The Defense Wall Called Blame: An Open Letter To Morgan and Bode Miller

I know you blame yourselves.

We (the collective ‘we’ of parents who have buried children) always do.

I honestly hate that you’re included in this we. I hate even more that you’re in the subset that encompasses those parents who let out those uncontrollable screams into pillows in the wee morning hours because some crazy, freak accident/occurrence ripped a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal.

Child death goes against the natural order of life. It causes us to throw up all of our mental, emotional, and even physical defenses as we try to explain it. If there’s an explanation, then that means we can prevent it from happening because it has an identifiable cause.

My son died. Three and a half years ago, I signed paperwork one morning for a tonsillectomy/adnoidectomy and 16 hours later I was in the fetal position outside an operating room making that sound that only comes from a parent as they plead for the life of their child. The pleading words to trade my life for his couldn’t come fast or frequent enough.

It was the week before his third birthday and two weeks before Christmas. His presents were bought. His Christmas Eve pajamas were ready to go. He’d been with me when I bought them for all of my lovies and I’d let him pick them out.

Caleb was my shadow, my constant companion with a daredevil streak. He was the perfect example of those boy mom jokes about quiet equaling trouble. He lived life fully and fearlessly. Then, a post op bleed, full cardio-pulmonary arrest in the OR, and 5 days in the PICU ended with him dying the day before his birthday and him being an organ, eye, and tissue donor on his birthday. That last part has been the tiny piece I’ve held onto when the waves of grief become tidal.

The biggest enemy we child loss parents face is the should(n’t) have, the what if. Some recess of our clear thinking minds occasionally tries to be reasonable, but through grief blurred eyes that taint our perception we blame ourselves, others, God, or all of the above. As our former, freer selves pour out of our newly ripped heaven hole never to be seen again, our minds constantly sound the inadequate, inept, questioning, regret filled bell.

I shouldn’t have gone to the bathroom until nap time.

I should have double checked the lock.

I shouldn’t have let go of his hand.

I shouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss that leg cramp.

I should have taken better care of myself when I was pregnant.

I should have made her stay inside.

I shouldn’t have stopped to chat.

I should have made sure the baby gate latched.

I should have taken him to the doctor sooner.

I should have fought harder.

I shouldn’t have left the room, even for a minute.

I should have triple checked.

I should have done better.

I should have listened to my gut.

I should have been perfect.

I shouldn’t have signed those papers.

It’s my fault.

As if it weren’t bad enough to bury a child and live with the guilt of not saving them, we are surrounded by the ease of the internet. We have a general public full of perfect people who can be all too quick to point out our faults as they are perceived through the naive, rose colored glasses of “that would never happen to me.” I firmly believe this comes from that self defense place within each of us.

It all goes back to blame, to an explanation. Some identified misstep on the part of a child loss parent is a misstep that can be avoided, thereby protecting every other child from facing the same fate. I’ve even heard pediatric cancer parents blamed for not seeking the most aggressive, experimental treatment. There are no boundaries to the finger pointing.

I know this is the absolute, most difficult experience you will ever face. There is no wound deeper, no heartache greater than that which comes from burying your child. There are no rules on how to properly handle it, no guidelines for erasing the nightmarish images that prevent sleep. There is only trying to adapt to an entirely new normal. A normal with a darker reality woven into it.

I have often used the fork in the road metaphor since I buried my corn silk haired Bubba. When he died, myself and my family had a choice to make. We were faced with a fork in the road. I could walk a dark path or a well lit one.

The sadness, darkness, and anger can be, and regularly are, all consuming. The dark path is one so easy to gravitate towards. The well lit one, the one with hope and purpose, is so much harder. At first, steps were taken on that well lit path because I had other children to mother. Really, it was a well lit fog that I sort of stumbled down. They’d just buried a brother, I couldn’t let them lose their mother.

With time, I’ve learned the very best way to still honor and mother Caleb is to live on that well lit path and be stronger from the horror I’ve lived through. I’ve also learned it’s important to take trips to the darkness, to let out the wretched thoughts and feelings that would drag me down to depths unknown. I then pick myself up (and let others help me stand when needed) and keep on living, keep loving. I’ve even started to learn to forgive myself a bit. Not fully there yet, but the guilt doesn’t make it so hard to breath anymore.

Does this mean time heals? Hell no. That’s total bs. Anyone who tells you that this is a wound that heals has never experienced it. This is a wound that becomes a very thin scar that will rip open, although less often with time. It is a transformative experience that reshapes reality and your sense of normalcy. I only pray that you know you are not alone and my heart aches with yours.

So, if it’s ever 3am and you can’t sleep or the heaving sobs feel like they’ll never stop or you’re trying to stop yourself from physically harming the 74th person who reminded you that at least you have other children (as if they’re interchangeable or replaceable) or that you should really pay closer attention, shoot me an email. Find me on FB and shoot me a DM. Reach out and I’ll give you my cell number. Because I get it and sometimes you just need someone else who gets it, too.

With heartfelt love and empathy,

Jenelle

 

 

Time

It’s been too long, I know. I’ll try to explain that sometime, but not now.

Right now it’s 3 years and I need to clear my thoughts a bit. I need room to breath and I don’t really have that right now. The 17th is his death date, but tonight will always be the night it happened for me.

I’ve stayed busy all day. Really busy. I only looked at the clock as I zipped around the kitchen making dinner to ensure we ate before Tony’s band concert. I didn’t want to have time to think. I wanted to convince myself that 3 years was enough time to not still have the wind knocked out of me.

I was wrong.

We gathered the kids for family song and prayer before bed tonight and I caught a glimpse of the clock as the bedtime protests began.

8:21

It was all just beginning. Brig was just buckling him in his car seat after he coughed in his sleep and we saw fresh blood.

8:55

We’re both betting strapped to the gurney for transfer across town to get to the OR asap to control his post op bleed.

9:20

We’re waiting in the second ER, reviewing everything with doctors and nurses.

There always seems to be a part of my mind replaying that night at any given time, but today it’s always worse. It’s not as noticeable on a daily basis as it once was, but it’s still there.  I once had someone ask me about that night and when I was through sharing he said, “Wow! I think I get it a little bit now. I’ve heard your story, but I just realized as I watched and listened to you now. You weren’t talking to me. You were narrating for me. I could see in your eyes that everything was playing out again in your mind and it was like you were right back there, living it all over again. You don’t just recall snippets or pieces. The entire night plays out moment by moment in your memory, doesn’t it?”.

Yes. Yes it does.

In an hour, Caleb will be in full cardiac arrest and will never wake up again. I held him against my chest, stroked his hair, put my cheek to his abnormally cool head, and promised him everything would be okay. I promised him things would get fixed. I sang him his favorite lullabies. I stared into those big blues until they didn’t open anymore. I heard his code called over the intercom and saw the flurry of activity as we followed the house manager to the OR hallway.

And there I sat, screamed, cried, prayed, pleaded, and bargained while he died behind the doors.

The next 5 days weren’t days, but that stretch where time stood still. And then I was making funeral arrangements, getting information about his organ recipients, and telling my children that their baby brother wasn’t coming home with us.

3 years.

He never turned 3. It’s so strange to think that this month marks him being dead longer than he lived. It seems like ages ago and yesterday all at the same time.

Sharon Eubank is a leader within my church and she shared this on Facebook today:

There is a verse in Isaiah that says part of the mission of the Messiah is “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning.”

Although we mourn our losses, especially at Christmas, the heart of the work of Jesus Christ is to give us beauty for ashes, to build up the waste places. This is also an important and beautiful part of the spirit of Christmas. When our hearts are too heavy to participate in the lights and toys and music, we can offer our ashes to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He accepts that gift too.

 

Today, I hugged my lovies a little longer. I snuggled bitty girl a little more. The burning in my chest has been a little bit hotter, but I kept breathing, I kept living. My ability to adapt and adjust got a little bit stronger.

Why?

Because Caleb Is Alive In Me and so is Jesus Christ.

-Forever Caleb’s Mom, JenelleIMG_6797

I’m sorry, too.

I have so many blog posts started, thought of, and left unfinished. This post came to me today and rang true, but I now have a new canyon. I have a new self and reality to merge. Just when I felt like I was constructing a bridge between my pre and post Caleb death selves, my lovely Alice was born. I’m so profoundly blessed and love her beyond words. I’m thrilled she is a part of our family.

Now, I need to figure out how to mother a babe after burying one. I need to figure out how to help her know her big brother without dwelling on him too much. I need to figure out how to be social in groups, leave the house more, and not have it all exhaust me. I need to figure out how to help some of my children fully bond with her because they’re “afraid she’ll die too” and they “just can’t do that again, it’s too hard, it hurts too much”. I need to figure out how to ease all our fears without dismissing them. I need to keep my own heart open, even knowing the risk and pain that can come with that. Yet, I know I can. It’ll take faith, prayer, and a lot of patience (mostly with myself).

So, I begin again.

~Jenelle

Caleb's Alive In Me

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

This has been the phrase that has haunted me since Caleb died. At first, I didn’t like thinking of him as lost because my faith told me exactly where he was. His physical body was buried, but all he is and was lives on and waits for me with our Father in Heaven.

On more agitated days, I felt angry at the “your” part. It left me with a feeling that this vibrant, energetic, loving little boy no longer being physically here was only a loss to me, to my family. Why wasn’t it “our” loss? Why wasn’t it a collective loss for all humanity? For the world? Why couldn’t everyone feel that our future existence was left less bright without him in it?

Then, I just started to accept it for what it is, a sympathetic platitude when you don’t know what else…

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I Saved Him

We’ve plowed through the last few months doing so many things; prepping for the holiday season and pulling off an incredible toy and book drive that shattered all of our goals thanks to the help and support of our new and amazing community. At times, I’ve had to consciously pause, allow myself to feel, and take steps to try to ensure there won’t be a major January crash this time around. There have been difficult times for my little herd, too. Moving through the holidays, Caleb’s death date, and birthday always brings up raw emotions. We had a couple of lovies that really struggled with angry, grumpy feelings this year. We had to be mindful of where those feelings were coming from and make sure we pulled them aside to give them a chance to let the deep stuff out, let the tears flow.

In the midst of it all, I’m continuing to wrestle with that emotional struggle of feeling the heart connection with our new itty bitty babe. I’m so very excited and my head is fully aware of the squirmy one doing a gymnastics routine inside me. It’s still hard to fully break down the protective walls. The ones that fly up at the thought of anything going wrong, at the risk every minute of every day that life and a happy ending aren’t a guarantee. I learned the hard way that my intuition, my pleas, my instinct, my actions aren’t always enough.

And that terrifies me.

I’ve felt fairly awful the last couple of days. Everything hurts. My back keeps spasming, headaches abound, my entire body aches, and I’m not sleeping well. I broke down at 3 a.m. New Year’s Day and asked my loving husband to say a prayer over me, or give me a blessing as we call it. Then, I slept. I slept with only waking twice! With that sleep came a dream of my Caleb. Not a horrid nightmare that has so often been the case, but a dream.

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My climber absolutely loved our family vacation to Arches National Park!

My little daredevil climber managed to climb a utility tower and perch himself on the platform at the top. This is were the dream started. I found myself at the bottom, frantically trying to get him to come down as Brig climbed up. I pleaded with everyone to get a bucket truck over faster, to get something in place to catch him if he fell, but everything moved in slow motion. So, I positioned myself in front of the platform where my stinker stood.

Then, just as Brig was about to wrap his daddy arms around him, he wiggled, giggled, and fell.

I reached out my arms, got underneath him, and caught him in an awkward way that resulted in his right leg flopping to the side as I squatted to absorb the momentum of the fall which led to his foot hitting the ground. I looked at his thick, muscular leg and knew it was broken. Yet, he didn’t cry. I cried. I pulled him in close and he snuggled in like always. I could feel his hot breath on my neck as I carefully carried him away to get checked out. My dream then skipped ahead to him with his newly cast leg, not letting it slow him down too much. He was home, he was safe, and I saved him.

This time, I was enough.

For the first time since Caleb died, I was enough. I’ve had many nightmares like this. Nightmares replaying that night. Nightmares like this one where my efforts failed. The recurring one has involved him playing on train tracks with me chained to the platform wall, unable to reach him, and I watch as the train comes into the station and he disappears. Not this time.

This time, he sent me a little gift. A reminder that I can be, and usually am, enough. That, while life doesn’t always turn out the way we’d like despite our best efforts, that’s all we have to offer. Sometimes, the train comes. Sometimes, the catch is awkward. Sometimes, we are left broken or bruised. The point is, we did our best.

So, hello New Year and thanks for the reminder, Bub.

-Jenelle

My Son Lives

I read this post today and realized something. It should have been written this year. Not because it’s perfectly fitting for everyday, but I was kidding myself last year. Big time. I was running. I didn’t realize it then, but when I mentally, emotionally, and physically crashed big time in January, I knew. I’d built up such a high pedestal of positivity last year that I didn’t realize it was precariously teetering on the back of my sadness, anger, and despair over Caleb’s death and the Thanksgiving week miscarriage. A year ago, my perceived strength eventually turned into a shattered liability. Now, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, and I pray daily for the real strength it takes to feel, face, and release in a constructive way so this blog post and the feelings shared still ring true come January.

Caleb's Alive In Me

The physical and emotional journey I’ve been on over the last month, last year, is generally beyond words to adequately describe it.  Here’s what I do know as we approach Caleb’s one year death anniversary and his birthday the next day.

My son lives.

He lived and he lives.  He lived a gloriously busy, loud, inquisitive, dare devil, passionate, ‘nuggle filled life.  He lives on in all who knew and loved him as well as those who continue to get to know and love him through us.  He was and is amazing.

Our family, save A (who had choir tour), had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Giving Tree Reception at the University of Iowa today.  Caleb is featured on a poster next to the tree as a Gift of Life Donor.  Donor and recipient families were there along with staff from the hospital, Iowa Donor Network, and Iowa Lions…

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Just Being Real

A year ago tonight Brig took me to the ER as our rainbow glimmer of joy disappeared. It took almost 8 months to rebuild my faith to try again. Then more time still to get to the joyful place we are at with this baby, but it’s still a struggle.

Today, I tried to keep busy with deep cleaning, unpacking, color coding my grocery list, grocery shopping, prepping for Thanksgiving, and basically running away. I’m good at that sometimes.

I think we all are.

As I drove to the grocery store with my giddy for one on one time 8 year old in the backseat, the sun seemed to follow my face at every turn. I was left thinking of Bub. I imagined him in the backseat, too. He loved helping me at the grocery store. I thought of his last Thanksgiving. It snowed and he followed the big kids as they dared one another to run outside barefoot. He couldn’t decide if he should laugh at the silliness or cry because his feet were freezing. It was adorable.

Then, my heart started to ache.

I pulled it together and buried myself in dinner prep and more cleaning when I got home. After bathing kids and getting them to bed, I sat by the fire as Brig looked for the elusive box of printer ink. He found it.

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He also found Bub’s bag of paper keepsakes from the hospital (handprints, footprints, pictures, etc) that disappeared during the move. The movers weren’t supposed to pack it, but they did and we had no idea where. He found it in a storage box in the garage, thank heaven! When he brought it in, all the feels broke free.

We have so many wonderful and positive things going on right now to honor Bub as we approach his birthday next month. We’re making progress and are adapting to this life pretty well, but it isn’t always easy and I’m not always put together and strong. It’s important to acknowledge that this still is the worst, it still sucks, but we’re doing it.

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-Jenelle

 

The Phrase That No Longer Works

“Don’t worry! I’m sure it will be okay.”

After a child death experience like ours, it’s difficult if not nearly impossible at times, to push aside fear and worry. I have spurts of excitement about the future mingled with moments, days, and sometimes weeks of worry, doubt, fear, and questioning.

I worry.

I worry about life, death, accidents, illness, missed signs; every sniffle, tummy ache, headache, snuggle goodnight, kiss good morning, doctor’s appointment, ultrasound, and step out the front door. I never know exactly what the future will hold, but I do know that if my fears were to become reality I’m quite certain I would break.

Even scarier is that part of me knows the breaking would be a choice.

A choice that would come from that same place of fear, doubt, and worry. It would stem from the place where my faith, hope, and excitement was shattered again. I would go there because broken would be the only thing that made sense.

Here is what others need to understand.

When you watch your child die, worry is a natural byproduct. When you make arrangements for your child’s funeral, comb through pictures of a little life that has ended, smell shoes that still hold his stink, place socks gently in your nightstand that still hold his chubby foot outline, and wrap yourself in his blanket one last time before wrapping his cold mortality in it, fear and worry become more a part of your life than ever before.

It’s not a lack of faith. It’s not a lack of appreciation for life, hope, joy, and happiness. Worry is part of heartache, part of grief. It is the cost of love. It is not fixed with statements of “Have faith!” or “Don’t worry, it will all work out!” or “I’m sure it will be okay.” or “Remember, everything happens for a reason.”.

Those cliches don’t work because we know. We grieving parents know the truth. Do not doubt our gut instincts. Do not question our concern. When I express my fears and hear this in return, I instinctively want to respond, “The last time I listened to those reassurances, I wound up burying my son. Can you guarantee my concerns are a lack of faith now?”.

Worry is not present only in the absence of faith. Faith is what gets us through when things go sideways. It is what has kept me from staying curled up in a deep, dark pit for the last 22 months. It does not eliminate the worry I have for my family, for their health and well-being. I just need to be mindful that the worry doesn’t consume me. So, I need to let it out. To discuss it, to write about it. Not for reassurance that it will be okay, but so I don’t drown in it’s depths.

If you hear the fears of a grieving parent and feel the need to respond, know that you can’t fix it. You can acknowledge that you’d likely feel the same if you were in our place (which we would never wish on anyone). You can acknowledge that you can only imagine our hurt. Or, you can simply give us a hug, a smile, a nod, or anything that let’s us know you aren’t afraid of us and who grief is molding us into. I know the deepest ache, the deepest pain that can be felt in life and that changes a person.

And I worry.

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-Jenelle

 

 

Reclaiming Hope and Joy

I know, I’ve been gone awhile. I’ve been gone in many ways.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching.

The deep, hard, tough, gut wrenching kind.

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I’ve known something isn’t quite right with me. Something intangible in me was broken and that something has been breaking everything that I was and have been striving to be in the wake of tragedy. That break started out as something more easy to ignore, became something I worked to hide, and eventually lead to something that began to consume me to the point that I found it difficult to hide.

And my pain and grief began to show in ugly ways.

I recently told my ever so patient husband that I didn’t think I’d ever truly feel hope and joy again. I barraged him with a rapid succession of questions like:

“How can I ever trust medical professionals again?”

“How can I ever trust people to be honest when they make a mistake?”

“How can I have faith that people will do the right thing?”

“How can I fully put myself out there?”

This segued into deeper questions that have burdened my mother’s heart.

“When can I feel comfortable envisioning our children’s futures?”

“We know all too well that people, at any age, can die in the most horrible and seemingly senseless ways. How do I confidently hope and feel joy fully without being crushed again?”

See, I used to be a perpetual optimist. I found hope and joy in nearly every aspect of life. I was joyful and wanted to share that joy. I wasn’t overcome with worry in the first months of my babies’ lives (although, I did occasionally sleep with a hand near them in the bassinet next to my bed so I could feel their warm breath). I taught them to be safe, held their hands crossing the street, made meals from scratch, read them books, sang them songs, and was fully confident in the notion that they were growing into intelligent, kind, caring individuals.

And that I would see them grow up.

I still do those things. I realize now that, post Caleb’s death, I’ve lost the hope of seeing them grow up. The thought that something could tear them away from me at any moment has consumed me and kept me from being present. Brig calls it my self preservation mode, to keep from going insane with fear, worry, and pain. I excused it as being realistic. Really, I’ve been withdrawn, distant.

And it’s become one more thing that Caleb’s death has stolen from me, from my family.

One more thing that was compounded and complicated by last November’s miscarriage and our move across the state two months ago (more on that another time).

My loss of hope and joy doesn’t only withhold those peaceful, happy feelings from me. Me not experiencing them has prevented my friends and family from feeling the hope and joy that I can, should, and used to bring to the table. We all contribute emotionally to those around us. I’ve realized, I haven’t been contributing much and certainly not much that’s positive.

And, most importantly to me, it’s hurt my relationship with God. It’s hurt my trust and faith in Him.

So, it’s time for me to take some big steps towards reclaiming my happy place. It’s time to live without fear, unabashedly finding hope and joy, and pushing aside doubt and fear.

I suppose this is my first step. I sat on this info nearly three times longer than any other time. I’m still working on always feeling hope and joy, pushing aside the doubt and fear, but my family has enough hope and joy to spare.

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Expanding the herd, March 2017.

I’m sorry, too.

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

This has been the phrase that has haunted me since Caleb died. At first, I didn’t like thinking of him as lost because my faith told me exactly where he was. His physical body was buried, but all he is and was lives on and waits for me with our Father in Heaven.

On more agitated days, I felt angry at the “your” part. It left me with a feeling that this vibrant, energetic, loving little boy no longer being physically here was only a loss to me, to my family. Why wasn’t it “our” loss? Why wasn’t it a collective loss for all humanity? For the world? Why couldn’t everyone feel that our future existence was left less bright without him in it?

Then, I just started to accept it for what it is, a sympathetic platitude when you don’t know what else to say. That has changed.

I hear and feel that phrase differently now. Yes, I still hear it. Every time I meet someone new or tell someone my son died, I hear it. Without fail. Now, I say thank you and quietly think to myself that I’m sorry for my loss, too.

I’m sorry, new person that I just met, that you’ll never know my Bub. I’m sorry you’ll never know who I was before he died. She was more carefree, less cynical, more trusting. I’m sorry that woman is gone, forever changed. I’m sorry who my family used to be is gone. I’m sorry I don’t laugh like I used to. I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk. I’m sorry when I see a little blonde haired boy walk by, my eyes well with tears as my words catch in my throat. I’m sorry you asked how many children I have and what there ages are and my answer created an awkward silence. I’m sorry I don’t go out much. Sometimes, I’m just too tired and the mask is too heavy to wear. Thanks for talking to me, though, for including me. It means so very much to simply be acknowledged, spoken to.

I’m not lost in the sense that I don’t know where I am or where to find the old me. I’m lost in that I don’t know how to join my two selves. I’ve experienced a loss of self. A deprivation of who I once was.

And I feel lost in the midst of my grief.

It’s why I haven’t written in so long. I haven’t had the words, or maybe the right words, to say. I’ve experienced a complete and total block in my thought process. As I’ve struggled to merge the everyday old me with the new, I’ve become lost. Caleb’s death created a canyon in my existence and I can’t find a way from one side to the other. I’m on the post death side and everything newly created and born here is thriving and helps me find purpose, peace, and joy while I feel everything I built and created on the other side slowly dies as I struggle to find my way to it. I can see it, remember it. I just can’t feel it and find my way to it.

My daily existence is on autopilot. It’s when his lack of physical presence is most apparent and feeling that is all consuming. My heart races, my face flushes red, my chest feels hot while my hands and feet run cold, my head starts to spin, and I flash the pictures of his life and death through my mind as tears run down my face. Sometimes, I ugly cry and I know it would scare my kids. It scares me. They see the composed tears, that’s important for us all, but they need to know they can count on me. That I’m strong enough to be here for them.

So, I can’t feel it when we’re gathered around the dinner table and he’s not there. I can’t feel it as I push a shopping cart with an empty child seat around the grocery store. I can’t feel it when we gather for family prayer with 7 instead of 8. I can’t feel it when the roll call to account for everyone in the car stops at 5. I can’t feel it when I snuggle with my littles for a story at bedtime.

I do feel it in the middle of the afternoon when I should be cleaning the kitchen, but go to bed instead. I do feel it when I pull into the driveway and sit in my big, empty van for an hour because I can’t go inside my big, empty house. I do feel it when I lay awake in bed at 2:30AM and can’t help but notice the space still left between my husband and I where he should be after waking up at 2:00. Then, I cry. I heave and sob and feel it all. But, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just feel so tired. So alone and so tired and everything feels heavy, as if there were weights hanging from my neck and limbs. I suppose that’s why it’s called a profound loss.

So, thank you for acknowledging our loss. I’m sorry for it, too. Yet, I’d feel it all a thousand lives over, even knowing the outcome, just to be known as Caleb’s mom. That’s how I know I’ll figure it out. We all will.

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-Jenelle

When Will the Sun Rise?

I believe every grieving parent has that moment, memory, or series of them that haunts us.  They can be a cluster over the weeks, months, or years a child slowly succumbs to illness.  It can be the moment a call is received and the accident plays in the mind’s eye as horrible news is shared.  Whatever the memory or memories are that haunt us as grieving parents, they always come with an ache and torment that creates that look.  It is the look that speaks to the heart and soul of another grieving parent when eyes meet.  The look that says I’ve been broken in a way that has no words and I know you understand.  This look often comes with a knowing nod or deep breath that says all that words cannot.

The summarized version for me is watching my lovie in the rear view mirror throw up blood.  Then, I flash to the relief of him crying and fighting the doctors in the ER before I climbed into bed to hold him and sing him songs in an effort to keep him calm.  I flash hot with anger as I watch him wait for just shy of two hours to go to an OR as he continued to bleed while hooked up to nothing but saline.  I see his piercing blue eyes staring at me as more and more fear overcame him before confusion set in.  I see him blink one last time before passing out at the OR doors.  Minutes later, I hear the code blue called over the intercom and, like an out of body experience, I see myself and Brig run down the hallway and sit outside the doors where I plead with God and try to make so many deals to trade places with him.  There’s relief when we’re told he’s okay and then I jump to hours later when we learn the truth of his brain injury due to the oxygen deprivation during his code.  The horrors and pain broke me then.

The words “extensive brain damage…non reactive pupils…” ring in my ears so frequently, the brick on my chest that came with them is one I don’t think will ever leave.  It’s still hard to breath sometimes.

I sang to him.

I stroked his hair and cheek.

I told him it would be okay.

I told him they would fix it.

I told him I love him.

These are the last things I said to him while he was conscious.

I feel so divided.  When I’m out serving, speaking, raising awareness, doing good in his memory I feel so driven and focused.  I know what I’m supposed to be doing.  There is meaning and purpose that helps life make a bit of sense.  I know who this part of me is.  This part was born from his death and it’s built on a foundation of being strong and shining a light in the darkness.

There’s also the broken me.  The me at home, where he should be.  The me who feels his absence in every room, every family outing, every holiday, every family meal.  I often wonder if I’ll ever be able to fully enjoy time at home, time with my family again.  For now, there’s that piece of ache where he once was that prevents the fullness of joy from filling my home and family life.

My life split that day.  I call to the more experienced grief parents, grief moms, now.  How do I do this?  How do I breath again?  This new life is livable as I do good in his memory, get out, go forth, and do.  I can speak and serve and do new things.  I just struggle to know how to merge my old family life before those memory flashes with the one that has come after.  I’m still wife and mother…there’s a hole though now.  It feels like that hole, his hole, is preventing me from joining the old me with this new reality.  I don’t know how to build that bridge.  It’s such a slow, painful process.  Everything that I did before, with him by my side or in my arms, is so painful now.

How do I do this? When will the sun rise and bridge my worlds?

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-Jenelle