12 Days of Memories-Day 3

Ok. I may sound crazy, but maybe not to those of you that have lost children. Do any of you see your children? And by see I mean do you stop breathing for an instant when you see a child/adult that looks like them? Is it just me?

Benny had blond curls and blue eyes. And dimples. He was the most beautiful boy that existed. He had long dark lashes that were wasted on a little boy (says his mom with the stubby, blond lashes).

Every once in awhile I see a child that looks just like him. Him as toddler, him as a baby, or him as I see him had he grown up. And my heart stops. Because for an instant, it’s like he’s here. And maybe his death was a mistake. For a moment I get to pretend that everything is ok. And then it’s gone. But it’s all worth it for that brief moment.

12 Days of Memories-Day 2

Every day that I’m at the shop, I’m reminded of our little guy. Benny was a tinkerer and wanted to be in the cars and around the cars. He once went into our office and grabbed a random set of keys and asked to go into one of the cars, where he tried said keys in the ignition. Clearly it didn’t work, but we were taken aback by this one year old child who understood how to start a vehicle.

He was always listening. Even when you thought he wasn’t paying attention, he was. It blew me away. He picked up on everything. He also had a big sister he was always trying to keep up with. I miss watching his little brain process things.

12 Days of Memories-Day 1

2020 is really hard. Grief in 2020 is really hard. Parenting in 2020 is really hard. Parenting a dead child in 2020 is really hard.

So I decided to do 12 Days of Memories leading up to Christmas. Maybe it will make this final stretch into the holidays easier. Maybe it will make it harder. I have no idea. I just know that my grief needs some acknowledgement this year.

Day 1-Tonight was Compassionate Friends Candlighting for all of the Children lost too soon. What a perfect place to start. We lit our candles for Benny and all the other children I know whose parents miss them.

A wave of light seems like the perfect way to kick this off. Benny only celebrated one birthday. When I think of all of the candles that he missed blowing out over the years, it’s like a punch to the gut. We still still sing to him every year and celebrate his life. But it’s so damn hard. It’s hard to celebrate the life that you carried for nine months and all of the hopes and dreams that you had for them. It’s hard to realize that you only have the past and the memories to hold onto. A flame that shone so bright and was burnt out too soon.

The Stockings Are Hung

Every year we hang Benny’s stocking for Christmas. And every year we each write him a letter, draw him a picture, etc. To include him in our Christmas.

Sometimes it happens on Christmas Eve, some years on Christmas day. Sometimes it happens as we take the stockings down for the year and that’s ok. It’s our way of including our little guy.

As I was pulling out the notes to look this year, my heart hurt. It’s crazy to think that there are so many letters. Long ones, short ones, scribbles and everything in between. I found mine from 2013 and I don’t think I’m ready to go there yet. Maybe one day.

It’s been a long road. And it keeps going. Sometimes it’s windy and bumpy, other times it’s straight and I know where I’m headed (or at least I think I do). Sometimes it feels like a very lonely road and other times I am surrounded by so many others. But it’s my road and I know I will walk it until my last breath.

Brave

I’m not feeling very brave. I’m feeling very beaten down and tired. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the fact that it has been 7 years since Benny died. And maybe if the world wasn’t a disaster, and school wasn’t a mess and work wasn’t overwhelming I could spend 5 minutes actually acknowledging this very fact.

My soul is weary. Maybe even more so than it was 7 years ago. The constant reminder of death, the statistics and the faceless people is too much to bear. Because I know how absolutely soul crushing it is for these families to have to try to pick up the pieces. But I don’t know how they do so in the absence of hugs and physical touch.

I don’t think that I’m fighting so much right now as I’m surviving. It seems to be a constant game of defense, as something new rears its ugly head to contend with. I don’t feel like I’m pushing away the waves as much as I’m being slammed by them. Over and over as I try to right myself and swim again.

Trust me, I very much want to give up some days. I want to get in my car and drive until I’m somewhere, anywhere. I want to be done with 2020 and all of its constant reminders to ‘enjoy every moment, because you never know when it will be your last.’ If anyone knows about death and loss, it’s me. My bingo card is filled to the brim. It’s overwhelming to constantly be reminded of this.

But I’m here. And tomorrow’s another day. And hopefully I will find my 5 minutes of peace with my grief. And if it’s brave to just exist right now, to just be, then maybe, just maybe, I am brave.

Mary Poppins Returns

I watched Mary Poppins Returns tonight for the second time and I am again obsessing over how well grief is normalized/portrayed/handled in this movie.

The first time I watched it I sat sobbing in the theater. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of triggers in the movie. When I say triggers, I mean in the very best way. Because I sat there watching Disney talk openly to kids and families about death. And grief. And it made me so very happy that they had created a movie surrounding a very hard topic that had some very great messages.

The music in that movie had me sobbing. Song after song I needed tissues as I listened to the lyrics that I felt I could have written. Because I lived them. And they resonated with something deep inside. Again, in the best way possible.

A Conversation

‘This year has gone by in a blur
Today seems everything’s gone wrong here
I’m looking for the way things were
I know you’d laugh and call me tragic
For everything’s in disarray
These rooms were always full of magic
That’s vanished, since you went away’

This song, a conversation between Michael Banks and his deceased wife, guts me. It is so hard to carry on after our people are gone. And it is so hard to do so without feeling some sort of guilt or failure. Not that’s there’s a right or wrong way to grieve, but my goodness it is so very hard when there are children involved. It changes everything.

Where the Lost Things Go

This song gets me every time. Every single word in this song is beautiful. And true. And I love that it is used for a lullaby.

‘Do you ever dream
Or reminisce?
Wondering where to find
What you truly miss
Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

Memories you’ve shed
Gone for good you feared
They’re all around you still
Though they’ve disappeared
Nothing’s really left
Or lost without a trace
Nothing’s gone forever
Only out of place’

Trip a Little Light Fantastic

I love how this song talks about being ‘lost’ and in a ‘fog’. I think we can all agree that is exactly how it feels. Sometimes you are in the fog, unaware and lost. In grief, we all just need our own leary. And maybe sometimes it’s a person, or a pet or whatever when we can’t find our own light.

Sometimes Friendships

Man, this one resonated with me. Sometimes relationships end. And it’s really freaking hard.

‘Listen, sometimes friendships break.

They just do. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you it means you’re normal. Every single one of us has been there. Friendship is hard and complex and it doesn’t always turn out like we wish it would.

Sometimes friendships fall apart and you’re not even sure why. Sometimes you do everything know to do and it’s not enough.
Sometimes you have a fight and you try to pick up the pieces, but it feels like you don’t have the tools to glue the broken edges together again. It hurts and you wish you did, but you just don’t.
Sometimes you both carry wounds from childhood and it makes communication hard or impossible.

Sometimes you can’t get healthy without moving on.

Sometimes you grow apart. You can’t put your finger on it, it just happens, slowly and suddenly, you wake up and you’re different people. You wish you could stay, but you know you have to go. Your paths have split and you can’t travel the same road anymore.

Sometimes things stay broken when they should be fixed. It’s no one’s fault it’s just the truth of it. The truth of it is that things don’t always turn out with happy endings.

Sometimes you hurt someone deeply and even the most heartfelt apology doesn’t make it the same again.

Sometimes people hurt you. They say the wrong thing and they do the wrong thing and it hurts.

Sometimes friends walk away when they should have stayed.

Sometimes you walk away when you should have stayed. You should have stayed and fought harder. You know that now, but you can’t go back.

Sometimes friends betray you. You trust them with your whole heart and it turns out they didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes you can’t do everything anymore. You can’t pull your weight and their weight, you need it to be a two way street.
I don’t have all the answers, I’ve been in every one of these stories. All I know is we have to begin again. We have to open our hearts and risk again. There’s no guarantee we won’t be hurt or disappointed. There’s no guarantee we won’t eventually grow apart.

Friendship includes struggle, we don’t like to talk about that, but it’s true. It’s impossible to risk in relationships and come out the other side unscathed. Sometimes friendships break. It’s painful and it’s hard.

All I know is life is for living with people.

All I know is that friendship is the most sacred of treasures and it’s worth picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and fighting for it with all of our hearts.’

Written by Jess Johnston

Follow @sisteriamwithyou. for more.

Those Back to School Photos

I’m beginning to see the smiling faces of all of my friends kids on social media, all gussied up for the first day of school…or remote learning…or homeschool. With everything going on over the last 6 months, I had forgotten.

No I didn’t forget Benny had died, the rainbows and I drove by the cemetery the other day blowing kisses and saying a hello. I had forgotten that yet another school year has begun. Another milestone has been missed. Another memory will never be.

This is a messed up year in a lot of ways and maybe that’s why it didn’t occur to me until I saw a child Benny’s age. They were all dressed up and smiling for their first day of 3rd grade. I cannot believe that he should be starting starting 3rd grade. I cannot believe that it has been that long.

I just had to sit and do the math over and over, because it’s hard for me to rationalize in my mind that he should be 8 years old right now. While this year has provided me with time with my living children, it has kept me so busy that I feel I have neglected time with my dead child. Time in general in 2020 seems to be an abstract concept.

So I’m sitting here, with really tired eyes because it’s been another busy day. And my head is spinning as our new school year is right around the corner. And I just needed to make some space. I needed to take a moment and wrap my head around the picture that I should be taking of my crazy 8 year old guy as he starts whatever version of school we would have chosen, without the guise of loss hanging overhead.

I can almost see the smile with those dimples. I can almost hear him and Darcy rough housing and bickering like my rainbows do. I can imagine that he would be a mess before I even had a chance to take a picture. Because he was always into something. I can almost feel the hug that I have been dying to give him since 2013 when this whole disaster started.

Another school year, another landmark missed. That’s the thing with grief, you don’t just lose somebody all at once, but rather in pieces, over time. My god, I miss you buddy.

She Understood

There were many people that showed up and sat with us for months after our loss. They came with food and drink and presents for Darcy. There was so much honesty and connection through these visits. My work family was a big part of this.

When Benny died people were pretty amazing. We talk so much about the people that have disappointed us, but in truth there were so many that stepped up to help us too. We were lucky to be surrounded by love.

There were many people that showed up and sat with us for months after our loss. They came with food and drink and presents for Darcy. There was so much honesty and connection through these visits. My work family was a big part of this.

One of my co workers ‘C’ came by a few times to spend time with us. I remember sitting in my living room, or going out to dinner with her and her fiance. It was easy and a good distraction for us. She was one of those people who was able to hug me and cry and even though she didn’t have children of her own, she was able to empathize. That meant the world to me then.

Fast forward a few years and I was asked to write a letter about my boss and how he had supported us through our grief. Because of who he is and what he does for those around him, he won Core Net’s Service Provider of the Year. Parker and I were invited to the event and I was terrified to go.

This was 3 years after Benny had passed. I had since quit my job and had been working with Parker growing our antique automobile business. Fletcher the rainbow was 1 year old and we were surviving. I had been avoiding the reality that I had lived a whole other life for a long time. For 7 years I had built relationships with clients, contractors and vendors alike. This event would force me to face all that I had lost/given up professionally.

When we got there, I was nervous. I knew that we would be sitting at a table with some of my past clients and I knew that I would see others from the industry. I remember taking a deep breath and walking up the stairs, and there to my surprise was C. Now C had just had her first child about 6 months prior. I was so happy to see a familiar face and I ran to give her a big hug. And she started crying. And then I started crying. Because I knew in that moment that she understood.

Now as a mother, she understood my loss at a deeper level. I was sad for her because she realized the magnitude of love that comes with carrying and having a child. And I think for the first time she clearly realized what we lost. So we cried and hugged. We didn’t need to say anything because we both understood. And I felt seen. My loss felt acknowledged all over again.

I wish that I could say that the rest of the night was as great as that single moment, but it wasn’t. It was awkward as all hell. I was awkward. And I’m okay with that. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I accomplished something that I had been avoiding. And that single moment made the whole night worth it. Thank you C.

Late to the Hamilton Party

We just finished watching Hamilton here tonight. There’s just so much to digest. I’m still not even sure what we watched because not only was it visually stunning and musically unique, there were so many phrases/lyrics that struck me.

‘There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down.’

‘There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable’

Both of these passages are taken from the song ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ and are actually about two parents after the loss of their son. I can tell you that I wasn’t expecting this from a musical about Alexander Hamilton.

In the background of the song the cast is singing, ‘they’re living in the unimaginable.’ That’s probably the best way to describe life after child loss. We are living in the unimaginable. No one can understand this life until they are thrown into it.

Another song that struck me was ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who tells your story.’ Because that’s what we do as parents of children who are gone. We tell their story. We say their names. We remind people that they were here.

‘And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?’

This of us that are stuck in the unimaginable tell your story. We remember and we keep your name alive. If you haven’t watched Hamilton, I highly recommend it. It’s beautiful from beginning to end.