The Few

We come in all shapes and sizes.

Men. Women.  Mothers. Fathers.

Brothers.  Sisters.

Grandmas and grandpas.

Maybe this child grew in their mother’s belly or maybe the child grew in their heart.

Either way, the list of people affected by SUDC is insane.

And yet, its crazy to think that more people don’t know about it.

Everyone talks about SIDS.  Doctors preach the ABC’s of Safe Sleep and parents pray their way through the first year of their child’s life.

But, what about after the first year?

What about the toddler that fell asleep at nap time and didn’t wake up?  What about the teenager that everyone thought was sleeping in and she just never got up?

What about those realities?

SUDC is the FIFTH highest category of toddler death, higher than all house fires or bicycle accidents.  And, those are just the statistics based on correct coding on death certificates.  There could be SO many more children unaccounted for but that’s for another blog post.

SUDC receives ZERO dollars in government money, where fires and bicycle safety gets HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars.  The SUDC Foundation is the only organization of its kind WORLDWIDE and helps families at NO cost.

Something needs to change.

Today, I saw people trolling a SUDC infographic… they were anti-vaccine folks singing their song.

To the people that assume it is vaccine related and want to berate families and push your speculations on them listen up:

Less than 24 hours after Christopher’s death a RANDOM woman messaged me and told me I had killed my son because I vaccinated him.

Seriously?

Don’t sing your song to me.  Do you have a medical degree?  A degree in biochemistry?  Do you have a crystal ball?

No?  Then stop!

If so, what are your contributions to finding a cause other than speculation?

It does a great dishonor to the work done by the individuals looking into SUDC and to the children lost.  The founders of The SUDC Foundation are SUDC parents.  They want to find a cause as much as every other person registered with the foundation.

Do you seriously think we haven’t wondered? You think we haven’t tormented ourselves with thinking about every single moment leading up to finding our child dead?

We. Found. Them.

Cold and lifeless.
Do you get that? Can you feel my anger?  My pain?  Can you imagine the images in my mind when I close my eyes?

Then you must know how much I need you to stop.  Stop assuming you have the answer as if we all missed it.  No one wants their babies back than those that never got to say goodbye.  You can, instead, be apart of the people looking for a cause.  Working, diligently, to provide resources to families lost and broken.

Don’t make assumptions.  Don’t dishonor our children.

DO advocate for the families that have lost.  Be a voice.  Help raise awareness.  Comfort those with a broken heart.

Be apart of the few.

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Happy Birthday! (In Heaven)

Christopher,

Oh, sweet boy, how I miss you!

I have been thinking of writing you a letter for your birthday this year and I have no idea what I would talk about.  Each time I sit to write you a letter my mind fails me because if I could speak with you one more time, it wouldn’t be my voice I’d want to hear; it’d be yours.  I’d want to spend absolutely every second I had with you listening to your sweet, Christopher-voice.  There is nothing I have to say that is more important; nothing, except how much I love you.  Even so, I would fit those in between your statements and questions as often as I could.

Tell me about Heaven!  What are your favorite things to do there?

Is Paw Patrol there?

Every other moment would be filled watching your face, taking in each moment, holding your sweet body in my arms, and breathing in your smell.  Oh, that sweet-Christopher smell!

Christopher, there is nothing on this planet that I want more than to spend time in your presence.  To just watch you play.

Eat.

Talk.

To feel your hand in mine.

This year, on your 4th birthday, I hope you know more than anything else, that we miss you and that you are loved so completely by so many people…

That your mama misses you with her whole heart.

Every. Single. Day.

Happy, happy, HAPPY Birthday Christopher Riley

Forever my life,

-Mama

Because this heart keeps beating…

Birthday parties require intense planning.

How can you decide who to invite? What’s the theme?  Food or just snacks?

Where do you have it?  Party places like the “mouse house” can get expensive but they do it all.  Plus, when its over, its over.  If you have it at your house, you gotta clean up before everyone comes (at my house, at least).  Plus, there is always that one guest that gets a little too comfortable and stays too long.

You know who I’m talking about.

Ugh.

Then you gotta decide: Will you have balloons?  Matching napkins and plates?  Trendy party favors?

We can’t forget the cake… mmmmm, cake!

Ahhh!

There is just so much to do and we haven’t even talked about presents, yet!

Parents just want the day to be perfect for their kid.  After all, its the day we all celebrate the day they were born.  One of the best days of a parent’s life.  And the kid, well, he probably would be happy with popcorn and a movie at the house.

Some parents, however, have more to worry about than matching napkins or picking a cute theme when it comes to their child’s birthday.  Some parents simply worry about how they will make it through the day.

In just one week Christopher would be 4.  He won’t be at his party… you know, the party that celebrates them having been born.

The anxiety that builds before Christopher’s birthday and anniversary is nuts.

You know that feeling before an interview or a major test… that feeling of speaking in public or walking into a room full of new people?

Its kinda like that.

Only, there isn’t the excitement that comes with those things… There is no silver lining to this anxiety.  An interview could mean a new job.  A room full of people could mean new friends.  A kid’s birthday without the kid… well, you can try to imagine.  I hope you don’t ever have to experience it.

My chest gets tight.  I get sweaty and my breathing is labored.  My clothes feel too small and the room gets warm even when the air is on.  Oh, and, my muscles… they get so wound up like being in a car with a bad driver.

It leaves me irritable and physically exhausted.  And this isn’t even the day-of.  This is just the build-up to the big day…

 

I think the anxiety builds because my mamma-heart is confused… it wonders how it will keep beating another day, month, year without having held him in my arms or smelled his sweet smell.  My heart knows he should be here but he isn’t… its been 1007 days since I felt his soft skin or heard him call for me.

I truly have no clue how my broken heart continues to beat but, it does…  Somehow, it keeps doing its job despite the confusion… despite the giant hole that was created the day he died.

I’m grateful my heart doesn’t require me to repair the hole or fix the confusion to keep functioning, it just keeps beating.

Because it keeps beating, I get to be part of my older boys’ lives…to try and be the mom they need me to be.

Because this heart keeps beating, I get to experience rich and meaningful moments with those that love my family… that love Christopher.

Because this  broken heart keeps beating, I get to tell all who will listen about the birthday boy who isn’t here.

Its Just OK…

Today, I have every intention of stuffing my face. Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  I feel like I’ve mentally prepared for this feast all year.  I’m going to eat seconds and maybe thirds.  I’m going to eat so many times today and then do it all over again tomorrow and I.  Can’t.  Wait!
Afterall, we slave over this meal for days only for it to be eaten in minutes.  We prep our homes so guests can come in and spend the day with us.
Y’all, we clean baseboards for this meal.
We even put on our fancy clothes to sit in a living room all day.
Thanksgiving Day is a labor of love.  A day to show  appreciation for all that we have and all that we will receive but without the pressure of buying gifts.
Today, we will be surrounded by some amazing friends as we are express our gratitude for people that we can’t eat with due to the miles between us.  We will eat. Play games.  Take naps.  Shop online.
It’ll be fantastic!
And yet, holidays are hard, y’all.
Not like fitting that oversized turkey in your oven, hard.
Not hard like making a paycheck spread for days after it is scheduled to be gone.
Not like working through marital issues, hard.
Those things are really hard.
Really.
They are frustrating.  They make you cringe and keep you up at night.
For some, though, holidays are a different kind of hard.
For some, holidays are hard like, questioning whether or not he really existed…
He did, right?
It’s hard like reliving the moment you realized he was gone and wishing you would have held him a little longer.
Holidays are the kind of hard that seeing that empty chair and wondering if anyone else even knows they are missing.
I know, not everyone can relate to losing a child and you may not understand my “hard” but I would bet MANY of you know what having an empty chair at the table is like… You know what it feels like to want to call your mom, dad, or whoever you’re missing but know they won’t be there to answer.
I’m not here to tell you that it won’t hurt.  Or, that you’ll be fine.  I’m not here to tell you to put your big girl panties on and get over it.
Nope.
I’m here to tell you it’s ok.
It’s ok to stay in bed ALL DAY LONG if that’s all that you can bring yourself to do.
Its ok to cry.  To miss them.
It’s also ok to be happy today.  Yall, its OK!
It is ok to be thankful and really mean it.
Thankful they existed.  Thankful they were yours, in whatever capacity that was and still is… They really were yours and you were theirs.
I’m here to tell you it’s ok to race to the bathroom and shed some tears and then jump back to your plate full of pie.
Its ok to talk about them to whoever will will listen.  Just  becaus they are gone doesn’t mean your love stopped.
Whatever you choose to do today, it’s all ok.
Because, well, holidays are hard.
And they are beautiful.
It’s ok to be both happy and sad.
Today, whatever you choose to do, whatever you choose to feel, know that it’s ok.
20150225_120112I am not asking you to have faith you do not have.  I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have.”
-Elder Holland

One Less

Y’all, we went to another adoption meeting this past week. Woot woot!

The boys knew about it but couldn’t attend the meeting.  They were able to hang out with our friends while we pursued our future child. When we picked them up, Cameron (our middle son) asked with such excitement, “Is my new brother or sister at home!?!”

With both affection and a bit of sadness, I had to break the news that it didn’t work like that.  This would take time.  A lot of time, actually.

It made me think about life.

Life.

Such a simple four letter word that carries such heavy meaning.  Giving new life. The span of someone’s life.  The ending of one’s life.

Life is both beautiful and incredibly painful… yet, never the same for any two people.

 

My family has experienced the most beautiful moments life has to offer and some of the ugliest.

Despite the pain, the beauty shines through.

Losing Christopher was catastrophic.  An ugliness that will forever impact the decisions my family makes, including our decision to venture into adoption.

We are thrilled with the verbal support from our loved ones but have found the road to adoption to be a difficult path and a much different path than planning for a pregnancy.  We were very fortunate to get pregnant relatively easy.  My pregnancies were mostly healthy and each baby was born healthy.

Adoption is a beautiful event with an incredible result but is highly surrounded by red tape.  At the center of the red tape, there is a child that needs a family, love, support, and a roof over their head. On the outside of the red tape, waiting and tearing through, is a family.

Our family.

We will provide snuggles, kisses, hugs, dance lessons, homework help, sports practices, bedtime stories, and a family that loves fiercely and unconditionally.

We will provide those things; that, I am confident.

However, before my family can get there, there is a mountain of paperwork that must be completed.  We have begun this paperwork.

It is exhausting. It is expensive.  It is time consuming. It will be worth it.

Once the paperwork is in, there are inspections to be had.  Background checks to be had. Home studies and interviews to be completed.  These cost money… like, a lot.

Y’all, this is all treated as a commercial inspection and a job interview wrapped in one.  It is hardcore. Thermometers in the fridge.  Inspections of our HVAC system and electrical system.  Inspections of our windows and doors.  Inspections of food expiration dates and fire alarms.  Inspections of our family.  Our morals. Our values.  Our sex life. #forreal

They check to make sure we have sufficient toilet paper, y’all!  #imserious

Honestly, it makes me question my current parenting and home safety.  How on Earth have we survived all these years without a fire evacuation plan posted in each room of our home? (Can you detect a hint of sarcasm???)

But seriously,  I get it, though.  The system is put into place to ensure the safety of whatever child is placed with his/her new family.  There are no guarantees but there are boxes to be checked… and I get it.

When we moved to Texas, we purchased an older home in an effort to “fix ‘er up” and then rent it out whenever we move.  We had all the right inspections.  It all looked good. Sadly, shortly after purchase, we made some discoveries surrounding the unethical sale of this home… now, fixing the home up has been at a stand still.

We are unsure of how long this stand-still will take but know that we do NOT want to put the rest of our lives on hold.  We do not want to wait to start the adoption process because it could take a year to TWO years to be placed with a child.  #weaintgettinanyyounger

So, we are working to get the home up to safety standards with as little money into the home as possible.  It feels like one more piece of red tape between us and our future child. It is doable, though.

This process will be crazy expensive.  From application fees, inspection fees, permits, and adoptions costs.  We are looking at thousands of dollars.

I know that with each paper completed and each item checked off we are getting closer.  Closer to #oneless child without a family.  Closer to #oneless family waiting to be placed. Closer to #oneless abused or mistreated child waiting to be rescued.  Closer to #oneless infant, toddler, or pre-schooler waiting for someone to snuggle them or kiss their ouchies.

We are given this life, this ONE life, to do something with and leave the world better than we found it. My family is not wealthy.  We are not famous nor do we live the most glamorous of lives.  I am, however, more confident in our ability to provide a real home, a real family for a child that needs one than just about anything else in my life.

We are good people.  We are hard working.  We are kind and funny.  Because we have experienced loss, we know just how precious this life and the life of our future adopted child is.  We don’t know who they are, yet, but we love them already.  We pray for him or her, as a family, each night.  We have plans for this child.  Plans to love them.  Plans to provide a family to them.

Because life is beautiful.

 

 

The Change I Didn’t Choose

Some days, I feel like I run on empty.

Like, house full of hungry boys and no cereal-  EMPTY.

That, after taking care of everyone else, my “cup” runs dry.  Some days, basic hygiene seems to be more than I can bear.

I mean, let’s be real, putting real pants on is too much some days.

Luckily, today is Tuesday and that means I get to fill-up my “cup”.  On the military base where we live, there is a program called PWOC that helps provide just what my soul needs: laughter, friendships, FOOD, music, and for me, a little bit of Jesus.

Today, however, was different. I had an opportunity to try and re-fill other women’s  “cups”.

The theme that PWOC is running on this year is all about transformations.  All kinds of transformations; changes.

Despite being nervous, I felt compelled to talk about the choices we didn’t choose.

Many of our transformations are intentional choices… pre-meditated plans for change.

These choices might be a new workout program with the goal to “transform” your body.  Or, maybe its the choice to enroll in school or attend church for the first time to ‘better’ yourself… to transform into something more.

Whatever it may be, there are many times that we make intentional choices with the end-goal being a transformation.  Sometimes we have to put a LOT of work in order to complete our transformation.

But, what about the times that life happens…when Satan throws a wrench in our worldly plans, and without knowing it, we are transformed?

Without consent, your heart and your mind, and your body are changed into something or someone different.

How you carry that heavy load will determine what happens.

If you know me, or you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that some pretty unthinkable things have happened in my life.  Growing up in a meth-addicted family is never easy.  Burying my father and my brother on separate occasions due to unexpected deaths was rough.  But, none of that seemed to cause the transformation that I’m talking about… Not until last year when our son died.

Without warning, without being able to prepare, my world changed.

I didn’t choose this change.

Christopher was a happy, sweet, 15 month old boy. He was smart, handsome, and he completed our family. And, Easter morning, a day we had looked forward to for weeks, and he simply didn’t wake up.  18 months later, we still don’t have any answers.

I had no way of knowing it then, but that day I started a transformation that is still taking place.

Maybe you, too, have gone through something unthinkable.  Maybe, someone hurt you.  Maybe you’ve overcome addiction, abuse, poverty, or depression.  Maybe, like me, you’ve lost a child or pregnancy or struggle with infertility.

Maybe you are going through that RIGHT now.

And, what I want you to know, is that where you turn and who you turn to, will determine how your transformation plays out.

Now, I’m no expert on the Bible or on prayer, I am just a woman who prays and I know that the God that we serve will never, ever leave your side.

When our lives are flipped upside down, Satan so easily can slip into our minds and whisper lies to us…. Make us think that God has left us when in fact; God is the one carrying us.

If during your storm, or after your storm, you put your brokenness, your faith, into a relationship on THIS world, you will be let down.  No one will comfort you or give you peace, like Jesus.

No one.

People have often said to me, after my loss, God will never give you more than you can handle, and y’all, that just isn’t true.  And, until just a few weeks ago I didn’t have anything to respond with…(Thank you, Deanna)

But, here is the truth that I want you to hear:  God will never give us more than HE can handle.  We are strong because he infuses us with His strength.

So, whatever unintentional transformation is taking place in your life, where you draw your strength will determine how things play out and ultimately, the type of transformation that takes place.

And, your transformation may be the very thing that helps someone else experiencing the same trials you experienced make it to through to the next day.

“Transformed people, transform people.”  -Richard Rohr

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The First Time You Forget

Today is the 13th of the month.  A Tuesday.  No big deal.  It started as it always does- like a 3-ring circus.  Raising boys really is like raising wild animals.  At least one person was screaming, “Where are my pants?!,” while someone else is running through the halls stark naked. At one point, they may even have been peeing together…at the same time… in the same toilet.  You know, just a regular day in the Briscoe house.

Living the dream.

Honestly, I hadn’t noticed anything different about the day until I saw a notification on my phone; Timehop.  Whoever thought of this app is alright in my book.  Seriously, how cool is it to be able to look back at all of the photos, conversations, and little moments and reflect on our past-selves?!

Who we were.

Friends that have come and gone.

Friends that are still around.

How our children have grown.

Or not.

That’s what got me today.  The “not.”

Today, Christopher would be turning 32 months, or as a non-mom would say, 2 years and 8 months old.  Such a mundane milestone.  Really, there would be no celebration.  I may not even have noticed.  But, I would have had him here.  And that would have been enough.

Today, it isn’t this milestone that made tears stream down my face.  Every single day  I’m faced with reminders that he is gone.  Some are easily swept away and others bring me to my knees.

No, today wasn’t like any moment I’ve yet to experience.

Today, I forgot.

What did I forget, you ask?

I forgot how old MY child was.  How old he would be.  What he would be capable of.

As I was looking at the photos on Timehop, I casually thought, “Awe, he would be about 20 months old.”   It took me nearly an hour to realize that he couldn’t only be 20  months…. he’s been gone almost 18 months.  And, then.  That’s when the pain came.

How had I forgotten how old my baby is?

Such a simple thing.  I’ve done it to my older boys before.

The pain came with the guilt of forgetting and then realizing that he would be THAT old already.

I hadn’t truly realized how old he would be right now and how busy he’d be… the guilt that I felt following that realization was immeasurable.

Guilt is an awful thing.  It eats you up.  It consumes you.  It unravels the very threads that are keeping you together.

I realize, now, how silly this morning was.  Briefly forgetting what this day represents wouldn’t have been important then, and certainly doesn’t take away the love I have for my sweet Christopher.

When my tear-streaked face dried up, I just sat.  I prayed.

I am not an expert in prayer.  I simply pray because I don’t know what else to do or who to turn to.

So, heavy-hearted, I prayed for comfort because, in that moment, I was far from comfortable. I prayed that God would love my son until one day, when I’m old and gray, I get there and can love him myself.    And, mostly, I prayed for patience.

Patience to wait until I get to see that curly, blonde-headed boy that we call Christopher Riley.

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A Difficult Job

What does being a mother mean?

I suppose it is something different to everyone but, to me, it is a gift. A gift I unknowingly took for granted for a LONG time.
Honestly, some days it feels like a job.  A job with long hours, needy bosses, messy work spaces, no lunch break, and little recognition.  I mean, seriously, living and ‘working’ in the same building can be suffocating sometimes.
My biggest hang up is that is what I focused on while Christopher was alive.  I was the mom that when I was asked, “how are you?”My response was always:

“I’m so tired”

… and I was.

I was the mom with the infant that would rather have been up with me at 1 AM than asleep.  My dream vacation would have been a week alone on a beach with a book…and cake.
I was the mother that was battling a painful illness and I focused more on the moments of discomfort than of the moments that gave my life purpose.  I lived life in the future:

“As soon as my surgery takes the pain away, everything will be better.”

“As soon as Christopher sleeps through the night, I’ll feel better.”

“When _________ happens, I’ll be happy.”
I was the mom that was blessed for the opportunity to stay home with my babies but would look for a way to go back to work.  For a purpose.
I was the mother that went to bed every night knowing even if today wasn’t a good day, I’d get tomorrow to try again.
Until one day I didn’t….
And let me tell you, I wish every day I did get to try again.  I wish with all of my heart that I could take back the moments where I didn’t appreciate everything about my crazy life.

But I can’t.
Even now, I’m not perfect.  I still get upset with my boys.  I find myself feeling tired.  Overwhelmed.  Did I say tired?

Motherhood is one of life’s greatest challenges…and yet, it is every bit the best, greatest, most amazing ‘job’ I will ever have.  I am beyond thankful to have been given the title of Mom.

mother

To you, Mama, remember this is just a temporary time in your life… a temporary tired.  They will get big…and you will look back and wish they wanted to hang out with you in the middle of the night.   You will look back and see that the greatest job you ever had was being a mama… their mom.

Progress

Sleep is not my friend on this cool, crisp February night.  Typically, I struggle to simply keep my eyes open through dinner but that has not been the case tonight.  No, tonight I sit alone on the couch as the remainder of my house is dreaming sweet dreams.  Or so I hope.

With all of this uninterrupted time on my hands, honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself.  I’ve already attempted to catch up on the queue of television recordings waiting for me but still, my mind will not silent.  I even thought about cleaning or working out… thought about.  Pffft.  Let’s be real….   Another time, maybe.

Tonight, my mind is littered with so many thoughts.  It always is.  For some reason tonight, though, I could not shut my thoughts off.  Some were productive as I’ve got a hefty ‘to-do’ list.  Some… not-so-much. It even got as bad as to think, “What’s gonna happen on the next Phineas and Ferb episode?”

Hey, I can’t help it.  Don’t judge me.  #momlife

Oh, but even in the midst of my mind racing, thoughts of him seem to stand still.

Christopher Riley

The thought of him is ever present.  Like a permanent fixture in my mind.

Ten months have passed, soon to be eleven, since I saw our sweet boy smile and look up at me with those perfect hazel eyes.

Can you believe it?  I can’t. 

Imagine not seeing, smelling, hearing from, or holding your child for over 300 days.  Impossible, right?

Now, imagine that same feeling and imagine it is permanent.  For the rest of your life.

Why, you ask?

You don’t get a reason.  Its just going to happen.

No notice.  No warning.

You’ll wake up one day and your ‘healthy’ child will be gone. No one will have an answer.

And, if that’s not enough, you’ll call for help and those that come to your home in your time of desperation will treat you like a criminal.  In your worst hell, the police and EMTs, that you are relying on to find answers will look at you as if you failed.  And, in the midst of your confusion, your heartache, and you will retrace every step and think of EVERY moment leading to this scenario and wonder if you indeed failed your child.

But, you didn’t.

Your very existence is to serve your children.

You couldn’t have predicted this.  You never could have planned this new reality.

Christine Suhan of the blog, Feelings and Faith, says:

Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let Him in. 

I never thought that I would lose a child.  I never could have guessed that my family would know such pain.  I never, in a million years, would have imagined that Easter would become my least anticipated holiday.  And, let me tell you, I am not ready for that day to arrive.

I am afraid.

What’s funny to me is that many times in their loss for words, people have told me, “You’re so strong.  If it were me, I’d just die.  I’d crawl in my bed and never leave.”

Even typing that causes thoughts to start racing…

This is not strength.  This is grief in its most organic form.  A fire.  A passion to help others.  To help those that might come after us.  It is a selfish need to tell the world about our son.   An even greater need to do whatever we can to try and prevent it from ever happening again.  To make progress, no matter how small it might be.

So, when you see another Facebook post about my son.  Or, you hear me going on-and-on about some silly fundraiser for ‘SUDC’ or ‘Christopher’s Crusaders’, know that it isn’t to bombard you, guilt you, or overwhelm you.

It isn’t about you, I hope.

Its about the family that is going to wake up tomorrow to find their child isn’t asleep.

I have no idea why living life without Christopher is our reality but we have chosen to try and bring hope and healing to others.  We have chosen to allow Him to use our pain for a greater good.

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Graciously borrowed from facebook.com/scribblesandcrumbs

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary Losses

Cooler weather has arrived in Kansas and with it are some of the most beautiful, picture perfect sunsets The Flint Hills has to offer.   What I love most about the cooler weather is the feeling of putting on a comfy sweater, a warm scarf, and the reality that society doesn’t frown upon venturing out in public in sweatpants.  (Yesssss!)

Cooler, cloudy weather means snuggling on the couch, warm cookies, hot cocoa, and holiday traditions.  It means making memories with friends and family.  It also means new terrain for my family: the holiday season without my son.

Honestly, that terrifies me.

Every day, week, or month that passes I’m learning new things about our new reality. We’ve changed.  Our lives are different.  Just when I think I’ve got our initial losses figured out, we are hit with a new, unexpected, very real loss.  Not a physical loss.  But changes in the life that we once knew.

Going through a “Grief Journey” in one of The SUDC Foundation’s parent support groups, this topic was presented:

“When your child dies, there are a series of secondary losses that follow. They are different for everyone. The loss of relationships, the loss of innocence, the loss of employment, etc.  Share about someting else that you lost when your child died”

I really connected to this topic.  It has been on my heart for nearly 6 weeks and today I wanted to revisit my “journal” entry.  Despite the fact that this is only a fraction of secondary losses that I have/will experience, they are the losses that are constantly on my heart.  So, what are these secondary losses?
1. I feel like my “season of life” changed. I went from having a toddler
and two older children to having only school-aged children. All of a
sudden I was propelled forward in life. Instead of looking forward to
playgroups and nap-time during the day with my son for the next 2-3 years I am now looking for employment/volunteer activities to fill my day. Instead of looking for moms with small children I am looking for moms with school-aged kids.  No longer do I wander aimlessly through the baby aisles at Target looking for the cutest boy outfits or best deals on diapers…now, I actually try to avoid that section.

2.  Friends: I have had many acquaintances step up and have become the
closest of friends. Then, there are people that I considered my close
friends not be able to handle this loss and so then have become very
distant.  Yes, it is just that simple.
3. I have lost the ability to compare milestones with moms with toddlers.  I know that sounds insignificant but my husband and I had children very young so this was our first child that was born around our friends’ children.  It was such a joy to share pictures and compare their milestones and achievements.  Now, they continue this wonderful social act and I am left on the sidelines wondering where
Christopher would be. How much would he be talking now?  Would he still be a wobbly walker?  Would he still run to meet me at the door?  Would he still want me to rock him to sleep every night?  I’ll never know…
4.  I have lost the comfort and peace that comes with putting your
children to bed at night. What was once a beautiful and, honestly, a
liberating time for my husband and myself has now become a highly anxious time.  Instead of closing the door and blowing kisses with certainty we’ll see our smiling children in the morning has now become 2 or 3 fearful check-ups before I or my husband can fall asleep.  We know it won’t change the outcome if something were to happen; but, the stress of what has already happened weighs heavy on our hearts. Children dying for no reason happens in movies….it doesn’t happen in real life, right?
5. Loss of material possessions: we had to get rid of his crib
immediately. I couldn’t look at it naked without his blankets another
moment. The investigators took everything in his crib as evidence and his
bed was totally bare. It was the saddest scene. And, every time I walked
by his room, which is directly across the hall from my bedroom, I had to
see his empty bed. The bed that held my lifeless child. So, it had to go.
Also, his toys were strewn across our house in various bedrooms and each
time I would pass them or clean them up, I thought about how he should be
here… he should be here playing with them and banging us with them… so
they had to go, too.  Every now and again I stumble upon one of his toys.  It breaks my heart.  Every. Single. Time.

6. Memories: My biggest fear is that I will forget.  Not him.  I’d never forget HIM.  But, my memories of him… what we did together.  What it felt like to hold him in my arms…  the weight of his body in my lap.  To run my fingers through his blonde curly hair.  His laugh.  The way his bowed legs would scurry across our living room as he looked for his pacifier.  Sometimes I feverishly look through my pictures and study his face.  His eyes.  The lines in his hands.  Just so that when I close my eyes I can remember.  Because I don’t EVER want to forget.  But, along with worrying about forgetting, I cringe at making new memories without him.  About moving on.  How does a parent find joy knowing their child isn’t able to be here?
7.  His smell: Damn.  This was the hardest loss other than actually losing
him. I searched, in every area of my home, to find his smell. I
frantically smelled each dirty shirt, each milk stained bib, and each baby
blanket for just a small hint of his smell. And yet, I couldn’t find any
of it. With streams of tears falling from my face, I searched.  I can
imagine what he smelled like but for some reason I can’t remember. I try
but its not the same.  Its the one thing that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never find it.

Knowing there are difficult days ahead worries me.  I know that even once we get to Christopher’s one year mark, we are not in the clear.  I will still have bad days.  My marriage has more strain than a typical marriage.  My children have known a sadness most children their age have not.  But, I can’t focus on what tomorrow might bring.  Not when there is so much that my family has to be thankful for today.  I’m certainly not perfect but I have realized through these secondary losses that relishing in each moment is so important.

Its vital.

There is not extension on life.  No re-dos once our loved ones are gone.

Put your phone down.  Turn off the TV.  Cancel unnecessary plans.  Listen to your children.  Look into their eyes.  Hold them in your arms.  Sit by your spouse.  Hold their hand.  Say “I love you” every time you enter the room.  Because, why the hell not?!  (I was just preaching to myself by the way) …Hey, I’m a work in progress.

And, if you see me staring out into the distance while you’re talking to me, if I’m blowing up your Facebook with “Christopher’s Crusaders” news, or if I’m cruising down the aisles of the commissary with tear-stained cheeks, it is probably because in addition to losing the most beautiful boy this world has ever seen, we have lost so much more.  It doesn’t mean I am broken.  No.  I was simply lucky enough to be Christopher Riley’s mom.

#ChristophersCrusaders #SUDC

Christopher’s Crusaders

The SUDC Foundation