Where Are You?

I carry you with me everywhere I go.

From the moment the morning sun rises above the horizon to the moment the moon and stars light up the night and every second beyond that. I carry you with me. Even in my dreams.

But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if you always carry me with you. If you can hear me, see me, feel me, remember me.

There are so many unknowns in life but the biggest one that crosses my mind these days is the wonder of what heaven is like. What it’s really like, through your eyes.

I wonder if you know how much we miss you and how much we physically hurt without you here.

I wonder if you see our bad days and tears or hear our angry thoughts and cries when our minds takes us back to the minute you were taken from us.

I wonder if you remember the moment we first met.

I wonder if you remember us telling you how much we loved you and how sorry we were that this happened to you.

I wonder if you were afraid and wondering where Daddy and I were and why we couldn’t take this away from you.

I wonder if, when you saw the face of Jesus, it brought peace and calm to your heart and soul.

I wonder if He promised you that you could always see us, hear us, feel us, remember us.

There have been days where I have prayed and prayed and prayed until I’m blue in the face for God to help you send me a sign. Some sort of symbol or feeling that lets me know and reassures me that you can see me, hear me, feel me, remember me. And I’ll be honest… I get incredibly discouraged when I receive nothing in return. Not a butterfly, not a song, not your name, not anything that represents you to me. When I pour my heart and soul out into a prayer and God doesn’t answer it, I feel so disappointed in those moments.

Today was one of those days.

I stopped to visit you at your resting place. It’s just as beautiful as ever and I always find peace when I visit you there. Even though to me, that’s not really where you are.

I sat, leaned up against your headstone and talked to you for what seemed like forever. Tears stung my eyes as I told you I couldn’t believe that it has nearly been a year since you came and went. I told you how sorry I was that this happened and how angry I felt because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I told you that you would be SO proud of your big brother and if you could only see how much he loves you; how much he remembers you and how he brings you along on every single one of his adventures. I told you how we will NEVER stop including you and honoring your memory and your life. I told you how that made my heart so happy.

Then, I told you I felt like I hadn’t felt your presence lately. I told you I would ask God to help you send me a sign to let me know that you could hear me, see me, feel me, remember me. Through my prayer, I asked Him to send me a butterfly, a song, your name… something that reminded me specifically of you.

I sat there, at your resting place, for what seemed like hours although it was only a few minutes. I waited for those signs. I waited for a butterfly or a bird or something to come along and let me know that God was listening and that you were too.

I started to feel that sense of disappointment come over me. I was just about to get up and leave when I turned my face to the sun. Then I realized something.

God answering my prayers doesn’t have to look like Him sending a butterfly, a song, or something with your name. He answers things and does things in His own ways, in His own time. One of my dearest friends recently wrote a pack of cards dedicated to faith and giving ourselves and others the reminder to have faith in God. On one of the cards there is the saying “His timing, not mine.” I thought of this card when I turned my face toward the sunlight.

This was my sign. This was God helping you reach out to me. This was you.

I smiled as I soaked up the warm sun and felt its rays on my face and arms. To me, it felt like we were wrapped in a beautiful embrace and it just filled my heart and soul with peace and joy.

This gave me perspective and hope. On days when I feel forgotten or ignored by God, I must remind myself to look around. His beauty and His creations are all around me and I know that you can be found in so many of those things. I must remind myself to look closer and dig deeper; that you are ALWAYS there, no matter how clear or unclear it may seem.

You are the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the rain, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies… you are everything that is beautiful and good in this world.

I will never feel left wondering where you are and if you hear me, see me, feel me, remember me. All I have to do is turn my face to the sun and allow myself to feel that embrace… and there you are.

A Balancing Act

For me, the balance between grief and joy has been one of the biggest challenges. After losing our daughter Ellie last July, I’ve found myself constantly wondering the answer to these questions:

How?

HOW in the world do I manage to move forward grieving the loss of my baby girl AND find joy in continuing to raise my son?

HOW do I grieve losing the hopes and dreams I had for one child while still continuing to celebrate the hopes and dreams achieved by another child?

What does that balance even look like? And why am I having to answer this in the first place?

As members of this unattractive club, we know too well that losing a child presents us with some of the most difficult decisions one should ever have to make in a lifetime. Many times, those decisions are made prior to losing our child; but what aren’t highlighted or recognized as often are the difficult decisions we have to make even after our child is gone. The questions we have to ask ourselves in order to continue the journey forward. (By the way, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for making these decisions that no one ever wants to make… I certainly am guilty of this. So give yourself a little grace right now if you haven’t already. You deserve it, more than anyone I can think of.)

When we think of making difficult decisions after the loss of a child, we often think of having to decide things for funeral arrangements, memorials and headstones. As difficult and heart-wrenching as these things are, I found that my most difficult decisions presented themselves after everyone came and went. After my family and friends showed up to support me and after their lives continued on while mine came to a screeching halt.

I was faced with decisions every single day.

The first one being the decision to get up out of bed after it was all over. There were so many days that every fiber of my being was physically hurting and the thought of getting out of bed pained me to my core. I wanted to stay right there in my dark bedroom and pretend like none of it had ever happened. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare I was living and see my baby girl’s bassinet by my bedside instead of rolling over and seeing the imprints on the carpet where it used to sit.

But my son… my sweet boy. He needed me. He needed me to get out of bed and be his mommy. Because that’s who I had always been to him and no situation or circumstance could change that.

So, I got out of bed for him.

As hard as it was and as much as I wanted to shut out the world, I needed my sweet boy just as much as he needed me. His hugs were healing and his sweet little voice was the glue that began to piece my heart back together, one moment at a time.

I had to remind myself that amidst the excruciating pain my husband and I were experiencing, that it was perfectly OK to feel joy at times. It was necessary to feel joy at times. I would sometimes begin to feel myself embracing joy that someone or something brought me and then feel guilty… I was supposed to be a grieving mother. Grieving mothers are certainly not happy or joyful. That, my friends, is an ugly lie.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this.

Despite what societal norms tell us, grief and joy were meant to coexist. There is room for BOTH of these emotions as we travel along our healing journey. It is imperative that we find, hold onto and save forever those moments of joy. It’s during our darkest hours that we find the light in these things.

For me, those moments of joy were my son’s laugh or the wonder in his eyes when he learned something new; my husband smiling at something that reminded him of our daughter, or having a meaningful conversation with a trusted friend; our loved ones continuing to say our daughter’s name and recognize her for who she was because her short life mattered.

So please, allow yourself to feel what you feel. Don’t feel guilty for feeling any certain way. Remind yourself that grief and joy are meant to coexist. Understand that it’s all an act of balance; it’s all about figuring out how to find the middle ground and embrace both grief and joy simultaneously. And it doesn’t happen overnight, so be gentle with yourself. Don’t shut out feelings that you want to feel but you don’t think society would accept it.

This is YOUR grief journey. So many of us are walking it with you, but your journey is unique to YOU and what’s inside your heart.