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 centre of it all

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing

The weeks leading up to today tend to be the same with each year that passes. They are filled with anxiety and fear. Fear that with the passing of yet one more year, my memory of you will fade. Anxiety simply because the perfectionist in me wants to ensure that every detail of your celebration is covered off and perfect. So in the middle of the night, when I am restless and my brain races through every milestone and every event that lead me to you, I realize that even then – even in the darkness you are in the centre of it all.

But in the darkness, it’s where I see your light the brightest. It’s in the darkness that I reflect on the thoughts that filled my foggy grief mind in the early days of how I could possibly endure such sorrow. How I could possibly continue on with the heaviness that filled my heart on this day. Today, in the darkness, I relish in your brightness and think, how could I possibly not carry on bearing witness to the joy that you have brought to my life.

In the movie, Collateral Beauty, the character that portrays, ‘Love’ challenges the main character on his refusal to accept Love into his life after experiencing the loss of his child. ‘Love’ declares it’s presence by insisting that you simply cannot turn your back on love – that even in the darkness, there is a place for love. That love – your love, is what leads me through the darkness and into the morning light.

Today, as we celebrate your 3rd birthday, your love shines brighter then ever. It’s the guiding light through it all. It guides me through the fear, the anxiety, the sorrow and allows me to embrace the joy. The collateral beauty that your light shines upon leaves me in awe every single day. It’s in those tiny moments of awe that you remind me that there’s nothing to fear. That the memory of you will never fade. That you are my constant. In the light and in the dark. Much like the “Love” character in the movie, you declare your presence time and time again and assure me that you are indeed at the centre of it all. And there in the centre of my heart, is where I will forever carry you my sweet Jude.

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Xo mommy

Tonka Truck Day

#judedays, Child loss, Grief, Healing

Two years ago today I woke up to the the familiar sound of my phone notifying me that the outside world was connecting with me.  I glanced over at the phone laying on my night table and read the brightly lit message, ” thinking of you today”.  A few minutes after that, it notified me again that the outside world was reaching out once more.  And again and again until I returned it to its restful state for recharge at the end of the day.  Today; two years later, my phone lays in its restful charging state – silent.  No outside world reaching out – only my four month old puppy checking in to make sure I’m still here.  

Today is an ordinary day to the outside world, but to me it’s meaningful.  Today is the day that I hold as Jude’s true honorary birthday.  Today, if all had gone according to plan, he could have been turning 2.  Today was my official due date from my pregnancy with Jude.  

For the last two years, I have observed the day in a way as one that is special and not ordinary.  It’s a day that I honour Jude in a simple way as well as also honour myself, as a means to mark the survival of our journey together, so that it too, does not go unnoticed.  I know that the odds of a person actually delivering their baby on their due date are rare,  but that doesn’t stop me from often wondering if on this day I would be celebrating a birthday with my little boy.  Whether the odds were in my favour or not for a successful delivery on my planned due date, it doesn’t change the fact that I would have likely been celebrating a birthday in January with Jude.  And for that reason alone, I choose to continue to honour this day –– if even just with a simple balloon.  

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.