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Embracing Motherhood

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Grief gets tiring. There’s the crying, the pain and the cloud that follows you around. You just want to hide from the world and bury your head in the sand. But once the grief cloud lifts, and you begin to face the world again, you realize that your perspective in life has changed. You’ve changed. You are different.

Without realizing it, you become an advocate of grief – constantly educating others on your loss – even without meaning to. Even just being asked, “how are you?” opens up a can of worms. Then you face questions that naturally bring up your loss – “do you have any children?” or “how’s your baby?” I’ve learned to navigate these questions with answers like, “yes, one in heaven” or “yes, but our son passed away – he lived for 7 days.”

I think what’s more painful in answering these questions is not what answer I give, but what reaction I receive. The conversation takes a turn and goes from friendly sunshine and rainbows to storm clouds and rain. Not on my part, but on the part of the person I’m speaking with – their face falls, and they don’t know what to say. They fumble through some words, mumbling sorry and their eyes look shocked and sad. I’m used to this. In fact, I know it’s coming and will often come up with a line like, “it’s okay, we love talking about him” or “it’s okay, we’re so glad we got to meet him.” Suddenly we are doing the consoling…lol.

I can laugh about this now, but it wasn’t always the case. It took time to embrace and accept our loss. It took time to learn to navigate through our reality and share our unique family story with the world. It really took time.

Now that most people know our story, the next step to embracing grief is acknowledging our parenthood. It was hard for me at first – yes I am a mom, but did the world view it this way? I quickly learned that not everyone does.

Anxiety arose on Mother’s Day, when I was at church, and the priest asked all the mothers in the room to stand for a blessing. Do I stand? Do I remain seated? What do I do? Thank God my husband prompted me to stand and so I did. Yes. I am a mom.

However, it will take time to educate society on this type of motherhood. I was wished, “Happy Mothers Day!,” only to then have the person revoke his well wishes and say, “oops, I’m so sorry – not yet – I’m so sorry.” I know he meant well and wanted to wish me but then he realized that Daxin was no longer with us…I wanted to tell that person – no, please wish me – it’s okay, I am still a mom, but I decided to let it go.

Then there was a time when my mother-in-law did the dishes for us, and I said, “you don’t have to do that for us, but thank you!” And then she said, “when you become a mom, you will know why I want to take care of you guys because you can’t help but want to look after your children.” Hm…this is what got me writing this post.

Again, I know she meant well, truly I do but I just had to…so I turned to her and said, “I know my parenthood is different but we still had the experience of taking care of Daxin. We were eager parents, waiting for him in the NICU after each surgery, or being asked tough questions such as, are we okay with a blood transfusion for our little one? Do we consent to such and such surgery or procedure? We still cared for him like any parent would for their child.” If this isn’t parenthood, then tell me, what defines parenthood? I was nervous to share my thoughts with her but as I did, I can see that she understood what I meant and her comment meant no harm – our parenthood was just forgotten.

When a mother loses her teenage son, is she still seen as a mother?

I know, I know…everyone sees things differently, but in my eyes, YES, I am still a mom and my husband is still a dad and we are grateful for those who have recognized us as parents.

And again, I became an advocate of my loss without meaning to…

So to every parent of loss out there – you are still parents. You cared for your child since DAY ONE of conception. You poured your love over your child and continue to do so. No one can take the love you have for your child away from you. And no one can take away your parenthood. So, embrace your unique family story!

“Heaven and earth may separate us today but nothing will ever change the fact that you made me a father.” – Uknown

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Joy-filled Suffering

I haven’t written a blog post in a while…but this morning, I woke up at 6:30am and just couldn’t shake off this thought: Joy-filled Suffering.

Joy-filledSuffering

For the past year, many people have asked me (inappropriately), if we will be trying for another one. This question irked me to the core. It irked me because I really didn’t feel like it was anyone’s business but after losing Daxin, my life plans suddenly became an open book as many were curious, wondering and had questions.

I know many meant well when asking that question, but what they don’t know is that they’d probably be the last person I’d tell. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you’ve asked me that question, then oh…you really don’t know what grief is.

Of course, my husband and I hoped and prayed for another one but we also knew that future pregnancies would be complicated and challenging. So it’s not that simple. This is what pains me most about this question…

When asked, “will you be having another one?,” I now recognize that the person before me is uncomfortable with my sadness and grief and is ready to “move on.” They don’t want to hear about Daxin’s life, see photos of him or acknowledge his existence – instead, they want me to “move on.” They’re looking for that fairy-tale ending and to be honest, so are we.

But we’ve learned that life doesn’t work that way. In life there is a season for everything and last year was my season of grief and sadness, mixed in with healing, prayer and reflection.

What I have come to realize is that when I have joyful news to share, I don’t want to share it with the world. Instead, I want to share it with those who have accepted my journey for what it is: joy-filled suffering.

It’s not simply those who acknowledged Daxin who come to mind, but it’s those who shared in my joy while I was grieving. It’s those who picked up on the fact that I love saying his name or I love buying giraffe items because they remind me of him or I love sharing those joy-filled moments that we had with him in the NICU.

It’s those who were not afraid of my tears, my anger, my pain because when I was drowning with sorrow, they also saw my immense love for our son. And they let me grieve. They let me be me. They were’t waiting on the sidelines, expecting “another one” or tiptoeing around me, fearing the difficult emotions. No, they were loving me either way. Loving me in my sorrow and loving me in my pain. My joyful emotions were a bonus to them. There was no pressure for me to “move on” from my grief because they know very well that we will never move on from Daxin.

As one author puts it, “Grief doesn’t last forever, but love does” (Elle Wright).

Rest assured, we are moving forward – with Daxin in our lives forever – because when we think of him, our hearts are filled with JOY! If anything, the sorrow and pain of losing him only adds to the immense JOY and LOVE we have for him.

So the next time you come across someone grieving, try not to be a forward thinker or a fixer but simply just be. Meet them where they’re at. They have so much on their heart that they want to share – if they feel safe. If their grief makes you uncomfortable, then pray for them and leave your curiosity and questions behind.

On my grief journey, there are many that I could thank for letting me be me. However, these three strong ladies stand out in my mind since day one in my season of grief. Somehow, each of you knew what I needed (before I did) for this season:

  • K. Nguyen – Thank you for letting me be me in my grief, and never forgetting Daxin. Thank you for letting me vent to you constantly and being the best sounding board ever. We truly have been good for each other. And you truly get me!
  • K. Aktas – Thank you for showering us with constant love through your kind gestures with the many giraffe items you’ve gifted to us. You are always ready to hear what’s on my heart, unafraid of my grief and unafraid of saying Daxin’s name from day one!
  • A. Eastland – Thank you for being that shoulder to cry on, for being the wise loss-mama that I can lean on. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the pain of infant loss without you. God sent me you during this season – for sure!

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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My new happy place…

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A friend gave me this precious book called Field Guide to Everyday Magic, a book filled with 100+ thought provoking prompts and heartfelt questions.

One of the prompts on the page was:
Close your eyes and think of your happy place. It may be real or purely imaginary. Use this spread to describe it…

My first thought of my happy place was adoration, but the moment I put pen to paper, I found myself writing an entirely new happy place…one that I have probably unconsciously imagined. These were the words that flowed onto the page…

Being in a luscious forest on a sunny day – pretty much heaven – and meeting Daxin again. It used to be just Daxin, maybe walking with Jesus hand in hand or sitting on Jesus’ lap but now it’s Daxin sitting on Uncle Mike’s shoulders. They are walking towards me to say hello!

As I re-read the words I had written, my heart felt elated. My happy place has changed. I have changed.

The truth is, I think of heaven often. After Daxin passed away, I often wonder what it’s like where he is. I wonder what he’s doing. And I wonder if he’s okay. Sometimes I even imagine him laughing and playing with the other children up above, having so much fun, and not worrying about us. And sometimes I dream of seeing him again, of holding him in my arms. And that is why I want to live the best life here on earth – one that will take me straight to heaven one day.

Intrigued in that moment by the power of my pen on paper, I have discovered the true definition of cathartic: providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis. Writing has become a form of release for me. A way to let my emotions out.

As I started writing about loss and grief, I was taking what felt unmanageable and using my songwriting, my sense of poetry and discipline, to try and make it manageable. – Rosanne Cash

The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. – Charles Dickens

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Happy-Place

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This is Life.

Image result for sometimes you will never know the value of a momentThis past weekend, we celebrated Mike’s birthday and what kept coming to mind was a moment we shared with Mike a year ago…

The sky was clear blue, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping but our world at that time was dark and grey. My husband and I were in the thick of our grief.

Mike was one of the few friends who was not afraid to reach out to us during this time of grief. He invited us out for lunch. He could have spent his b-day with so many others that day, but he chose to cheer us up.

This hangout with Mike was different. Mike was full of hope and joy. He was making plans to travel and sharing his hopes to settle down into a serious relationship. He was ready for change, and exuded confidence in his life goals and plans. You can tell that he was happy and making plans to live out his best life and that was what he set out to do.

He spent days in the gym and worked on his physique, travelled to Asia with a group of friends, went on dates, took relationships more seriously and simply enjoyed life. His outlook on life had changed.

Little did we know that 7 months later, he would be diagnosed with colon cancer. Doctors said he would have 3 years, but those 3 years turned into 5 months. The sad news came too soon for us after losing our son. My husband and I kept wondering why all these bad things were happening in our lives…

We soon realized that THIS IS LIFE. Bad things happen – it’s inevitable. After losing our son and losing our best friend Mike, my husband and I have learned that living life means dealing with the bad and cherishing the good.

The truth is, that day spent with Mike last year was a blur. We never expected Mike’s 29th birthday to be the last b-day that we would get to celebrate with him. I didn’t think much of that day until now and my heart just cherishes that memory of Mike on his 29th birthday – we’re now hanging onto every happy memory of Mike and Daxin. Mike lived life to the fullest and Daxin fought for his life to the fullest.

Life is precious – Enjoy each moment. Be fully present. Make every moment count.

“It’s life. The bad days make the good so much more memorable. It’s how you choose to handle those bad situations. Take and learn from them.”

– Author Unknown

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Ask Us His Name

Image result for ask me his name book coverI came across a book titled “Ask Me His Name.” I knew right away that this book was about a mom’s experience after the loss of her baby. I haven’t read the book yet but the title alone spoke to my heart.

The title of this book is what I long for most days. I want people to ask me my son’s name. I want to tell them about Daxin. There is so much love in our hearts when we get to say his name out loud.

I know many people are uncomfortable with asking us about our son because they are afraid that it will resurface the pain and loss that we’ve experienced. The truth is, the pain and loss is always there. We can’t be reminded of something that is on our minds and hearts to begin with.

What has helped my husband and I get through the dark days this past year is talking openly about our grief. For us, sharing memories about our son, saying his name out loud, including his name in cards we write to friends and family and placing photos of him on our wall has helped us to heal day by day.

Yes, what happened to us is a sad thing. We get it. We know it’s an uncomfortable topic of conversation. We know that it’s not your typical small talk situation, but the truth is, this is our reality. This is our family. We talk about our son because we need to. If we don’t, it’s as if he never existed. If we don’t, it’s as if I was never pregnant and my body wouldn’t understand why it needs to recover after giving birth. If we don’t, it’s as if we never became parents.

It’s not that we are intentionally trying to stay in our grief. It’s more like our daily life has several unexpected triggers, which we have to learn to live with.

For instance, I work walking distance from the hospital, a place where we said goodbye to our son. That drive to and from work can serve as a painful reminder, but instead, in choosing to live with my grief, I see the hospital as a place where I received the most beautiful gift in the world.

There are also times when I am reminded of how much my body has changed post-pregnancy. When I can’t fit my pre-pregnancy clothes anymore or I can’t stand for long because the shape of my feet has changed, in choosing to live with my grief, I instead see that as a reminder that I AM A MOM – as my best friend reminds me often.

Or when my husband drives to work, and his daily route passes by the exit to the cemetery that our son is buried at, in choosing to live with grief, my husband visits our son every Friday during his lunch break.

These are our daily reminders. This is what living with grief looks like.

For us, living with the grief means letting go of the pain but never letting go of our son.

We grieve because we love. So ask us his name.

My Child Did Exist
By An Unknown Author

I’ve lost a child, I hear myself say, 
And the person I’m talking to just turns away. 
Now why did I tell them, I don’t understand.
It wasn’t for sympathy or to get a helping hand. 
I just want them to know I’ve lost someone dear, 
I want them to know my child was here. 
My child left something behind which no can see,
So, if I’ve upset you, I’m sorry as can be. 
You’ll have to forgive me, I could not resist. 
I just want you to know that my child did exist. 

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Ask Me His Name: Learning to live and laugh again after the loss of my baby

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Hangin’ out with Uncle Mike

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Flowers from your Uncle Mike.

One year ago, we buried our son.

My heart is heavy these days because this past week, my husband and I lost our best friend, Mike. One week ago, we were called to the hospital to say goodbye to our friend who has been battling Stage IV cancer. Doctors gave him 3 years to live, but it only ended up being 5 months as chemo sessions became more and more aggressive.

We really thought we had more time.

When we arrived at the hospital, we found out that Mike was hanging on because he didn’t want to say goodbye to us on the same day as our son’s death anniversary, which was two days before. He didn’t want to add more sorrow to that day. Hearing this meant the world to us.

When we said goodbye to Mike for the last time last Sunday, I couldn’t breathe. I experienced a panic attack for the first time in my life. My mind and body was responding to the turn of events, and my heart was taking me back to the moment we said goodbye to Daxin. Sadly being in a hospital environment to say goodbye to someone for good has become all too familiar to me.

I am feeling at a loss for words these days. My mind, heart and soul are having troubles processing what has taken place. Here I was, coming out of one grief, to now suddenly falling into another.

From one grief to another.

I want the grief to end, but something tells me that this is and will be part of life. As one person put it, being open to life means accepting death. Now Daxin gets to hang with his Uncle Mike and Uncle Mike gets to be a father to our son Daxin.

As we try to move forward – we treasure the many things we learned from our son and our best friend: Life is truly precious. Live it to it’s fullest. Don’t hold yourself back. 

I hope that good things will come and more happy days are ahead. I just don’t know how much more my heart can take.

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.
– Dr. Earl A. Grollman

When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars. ― Oscar Wilde

To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive – to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before. ― Rollo May

We love them. We miss them. We grieve them. And so, we live our lives to make them proud. – missfoundation.org 

 

 

Living with grief

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One year ago today, our son passed away.

My husband and I deliberately decided that we wouldn’t take this day off because we wanted to focus on celebrating Daxin’s birthday. Today is a day we didn’t really want to “celebrate.” But the truth is, with grief, you don’t get to decide.

I woke up this morning, feeling pretty good about the day ahead. When I ran out the door, my first encounter was with someone who didn’t acknowledge the day and it hurt – more than I expected. As the morning went on, I found myself in meetings at work wanting to ask my clients, “Do you know what today is!?” I wanted the world to know in that very moment.

My saving grace is a phone call from a dear friend at work. She called to say, “I just wanted to acknowledge Daxin’s death anniversary. I know it’s today and I’m praying for you. How are you doing?” In that moment, my heart just let out.

With tears streaming down my face, I realized that I didn’t want to be at work right now. All I could hear in that moment was “Go Home.” After breaking down at work, I got the all clear from my Director to take the afternoon off.

With grief, you don’t get to decide. As much as my mind didn’t want to “celebrate” this day, my heart and my body just knew it needed to remember this day. The truth is, I’m tired of grieving. We’ve been grieving for a WHOLE year.

But now I know – I’m still learning to live with grief – in mind, heart & soul.

I didn’t know what this day would bring, but I’m learning to just let things be. But as my friend tells me, how could I have known? This is my first time grieving, my first time approaching this date. My emotions can change from one day to one minute.

After a restful afternoon with the hubby and an evening spent in laughter with family over dinner and games, I am proud to say, I made it through the day.

I don’t know what each day will bring. But what I do know is that with the love and support of my husband, family & friends, I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.

We thought of you in love today, but that is nothing new. We thought about you yesterday and days before that too. We think of you in silence. We often speak your name. Now all we have is memories and your picture in a frame. Your memory is our keepsake, with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, we have you in our heart. – Author Unknown

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.
– Jamie Anderson

 

Our Baby’s 1st Birthday

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Happy Birthday to our son! Today’s marks his first birthday, a day that brought so much joy into our lives.

This is the day that we became parents. This is the day that marks one year from the day he was born. This is the day that I have chosen to publish my blog.

Today is a day of celebration for us. A day to remember the happy memories that we shared with him. We thank God every day for the 7 days that we got to know him. From changing his diaper, to taking his temperature, to pumping breast milk for him, in that one week we experienced what parenthood feels like. The constant worry for our child, running in and out of the NICU daily, and trying our best to be there for him and spend as much time with him – we are grateful for all these things.

Within those 7 days, I will never forget the JOY he gave us when he opened his little eyes – it was the cutest thing ever! And when he held our finger – my heart just wanted to burst as it overflowed with love.

I can never truly explain the pure JOY that we felt that week, but recalling those memories makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That is what gets us through our days – our fond memories with Daxin.

As we learn to let go of the pain, we will never let go of him. 

So on Daxin’s 1st birthday, we decided to take a trip along the Oregan Coast. Waking up at Seaside on the morning of his birthday and driving along the coast to Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Cape Kiwanda and Newport has been an uplifting journey. My husband and I shared tons of laughs, enjoyed peaceful walks along the beaches, and climbed an enormous sand dune today. To end off our evening, we ordered a Marionberry Pie in honour of our son’s birthday.

Overall, it was such a beautiful day – the perfect way to celebrate. The view of the vast ocean along the coast; the natural trees surrounding us; the sounds of the crashing waves; and the enormous sand dunes reminded me of how wondrous God is. He takes care of the earth. He takes care of us. He is taking care of Daxin.

Our son is truly in good hands. 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

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Above: Sand Dunes at Cape Kiwanda. Below (left): Daxin’s Birthday Cake. Below (right): Seaside.