Grief changes us. The pain sculpts us into someone who… Understands more deeply, Hurts more often, Appreciates more quickly, Cries more easily,Hope more desperately, and Loves more openly.
The changes we experience after the loss of a child do not stop at the parents. Our child’s siblings experience it too. For the last day of this project I thought I needed to show the grief that my children experience as well. They know far to well the pain that losing someone can bring. Just like us they will always feel like something is missing.
For the older boys they miss the smiles from the baby sister and the memories they made. They worry that they will forget her. They strive to include her on school projects and pictures. They share stories with their younger siblings. They fear touching a cold baby hand. The love they share with their younger siblings is far more deep than anyone can ever imagine. They hold these little ones very close. They aren’t afraid to show their friends just how much they love their little brothers and sisters.
When it comes to the little siblings, they often bring up their big sister. Their grief will be different than ours or their older brothers. Their’s will happen when they understand they will never meet their sister on Earth. They already ask about her and when they can see her. They want to visit the cemetery but don’t yet understand why they only see a picture. Some day we will create a shadow box for them and tell them all about her life. For now we keep it simple…she is their sister, we can only see her in pictures, and we can only visit her at the cemetery.
Our little family understands more about love and loss than so many. We hurt more often and cry together. We appreciate the small things, the big things, the silly things, the everyday things. We hope our dreams and prayers are answered so often. We love with all our heart. We hug, we kiss, we hold each other no matter who is watching because we know how hard the storm hurt and we know the hope we found. Together we will get through this and help others along the way.
Some say you never really heal after the loss of a child while others say you heal but you will always be different. I feel like it is a little of both. Healing takes courageous effort. One must be willing to work, willing to feel hurt, willing to try again tomorrow. My own healing has been a long journey. One of much pain, love, and courage. I feel like the single most healing thing for me has been doing the reflection and journaling for the Carly Marie Project. I had tremendous healing with the 2012 project. The project makes you think about the things that ultimately change your life and shaped you. You take the time to reflect and ask yourself: why do I feel this way, why did this make me feel so hurt, why does this make me smile?
After the project I put together all my thoughts and created a book to keep. I found that it almost erased some of those bad memories I kept holding onto. The writing turned out to be much more therapeutic that I could have ever imagined. That is why I chose to continue the project this year. I am amazed at how a single year has changed how I feel about some things and yet others remain the same.
I would encourage everyone who is dealing with the loss of a child to complete this project. You don’t have to do it publicly. Write it down in a journal at home and place it safely with the special things you have kept for you child. This project comes with tears but the healing that can take place if you take the time to reflect each day is amazing. I will be forever greatful for taking the chance and completing the project. I hope you will find a similar healing.
Courage doesn’t always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
In means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
We have a few special places for Clara. Today I picked the “peanut” we designed in her memory. We often called Clara out little peanut and when she passed we found it fitting to create a peanut shaped area in our yard to hold her tree. The bench is perfect for when we want to go out and reflect or just have some quiet time. One each side of the bench are lilies. We try to decorate the area for the holidays.
The kids love watching the blooms bud and open each year. This year it produced fruit and the boys watched them grow. Someday Clara’s tree will be the pinkest place in town, until then we watch it grow and hope it is as beautiful as she would have been.
I don’t often feel “signs” of Clara but when I do they feel like big things. One year it was flowers blooming on the day a friend had to let their little girl fly to Heaven. The roses hadn’t bloomed much all year but for some reason they bloomed on this particular day as if to say, I have a new friend here.
I think for me the biggest sign I ever got was shortly after the Run for Their Lives run a few years back. We were blessed to have a huge turnout of family and friends in memory of Clara. We thought it was awesome that so many had come out to show their love and support for our baby girl. That year the support they offered allowed us to win a tree to plant in memory of Clara!! We were thrilled. That wonderful feeling was short lived though. I noticed a big divide on our team. There was one group that stayed together and talked about Clara and how much of an honor it was to be running and walking in memory of her. As I walked up to the other group to invite them to the picnic area I overheard them thanking another member of our team for asking them to join them. More specifically, “Thank you for inspiring us to run today. We couldn’t have done it without your support. Can’t believe we can cross a 5K off our bucket lists!.”
At that point I realized that it wasn’t Clara’s memory that was being honored by the whole team. I quietly left the group and asked for help on what to do with the tree. I couldn’t ever plant it in memory of her because it wasn’t earned in memory of her. There were so many other deserving families who should have earned it. I prayed about it for many weeks until one night I knew what to do with it. That night I sent an email. You see, there was a family who was moving to a new home. I wasn’t sure if there were able to take the tree they had planted in memory of their son with them. I wondered if the whole reason we got the tree was to give it to another family in memory/honor of their son and not my little girl.
The next morning I placed the certificate for the tree in the mail. It was off to help heal the soul of a family that had been praying about what to do since they would be leaving their sons tree behind. I had no idea that the night I had been praying, so had they.
Since that time I have really changed my focus from expecting others to honor the memory of my little one to feeling blessed if they do. I have realized that giving to others feels so much better than asking others to help me. I realized that the tree we won was not really Clara’s. It belonged to a family who had been praying for an answer to their tears. It was so that they could have a little bit of Heaven at their new home.
I truly think Clara and Paxton had a hand in making sure both Moms tears were dried and their hearts felt loved.
“When a child dies,
a little bit of our dream breaks away,
a little bit of our future is erased before it is ever written.”
If there is one thing I have learned from the community of bereaved parents, it is that they don’t question why you keep bringing up your child. The understand the sadness that 1st words, 1st steps, 1st birthday, 1st day of school, 16th birthday, graduation, weddings bring. They understand why family pictures can be hard. They understand why comments from others can hurt, even when we are told they shouldn’t. Just like me, they know how much not getting to write a future that includes your little one hurts. Just like me, they know the pain of dreams being broken and futures gone and yet we are there for each other. We talk, listen, share, and hold each other. Sometimes we are worlds apart and yet we can feel their comfort as if we were hugging each other in person. This community is out there using their broken dreams to raise awareness so that maybe we can help another family write their future in a way we only wish we could.
After talking to many moms who have lost children this is one phrase we all agree on. Heaven has plenty of angels…saying God needed another one makes me feel angry, lost, and brings little comfort. I find it to be a close variation of “I went home hugged my kids and thanked God that they are still with me.” No one ever means to upset a newly bereaved parent but sometimes those words do just that.
My hope would be that instead of using “God needed another angel” to offer comfort or condolences, you would offer something else. A simple “I am sorry for the loss of your little one” is better in my opinion and that of many moms who are missing little ones every day.
“Mom, I am afraid I am going to forget Clara!!!” ~ Mason 8yrs old
Several weeks ago Mason found a foot key chain with the poem “Footprints” on it. He lost it and was crying and very upset. When we were able to finally get him to talk he told me about how afraid he was. Afraid he might forget his sister and the fun times they had together. He said there is already so many things he doesn’t remember. His older brother Damon, who was 5 at the time, remembers the day she passed very well even though they were outside playing when everything happened. He remembers the ambulance and firetrucks arriving, our daycare lady crying, our daycare’s husband hugging them. Mason was only 4 and doesn’t remember nearly as much about that day nor the week following.
So Mason and I looked through Clara’s box. Through her clothes and pictures too. He cried as he tried to remember some of the memories I had. He did seem to calm down when he got to hold her paci, musical rabbit, and an outfit he remembered very well. I asked him if there was anything he wanted so he could remember. He asked for a picture and put it in his room, on the wall next to his bed.
After that night I knew I needed to create something that would include some items from Clara as well as things we have done since she passed. I decided to make shadow boxes for both Mason and Damon. I wanted them to help by picking out an outfit of hers that reminded them of her. That actually turned into looking at pictures of Clara and then the picked the outfit that matched their favorite picture. Damon picked the outfit that we took their Easter picture in. So his box has a pretty stripe dress and a picture of the boys and her. Mason picked the dress she wore on Mother’s day. He said he remembered her eating her dress all day and that we had to change her outfit because it was all wet, just like we do with Haleigh. Perfect!
I added a few things like the funeral handouts, the buttons we wear for the run each year, a picture of them reading with her. I have a few more things I would like to add like the pink ties my brothers wore for the funeral and a couple of pink and yellow flowers.
Both boys like them and have them displayed in their room. Mason makes me giggle because he said he may decide to put it in his special box under his bed so that it doesn’t get broke. “I want to keep it safe so that when I have my own house, I can hang it up.” Makes my heart melt!!
I have saved a few other outfits just in case the 3 little ones want something like this for the sister they never got to meet. Lincoln is 3.5yrs old and starting to ask about when he can meet his sister Clara. I have already had to explain that right now she is in Heaven. My wish is that they would want to have a box and some special items to know her by. Knowing she is in Heaven is one thing to comprehend but having something tangible to hold can help in understanding she was here but isn’t anymore.
Explaining the truth never gets easier but making memories with them so that they can “hold” her in their hearts makes it worth it.
I am not much of a jewelry wearer. I think due to having little babies around still. I don’t know about others but the fear of having my earrings yanked keeps me from wearing too much just yet. I am sure in a few years it will be different. I do wear a few necklaces that my kids got me after Clara passed. I also found a ring with Clara’s birthstone.
My older boys are drawn to hearts when they go looking for birthday or Christmas gifts for mom. Both necklaces are their picks for me. I wear them with often and think of the time we shared with Clara as a family of 5. They pick thick chains “so that the babies can play with them”. They are so thoughtful and wise beyond their years!!
She believed she could so she did…
My husband got me this tile the Christmas after Clara died. He said it reminded him of exactly what he saw me do everyday.
Everyday after we lost Clara I believed I could get out of bed and I did. Everyday I believed I could find something positive to focus on and I did. Everyday I believed I could remember Clara and I did. Everyday I believed God would help me and He did. Everyday I believed that I could be strong and I was. Everyday I believed I could love another child without forgetting/replacing Clara and I did. Everyday I have believed my faith could get me through and it did.
Everyday you have the choice to believe in yourself, your family, your Faith, your strength. Make today the day you say, “I did it!”
This is what happens when mom takes too much time for reflection during the hours or “wake-up” and “bed time” …
I love their desire to take care of themselves. Sure makes for some cute pictures for when they get older!