2017 Living not Grieving 


Dear Teddy

April 23, 2016 I wrote “I know how I want the ending to look like. I want the last chapter to describe how I did let go, and how I am able to love you wholeheartedly and how the profound pain and sadness is replaced with peace. I will simply love you, our experience and accept this is all it was supposed to be, and no longer long for more and to be grateful for all I have.”

It has been 330 days since you left. Each day has been different from the next. Somedays have been peaceful and easy and many have been heavy, hard and at times down right ugly. As your birthday is quickly approaching I have been reflecting on the past 330 days and how I want our next year to look like.

I have not 100% arrived at the final chapter but I feel so very close to it. I know my journey with you will be forever changing but I feel so much peace. I haven’t quit wishing things were different, but I think of you and smile rather than having tears pour from me. I have my moments when a feeling of sadness washes over me but it comes, I honour it and it passes. I am okay with sharing space with sadness and I am okay having it leave me.

I spent time holding onto grief. There was a period of time where I truly felt my grief was tied to the weight of my love and closeness to you. When joy overstayed its welcome I would quickly shove it away as feared I was losing you. There was a period of time where the slight notion of having space between you and I would bring me to my knees. As time moved on, I have done a huge amount of work and I am now at a place where joy stays for weeks on end and is welcome to stay forever. I no longer feel desperation to hold on to you. I just know you are always there.

I have chosen as we move into the next year to focus on the love. The love you give me, the lessons of love you provided, and the love that has grown exponentially for your brothers and especially for your father. I am not spending another year grieving, I am spending it living. I want all of our 2017 to be about living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful for all we have. I know undoubtedly you will be right beside us each step of the way sending your love and light our way endlessly. You will always be loved and honoured but it will be done in a different way than it has this past year.

I thank you for being so close when I needed you to and for helping me work through letting go. I thank you for teaching me how to love you quietly, and how to be present in each moment. Being present allows me to honour all emotions and let them freely flow through.

I have been so blessed with such amazing support. You being my beacon of hope and love, then our counsellor who has help navigate our marriage, my favourite energetic workers and some of our friends and family have listened for hours, have sat quietly while I cried, have held space when nothing else was needed and have supported us in their authentic way. We have been loved and supported by so many near and far. Without each member of the support network I would never have found my way. Grief can’t be navigated alone, you need a team to help sail that boat.

Teddy, you are my son, today and forever. My love isn’t measured by my tears but by the love in my heart. Only you truly know the weight of my love and it is never ending and forever growing.

Love you always,

Your Mommy

Capture Your Grief – My Promise To You

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When we received the news Teddy would die our initial reaction was devastation. Walking out of the Kingston General Hospital was easy, we were on autopilot. Each foot was placed before the other and we found our car and our way out of the parking garage. I think that is what shock feels like. We didn’t make it too far down the road before we had to pull over and allow all the emotions to overcome us. It was messy, it was hard and it is a moment I never want to relive. It was the precise moment who we once were, was forever gone. It was also the precise moment a promise was made. We promised each other we would put our marriage first. We were told how most marriages don’t survive the loss of child. So the promise was made and our marriage will always be priority number one and our boys will be a very close second. If our marriage is solid our boys will benefit tenfold. It was that moment that it became so clear whatever choices we made for the rest of our lives had to be made from love. Love became our driving force for all things. Our promise to Teddy was to Always Choose Love.

With those two promises we have been amazing at protecting our marriage. For us that is an easy one. Our promise to always choose love is easy 90% of the time, but we are human and there are times other emotions take over and we have to be reminded that the choice we are making isn’t the most loving one. For me that reminder can come straight from Ryan, or our boys, Jack is the first to let us know a tone of voice isn’t loving. The reminder can come from a whisper, my subconscious mind will nag me to the point I am forced to reflect on a moment that a better choice could have been made. Finally, I no longer can go to bed without spending a quiet moment going over my day and finding ways I can improve on Choosing Love. I am far from perfect but my promise is made and I will always work towards being able to Always Choose Love, especially when it is hard. I am so aware now, I am so grateful that it has become such a focus in our home. We talk to our boys about choosing love, and giving love to everyone daily. This promise is the greatest gift Teddy gave our family. His life was about loving unconditionally. He is our greatest teacher and without a shadow of a doubt our life is better because of this lesson.

Capture Your Grief – Lemons and Lemonade 

I am not sure if it is always about making lemonade. . . Rather than being open to the blessings and the lessons that hard situations offer. I don’t make the blessings, I don’t create the lessons, they are right there for the taking. In order for me to see them, to be able to appreciate them and claim them for myself I have to keep my heart open, I have to sit in a vulnerable state. Creating a hard shell over my broken heart may potentially protect me from more pain but it creates an impenetrable force around me preventing me to make space to grow and accept the lessons and blessing.

I think to make lemonade is to make something sweet out of a sour event in life. I struggle with this since for me I don’t feel I have made anything. I am just riding the wave, and walking the path this journey has lead me on. I believe in all hard situations if we are open we will see the beauty and we will experience the blessings that come with it. I am just not the creator of that, they are always present regardless if I see them or not.

I also have a hard time thinking anything about Teddy is sour. People have referred to the day he passed away as the worst day of my life. That simply isn’t true. How could the day we met and only time I had with him be the worst? It was the best day. The hardest day but the best day. Teddy is light, Teddy is joy. His absence makes my heart hurt in unimaginable ways but that is only because he is loved so deeply because he matters and because he is so great that even after 100 years it wouldn’t have been enough time. He was born lemonade, he has cleared a path for all things sweet and all things love to be present, so there was no sour to turn sweet.

Capture Your Grief – Creative Heartwork 

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I am not sure if it is always about making lemonade. . . Rather than being open to the blessings and the lessons that hard situations offer. I don’t make the blessings, I don’t create the lessons, they are right there for the taking. In order for me to see them, to be able to appreciate them and claim them for myself I have to keep my heart open, I have to sit in a vulnerable state. Creating a hard shell over my broken heart may potentially protect me from more pain but it creates an impenetrable force around me preventing me to make space to grow and accept the lessons and blessing.

I think to make lemonade is to make something sweet out of a sour event in life. I struggle with this since for me I don’t feel I have made anything. I am just riding the wave, and walking the path this journey has lead me on. I believe in all hard situations if we are open we will see the beauty and we will experience the blessings that come with it. I am just not the creator of that, they are always present regardless if I see them or not.

I also have a hard time thinking anything about Teddy is sour. People have referred to the day he passed away as the worst day of my life. That simply isn’t true. How could the day we met and only time I had with him be the worst? It was the best day. The hardest day but the best day. Teddy is light, Teddy is joy. His absence makes my heart hurt in unimaginable ways but that is only because he is loved so deeply because he matters and because he is so great that even after 100 years it wouldn’t have been enough time. He was born lemonade, he has cleared a path for all things sweet and all things love to be present, so there was no sour to turn sweet.

Capture Your Grief – Surrender and Embrace 

The feeling of having to surrender isn’t new to me. Our first experience as a couple having to learn to surrender and embrace the journey we were on dates back to about 6 years ago when we experienced challenges conceiving a baby. At the time it was all consuming and an emotional roller coaster. Every time I encountered a moment where I felt in control I was quickly reminded I had none. I believe this experience prepared us to deal with health issues of our second son. The path we walked with him and navigating that experience prepared us for the death of our third son Teddy.

The day we were told Teddy had no chance to survive outside the womb was the ultimate test for us in surrendering. We had no control of his outcome. It was going to be as his life’s journey was intended; short but powerful. I couldn’t make him better, I couldn’t protect him or our hearts from being broken. All we could do as a couple was to choose love. We chose to give him all the love he deserved, a lifetime’s worth and embrace the fact our time will be short.

As our journey has progressed and he was born then our goodbyes were said, each step we were faced with a choice and each step we chose to surrender and embrace our reality. It wasn’t always an easy choice, many times I needed to consciously talk myself through it. I do know once I let go it is much easier to find peace. To feel grounded in the journey.

It has been 10 months or 304 days ago that we said our goodbyes and surrendering looked different. I was no longer surrendering to allow for space to fill Theo with love but to give myself grace as we navigated grief. When powerful and heavy grief sets in it can be scary. It can be so overwhelming that you wonder if you will ever feel joy again. At first I felt an urge to fight the feelings and tried so hard for everything to be like it once was. Grief from the loss of a child is so large it resembles a massive wall that it is impossible to push through. After a few waves of peace came through I learned that no matter how heavy things felt that I soon would be given a break and the heaviness would lift and feeling sad would be replaced by joy. Knowing this allows me to surrender to those heavy days. To feel them, deeply and fully. It allows me to emerge with personal growth as I am picked up by a wave of peace.

Recently I have learned to surrender to peace. Not long ago I had the realization that feeling peace for any lengthy period of time made me comfortable. I felt like I was moving away from Teddy. I had to work my way through feeling that my level of grief = closeness or amount of love I feel for Theo. My heart and mind now know this simply isn’t true. Intellectually I knew this not to be true but the connection between your mind and heart can often experience a disconnect. Now that my heart has come to terms with this, surrendering to the peace and allowing it to stay for as long as it can has really helped me be more present in our journey.

Surrendering and embracing to all life’s experiences allows you to be more present in them. To feel them more and to absorb all that they truly are. It isn’t easy but many things worthwhile aren’t.

Capture Your Grief – The Unspoken

When you are pregnant with a baby that is going to die many things are left unspoken. There are many reasons why I left things unspoken and why others did too.

I often left things unspoken for the benefit of others. Whether it be the old lady or cashier in the grocery store or an acquaintance I passed by, I didn’t want to burdened them with a reality such as mine. What a great way to ruin someone’s wonderful day, by telling them about what looks like a healthy pregnancy is going to end in death. Not talking about it was also at times a gift, I could mentally slip into feeling all what I would have felt had things been different. The excitement of 3 boys under 3 years of age, talking and thinking about how busy I would have been. It also left me feeling like a bit of a liar at times.

Then there was the prenatal yoga class that I attended every Friday. Only the instructor and a good friend knew my baby wouldn’t be coming home with me. I even attended our last class knowing he was currently in heart failure. We all talked about our pregnancies, and the details but I always left out the fact mine wouldn’t end like theirs. I did this for me and for them. My reality for other pregnant Moms could be emotionally triggering and for me I did it because the end wasn’t important while I was there, it was me connecting with my baby doing something I did for my other two babies and something he deserved.

When a baby is diagnosed with a condition that is not compatible with life the medical field is often in a hurry to end the pregnancy. There are a long list of circumstances when this is the best option but in our case it wasn’t. I wasn’t in danger and my baby wasn’t in pain. After meeting with a high risk OB it seemed like I had two options and only one he would have chosen. The first was to terminate my pregnancy (which would be giving birth but to a smaller baby) or continue on with the pregnancy but it would be stressful and anxiety ridden. The option he didn’t present and left unspoken is the option to carry the baby as long as you can, fill the baby with love, embrace every moment you have together and come to peace with the fact your time together is short and your baby will die. I wasn’t full of anxiety, I was filled with love and the day he was born I felt peace. The truth is everyone makes different choices for different reasons. All options should be given. Ending a pregnancy doesn’t equal less pain, doesn’t make it easier and doesn’t lessen the grief. Holding your lifeless baby and saying goodbye changes who you are regardless when the baby is born.

Now 10 months later I often find myself leaving something else unspoken. “How many children do you have” I respond with “2 boys”. No one wants to hear in passing you have 3 but one is dead. Yet every time I say it my heart is crushed for Teddy. He is my third son. I have 3 boys. We are a travelling family of 4, but in my heart the 5th is always with us.

The list of things left unspoken is vast. There are reasons for this on both sides. To be honest, I am okay with some of it left unspoken. I do wish one day speaking about the death of a baby or child isn’t uncomfortable, it is met with empathy rather than an awkward silence and people not sure how to respond. If it is talked about more often it will become more natural. Babies die, children die, and adults die. It is just life. It is hard but a reality. The length of life doesn’t define quality, or the impact that individual has on all those who are left behind. Theo had great purpose and didn’t need years to achieve it. He lived, he died, he matters and will forever be loved.

Capture Your Grief – What it Felt Like. 

Without hope it felt impossible. We were given a sliver of hope he possibly could make it to full term and be a candidate for surgery. That sliver allowed us the ability to be present with our reality. It allowed me to love fearlessly and unconditionally.

The day the doctors told us our dear Teddy had no hope for life outside my womb felt like we were hit by a tsunami. Our world was destroyed and left in emotional shambles. We knew our only hope of surviving this storm would be by holding onto hope and focusing 100% on love. Love was our driving force. There was no room for anger, blame or even fear. Our time together was going to be short and this precious boy deserved to feel a lifetime of love in a few short months.

The day we were told his heart had begun to fail and the end was near felt heavy, our hearts cracked a little bit deeper and our love for him poured out like a waterfall. I felt desperate to ensure he had all the love he deserved and was Mothered by a Mom who loved him more than words can describe. He deserved it all.

Ten days later the end and a new beginning emerged. Theo was born. Our hearts felt peace. The room felt warm and full of love. His heart beat it’s last beat against mine and all things wrong were made right. It was as it should be. He was never intended to live long but he was intended to deliver purpose and that was accomplished.

6 hours later we said our goodbyes. My whole being broke as I handed my beloved baby over, to never feel his weight again, to never kiss his cheeks or hear him cry. He was gone and my heart was shattered as it screamed for my baby back.

For weeks after my arms physically ached to hold him one more time, my chest was heavy as if bricks were laid upon it and the world around me kept turning as mine halted.

Today the fog has lifted, my chest is lighter and the most valuable and cherished lessons have been learned. My days of feeling heavy, and stuck in the mud with fog all around aren’t over but they come less frequent and don’t stay as long. My days of wishing things were different aren’t over, maybe one day I will give up wishing, but today isn’t that day.