check my phone to see what was going on in the world. I saw that I was tagged in an Instagram post and checked it out.


@thefivefacetsofhealing

Now, I try not to go looking for every sign I think I get, but this was too coincidental.

They are never far from you, no matter where you go. 

The man in my dream had told me Jensen was always close. I always knew he was near, but it was just some sort of validation I needed this month. Maybe another birthday gift from beyond. I went along with the rest of the day and didn’t really think about it more, until this morning.

Last night, one of my best friends and I went out to celebrate and just be in the moment. As I have said, it’s my birthday month and it’s just nice to go out and savor the night for what it is. She ended up sleeping over since we got back so late. This morning, she wanted to tell me about her dream. She kept saying it felt so real, like it happened just as we were talking.

In her dream, she dreamt we were having a sleepover with her daughter. It came to the part of the night where we were laying in bed and we started taking pictures. Her daughter was on her and we were smiling and laughing. After we were done taking pictures, she flipped through to see them and noticed another smiling face laying between us. She saw Jensen and instantly knew it was him. He looked to be around sixteen months old, just enjoying the sleepover like we did. It was him laying in bed with us, like the man said he liked to do.

I got cold chills. The man’s voice repeated what he said in my mind. My second validation that Jensen was letting me know he’s happy with his smiles and was laying there with us.

Jensen always seems to let me know he’s okay; this month especially. I feel like he’s been cheering me on and wanting me to have the best birthday I can possibly have. Sometimes I think the signs he brings me makes me insane, but I know deep down he wants to me to know.

Our children gone too soon can reach out in amazing ways.

How does a person eat an elephant? 


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. 

Allowing Myself to Feel Whatever I Need. 


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. 

Miscarriage hurts. 

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 Collection of Drawings. 

Tonight is a bad night. 

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. 

How I’ll be Celebrating Jensen’s Twenty-First Birthday. 

This past weekend, my parents took my brother and I to Tennessee. It’s always bittersweet to go on family vacations or getaways; I constantly see the missing piece. Of course we find ways to incorporate Jensen when we go somewhere. At the beach we write his name or I’m taking pictures of his footprint. When we knew we were going to Nashville and Lynchburg, I was weary of how to make a new memory with him that was unlike I had before. 

In Nashville, we didn’t really have to opportunity to do anything besides walk around and eat (and drink). I was determined to do something special for him the next day in Lynchburg. When we first got there, I was so amazed by the Jack Daniels’ distillery. There was so much to look at and learn more about. Within the first twenty minutes, I found this huge visitor registration book. 

It was a perfect way to put Jensen’s name in the book and in their database. Other people could see and read his name. I scribbled our information down and was happy to leave his mark there. 


We began our tour shortly after signing this book. The grounds there were so beautiful. It was way bigger than I imagined and I had butterflies following me throughout the entire time. Everywhere I looked, they would be floating by my head. Jensen and Hux telling me hello, we’re always here with you. 

After our tour and tasting ended, a bunch of us went to their bottle shop. When I learned they could engrave on the bottle I wanted, I had an idea. This is another way I could incorporate Jensen, now and in the years to come. I picked out my favorite tasting whiskey and what I wanted engraved on the bottle. 


I bought my son his first bottle of whiskey at fifteen months old. That would sound like something a horrible parent would say, but knowing our story it makes sense. His bottle is to be open and drank on his twenty-first birthday. Not a drop until then either. Which seems like a long time from now, but this is how I can parent and keep his memory going. 

Honestly, it’s crazy to think I’ll be grieving for that long. That on his twenty-first birthday he won’t be here, or any until then. One year without him felt like a slap in the face. Missing him will be forever, but somehow by planning this one, tiny detail of that day made me feel loved but. 

In these little moments, I can do something for Jensen. They let me bring him alive again. This little bottle of whiskey will give me something to look forward to on his big day, twenty years from now.  

Life after loss has been a dysfunctional mess, but days like these are so much sweeter than I could ever have imagined. 

Fifteen Months. 

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.

Mother Hearts Project.

Next Sunday is Bereaved Mother’s Day… already.

April has completely flown by. It’s been one of the hardest months, but also filled with so much love and support. That’s not to say there hasn’t been any hard moments. It was full of them. Love always conquers though.

Back to Bereaved Mother’s Day. Here’s the quick history of the day. In 2010, CarlyMarie created a day for bereaved mothers to celebrate this specific motherhood. It’s created for moms who are mothering children in heaven and to connect to others. If you want to read more about it, click here. Anyways, each year there is a project moms can do and share on social media. Last year was show your mother heart, where you drew a heart on your palm and shared it. I was too much in a grief fog to participate, but I remember seeing all these beautiful hearts fluttered around Facebook and Instagram. A couple of weeks ago, she shared this years Mother Heart Project: We Carry Them In Our Hearts.

This is a play on ee cummings’ poem, ‘i carry your heart.’ Carly called out to mothers to take pictures or a short video of them placing their hand on their hearts. This picture could be taken anywhere, just a way to show where you carry your children. She’s choosing certain photographs and making a video that will be posted next Sunday.

Right after I read it, I knew I could join in on this. I was going to the beach and was going to take this amazing picture, but nothing felt right. This past week, I was dressed up and tried to take cute pictures while subbing and just around town. Still didn’t feel right. On Thursday night, with only hours to spare to turn in a submission, I was crying in Jensen’s room. I wouldn’t be able to do this.

Of course I called my mom to come over. I told her I was a failure. That I was letting Jensen down because I wasn’t able to take a picture and maybe it get put in the video. I told her I looked gross and I had been crying. Nothing was going the way I planned for this. Sound familiar?

Well, we took pictures all over the house. Deleted all of them. We were back right where we started, me feeling defeated on the futon in Jensen’s room. The very room I was supposed to feel exhausted, but happy to be mothering my sweet little boy. Before I knew it, we were capturing this moment.

Hands over my heart, look up, and I heard the iPhone make that picture sound. She smiled and said, this is the one and turned it towards me.

I hate this picture of me.

My eyes look so tired and you can tell I’ve been crying because my makeups a little smudged underneath. The shine from my face distracts me because I knew how many times I put my hands to me face. I see me being so exhausted and grieving and worrying about if I’m making Jensen proud or not.

Then I see the best part of the picture, his little hand over mine. Our hands holding both of our hearts so tightly. That’s what it’s all about.

I also the love in my eyes. I see Jensen’s cheeks and general face shape. His hands so very closely shaped like his mama. I see the bridge of his nose. There’s so much of me in him, besides that blond hair. This photograph is a grieving mom doing her best to mother her son who’s physically not here. It captures this crazy life that I hate and love, but it’s mine. I wouldn’t trade it for any one else’s.

Hopefully we’ll get to see my tired eyes on the video project Carly makes and if not, I’m proud I still did it for Jensen.


A little note for May.

I plan on writing or at least posting every single day. There will be some days I’ll be posting multiple times, especially in the first two weeks. I’ll be doing the May We All Heal Project, Still Mother’s The Mothering Project, and I’m apart of a group that will have writing prompts everyday for the first two weeks. A lot of things, but I think it’s much-needed where I am right now in my grief and healing journey.

As always, if you have any questions about any of the projects I’ve mentioned, please ask. On Jensen’s Facebook Page, I am doing a Mother’s Day name wreath. Feel free to request one and I will get it to you as quick as I can. Last little reminder, on my Etsy shop, Grey Woods Design, I am having a Mother’s Day sale. You get 15% off when you use the code: MothersDay. Hoping you all follow along this coming month and that they are gentle for of us.