4 minus 1

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting

4 years. It’s been 4 years since we had to say goodbye to you physically, but to us, you’re more alive then ever. You’ve been the first thing I think about and the last thing I think about almost each and every day. You’re in my everyday, so how could I possibly forget you?

The butterfly visits, gentle wind breezes and random song playings on the radio, are all daily signs from you that bring my heart joy. These little secret messages from you are what make your love so vivid and present. Yet, my mind often plants seeds of pressure to move on, to stop honouring you, to forget. And it waters (or drowns sometimes) those seeds with expectation, either self imposed or imposed by others. But the truth is, that my heart, simply cannot comply.

The guilt that comes with the thought of not honouring or holding space for you in our lives is a reminder that my heart is not healed and I don’t think it ever will. The space that we hold in our hearts for you is what enables are hearts to be whole. Without it, they just crumble back to a million pieces. And so far it has taken us four years to glue those pieces back together to resemble our hearts.

You, Jude, have taught me so many things in these short 4 years. You have taught me how to love fiercely and unapologetically. And because of that, my heart cannot simply move forward without you. It can only move forward with you.

I have come to accept that my grief is a reflection of my love for you. I can’t expect it to ever go away, stay the same or even dissipate. That’s just not how true love works. It changes, grows, breaks apart and molds back together – each day feeling different.

My heart too has changed. It has held space for 2, then 3, then molded back to 2, then grew to hold space for 4 and it’s now changed to hold space for 4 minus 1. It’s no wonder grief feels like one step forward, two steps backward at times. It’s love. Changing, longing, growing, missing. That’s what love is.

4 years later, I continue to wonder. Maybe if it all had gone to plan my love, you would be starting school this year. I watch those markers in my life grow up so fast and find a dose of comfort in knowing that I won’t have to watch you trek off to school independently. I relish in the fact that unlike their moms, I get to keep you snuggled up in my heart for yet another year as my baby. These are the bittersweet moments of our love, sweet Jude.

There are many reasons why your birthday feels different to me this year. Amongst the blurred busyness of this year, my heart carries heavy doses of guilt for simply not mindfully being with you. I know that’s all part of the ever changing process of grief, but my mama heart finds that difficult to accept. I hope that despite everything this year, you have continued to feel my love. I know I have felt yours, my sweet boy.

Happy 4th Birthday Jude!

xo mommy

Mother’s Love Day

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting

Since loosing our sweet Jude, there are so many mundane conversation starter questions that I simply don’t use anymore, and dread being asked them; including “do you have any children?” or “ how many children do you have?”. These questions for a bereaved mom are dreadful and grief triggering, irrespective of where in her grief journey she is.

During my subsequent pregnancy after loosing Jude, I was introduced to a whole new set of triggering questions such as “is this your first?” or “ are you excited to become a mom?”.

Since having my daughter, a new set of triggering questions have presented themselves, but the one that has been triggering me the most is, “ how are you enjoying motherhood?”.

Like all of the other aforementioned questions, they are often asked innocently and mindlessly which to most moms, is ok. But not for a bereaved mom — and here’s why.

I’m already a mom. I’m already experiencing motherhood.

Before I was a mom to my daughter, I was a mom to my son Jude. He made me a mom.

The question itself implies that I’m new to motherhood which denies the existence of my son. And that is the triggering point. Any bereaved parent will tell you that the only thing that hurts just as much as loosing your child is the thought of your child being forgotten. His memory diminished. His existence erased.

There are multiple forms, sides and dimensions to motherhood.

Motherhood is easy when your child gets to live. It’s when they die that it’s hard.

Now I know that’s a bold statement to make, but as a mom that has the privilege to mother a child amongst the stars and mother a child below the stars, I have become familiar with the multiple dimensions of motherhood and can stand behind the statement. Each dimension has its joys and sorrows. It’s good days and bad days. It’s peaks and valleys. But at the end of the day, I get to hold my daughter and kiss her goodnight everyday — something I cannot physically do with my son. Something so many other moms who hold their babies only in their heart so desperately want, but simply cannot have. And not having that simple ritual is hard. Really hard. Unbelievably hard.

But yet, we manage to move forward every day – one day at a time. Tending to our heart and our child as if they were physically present, because to us, they are so unbelievably present in our hearts, our minds and in our souls. Every. Single. Day. That dimension of motherhood is hard.

So when asked the question of how I’m enjoying motherhood, I often respond with a somewhat mundane response sprinkled with a bit more raw honesty than most new moms would, which catches the inquirer by surprise. Just imagine how surprised they would be if I answered them truthfully and said that Motherhood is easy when your child gets to live. It’s when they die that it’s hard.

So today, on Mother’s Day, look around and acknowledge and honour all moms (and dads) – whether you can physically see their children or not. Afterall, as nurturing human beings, whether we bear our own children, raise someone else’s, have them physically with us or carry them in our hearts, we are all programmed to love, teach and nurture them in our own unique way.

Wishing you a gentle happy Mother’s Love Day today.

Parenting between heaven and earth

#judedays, Child loss, Healing, Parenting

These days I find myself giving myself permission to do or not do a lot of things as it relates to my relationship with Jude and my grief. Allowing yourself permission is not an easy task. It often involves several hours (maybe days) of battles in your mind leading to countless sleepless hours before a final winner is declared. Sometimes I win, sometimes I loose.

I’m giving myself permission to temporarily excuse myself from certain elements of parenting a child you physically don’t have in order to parent the basics to a child I physically do have.

I see this as a way of making room in my heart for both of my children, which is proving to be a difficult task. Up until this point, I have only known one way of parenting – parenting with grief. I have had to find creative ways to honour and parent Jude in my heart in ways that are completely different then parenting a physical child. I have had to parent from the inside out – from deep within my heart in a way that ensures my love for Jude is somehow made visible. Grief woven parenting takes resources, physical energy and copious amounts of emotional energy.

Parenting a physical child takes mainly physical energy – except when you’re a bereaved parent. As a bereaved parent, parenting a physical child not only drains you physically, it also drains you emotionally. Largely because parenting your physical child(ren) is a constant reminder to your heart of all of the physical moments you are missing out on with the child you lost. Every milestone, every baby step, every everyday normal minute is a reminder to your heart of what should have been, what could have been, what you’ve missed. All of these trigger reminders are mentally and emotionally draining, leaving you spent, and if you’re like me, guilt ridden.

The guilt is triggered by so many elements. Guilt from not being able to physically carry out the small rituals to honour the child you loss. Guilt from not physically visiting their resting place as often as you did before. Guilt from realizing the child you lost is not occupying all of your mindfulness space. Guilt from feeling the love your physical child is bringing to you. Guilt from enjoying the tiny moments of joy with your physical child. Guilt from not being in the deepest depths of grief.

Balancing the guilt is what has made parenting between heaven and earth so challenging for me. The challenge is a result of all of these emotions, thoughts and feelings colliding at the centre of my heart and dispersing throughout, leaving me simply emotionally spent. Ironically, that same collision at the centre of my heart is what fuels the parenting I’m seeing to here on earth. It provides a source of nourishment for all of the characteristics that I know I didn’t embody before having Jude but am embodying now. My invisible parenting to Jude, has enabled me to now parent his younger sibling who is physically with me.

Jude taught me patience. He showed me how to be humble and appreciate the tiniest of moments and things. Jude taught me how to love unconditionally. He taught me kindness. All characteristics that I’m drawing on day in and day out as I parent his younger sibling.

Parenting between heaven and earth is complex, emotionally charged and beautiful. It forces emotions together in a perfectly balanced dance showing up in the most unconventional moments. Joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, excitement and despair, all intertwined together twirling and shuffling within the borders of your heart. It does so, so swiftly that it makes you feel like you’re no longer parenting between heaven and earth – but simply parenting.

The first snowfall

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Parenting

I don’t know why, but it always catches me by surprise.  The first snowfall of the season always takes my breath away – if only for a second.  It catches me off guard and lifts me into this awe and wonder – beautiful, cold snowflakes dancing all around, landing perfectly on the ground forming a white blanket.

And then it hits me.  It’s the first snowfall of the season and that same white blanket of cold snowflakes is covering my sweet Jude.  Instead of snow angels, snowmen and snowballs, there’s only a cold blanket of snow.   The thought of my sweet boy being covered in the cold hits my heart like the ice cold breeze hitting my face and it stings.  In that moment, the awe and wonder dissipates and all that’s left is sadness and the knowledge, that it’s only going to get colder from here on in.

another season without you….

The healing protocol 

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting

Our dear friend and neighbour asked me the other day if they could use last year’s #judedays post card this year since they didn’t travel last year.  

(The #judedays postcard is just one of the many ways that we have found to help mend our hearts in our healing journey after loosing our son Jude. If you search the hashtag #judedays, you’ll find countless pics of travel destinations that our little boy has been remembered at through the support of family and friends.)

“Of course” I answered.  He looked at me, smiled uncomfortably and said ” I wasn’t sure what the protocol was”. 

“There’s no protocol” I answered.  

I later pondered on the question and realized that what most people around you don’t realize is that much like a new parent who doesn’t receive a manual with their newborn; bereaved parents also don’t receive a manual on how to mend their hearts and their lives back together.  There’s no protocol on how to heal your heart after you loose your child.  As a bereaved parent (like most parents with living children I suppose); we just make it up as we go along. 

Along the journey, we find ways to tend to the holes and tears in our hearts.   We find healing ways to bring comfort to and make our hearts happy again.   In our journey, we’ve been fortunate to have the unconditional love and support of family, friends and neighbours that allow us the space to indulge in the ways that enable our healing journey.  I specifically use the word indulge, because I have come to learn that  in this community of bereaved parents, we are a few of the lucky ones that have a strong network of support.  

By having the space to indulge in what heals our hearts, we are able to puzzle back together the pieces of our old selves and discover how the pieces of our new selves all fit together.  

The protocol is this – do what makes your heart happy.  

If speaking your child(ren)’s name(s) freely and frequently with anyone who will listen makes your heart happy – do. 

If visiting the resting place of your child(ren) everyday or not at all makes your heart happy – do. 

If honouring your child(ren) through the permanent marking of a tattoo on your body so that you can physically see your child(ren) everyday makes your heart happy – do. 

If dressing, cuddling or carrying a bear brings comfort to your empty arms and keeps you sane while making your heart happy – do.

If pouring your heart out through writing on paper privately or digitally shared makes your heart happy -do. 

If tending to your child(ren)’s garden or hand cutting the grass at their resting place makes your heart happy – do.

Do it all.

In this healing journey there are no rules, there are no guidelines, there are no rights or  wrongs.  There is no protocol.  There is only you, your child(ren) and the void in your heart.  So go for it!  Tend to the void in any and which way makes sense to you.  Trust me – there’s nothing worse than what you’ve already endured that can happen.  

the village

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting

They say it takes a village.  They are right.  It takes a village to survive this thing called child loss.

It’s the village that lends a hand to get you back up from the black hole that you get thrown into after you loose your child – or a loved one for that matter.

It’s the village that allows you to speak the raw truth.  Listens with no judgement.  Offers no platitudes.  Doesn’t rush you through your grief journey.

It’s the village that feels your pain. Understands the size, depth and complexity of the hole in your heart that longs for your child.

It’s the village that’s there on the Holidays.  The special “would have been” milestones. The Anniversaries,  to ensure that your fragile heart is bubble wrapped in love.

It’s the village that shows up on the first day of grief, the second week, the third month, the fourth year – time and time again to just “check in”; make sure you’re ok.

It’s the village that never forgets. Never shy’s from mentioning your child’s name. Always remembers with you.

I’m grateful for having a village.  Many like me, simply don’t have one; leaving them feeling alone, tired and fearful that their child will be forgotten.

This journey is hard.  I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to walk the gravel roads of grief without the support of my village.

The fabric of my village is not unified.  It’s a weaved tapestry of patches – souls brave enough to have stood by me or joined my side along this journey.  Many of which; carry side by side in their hearts, not only their child, but also mine.

It’s these brave and generous souls that have enabled me to make sweet lemonade out of my motherhood.

For them and their babies; whom I love and carry in my heart alongside Jude, I am eternally grateful for and to.

Find your village in any of the resources below.

http://mendingheartsafterloss.com/

https://thelongtermproject.wordpress.com/

http://oncomingalive.com/

http://stillstandingmag.com/

 

The Rainbow and the Storm

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting, Self Growth

I was first introduced to the term “rainbow baby” shortly after loosing Jude. At the time of introduction the term brought me the glimmer of hope and comfort that I needed to survive – to take my next physical step, next breath, next everything. Now, I’ve come to almost despise the term and what it represents. For starters, it implies that the child that you lost was a categorized storm- one that you endured without any control. No parent categorizes any child as a storm – no matter how fearful, destructive or painful the experience of embracing that child was. The term also implies that after every storm a rainbow appears. The intertwined assumption of those two elements is what nips away at my stitched up heart.

I’ve bared witness to beautiful rainbows – some of the most remarkable canvases filled with colour often appearing after a gentle drizzled rain fall. Torrential downpours sometimes end with the arches of a beautiful coloured rainbow; but sometimes, they simply end with lingering grey clouds.

To assume that every lost child will be followed by a “rainbow baby”, is to assume that after every storm a rainbow will appear; where that simply is not true for so many different reasons; both metaphorically, in this context and scientifically.

The healing process in a bereaved parent’s journey is so complex. It’s layered with emotions, fear, stress factors and in some cases physical inabilities that each unique bereaved parent must navigate through. A rainbow baby only adds a new complex layer of emotions to the journey forcing the requirement for a separate navigation system to support the bereaved parent.

When you’re left with only the grey clouds at the end of your storm you’re forced to find your own source of colour.
A rainbow is made up of several layers of colour, carefully and perfectly woven together – that is what makes them enchanting. For those bereaved parents who have no choice but to procure their own sources of colour to make up their own unique version of a rainbow; they encounter an incredibly daunting and difficult task. Each unique colour requires its own set of sources, tools and energy to manifest the perfect hue. Some hues are mastered quicker then others; but not a single one of them is easy. Some bereaved parents master all hues and are left with a colour wheel that simply never weaves perfectly. Many, manage to only master a few hues and are left with significant gaps in their own unique colour source. A few, manage to master and weave their colour source – but don’t be fooled – if you look closely there are snags, that if pulled, can quickly destroy years of hard work. Those that master the engineering of their own colour source, spend a lifetime tending to it. Their work is never complete.

As I lay down the blueprint for my own colour source in this journey, I’m quickly realizing just how much of a daunting task it is. It requires copious amounts of will power, discipline, self awareness and acceptance that nothing in life is guaranteed – not even if you throw everything you have at it. It’s simply not guaranteed. All you can do is tackle it like a mad hatter and once in a while step back, observe, breath and be oh so very proud of yourself for having mastered something resembling an enchanting rainbow.

 

The Gift

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting

I stood there, staring at all of the items on the shelf directly at eye level, wondering what I would get you on your first birthday.  None of the colourful packages “spoke” to me or felt worthy of a gift you give your son on his very first birthday.  None of them were special enough, fun enough, playful enough – just not enough.  Except of course, I didn’t have to worry about that – I would never have to make that decision.  I would never have to buy you anything for your first birthday.  The thought provided relief and sadness.  Relief from the pressure of finding the perfect gift every mother wants to find for their child on their first birthday, first Christmas – first everything.  Sadness from my reality of being relieved from that same pressure.

But after standing there staring blankly and numb at the first birthday gift candidates, I finally made a decision and picked up one that I thought would live up to my expectations. But not for you.

I’ve had to live out that scene twice already since loosing you.  On two separate occasions; weeks apart, I’ve had to shop for presents for two special little boys in celebration of their first birthdays.   I’ve attended two separate first birthday parties for each – a reminder, that both boys, would not only have been actively present in your life, but also consistent markers of your absence in my life.  They will forever be reminders of what life could have been with you.

So what kind of gift does a mom like me get her son on his first birthday?

I always knew this day would come.  The day that marks your first birthday.  The day that marks the inception of the hole within my heart that my soul tends to every single day.  And consciously or subconsciously, I knew that for you, on your first birthday, a gift would have to be different.  It wouldn’t come packaged in a nice colourful box with a smiling poster baby on the outside.  It wouldn’t come with neatly printed step by step instructions on how to put it together. It wouldn’t get wrapped up in bright birthday theme wrap with a twirly ribbon bow.  It couldn’t.

Like my love for you, it had to be delivered in a different way.  A way that would make you proud to be celebrating such a great milestone with us – worlds apart.

So for you my sweet Jude, I offer you on your first birthday the gift of a simple promise.

A promise that your existence will never be forgotten and lives beyond the borders of my heart.  A promise that your name will be woven into everyday conversation.   A promise that you will always hold your place in our family.  A promise that my feet will walk for you.  A promise that your life will never be measured in just 21 short weeks.

A promise that together, we will build a foundation of a legacy that will unravel and transform into something big – something that I couldn’t have imagined if it hadn’t been for you.   Today, the base of the foundation exists in the simple form of a postcard.  It started as a simple ask of keeping your memory alive, by showing you the world; but it has transformed into something beyond that.  It has inspired, humbled, taught, comforted and reminded a community of people all around us to love deeply and live fully.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

So today, on your very first birthday, I offer you this simple gift of a promise.  A promise of my infinite love which is the spark for the fire, that together, we make burn brightly.

Happy 1st Birthday Jude.

xo mommy

 

 

 

 

 

Mother of a Lost Boy

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting, Self Growth

In the days that followed the loss of Jude, people; friends and family alike, in their desperate attempt to grant me comfort, often whispered to me “he’s your angel now – he’s in heaven  – a better place”.  At first, those words did bring some level of comfort, but the more they were repeated to me, the more I wondered; “Is he really?  Is he in a better place?”

To me it seemed strange, that people would assume that heaven would be a better place for my son, than my arms.  Than the arms of one of the two people he had only known his entire life.   I do vividly remember the time my husband and I spent with Jude in the hours that followed his tragic arrival.  I remember thinking that my baby boy had just gone down a different path – one that would lead him to this so called “better place” where he would not know anyone.  Where he would travel the path alone.  Now the catholic girl within me would remind me that he would not be alone, but in that moment, to me, he was alone.  So, unknowingly already practicing my maternal instincts, I whispered to Jude, all of the names of the people that he should search for when he arrived in heaven.  I told him to look for his grandfather, his cousins, his great grandfather and of course, my beloved grandmother who would surely be there, anxiously waiting to scoop him up into her arms.  In that moment, that was what brought me comfort.

In the months that followed, I would again be periodically reminded by the phrase; “he’s in heaven, in a better place”.  The illusion that accompanied that statement was that Jude was delighted to be there.  That he was happy.  That he preferred there instead of here on earth, with the love of his parents.  But what if he didn’t prefer it?  What if he wasn’t happy?  In fact, what if he was just as miserable, sad and feeling as alone as we were? What if even being surrounded by all of those people that I encouraged him to meet, he still felt abandoned.  Felt like a lost boy.

The thought of my little boy, feeling sad, lonely and lost in the place where everyone expected him to be happy, devastated me.  It made me feel even more like a failure somehow.  Until my ears heard the beautifully talented voice of young Ruth B and the soothing innocently pure lyrics of her debut single, “Lost Boy”.

The lyrics of “Lost Boy” brings to the forefront the journey of a boy who is introduced to the classic character, Peter Pan.  With this introduction, a sense of belonging and acceptance is explored as he travels to Neverland and is self proclaimed as a “Lost Boy”.

“Soon enough we reached Neverland, Peacefully my feet hit the sand”

As I listened carefully to the talented scribed lyrics of this young artist, the above lyric, got hold of my heart and embraced me in comfort.    My little boy was not alone.  He was not abandoned.  He was not scared.  He was a Lost Boy – a Lost Boy of Neverland.

Neverland.  Where Lost Boys run free.  Seek adventure.  Play.  Explore. Laugh. Find love. Find a home.

It may not be the home that I planned for or wanted  for him.  But it’s a home.  And by definition, a home is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” So if I had to choose an alternative “home” for Jude, I can’t think of a better place then Neverland.   Neither of his parents live there, but I know that there, he has found a home and a family, even if it’s just Peter Pan.

“Neverland, I love you so, You are now my home sweet home Forever a lost boy at last”

Like most recently released debut artist singles, the radio waves will pick up the single and repeatedly play it.  I catch myself adorning the song and its talented artist.  An instant reminder of my sweet Jude – connecting my heart to his.  Sometimes it brings me tears of joy, sometimes tears of sorrow.  Sometimes, it brings a touch of a happiness, but always, always a touch of comfort.

“Neverland is home to lost boys like me And lost boys like me are free”

Comfort in knowing that my baby boy, Jude, can find his very own place as a lost boy in Neverland.

 

Mothering Boyhood

#judedays, Child loss, Parenting
DCIM141GOPRO

Boyhood @ KillBear Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada 

I peaked from under the brim of my hat – nervously watching their wet feet carefully slide across the edge of the rocks.  The skin around their toes shrivelled up from being in the water too long.  Their skin all different shades – some darker than others; some by DNA others by the warmth of the sun.   All different sizes.  Small feet, medium feet, large feet — all wet and vulnerable  to easily loosing grasp on the sharp edges of the cliff rocks they insisted on climbing.   I looked up from under the brim of my hat to look at their smiling faces full of pride, courage and a little fear.  Their skin shivering, covered with goosebumps.   Hair wet dripping down their shirtless torso’s into their soaked swim trunks.  The wind blew an uncomfortable cold breeze emphasizing their goosebumps and mine under my layers of clothing. 

Hand on tree branch. Foot gripped on tree trunk. Nervous smile on face; he assessed the area of the lake down below the cliff, calling out to his friends on the other side to watch him complete the jump.  It didn’t matter that I sitting on the sidelines would be witness to this adventurous accomplishment – his friends needed to be witness.  Only then would a passage to boyhood be granted. 

I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and listened; secretly praying that I would soon hear the sound of the water down below break.  I exhaled with the sound of the splash down below.  He made it.  His buddy at the top of the cliff smiled, laughed and made his way to the edge of the cliff, prepping himself for his very own right of passage.  Hand on tree branch. Foot gripped on tree trunk. Nervous smile on face.  My heart skipped a beat; his likely accelerated from the adrenaline rush.   Splash. 

With each successful splash into the lake, the smiles at the cliff up top grew wider and wider.  The pride exploded into fearlessness and the encouragement for higher, more ignorantly dangerous cliff jumps grew taller than their lanky selves.   

With every jump, every vulnerable climb of wet feet on top of the cliff rocks; my breath was shortened, my heart skipped a beat and my mind ran through all of the dangerous scenarios that one slip up could materialize.

As I nervously sat there and watched this display of courageously foolish boyhood display, I wondered how I could ever endure this if Jude’s feet were the wet ones running across the cliff edge.  I know that the simple answer appeasing my heart and nerves would be simply to not allow it.  Not allow him to go anywhere near the edge of that cliff.  Not allow him to jump off even the smaller rock landings only 1/2 a storey high – never mind 3 storey highs being played out in front of my very own eyes.   Nope.  He just simply would not be allowed to participate in such dangerous activities .  In fact, I wondered ,where were the mother’s of these boys.  How could they allow them to participate in this.  Didn’t they see the danger?  Didn’t they know the value of their little boys’ lives? 

But, with each little boy splash into the lake, out came the wet face of a little man – displaying the newly gained self-confidence that only a jump from a 3 storey high cliff into a lake can give you.  It was the presence of that newly gained self-confidence that enabled me to watch jump after jump, making me realize that if Jude was physically present with me, that I wouldn’t be able to deprive him of that feeling.  That sense of pride.  Sense of accomplishment. Right of passage to Boyhood.  That innocent display of free childhood made me realize that my motherhood is tough.  It’s hard and at most times overshadowed by immense sadness from the loss of my sweet Jude.  But it also made me realize that the motherhood of any of the moms of those boys on the cliff that evening at sunset wasn’t exactly any easier just because their little boys were alive and physically present.  Their motherhood was overshadowed by the constant balance of love and fear.  Fear that in a blink of an eye, one wet foot slip off the edge of a cliff rock could end badly.  But against the orange light of the setting sun, love won;  as they too held their breath, peaking from under the brim of their hats watching their little boys jump into the lake and come out a little man conquering their passage into boyhood.