Tag Archives: grief

5 years, a beach and a cupcake

Yesterday, we celebrated what would have been Penelope Joy’s 5th birthday.

Penelope Joy on her birthday

One of our first family photos with Penelope Joy.

For some reason, we always find ourselves headed to the water on Sept. 9 — whether it be the lake or the river — to honor our precious girl’s memory. There’s just something about the water that always calls us back for her birthday, and yesterday it was exactly what our souls needed.

Family Photo on 9:9:18

On the way to pick up our traditional Penelope Joy birthday cupcakes, Dorothy asked us when she’d get to see Penelope: “I just really miss my sister Penelope and I want to see her and eat a cupcake with her.”

We talked, then, about how sometimes the people we love and miss the most live in our hearts and in the stars. And, if we want to talk to them, we don’t even have to see them — we can just look up or hold our hand on our heart and talk to them whenever we want. And we can feel them when we think about them because our hearts will get warm.

And Mr. B and I assured her that we missed Penelope Joy very much, too. We want Dorothy and Hobbes to know how much their sister was loved — and will always be loved, just as they are.  What’s more, we want them to know it’s OK to be sad and feel emotional when we think about people we miss.

After picking up the cupcakes and a deep, emotional conversation with our 3-year-old rainbow, we headed out to the lakeshore. On the way there, Mr. B got quiet and thoughtful and said, “You know, it’s not just Penelope’s birthday; it’s the anniversary of the day we became parents.”

So, on the shore of Lake Michigan on a blustery-but-beautiful Michigan morning, we celebrated our parent-iversary as well as the birthday of our beautiful star.

screen-shot-2018-09-10-at-1-56-30-pm.png

You won’t see a lot of tears or sad faces in these pictures. Now, don’t get me wrong: Mr. B and I each took some time yesterday morning to cry our tears. Mine were particularly ugly. But once we got to the beach, we spent the time filling each other up with love and enjoying the antics of our wild and wonderful kids, grateful for every mouthful of sand and shriek of laughter — for they were reminders of the gifts we’ve been given.

I’d been particularly nervous about this birthday — this 5th birthday. In my mind, since she died, Penelope Joy has always been 5 — skipping around, pigtails bouncing, wide smile grinning back at me from a face full of freckles and a pair of laughing emerald eyes sparkling in the sun. What would happen when she actually would have been 5? Would my thoughts and dreams and visions of her disappear? Would I no longer be able to call her to mind? Would she suddenly be 10 or 18 or 30? Would I lose my little girl all over again?

Leading up to this birthday, my nerves have been shot and I’ve been preoccupied with the what-ifs and what-nows. I am happy to report that I woke up this morning, Penelope Joy still a joyful 5-year-old skipping around in my mind.

Penelope Joy’s death still hurts, and my heart grieves daily for her. But, living in the light with those who love us most dulls the pain and brightens the sky.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re a West Michigan local, definitely check out The Salted Cupcake in Grand Rapids — as Dorothy told me, “the cupcakes are deeeee-licious!”

IMG_20180909_111843291_HDR

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Grief Story

My “grief story” starts in May 2013 — just about six months after Mr. B and I got married. I was three months pregnant and the ultrasound tech walked out of the room and a maternal fetal medicine specialist walked in with the words “I have some bad news.”

All they could tell me is that my precious daughter would be born with a severe heart defect. They didn’t know how bad it would be — only that it would require surgery and long-term hospitalization and care.

I suppose that was the day my grieving began.

Click here to read more of my grief story at For Our Grieving.


About F.O.G. (For Our Grieving)

Grief is a universal emotion, one that can overwhelm children as well as adults. When we lose a loved one, there are many feelings that may need to be processed — feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and even anger.

F.O.G. is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 that provides a safe, friendly and professional environment where bereaved individuals of all ages and their families can find uplifting, encouragement, support, resources, education and strength while dealing with all types of loss.

Tamesha Rouse the founder of F.O.G. started this nonprofit 501 (c) (3) in 2011 to provide support for adults, teens and children grieving the loss of a loved one. After the loss of Tamesha’s sister Talaya in 2010, and the loss of her own children shortly thereafter, Tamesha felt that this cold world was turning on her and that there was no turning back. “Nothing was clear to me anymore, it felt as if the fog never let up, it was just one thing after the other; I went to a dark place and wasn’t sure how I was going to get out!” stated Tamesha. One day when she woke up from her fog, she said things became clear and she knew what she wanted to do, and it was to help others heal, find hope, and embrace their “here and now.” From there F.O.G. was born.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Back to School Blues

Back to school is my favorite time of year. Seriously, Christmas and Halloween have nothing on this most wonderful time of year for me. I’ve loved it since I was a kid, and even though I’ve not been to school for many moons I still celebrate in my own small way each year with new pens, markers or and notebooks.

I’ve always looked forward to the back-to-school sales and smell of fresh Crayolas lining the aisles at the stores. But this year, it’s different.

Since Penelope Joy was conceived, I looked forward to September 2018 when she would head to kindergarten. I thought about shopping for her first-day-of-school outfit and picking out her backpack. What would she want on her lunchbox? What sorts of friends would she make? Where would she catch the bus?

Then, Penelope Joy died. And I’ve looked forward to September 2018 with dread and fear rather than joy and excitement, knowing that this would have been my precious girl’s year. For quite some time I’ve been preparing for this day, knowing that I’d be a wreck as friends posted their 5-year-olds’ first day of school pictures and talked about their mixed emotions of joy and sadness as they sent their little ones off to school. I had every intention to stay off of social media for the week before and after Labor Day because my heart cannot handle it.

But now things are different as we prepare to send our rainbow baby off to preschool in September. While it’s not kindergarten, it’s her first school experience — and it’s my first mom experience with school.

We received Dorothy’s supply list in the mail the other day, as well as her child information sheet and request for vaccination records. And it hurt my heart — not just because Dorothy’s growing up (way too fast, I might add) but also because of the shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

I think most of these milestones will always be bittersweet for me — both celebrating my kids’ experiences while internally mourning everything we missed out on with Penelope Joy. I try so hard not to let my grief — my lifelong grief — get in the way of our celebrations and joy. But some milestones are harder than others. Back to school, it seems, is going to be one of them.

So please be gentle with my tender heart as I experience more than the normal I-can’t-believe-my-little-girl-is-going-to-preschool sadness. And know that when I hop briefly on social media to share my shining rainbow’s first-day-of-school picture, it is because I am the proudest mom ever of a child who deserves every bit of pomp and circumstance we can muster for Back to School 2018.

I wonder what she’ll want on her lunchbox …

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 11.15.28 AM.png

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Before and After

I was working on an article earlier as a submission to my friend’s nonprofit organization, which seeks to help others heal, find hope and try to be happy again after someone they love dies. She asked me to contribute a piece about grief and, as my story flowed, about living with grief.

As I was looking for photos to share with the story, I came across two family photos. The first one is from 2013 and is the last family photo we ever took with Penelope Joy. The second one is from April this year.

So many striking differences between the two photos — and not just in the amount of hair on Mr. B’s face or the color of my glasses. I don’t think I noticed before quite how much fear and sadness were living behind our eyes in that photo. Mr. B’s eyes, I think, say it best — though my blotchy face and misty eyes give it away as well. We were terrified. We were devastated. We were holding on to a very thin rope of hope. We were, in the instant this photo was taken, preparing to say good-bye.

Sometimes I feel like I have two families: my “before” family and my “after” family. So, in a way, these are my before and after pictures.

It’s not that Penelope Joy isn’t an important part of who we are now — because she’s written into every word of our story. It’s more that who we were then is so entirely different from who we are now — as individuals and together. So much of where we are in life could never have existed in the version of our story where Penelope Joy lives. Who we are now would never be if we didn’t have this very specific “before.” Hobbes and Dorothy wouldn’t be part of our story if our “once upon a time” didn’t start with Penelope Joy’s way-too-short chapter.

I miss that little girl with such fierceness, so much force of heart. Even as I celebrate the life and light Dorothy and Hobbes bring into our tale, I can’t help but think about our before. And how it’s directed our ever-after.

I’ll be sure to share the link to the full story about grief — Grief — once it’s posted on my friend’s site.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When a picture’s more than a picture

We live in an age where people are increasingly over-sharing, over-posting, over-exposed. And — I admit — I’m as guilty as the next person. I am an open book. Too open? Maybe. And, my greatest weakness is posting photos (upon photos … upon photos … upon photos) of my family’s adventures. I’ve heard, more than once, from people in various areas of my life to “put down the camera” and “just enjoy making the memories.”

21273330_10104190951002694_7490071275339079674_o

And I do that — sometimes. As I vowed to Mr. B in that day we officially joined our lives together in 2012, there are some things I save just for us. But, there’s lots of other stuff I share, quite often.

There are a lot of reasons I take — and share — as many photos as I do.

  • I’m super close to my family — just not geographically. It hurts my heart to know they’re missing out on so much of my kids’ lives (and that my kids are missing out on experiencing the true, crazy joy that makes up their Up North family), so I share lots of photos in hopes that it makes up for a tiny bit of the distance.
    whole family
  • I know, all too well, that there’s going to be a day in your life that you only have pictures left. As I was updating our family photo wall the other day, it struck me — directly in the tear-makers — that I’m regularly going to be changing out our family photos and updating pictures of Little Miss and Mister Mister, but I’ll never have new photos to post of Penelope Joy. All I have of her are the pictures I took in the (way too short) time period of 38 days. And, I’ll tell you what, I should have taken more.

    Family Photo

    Our final family photo with Penelope Joy.

  • I think, perhaps one of the most frustrating things I’ve heard (and read) is that “you should put down the camera and just enjoy making memories.” Here’s the thing — memories aren’t forever. And they certainly aren’t guaranteed. My dad died at 63, having no idea who most of us were. Literally, all he had were pictures — and all we have, now, are pictures. My kids won’t know their Papa except through the stories I share and the photos I show them. Younger onset Alzheimer’s disease stole my dad’s memories — and so much more — from him, and from us. But, I’ll be damned if it’s going to take my pictures.On my wedding day with dad
    So, next time you’re looking at my feed or my page and you think to yourself, “geez, she takes a lot of pictures,” maybe your second thought will be “isn’t it great that she’ll always have those photos to help her treasure those moments.” If that’s not your second thought, I invite you to close that tab and look away — you don’t have to look at them. And you also don’t have to worry if I’m living enough in the moment. Trust me I am. I’m savoring every single, beautiful second.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

These Shoes Are Made for Running

This is a post that comes from a deeper place than my post the other day. But … first … let’s start with shoes.

IMG_20170711_123057180

These are my work walking shoes, my “second string” because they’re old and worn out. The big toe on my left foot peeks out at me as I lace them up. And the heel on my right foot is pretty much rubbed through.

I keep these well loved shoes under my desk — a tool for my lunchtime walks, when my (super-casual-cuz-I-don’t-do-heels) dress shoes won’t do. They’re also a reminder to myself to use my lunch hour for my health. Mental. Physical. Emotional. I’ve found that making myself/my health a priority has been really tough. And some days, my lunch hour is all I have.

Take this morning, for example. Mr. B moved my spin bike upstairs for easier access. (Which, by the way, was no easy task — have y’all ever tried to lift a remarkably heavy spin bike up two flights of stairs?) I was so excited for my 4:45 alarm so I could get in a ride before work. But, as soon as I rolled over to turn off my alarm and get out of bed, Little Man also rolled over — and attached himself firmly to my nipple. So … no workout for me since I was busy serving breakfast.

That’s why my work shoes are so important. Some days, that’s the only Kimi time I get and the only exercise time I’m able to make for myself. At least in this season.

“So, Kimi,” you ask. “What’s the real deal with the shoes?”

These shoes are a reminder of something else for me, too. They’re a reminder of “when I used to be a runner.” Most importantly, these stinky, worn-out, probably-shouldn’t-be-wearing shoes are a reminder of Penelope Joy.

You see, I wore these shoes in the last half marathon I ran. In April 2013. I was three months pregnant — and clueless about the path we would soon be asked to walk.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 1.43.11 PM

Crossing the finish line at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids

I had spent several years getting myself in the best physical state I’d ever been in for my entire life. I had run a number of half marathons; I had happily trained for and completed a full marathon; and I was working out regularly.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 1.44.08 PM

Three months pregnant and just starting to bust out of my running jacket — about 7 miles into the race

Then the bottom dropped out. And we heard the worst news any expectant-parent should hear: “I have bad news.

Soon after that, I was told not to run. I was told to keep my physical activity more limited — walking and swimming would pass, but that was about it. Because to do anything more vigorous could risk the baby’s life. So I stopped.

And, I never really laced up my shoes again. I tried. I really did. I tried to find my legs and I tried to get back out there. But it never stuck. It became increasingly clear that it’s more than a time issue — although, as I’ve said before, I’ve pretty much been pregnant or nursing since January 2013.

In the years before getting pregnant with Penelope Joy, I had spent a lot of time and effort getting myself healthy enough to carry a baby without risks. And my body betrayed me and I was classified as “high-risk” with a baby who was given a pretty low chance for survival. In a small way, I blame myself. I blame my body for not providing a healthy growing environment for Penelope Joy. Even after therapy and two very healthy, happy babies, I’ll probably always carry some guilt — warranted or not — for what happened to Penelope Joy.

To be honest, that mental barrier has been really hard to get over. And something as simple as running carries with it some painful emotions. For anyone who says your mental, emotional and physical health aren’t linked, gimme a call — I have a lot I’d like to share with you.

I will tell you this — I’m getting the itch again. My legs want to run. My heart wants to run. I just need to get my brain on board. I know it’ll be a long, slow road back. I am in no shape to hit the trails like I used to. It may not won’t be tomorrow — or even next week — but I’ll be back out there. Because, inside, I’m still a runner.

But I think I’d better get to the shoe store first.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Clean Teeth and Some Memories

I met my new dentist the other day.

I’ve been going to that dentist’s office for 10+ years, but my dentist recently retired and I haven’t had the chance to meet one of the partners who took over the practice. As I was uncomfortably reclined back in the chair, my mouth hanging open and drool — made even more … drooly … by pregnancy — practically flowing out of my mouth, the dental hygienist informed the dentist that I was pregnant.

“Oh, congratulations! Is it your first?”

Then, my mind did what it always does when someone asks me what number kiddo is currently making his home in my ever-expanding belly: raced through all the possible responses.

“Nope, he’s our second.”

“Nope, he’s number 3.” And leave it at that, knowing the next question is how old our other two are.

“Nope, he’s number 3 … but number 1 died, so he’s like number 2. But really number 3.”

It’s exhausting to pretend like Penelope Joy didn’t exist because it makes people uncomfortable to talk about her. I love my children. All three of them. They are all a huge part of who I am as a person and as a mother. They are our family. Dottie Lou is no more important in our life’s story because she is alive, just as Penelope Joy is no more important because she isn’t. And Wink? He’s right up there with them.

Please don’t get me wrong — I know, with my whole heart, that people mean well. No one wants to purposely hurt someone’s feelings or open old wounds or be uncaring when it comes to subjects that cut so deeply.

But to ask me about my kids — ALL of them — doesn’t remind me that Penelope Joy died. Trust me, I remember that every single day all by myself. Instead, it gives me the opportunity to talk about her — to celebrate her life.

I share funny stories about Dottie Lou every day, and daily (or even more often) photos of her have pretty much taken over my social media accounts. Wink even makes his appearance — especially now that he’s making himself known (in size and full-on kicks to my bladder). But I don’t get that with Penelope Joy. There are no new photos to share; there are no new stories. All I have of her is what lives in the past. Her book has been written, and the only place it lives on is in the stories I get to tell every now and again — when she accidentally comes up in conversation.

So, I did what my heart told me to do when Mr. New Dentist asked about my kids: I told the truth.

“He’s number 3. Our first died when she was 38 days old, and our second just celebrated her 2nd birthday.”

There was, as there usually is, an awkward silence and a little stumbling as he found the “right” words to say.

“Oh! You’ll have a boy and a girl! How exciting!”

Yes, but no, I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled (drooly mouth and all) and said (slobbered), “We couldn’t be more excited.”

Because it’s so very true.

 

Family Photo

Photo by The People Picture Company

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized