Monday, June 26, 2017

Celebrating my Son's Fourth Birthday While He is in Heaven

I woke up today feeling melancholy and I have been fighting the feeling all day. I want to be better, for this day to get easier, but I have come to realize, some days will always be hard. 

The first year, I did everything for everyone else. I was afraid everyone would forget Dylan and it scared me. I planned a massive balloon release at the cemetery and had a cake made for his 1st birthday. We spent the evening at my house, talking and sharing. It had been beautiful but exhausting as it proved overwhelming, pretending to be "alright" for everyone else. Deep down, I was anything but alright. I was broken, in deep pain and hiding it from everyone. But as women, we are taught to put our own feelings aside and focus on everyone else. And so, I did. It took the next two years for me to realize it was okay not to do what others expected or wanted from me, but to do what was the most healing choice for my family. 

This year, we kept it intimate. Besides my husband and kids, only my mom and oldest friend were at his grave. I didn't want to have to fake being happy or have my hair and makeup done. I wanted to go to his resting place and just be. Be able to miss him, to feel sad, to think about him without having to plaster on a smile for everyone else. Because I do that, often. I fake it. That old saying, "Fake it until you make it" has become my motto. I feel like I have been faking it for the past three years, ever since my son passed away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) at almost 9-months-old. But I woke up today, and I didn't want to fake it anymore.

It had been difficult getting through Dylan's fourth birthday without him. It still feels surreal to celebrate a birthday without the person being there while you do it. I think of what I would have done, had he actually made it to four. I think this year, I would have loved to throw him a superhero party. I'm sure his dad would have bought him a ton of Avengers toys and he would have loved the idea of a superhero pizza party. We would have invited all our friends and family and it would have been a blast. But instead, I spent the majority of the day, trying to focus on anything else, besides the sadness of the day, but having my mind drift back and focus on it anyway.

As I sit next to my rainbow daughter, a gift I believe my son sent down directly from heaven, I think of how I wish she could have known her brother. My oldest asked me today, "Is Dylan her older brother or baby brother." What is the answer to that? Technically, he is her older brother but he will forever be remembered as a baby. Even she points to his picture on his headstone and says, "Baby." I reply, "Yes, that is your brother Dylan, but he would be four now." She doesn't get it yet since she is only two. I'm a lot older than that, and I don't think I get it either. All I know is today, we went and spent time thinking about the little boy that changed all our lives forever, and I am grateful, he has not been forgotten.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mother's Day as a Grieving Mother

Mother's Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine. I loved seeing my mom and grandmother’s faces light up when I gave them the special gifts I made for them as a child and later picked out for them as an adult. There was something magical about making the maternal figures in my life feel special in gratitude for all they did for me. But sixteen years ago, that holiday was darkened when my maternal grandmother died on Mother’s Day, a bitter irony for my own mother and a deep loss that profoundly shook us to the core. My grandmother had been our anchor in this world and we didn't know what we would do without her. Over time, we were able to heal and remanence on the many wonderful years we shared with her, rather than dwell on the loss. The sadness of the day was further removed eleven years ago, when I was blessed with my first daughter. I loved being a mother and making memories together with my own mom. It renewed my love for the holiday and I fondly remember how special it was the first year after having a child. Two years later I celebrated with a second daughter, and five years later I had my first and only son. I had the picture perfect family and looked forward to sharing the day with my completed family of five. But my hopeful plans were destroyed when my son passed away from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) one month before Mother’s Day. I was devastated. I was broken by the fact I never got to spend a single Mother’s Day with him, and I feared every single one after, would remind me of my tremendous loss. I never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day again. But life doesn't work that way. My daughters still wanted to make me cards and gifts and I didn't want to hurt them by showing the pain the day brought me. And the most surprising thing happened through my allowing them to love on me, I slowly began to appreciate the holiday again. This year, with my two older girls and rainbow daughter, I am finally looking forward to it once more. I will always be a paradoxical mother with mixed emotions, celebrating both as a mother of three daughters who are here with me while never forgetting I am also a mother to my little boy in heaven. I chose to live for the ones who are still here, never forgetting the ones who are forever absent. But time does bring healing and three years later, Mother’s Day has a deeper meaning than ever before. Not to spite my losses but because of them. I appreciate being a mother more deeply, knowing how temporary life can be. Each day with my children is a gift and I plan to make the most of each one. So, this Mother’s Day, I plan to bask in the love my family graciously chooses to give me, never forgetting that although I only see three, I will always be a mother to four.