To those who say not to let my grief define me, I say, “Why not?” Our everyday experiences shape who we are. So why not the extraordinary ones that rip our hearts open? A heart that knows mourning is tender not only to its own aching but to that of others. I think that’s a good thing.
Today marks 4 years and 3 months since Calvin’s birthday. Yes, I’m still counting. Yes, I’m still grieving. And, yes, I’m still standing, but a better person by having carried him.
Happy 51 months in heaven, Calvin. Because of you and your sisters, my broken heart has more to give.
“To the woman who possesses a life giving heart, broken wide-open for the child she loves.”
For all mommy-hearts, whether you hold, miss, or long for your children, whether your kids were born from your womb, your heart, your friendships, or your occupations.
This month, the 5th is special for several reasons:
- this is Calvin’s 50th month in heaven (that actually makes me want to cry, knowing how long it’s been since I’ve held him),
- it is International Bereaved Mothers Day, and
- it is the 1 year anniversary of Still Standing Magazine and the heavenly birthday of Fran’s (the magazine’s founder) daughter Jenna Belle
So, inspired by my Calvin, Rainbow, and Gaelen in heaven, in sisterhood with all of my fellow bereaved and infertile mothers, and in honor of all of the babies we’re missing, I created this card to share a small piece of what being a babyloss momma has come to mean to me:
It was not my choice to survive without you… So I choose to live and to honor you. I am still standing. (Crystal Theresa Zapanta)
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Dear Calvin, I love you so much my heart could burst. Though it’s been 50 long months since I last held you, sweet boy, I need to remember that it just means I’m 50 months much closer to heaven. I chose life for you, my son, and I continue to choose life for our family by honoring you and your sisters and by fully embracing this time on earth with your daddy and your baby brother, even as I ache for you.
Chairs, Candles, and Tissue
Not long after losing Calvin, Louie and I began attending a bereaved parents support group through the hospital. We met in the same room every week for two months. The chairs would be arranged in a circle, and in the middle of the circle would be a circle of candles—one for each of us to light before we began then to blow out before we left. On every couple of chairs, there would be a box of tissue. The tissues were there, of course, because tears were expected. But their placement and the amount of tissue boxes (instead of one that could be passed around) were deliberate.
One of the therapists who facilitated the group explained that they wanted us to be able to reach them ourselves, because the act of handing someone a tissue is often associated with asking that person to stop crying, to stop the flow of tears. They didn’t want us to feel that pressure of needing to stifle ourselves and hold back. They wanted to honor our grief and our emotions, and they wanted us to do the same for each other and for ourselves.
Comfort, Tears, and Power
This has stuck with me over the past three years. It changed my understanding of what it means to comfort to others: to abide and to bear witness, instead of finding ways to “stop” the aching. It has also changed the way I view my own mourning and given me the grace of accepting and acknowledging the waves of grief, instead of trying to fight it or run away. Yes, there is vulnerability and even discomfort in watching another’s tears and in allowing oneself to cry, but as Washington Irving said:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.”
So, for my first baby’s 3 years and 3 months in heaven today, I created this printable from Dandiewinks:
Dear Calvin Phoenix, there are not enough tears in me to express how much I love you and your siblings. But so long as they flow, I welcome them; it is one of the few ways I have of offering my heart to you. Mommy and daddy love you so much.