So here’s a first. I put myself out there live. This is so far outside my comfort zone, but 2020 has been a year of firsts, so why not?
Since Christmas is in 8 sleeps (my kids are losing their minds as we count down), it only seemed fitting to discuss holidays. Bennett was just shy of 18 months old when he died, so we didn’t get many holidays with him. That part sucks.
My favorite holiday that we celebrated though would have to be his last Halloween. He was dressed up like a train conductor and he was just starting to understand how to walk up and ask for candy. There was one neighbor who had baby candy and Bennett held onto that candy all night. There were bite marks in the wrapper from where he tried to eat it. We still have that piece of candy. Because like so many other things, it’s just too hard to let go.
Your child could live 50 years or never take one breath, and the holidays still hurt the same. ❤️
What did your child cherish more than anything? Is there something that you have that reminds you of them? A picture, or an object?
Benny had a blanket. A simple white hand crocheted blanket that went everywhere with him. He was like Linus. He slept with it and dragged it with him. And I mean every where. I would have to steal it and wash it whenever possible.
After he first died, I slept with it every night. It took forever for me to wash it because I didn’t want to lose his scent. That blanket now sits at the foot of my bed. I try to bring it every where with us when we travel. It shows up in family pictures so that Benny is always represented. Now I drag it everywhere with me. ❤️
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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
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’
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.
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.