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 barn

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing

It stood there; bruised and battered. Shattered and broken.  Lifeless and useless.  But it still stood there.

I looked at it, like I had looked at it a million times before and was amazed at how strong it still stood in spite of the fact that it was missing most of it’s core.  Piece by piece; board by board, the walls that once stood connecting each foundation beam, no longer visible.

“I wonder if it will survive the winter” I asked my husband.  He looked at me, glanced at the barn as we drove by it and said; “Probably.  The foundation and beams are still there. It’s crazy how much it has changed in a year” he added.

The reason why  we knew how much the barn had changed throughout the year? Jude.

The barn had become a familiar landmark. A physical and a metaphoric one for us after loosing our son Jude.  The barn, in all it’s retired glory, stood firmly planted 1/2 a kilometre from the resting place of our little boy.

Everyday on my way to work I pass the barn.  I was familiar with the barn many years before I even met my son Jude.  From the beginning, there was this inexplicable energy and connection to the barn.  It kind of spoke to me – begged me in a way to capture and preserve it’s existence.   For years, I drove by the barn reminding myself that I needed to one day stop and photograph it.  I never did.  Until Jude.

Until Jude, the barn was just a barn.  Now, the barn is the place where I imagine my little boy sits and waits.  Waits for me to drive by everyday and wave hello.  I imagine Jude sitting on the peaked rooftop; knees tucked into chest, waving.  The barn is the lighthouse that I look for on the foggy days to ensure I wave and blow a kiss to my sweet boy.  The barn is a reminder that what once was, can never once again be.

But on that day, as my husband and I drove by the barn, the barn became yet another metaphoric symbol for both of us.  The barn became representative of our grief journey.

In the early days, after loosing Jude, the barn stood strong and empowering.  Much like our grief, it’s foundation firmly planted and overpowering.  The strong wooden plank walls, tightly nailed together, preventing any light from entering.  Each window, each door, firmly closed; preventing anything or anyone from entering it.  Much like our grief, the bold colours of the barn were familiarly standard to those on the outside, but overwhelming to those on the inside.

As the morning wave to Jude turned into an evening goodnight kiss; day in and day out, we bore witness to the slow deterioration of the barn.  The tightly nailed walls made of wooden planks began to loosen, letting in slivers of light.  The window and door panes that once stood tightly shut, flew open allowing birds and other creatures of nature to curiously explore the secrets of its inside.  The bright and bold red that once represented it’s standard presence, faded – a sign that it’s once highly regarded power, no longer held it’s position.

As the barn changed, so did we in our grief journey.  We were looking around us seeing what once was an overwhelming, strong presence of grief, change.

Would our grief extend into the winter?  Probably.

Much like the barn, the foundation and beams of our grief remain firmly planted in our hearts over the loss of our sweet Jude.   The windows and doors into our hearts may have loosened and allowed in the light and love of those around us.  The walls that we initially nailed up firmly to protect our hearts from any further breakage may have fallen down piece by piece,  but the pain remains.  The foundation and beams remain.

The winter may be harsh.  The wind, rain and snow may weather it down, chipping away at it’s strong grip,  but we don’t know exactly when or if it will ever collapse.

By definition, foundation is an underlying basis or principle for something. It’s built with the intention not to be destroyed.  The foundation of our grief is our love for Jude.  Built with the intention not to ever be destroyed.

 

 

the quest

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

The months have passed, the weeks a blur and one year has made its mark.  It still hurts.  My heart is still broken; torn, ripped actually – with no way of patching the pieces back together. 

I miss you.  I miss you the same way I did the day you were born.  The emptiness; the hole in my heart still present.

I look for you in every face, every object, every being, every moment.  My soul, my heart, my eyes search for you.

Everything that lives, wanders above me, reminds me of you and brings me comfort. 

The birds are reminders of the freedom you have given me .  The freedom to love deeply without fear. 

The clouds remind me of how life should be lived in moments, not continuum strands of routines.   

The sun reminds me how every darkness ends with the rising of light. 

The stars remind me to shine bright even when I’m surrounded by darkness.

The beautiful colours of the sunsets remind me to find the beauty in the simple, everyday things.

In my quest for you in everything; I have found everything. 

I have found your love, your light, your soul.

It is what it is

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

Since loosing Jude, I have made the phrase; ” it is what it is” my mantra for most days. My astrological sign makes me a dreamer, while my DNA makes me a realist with a knack for wanting to control most (if not all) aspects of my life.  Trouble is, when I lost Jude,  I also lost the piece of me that glued all of those elements together – the dreamer who knew when to pull the control levers to get the most realistic outcome.   So now, I’m still left with all of those elements, except I can’t seem to put them all together.  This is why, I have now come to heavily rely on the phrase “It is what it is'”.  It’s the holding place, the string that I have taped to each of those elements that enable me to temporarily make some sense of it all while appeasing to my controlling, dreaming realist self.

52 weeks post Jude, the phrase continues to be the holding ground.   In between week 1 and week 52, I have searched for that glue piece that use to harmoniously intertwine the characteristics of me together, but it’s impossible to find it in the rubble of my broken heart and my old life.  Not all pieces were lost in the rubble, but many core ones simply turned to dust – forcing me to just work with those that were left or build new ones.

Between week 1 and week 52, amongst the rubble, I’ve encountered prayers, words of comfort, angel charms, teddy bears, love rocks, postcards, letters, decorative wreaths, balloon releases and birthday cakes — each one tried and tested to fit within the space that would “glue” those key elements back together.  Some fit easier then others.  Some just don’t seem to stick at all.   Leaving me back to the default of ” it is what it is”.

Because, when I strip it all back.  When I line up all of those  failed attempts to glue me back together, I’m left with just me and the hole in my heart.  And that’s ok.  Because that’s exactly what truly is left.  There’s no first birthdays, no first steps, no first words, no first successful trips to the potty, no first haircuts, no first days of school, no first knee scrapes, no first bicycle ride, no first sleepover, no first crush, no first broken heart, no first love, no first day of new job, no first anything – ever.

That glue that use to perfectly bind those pieces of me no longer exists.  It’s no longer strong enough to hold the old pieces and the new pieces of me together.  All of those tried and tested and failed attempts are simply just coping mechanisms.  Mechanisms that get you from week 1 through to eternity.

And that’s ok – because, it is what it is.

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