Friday, March 26, 2010

Art of the Heart

JJ brought home a picture he had made in art class.

 It is a picture of a penguin family of four. The daddy penguin is on the left. It is the one who is in charge of taking care of the egg. Now that’s a concept isn’t it? The white middle one is the mommy penguin & the one next to it is the child. JJ said “This penguin is Dad, this one is Mom, this one is me & this one is Janessa.” He had pointed to the one that was not colored when referring to Janessa. He told us that the daddy penguin was jumping & he told us that Janessa was flying above us. I find it interesting that he chose to leave “Janessa” transparent.

It made me smile that he thought if his sister but it also made my heart so heavy for him. When speaking about her he refers to her as his little sister. He never met his little sister, one of our biggest regrets, but he loves her. He loves her in a form of love that is pure, innocent and abundant. He loves her in the only form of love Janessa will ever know. And I love him even more for that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Driving Forward

I am so grateful the weather is getting nicer. It has definitely lifted some of my spirits. I have found some motivation that I have definitely been lacking. It feels good to have the sun shining & the windows open during the day. I have always loved the spring. Except for last spring.

We had a fun weekend. I went with my sister in law to bring my niece & son to watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid. We have been reading the book & he loves it. The movie was ok. They seemed to of enjoyed it.

On Sunday we took JJ to a local park to begin to teach him to ride his bike without training wheels. My husband insisted we teach him on the field of grass. I was all set to give him a little push on the road where we live & let him go…my husband, not so much. So we took him to the field & it went pretty well. Have a quick watch.

There were of course many of these moments as well, lol.

I have been re-learning how to enjoy myself again with normal activities. It is slowly returning. My mind does still wander to the “this moment should be like this..(insert Janessa)”. It is still very hard & it can be very distracting. I try to stay in the moment as much as I can. My son deserves my full attention & my full reactions to the moments we spend together. I try to stay focused.

It can be almost impossible. There was a cute little girl maybe 2 years old playing next to us with her daddy. She was the sweetest little blonde girl running around in pretty little pink dress. She was shrieking in delight and giggles as her daddy chased her through the field & then scooped her up in his arms. I glanced over at my husband and wished that moment for him and our daughter with all my being.

We saw this precious old couple who had to be in their nineties there as well. They were taking a walk & each five feet took them about 5 minutes. They were so determined to do their walk. She had her arm looped through his arm & they were chatting and laughing like a teenage couple. My husband looked up at me & said “That is going to be us when we are their age.” They even turned around and tried to walk backwards together. They laughed a bit & then turned around to continue their walk. As they passed by us another young couple with their sweet little girl walked by. She was maybe two & she was up on her daddy’s shoulders. She was wearing a sparkly little tutu over some pink leggings & she was happy as could be up there. As the two couples met the older man said to the couple “ah a little girl” the mom replied with a smile, a quick laugh & a “yes”. The older man asked “a little brother?” The mom replied “I don’t know…maybe someday.” The older man said “She needs some brothers & sisters.” An innocent conversation between strangers. One that just so happened to take place in front of me. One that cut me like a knife. If it was only that easy to make happen.

As JJ took a break from his new found bike riding skills a couple we knew walked by with heir family. She was pregnant the same time I was with a little girl. She has a son who is maybe 4. We said hello as they passed us & I glanced at the baby girl in the stroller. I darted my tear filled eyes away. Oh how that should be us.

We took a relaxing walk down a trail & spent a good amount of time at the end just sitting in the warm sun together. Our son told us “This is my best day ever!”

I had a great time that day with my husband & son. This post just reflects how a simple family outing can be intertwined with joy & love and pain & loss. I have almost become accustomed to the waves of emotions each daily task or outing can throw at me. I hold on to knowing that someday they will not be so intense.

As my son takes some steps in driving forward so am I, towards the day this all isn’t so fresh and painful.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Perfectly Put

Over the weekend I came across a great article on The Compassionate Friends Network about why a grieving mom chose to write through her pain. You can read it HERE. It explains so many of the same reasons I chose & continue to choose to write this blog. A good read.

I also watched a video they made called After A Child Dies. Family members who have experienced this loss firsthand share thoughts and insights of the grief journey & how the child’s death has affected their lives. It is so incredibly accurate. I cried through the entire clip because they were all my thoughts being expressed for me. My husband watched it & expressed to me how true the video is. This video clip could possibly bring so much understanding to the grief of burying your child. Most importantly it can bring BETTER understanding to those close to us. Please take a few minutes & watch & then pass it on.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Angel of Hope

I recently visited the children’s memorial spot at a church in a nearby town. It is at the same location that we will be holding Janessa’s memorial service for her 1 year “angelversary”. They have an outside pavilion that we will be using.

It was overwhelming to see how many babies & children are remembered there.

This Angel of Hope statue is 1 of 73 in the world. You can read the full story of it HERE. It is worth the read.

You can purchase bricks & have them engraved with your child's name & info. There are babies, infants, toddlers, children, adult children & many stillborn babies remembered there. I was struck with so much sadness for all these families.

Every December 6th they hold a candle light vigil. They have music, prayer & readings & a moment of silence. Each parent is then allowed to place a flower at the base of the angel in memory of their child. We will be attending this year. I am also planning on eventually purchasing a brick for Janessa. I think it would be nice to include her in such a special spot. I hope to have Janessa's brick there in time for the candle light vigil.

I never knew this spot existed. The memorial spot is hidden away behind another building. I have visited this church many many times over the years and never noticed the pathway where it starts. The fact that it is almost hidden away feels just like this hidden world of baby loss. Not many know it exists & most think it no longer does or they choose not to acknowledge it. The problem with this is more families have to join our "secret society" due to that mindset.

At the memorial there is a sign that hangs on the fence that says “Compassionate Friends Network.” I have come across there info on the internet quite a bit over the past 10 months. I am happy to see they have a chapter so close to home.

Even though it is not “our” church, over the years I have always told people that I have always felt at peace there. Probably more at peace than anywhere else, ever. They have a beautiful candle shrine where I have lit numerous candles. They also have a great little gift shop. They have a very small child loss section but I was pleasantly surprised to even find that. I may at some point discuss with them possibly expanding it a bit by suggesting other materials. I may even drop some free handouts to place in the section for parents to take if they wish.

I wish I didn’t have to search out spots like this. I wish I wasn’t planning a memorial service for her. I wish she was cuddled up in my arms wearing one of the cute outfits I dreamt up in my head. I wish she was crawling or possibly walking around the house keeping my days full of new accomplishments & baby kisses.

I always thought of the one year mark as a huge mile marker on this journey. I am upset that it is approaching so quickly. I am frightened at how I will handle it. I am sad that it has to happen.

We are holding her service Saturday May 15th, the day after the anniversary of the day she was born. The 13th is when we found out she had died & she was born around 8 hours later on May 14th. My husband is taking the 14th off & I am debating having my son stay home. I am planning out how we are going to spend the day. I know I don’t want to spend it home alone upset. I have a few ideas floating around in my head.

It is quickly approaching…too quickly.

If you are reading this & have lost a child, what did you do in memory of your angel on the first year mark?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


March 5th marked 10 years since my father died. It really feels like 10 years have passed. So many moments without him. So many times I wished he was here. So many times I needed him.

March 14th marked 10 months since Janessa died. It feels like yesterday. I am uncertain how this has happened. How this all has happened. How a baby can die before they even have the chance to live. How time can be so cruel without them. How this much time has passed so quickly.

I am no longer drowning in grief. I have learned over the past 10 months how to live with agonizing pain in my life. Its there. It will always be there. I am floating along now. Every now & then sinking under for a few moments. I have just learned how to mask it well. With laughter, jokes, distractions & life. Life goes on. As much as I needed that pause button life continued on.

The tears still flow. Hidden tears. Showers & car rides that overflow with them. Every couple weeks those tears are triggered into deep deafening sobs. I wonder will the cruel time take these away? Will it atleast give me peace in the future? How can it? How can anything bring me peace in this life I live without my daughter? I will continue to work towards that even though a piece of me knows I will never attain full peace.

I have created projects that keep me feeling close to Janessa. Without those I do not think I would be floating now. I have learned what allows me to cope. It has not been easy but here I am 10 months later & I am grateful to no longer be drowning. Each day I wake & wonder, will I sink today?

I am finally able to see a baby & not feel as though I may lose it…most of the times. I can handle social functions pretty well now. I can enjoy activities once again. I am trying to live. My husband & son keep me loving life. I still love my life. I hate the fact that I have to live without Janessa but I am so grateful for what I do have. A wonderful husband whom I have been in love with since 14 years old. I love him more as time goes on. I guess time isn’t always cruel. I have an amazing son who has given me the gift of motherhood & so much to live for. I look at him & know what we will be missing out on by Janessa not being here. Because I know first hand what we are missing, it makes the sting of her not being here just that much more painful. It makes me even more grateful that we have our son in our life.

I have become a harder & softer person at the same time. Some things that I used to stress over do not get a second of my time while things I never knew existed have consumed so many of my thoughts & emotions. I have changed. I hope its for the better. I guess only that time I speak of will tell what the experience of burying my child has done to me.

I visited their graves on March 5th. She is buried on top of him & their markers are next to each other.

I wondered to myself if my Dad was taking care of Janessa. After I got in my car I couldn’t seem to get myself to leave. I sat there for about 30 minutes & sobbed. I looked up to the sky & saw some leaves blowing & gliding through the air. Most blew away quickly & only what I thought were 2 stayed gliding. Then I realized that they were not leaves but two birds flying together. I watched them for a few moments & then they disappeared. They did not dissapear into the distance or fly down & land somewhere…they just vanished. It was odd. They were in plain sight & then gone. I kept looking for them. I thought I may have imagined these two flying birds. Then it hit me. Was that my Dads way of telling me he is with Janessa. Are they flying up above together? Did he want to show me he has her & she is ok. I hope that’s how it is. I hope they are soaring together…freely, full of love & happiness & most of all peace. Peace is what my father could not seem to find while he was alive.

I have spent too much time in a cemetery over the past 10 years. I can only imagine how much more time in that cemetery lies ahead me for the next 10 years.

I miss you Dad & my sweet angel. I love you…forever.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What To Do When A Baby Dies

I have posted 2 posts about things not to say or do when a child dies. You can read those here & here. I also wanted to make a post that explains what you can do. I do not want friends and family even more afraid of speaking or being around grieving parents because of reading a through a list of things to avoid saying and doing.

When a baby or child dies, no one knows what to say or do.  Most honestly do not know what to do or say. I have compiled a list of possible things to say or do in times of grief. I am hoping to spare one family additional pain caused from the feeling of being all alone after the death of their child.

- Say you are sorry for their loss. A simple “I am sorry” or “I do not know what to say” is perfectly ok. You can also say “I am here for you”, “I am praying for you”, “I will light a candle for your child”. Those can be comforting to them. If you talk to them & you cry, that is ok. Knowing their child was loved by others means so much to them. Never acknowledging their loss by waiting until time passes & then acting like it never happened is very hurtful to the parents who loved their child so very much.

- Send a sympathy card. Each time I received a card for the month after our daughter passed it validated she existed. After a family loses a baby it almost feels like their child was not real. They are there one moment then gone the next. It feels like a terrible nightmare for the first few months. I appreciated those sympathy cards more than anyone will ever know. I saved each one.

- Send flowers for the funeral service to the church or funeral home. Showing the parents their child was loved is important.

- If you choose to send something to the parent’s home I am not sure flowers are the correct choice.  First let me say that any flowers we received were so very much appreciated and we were comforted that people were thinking of us and more importantly our daughter. I did however take each flower arrangement into Janessa’s room and shut the door. I brought some of them to her at the cemetery. I  knew the flowers would die as well and I did not want anymore death around me. If you still would like to send flowers or you know the parents would like them, maybe send the birth month flower to their house. For example lily of the valley is the birth month flower for our daughter and I love seeing them. They remind me of her. Include a note or letter letting the parents know the meaning of the flower. They may not be in any shape or form to make the connection themselves at that time.

- Bring food over to the house. I lost my appetite for months. I basically lived on cereal straight out of the box. It required no effort to make and when I did feel hungry I grabbed a few handfuls. We did receive some food immediately after we returned home and we were so thankful for it. I did not cook for probably 4 months after Janessa died. Just couldn’t do it. I took care of my son the best we could but definitely struggled with daily tasks. Starting up a group of people willing to cook and bring over food possibly on a schedule for sometime would be a good thing to do. You can also use a website such as this to help coordinate:

- As I previously mentioned, I did not handle daily functions very well at all. For the first 3 months or so I would start a load of laundry or dishes then half way through break down into sobs and leave it there for days. Laundry overfilled our laundry room and at one point resorted to buying paper plates and cups to help reduce the chore demand. I kept the house picked up the best I could. Offering to come over to help with chores and cleaning would be welcomed and needed by most.

- Offer to do the grocery shopping, pay the bills, or other errands. I did not grocery shop for weeks and weeks. Partly because I didnt feel up to it and partly because I couldn’t make it through the store without breaking down half way through. I was also scared of running into someone I knew. I also hated the feeling of seeing someone I knew and knowing they knew we lost our daughter and having them pretend they didn’t see me. I also hated it when someone would talk to me and act like everything was normal. I dreaded leaving the house and for months anything we needed we went out of town for. Having someone to fall back on would be incredibly helpful.

- Saying “I am here if you need anything” is great if you mean it. The parents will most likely never call you to help. You could directly offer to do a specific task to help them. “Would you like me to come over and do your laundry?”

- A friend of ours started a collection up for us and many of our friends contributed to that. We were overwhelmed and so grateful for the donations. We never imagined having to pay for a funeral for one of our children and definitely did not have an account set up to handle such a thing. The donated money was a blessing.

- If the couple has other children offer to bring them to and from school or to any activities. If they have younger children offer to come over and bring them outside to play. The parents will most likely not have a lot of energy or ambition to be playful.

- When speaking to the parents use their child’s name. There is nothing sweeter than hearing our daughter’s name.

- Remember especially difficult times such as the anniversary of the baby's due date, birthday or death, or the holidays. Send them a card letting them know your thinking of their child or some other remembrance gesture.

- Understand the family's mixed feelings about your own or a friend's pregnancy. It may be very difficult for the family to see a friend who is pregnant, especially if their baby may be due at the same time as the baby they lost. It may also be very hard to be around newborns or children the same age as their child. In time, this will lessen but do not think poorly of them for feeling this way. They are in an enormous amount of pain and they are longing for their child so very much.

- Offer your help in memorializing the baby. Offer to help make something in the child’s memory. A garden, scrapbook, video, virtual memorial site.

- Encourage attendance at a support group. Provide an email with links to resources or brochures brought over to their house. This is not for everyone but they should know of their options and whats out there.

- You can also purchase an item that reminds you of their baby for the parents. An ornament for their Christmas tree, a figurine, a pin etc.

- Visit their child’s grave and leave flowers or a memento to let them know you loved their child as well and you are thinking of them. It will be comforting and supportive when the parent's find your moment there.

- Here a few things that have been done for us by others that we enjoyed: An online event on facebook was created by a sweet friend for our friends and family to take part in. They were asked to dedicate an ornament on their tree in memory of Janessa. They were asked to take a picture and upload it to the event. I later made a slideshow of them. Each time I received another picture of a dedicated ornament, it made that day more bearable. Another friend has organized a team to walk in the March of Dimes walk in memory of our daughter. Just knowing that people think of her means so much.

- Most of all check in with them. If they don’t call back wait a few days and try again. They will eventually answer or call back when they are ready and they will always remember that you cared enough to call even if they didn’t answer for you. Send a quick email letting them know you are thinking of them.

These are just some things can be done. I want this out there so those who want to be there but do not know how to will be able to read this and be as supportive as they can to help their friend or family member through this time in their life.

Please feel free to leave a comment below of any other gesture you feel would be appropriate.

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