Tag Archives: grief

A 5 year tale of transformation

5 years ago this afternoon, a few new friends were over making iron on t-shirts with the aspiration of starting a mom’s group at church. I didn’t know how these women would become a life support for me while Owen was on life support (and continue to support me in the years to come). Little did I know that Tony Maroni’s pizza would be the last meal I had with all four of my children healthy. I didn’t know my little sister would be a rock at home so I could hop in the ambulance and focus on breathing.

These past five years started with a mother’s worse nightmare coming true … and have taught me what healing feels like. It’s taught me how surrendering brings strength. When you can’t breath … a mother’s hug, a friend’s card in the mail, a therapist’s ear, a Sunday morning church service, a family remembering your baby brings the air you need. My family and friends have literally breathed for me at times.

To my friends and family, thank you for walking these 5 years with me. Thank you for carrying me when I wasn’t able to stand and for bringing the sunshine through my rain storm.

I still cry during the month of May at random times of remembering what life was like. I am still moved by other women’s stories of loss and wish there was something I could say or do to lessen their pain, knowing all too well there isn’t anything I can say or do but listen, pray and just show up.

Thank you for being a part of a beautiful story of healing. You have helped me. You have helped my family. Without you, this might not have been a story of healing but rather just tragedy. Owen’s story is a beautiful tale of transformation. A beautiful monarch butterfly and you as the cocoon that have wrapped me with protection and shelter.

As Logan and Weston have told me, Owen lives in my heart now.

Love, Mel


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Filed under Grief, Owen's Gone, Posted by Melissa

How did you do it?

Over the last few years, many who have lost their children have reached out wanting to know how “I did it.” Although I’m not quite sure what “it” was that I did …  I would suppose they are referring to getting up each morning and most of the time showering, how I continued to love my other children in the midst of my own unbearable pain, how I spoke of God’s love continuously even when I had countless moments of doubt I was too afraid to speak, or how I have continued on with life for four years.

Many have commented on how hopeful my posts were or how much strength I showed. I call this out because it is the absolute opposite of what I felt during those days after Owen’s death. I felt anything but strong, positive or hopeful. My life was upside down and I had no energy or idea on how to put it back together again. But I suppose that’s just where we all need to be in order to give up. That’s right, I threw my hands up and said, “I GIVE UP! I don’t know where to go from here so the rest of you just need to tell me.” And that somebody included God.

I completely surrendered myself to the care and love of my family and friends and most importantly my Creator. When friends called and asked if they could bring meals, I said sure. When church called to see if there was anything my family needed, I said, “well we are running low on diapers and that would save us a trip to the store.” A childhood friend wanted to give me a blanket she had made for Owen, I said thank you! and slept with it every night. My sister’s friend offered to just move in while Owen was in the hospital and take care of my kids and the house – I said thank you. I called uncle and gave up my control. The world had been trying to push me down my whole life, and it finally won.

It’s in that surrender that I found strength. Crazy and kind of poetic, right?  I found a path or a cue to what my next step should be. This strength did not come from my own will or decisions. It came from complete hopelessness, fatigue and grief. It came from the the conversation I had with God that went something like this:

God – what the heck? Are you kidding me? I have loved you. I went to bible study this week. When I was so mad at you after my car accident I continued to work on it with YOU! I could have ran, but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad I did – but wasn’t that enough? Didn’t I prove to you that I love you then? Why are you testing me again? This isn’t fair. My marriage is already falling apart, I have no idea how to mother these children and now this? Are you taking Owen away because I didn’t love my kids enough? I swear I’ll turn the tv off and just play puzzles on the floor with my kids like the commercials if you just make this all go away.


FINE. I give up. You let this happen – you figure it out. I’d like to see how you’re going to make anything good come of this.

I think God was waiting and hoping I’d say that. Because then, and only then, did he have a complete empty canvas – clean from any of my scribbly attempts of fixing things. He had all the paintbrushes in His hand so he could create a masterpiece I could never have imagined. He delights in those moments when His children give him total control. Not because He is this sadistic puppeteer but because He knows He can create something far more beautiful for us when we just let Him do His job – love us. He is our protector and our creator. He knows us far better than we know ourselves – which is hard to believe after how many hours of therapy I’ve been through trying to understand why I do the things that I do.

To my dear grieving parent friends, let go. Let it all go – drop it on the floor and rest at Jesus’ feet. Do not try to make sense of what has happened, but rather let those around you take care of you. Rest. Focus on your own feelings, allow yourself to feel the pain. Even if it’s for only a second today, try for two seconds tomorrow. Thru that pain you will pick up all of these treasures.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Grief, Owen's Gone


November creeps in … the hole of Owen’s death starts to bleed again. I find myself having the ugly cries in church – every Sunday. I feel broken and weak. Funny how it almost hurts more two years later than it did days after Owen was gone. Perhaps the numbness of it all is still wearing off.

November is the start of all my Owen memories. It starts with the triplet’s birth. That Monday night when my sister and I gave each other mud masks in my hospital room. The goofy belly dance I atempted during Dancing with the Stars. The fetal monitoring that showed the baby’s heart beats didn’t have the accelerations they should. Then the news that they were just fine and everything was status quo. The Tuesday morning I woke up to more fetal monitoring and the news that the heart beats were a little faster than they’d like. Waiting for my “regular” nurse to come in at 7am and then the news that I had gone from 5 cm dilated to 7 cm dilated over night. WE WERE HAVING BABIES! The phone calls to our friends and family. My in-laws jumping into the car to drive down from Green Bay. My brother leaving school and my sister driving back from Watertown. All the happy, excited memories. The risk of so many things going wrong and everything being just fine. The peace I felt that evening when all three of my newborn babies had entered the world safely.

The months to come are filled with memories of lack of sleep, struggle, questioning if I’ll ever survive this. Soon the memories of hysterical “field trips” and first smiles. Falling in love with making my own baby food.

Then the night my entire life changed … all of our lives changed forever. The night that I gave my own child CPR. The taste of blood and the shaking from adrenaline. The desperate prayers that my child would be spared, but the deep knowing that he was already gone.

In the moments, hours and days of Owen being on life support I had all the time and space to sit and digest what was happening around me. Now in the the midst of “normal” life, I feel like I’m drowning. So many leaking holes in my water vase. So many that I can’t plug them all. My water is running out so much faster than it’s being put in. It’s depleting to matter how hard I struggle to keep it all in. So rather than mend and patch the brokenness, it’s all gushing out – I’m broken and drowning.

Tell me I’m normal. Tell me I’m not the only one falling apart at the seams. Stuggling to keep it together. This has got to be normal. Even in the midst of my own mess, I know there are others far worse off than I am. I know there are mothers who are just starting their journey of grief. There are mothers who will never hold their babies. There are single moms who are stuggling to pay the bills. There are mothers who can’t feed their children. I’m making it. I’m still above water, barely.

My mom told me to embrace the pain. Absorb it and process it. Don’t try to stuff it back in because it’s messy and you might not give the impression that you were hoping to make. But rather, be real. Be what you feel and act what you believe. I believe it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to cry. So why do I try to stuff it all inside when that’s exactly how I feel? If you process the yucky stuff it turns into strength. It becomes “where you came from” rather than “what you are.”

In November, I miss Owen more than other times of the year. Please don’t take that as I don’t miss him other times of the year. It’s just a closer kind of pain. All the memories come slapping me in the face.

Sometimes when I write these horribly broken and sad blogs I fear that I sound weak or broken. I fear that people will take pity on me. I don’t write these words for sympathy or pity. I write them because they are real and honest. They are me. I write them because I find healing in sharing the hard truth. I pray that others will find comfort that they are not alone in their own sadness.

I continue to pray that God will use this horrific loss to make something good. I pray that he will use me and give me strength to be a blessing in the world. I pray that my ears and heart will be open to receive his message. I pray that those I love will feel just how much I care about them. I pray that my life might have a slight impact on just one person. Don’t let my loss go to waste – let good continue to come from it.

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief, Owen's Gone, Posted by Melissa

Owen’s Medal of Honor

When we pulled up to the Governor’s mansion my mom instinct to get all the kids out and across the street kicked in.  I found myself dazed on the driveway – putting on my name badge, posing for a group photo in front of a beautiful fountain.  Then I knew I needed to find a restroom before the ceremony started – the Diet Mountain Dew I had on the car ride was kicking in.  The line was so long that by the time it was my turn it was time to find our seats.  I grabbed a cookie on my way to the back of the tent, where my family was already seated and waiting for me.

It wasn’t until the ceremony started that they announced that Gov. Walker wouldn’t be attending.  I’m not going to lie, I was peeved.  Our time to honor Owen had already been postponed a year and now we weren’t even going to have the medal presented by who was promised?  I’m not sure if those of you who do not live in WI have heard on the news, but there was a mass shooting in a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb (Oak Creek).  We were told that Gov. Walker was “spending time with the families effected by the shooting.”  Now, I’m just going to be brutally honest – I was hurt by that.  The shooting was DEVASTATING, HORRIFIC and TERRIBLE … but the Donor Network ceremony was honoring 209 families who have lost their loved ones.  There were 6 deaths in the Sikh temple shooting.  Didn’t really seem like he chose how he could reach the most people – he rather went to where the news cameras would be.  The terrible and bitter thought of  “just because my son’s death didn’t make national news, means that he’s not worth Gov Walker’s time.”  It was a horrible thought and it felt even more horrible.  I was a little ticked that he was not going to be there.  Let me also end by saying, I am actually a Scott Walker fan and am not looking to start any kind of political debate.  I simply felt like it was just a political move … and I can’t stand politics.

That being said – the ceremony was really something special.  The instrumental music that played while each loved one’s name was announced was perfect.  The weather was beautiful and the view of the water was calming.

We were third in line to receive Owen’s medal.  I carried Weston, Doug had Logan and Jaden walked proudly between us.

As we paused to wait for our time to walk, I looked up and felt the wind get knocked out of my chest.  I flashed back to the funeral – where the musical was playing, and I was standing at the back of the church looking at a sea people.  I looked down the aisle and just focused on Rebecca Kleefisch (Lt Governor of WI) just as I had focused on the large picture of Owen at the altar.  The only thing I could do was breath and put one foot in front of the other.


(love this picture because it shows the craziness of what our family is really like)


We received Owen’s medal with honor.  We received a heart felt thanks for Owen’s gift.  Logan and Weston were especially loved.  Then we made our way back to our seats.  I realized just how my grief had been replaced with joy in so many ways.  I had not felt the heart stabbing pain in so long.  Perhaps it’s because I turned it all over to the Lord from the very beginning.  Perhaps it’s because I have two boys who have replaced my pain with smiles.  I am so busy loving Logan, Weston and Jaden.  It does NOT mean that I don’t love Owen.  It just means that I gave myself permission to be happy.  I have allowed myself to love what I still have.

As Logan and Weston grow, I have come to know each of them individually.  They have started to show their personalities and preferences.  This is a part of Owen I never knew – he was too young.  I know he was much calmer than his brothers, but even that is different between Logan and Weston now.  I remember the nights that Logan just WOULD NOT SHUT UP!  And now he is the calmest and cuddliest of the two.  Who knows what Owen would have been like.  I can spend hours hypothesizing and guessing how he would have played into the mix.  But it would have been just that – a guess.  I feel like I’m grieving someone I hardly knew.  A personality I never met or saw.  It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like if he were still here.  There really isn’t a huge gaping hole anymore.  The boys have outgrown all of the clothes I had in sets of three – their drawers are filled with blue and green.

The pain and awkwardness is still there every time I call them triplets to a stranger and they look at me puzzled and ask where the third one is.  Then I think “crap, I’ve got to go there again.”  But the thing is they ARE TRIPLETS!  I don’t know that I’d ever be able to call them anything else.  I just hate having to explain my story over and over when it’s become an intrinsic part of me.  I just want to be able to introduce my children without a sad story that goes along with it.

As I sat in my chair, I noticed the photos some families were carrying up with them.  A few rows up a father carried a photo of (who I assume to be) his daughter – maybe 9 or 10 with beautiful long red hair.  It felt like she was looking right at me.  I could imagine what a joy she must have been to have around.  Her family must still feel her loss in the family.  Her smile and personality had already made an impression on me, surely in ten years she was a huge part of her own family.  I found myself wondering how she died.  Was it illness? Or a sudden accident?  It felt rude to walk up to these strangers and ask them such personal questions.  So instead I said a prayer for her family.  I prayed that they would feel the comfort of my thoughts.  I prayed for their beautiful daughter who was the hero to someone else.  I confessed that I was thankful my child was taken from me so early – only having 6 months to grieve seemed like the long stick when compared to ten years.  I know it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but I find myself thinking this more and more.  I thanked the Lord for giving me Weston and Logan – so that I had something to love in his place.  When I miss Owen, I hug one of the other triplets a little tighter.  I sing Owen’s bed time lullaby to the other boys.  Perhaps that’s why the hole doesn’t seem so empty.  Maybe I just filled it with loving the other boys more – simply because they are here with me.  Not because I love Owen any less.  I think it feels like I don’t miss Owen as much because it’s become natural to use my love for Owen on the other boys.

When we get home from vacation, I’ll find the perfect place to display Owen’s medal.  It was a beautiful ceremony and will be remembered always by myself and my family.

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief, Organ Donation

Please say his name

This time last year Owen’s funeral would be over.  Everyone has left the church.  Owen’s body back at the funeral home, awaiting cremation.  I would have been headed over to the Delafield Brew House for dinner.  My family was already there waiting for us.

So many new emotions this June 1st.  The boys and I had an outing to the Dollar Store then we headed to my brother’s baseball game.  It was a light-hearted day.

Funny how one anniversary can have so many days of significance.  May 21 – the day he stopped breathing.  May 26 – the day he was declared brain dead.  May 27 – the day he gave his heart and liver to two little girls.  Now the day that we celebrated his life – June 1.

People act like the day has come and gone.  May 26.  Six days ago.  But the anniversary drags on just like the entire ordeal did last year.  I am still reenacting each memory, play by play.  It doesn’t help that my anti-depressant meds weren’t refilled in time.  I’ve been without them for three days.  I makes me feel all out of sorts.  Heck, I was catching up on Sister Wives and found myself feeling like I wanted to cry because the love they have for each other was so beautiful.  Thank goodness they came in the mail today!  I should be back to “normal” in a few days.

The one thing that I have learned is that omission hurts worst then the truth.  Saying his name is comforting.  Pretending like my son didn’t just die cuts me to the core.  It forces me to pretend to be someone else.  It hangs in the air over any other conversation we are having.  I find it hard to concentrate on what you are saying because all I can hear is the little voice saying  “Doesn’t she know?  Has she forgotten?  Or is it that she just doesn’t want to say anything?  How can she sit here and complain about her hard day at the office, while I cared for two 18 month olds while battling the flash backs of giving CPR and laying the paul over my son’s casket?”

Ask me how I’m doing.  Remember to say his name.  Acknowledge that Owen died this time last year.  I promise not to get all wishy washy.  I promise I won’t bring down the mood of the conversation.  I just want to know that you remember.  You ask me how my other kids are doing … just let me know that you still see me as a mother of four.  Because that’s who I am.

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief

The voice is back

I woke up today not knowing what to feel.  While I was in the shower memories flooded my thoughts and took over my body.  One year ago today Owen got sick.  It was the last time I saw his eyes alive.  Forever.

My family and I are bringing the Sussex Public Safety department a meal tonight – as a small sign of our thanks.  I had to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things … and the voice is back.  The one that screams in the back of my mind as anyone meets my eye – MY SON DIED!  I’m a grieving mother.  He died one year ago today!  How can you sit there and make small talk?  Can’t you see that I am different today than I was yesterday?  But time keeps moving and people keep smiling.  I’m different on the inside … unless you take the time to ask, you’d never know my story by just looking at me.

I’m nervous about bringing the meal tonight.  I wonder if I’ll recognize their faces.  I wonder if they even remember who I am.  Who Owen was.  Will they be happy to see us?  Will is be somber and a time of respect?  I guess I just don’t know what to expect.

I want them to know that I have said thank you to them each and every day for the past 365 days.  Every time I drive past the station on my way to Pick ‘n Save I stare at the sign.  I meditate on what they have given my family.  I pray for their strength and courage.  I pray that they know just how special and important they are.

Most of all, I want them to know that they might not have saved Owen that night … but they saved THREE lives that day.  I want them to hear Josie’s name – I want them to see the face of a girl who they saved yet never met.  If they hadn’t worked as hard as they did – Owen’s heart might never have restarted.  He was without a heart beat for over an hour – they didn’t give up on him.  They are the reason (and with the help of God) that we had five magical days in the hospital.  It could have all been over that night.  We could have returned to our home without our son that very same day.  But we didn’t.  We had just begun our journey.  We were given time with Owen.  Time with our family.  Time to tell Owen’s story.  They were the first to keep Owen’s story living on.

I just really want them to know how much we appreciate them.  I want them to know what an amazing story they are apart of.  Doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers — they all put their live on the line for strangers.  They fight for life and for good all of the time.  And so many times they save a life that they may never see again.  I haven’t stopped thinking about them since May 21, 2011 at about 8:15pm.  I want them to know what an impact they have made on my small life.

I’ve got the first batch of cupcakes in the oven and my iTunes playing.  Hoping that the music gives me the strength to get through today.  May the Holy Spirit help me to express what is on my heart today … may the Public Safety department of Sussex, WI feel loved and cherished.

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief, Owen's Funeral

Private Practice

Someone should have warned me about the Private Practice episode this week … whoa.  If you aren’t a Private Practice watcher … one of the characters, Amelia, is pregnant with her deceased boyfriend’s baby.  She finds out that her son doesn’t have a brain.  He won’t live much more than a few hours after birth.  So she decides that she’s going to carry the baby to full term with the plan of donating her baby’s organs.  What you don’t find out until this episode is that she can’t technically donate them because she son will never be able to be declared brain-dead – he still has brain stem activity.  So she has to convince her doctor friends to harvest the organs.

Took me back to 355 days ago … when Doug and I were fighting so hard for Owen to donate his organs.  It was the only good thing that could come out of something so ugly.

Amelia said that she didn’t want to see or hear her baby – just take him away.  I remember my feelings as the time came closer and closer to Owen having the surgery, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hold my dead baby.  I didn’t it to erase all the memories I had of holding him alive.  As a true mother, she changed her mind in the last minute.  She looked at her baby, with no brain, and cried at how beautiful he was.  I still think that Owen was the most beautiful baby even when he was hooked up to all the machines, tubes all over the place.  He was still beautiful with his skin pale and cold.  There came a crucial moment when Amelia needed to decide if she was going to hold him until his last breath or if she would hand him over in hopes that he could still donate his organs.

I remember the entire walk down to the operating room.  I remember the elevator ride.  The way the temperature of the hallways were so much cooler when we got to the operating floor.  I remembering having to force myself to let go – to be ok.  It was now or never.  There was no turning back now.  I remember Doug’s eyes as he reassured me that it would be ok.  It was time.  I can still picture the swinging doors closing as they took Owen to his final place.  We stood with our pastor and watched as he was wheeled down the long hallway into the O.R. at the end of the hall.  I stood there for a long while – unable to move.  Un-wanting to move.  I wasn’t ready to leave his side yet.  But I had to be ok – I had to let go at that very moment.  There was no turning back.  I knew it was what I had to do – but I had all those feelings of not wanting to. Amelia’s moment of truth in this episode – man, I could relate.

It was choosing to let go because the good out weighed the bad.  Saving two lives was far more valuable than holding Owen until his body failed him.  What would have come of his death?  A good blog to read?  It had to be more.

What made me totally lose it was when they showed the organ harvesting.  Of course I know it’s Hollywood surgery but ti’s something that I’ve never pictured before.  The silver bowls and ice that they placed each tiny organ on.  How small each organ really was.  The child’s face on the body cut open.  Innocence being cut wide open.  I focused on the breathing tube.  The one tube that wasn’t able to be removed when I held Owen.  I received texts from our organ transplant coordinator as they harvested each organ.  But I could never really visualize it.  I had a storybook image – but nothing as real as this was.

I wouldn’t say what I was feeling was horrible … it wasn’t good either.  It was just a lot of emotion.  All at once.  Yes I cried – wailed even at some points.  I couldn’t breathe because my chest felt so tight.  But still I wouldn’t say it was horrible.  It was just a lot.  I welcome the pain.  I welcome the emotions.  I know I need to feel them to continue to heal.

I just wasn’t expecting to get all that out of a weeknight sitcom.  How many other donor mom’s out there were watching?  I hope it helped you to feel what you needed to feel.  I’m sorry it’s got to hurt so bad.  It sucks.  It really sucks.  But welcome the pain – embrace it.  It only hurts bad for the first little bit — then it turns into a reminder that you are real.  You are a mom.  You are an organ donor mom.

I just wish someone had told me before I watched it!  It caught me so off guard.  I would have had the tissues a little closer too …

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief, Organ Donation, Owen's Gone

Another family like us

I just got done reading a blog about a family who lost their four year old son about eleven months ago and just lost their two year old daughter a few days ago. Both of their children in the same year. What kind of world is this that we live in?

The mom posted many pictures of their daughter in the hospital and after her surgeries. It reminded me of so many memories of Owen. How he laid there with his legs apart and his diaper. The tubes and tape on his face. The limpness of his body. His closed eyes. The sounds of the machines. Remembering hurts yet i welcome the pain and vivid images. They are the last memories that I have. The last touches. The last kisses.

Their daughter was on the transplant list after they discovered she had a deadly heart condition … The same one that killed her brother without warning. Want to know what I kept thinking as I read? I wish I had another heart I could give her. If only Owen still had more hearts to give out. If I had one I would have given it to this little girl.

Her visitation was today. Palm Sunday. I have no idea what her parents must be feeling or thinking. One blog entry showed her taking a few steps … Her mom reported that she was doing so much better. Then the next only two days later told that she had gone to be with her big brother in heaven. So many unanswered questions. Did the doctors miss something? Was she sleeping when her heart stopped? Were her parents with her? Why her? Why couldn’t she have been one of the miracle stories?

Funny and odd how I don’t ask those questions about Owen. I find myself feeling proud and strong in my son’s story. Perhaps it’s because I know I’m strong enough to take it. I don’t wish the same on anyone else. Perhaps it’s that I know with confidence that nothing would have saved him. There isn’t anything that I or anyone else could have done that would have given a different outcome. I didn’t miss any signs … There weren’t any to miss. I gave CPR … The doctors did everything. There aren’t what ifs in Owen’s story. Yet this blog is filled with them.

I pray for this family tonight and in the hours, days and years to come. May God give them the strength and hope in a better tomorrow.

Love, Mel

Here is the link to the family’s blog: http://dscarpenter.blogspot.com/

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Filed under Grief, Organ Donation, Owen's Gone, Posted by Melissa

The Hunger Games

So I am a huge nerd and am totally excited for the movie Hunger Games to come out on Friday. I read all three books in a few short weeks when I was pregnant with the triplets. I remember being at the lake house making plans to see the movie when it came out. And now it’s here.

Funny how I could barely imagine myself going to the movie … I had no idea what was going to happen over the next two years. I couldn’t imagine myself here after Owen died either. I mean I knew a day would come when there would be pure happiness again … I also remember not being able to imagine how it would feel. How could the pain I feel possibly ever go away? It’s so strong and so vivid it’s something that I’ll carry forever. And in a way I do. I think about Owen every day … Almost all of the time. But the pain isn’t as sharp.

I found myself sad when I saw cute boys hats at Target that came in only three colors … Orange, blue and green. They would have been perfect. But I didn’t buy them. If I didn’t have three heads to put them on I didn’t want them at all. Its always unexpected when grief decides to make a quick visit.

I also thought today how happy I was that Owen was able to give his heart. I was happy for Josie and her family …. Without any pain of my own mixed in. I rejoiced in the blessing that God gave to this world. I say world and not just Josie and her family because every person that Josie continues to touch is also blessed by God’s miracle. It’s exponential. It’s not just about Owen anymore … It’s about Josie and her story. And I feel honored to be linked in this way.

The Hunger Games makes me think of Owen … A weird connection. I vividly remember being beached …. Literally I needed help to get out of it … On a water raft in the pool at the lake house. I remember being pregnant with three babies. Three kicks, eating for three … Everything was three. The pain isn’t sharp … But rather a dull throb. A reminder that one of my sons is missing. I miss him every day and I suppose I always will.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Grief, Posted by Melissa

Jaden’s Pain

On our way home from Healing Hearts Jaden told me that Owen was at our house.  I told him “No, Owen is dead, he is not at our house.  He is in heaven.”  He argued back that he really was at our house.  I was wondering if he might be referring to his ashes as we still haven’t spread them and they still sit on a shelf in the living room.  Out of no where, through the sobs, Jaden says “You don’t know anything!”  I had really upset him.

I apologized and suggested we listen to the radio for a little bit.  After a song or two I asked him if he’d like to talk about it again.  He agreed.

Jaden:  Owen is at our house all the time.  He still reads stories with us at night.

Me:  Like can you see him?

Jaden:  Yeah!

Me:  Well what does he look like now?

Jaden:  He looks like an angel.

I didn’t really know what to say.  I didn’t want to upset him again and make him feel like he couldn’t talk about these things with me.  I want him to tell me these stories.  So instead, I thanked him for sharing with me and said I had no idea he still saw Owen.  I also told him that I thought it was pretty special.

Then the painful questions came … as if that wasn’t painful enough.

Jaden:  Mom, why was I locked in my bedroom the night Owen got sick?  All the police were there and I couldn’t leave my room.  I just wanted to see my brother.

This came up during the last session of Healing Hearts.  His memory of that night is being locked in his room.  It was really scary for him.  But in reality, he was never alone.  Abby or Sarah was always with him.  Nor was he acutally locked in his room.  I believe (since I wasn’t there the whole time) he was to stay in his room while the police sorted through what had happened.  Rachael, Sarah and Abby weren’t allowed to speak to one another until their formal statements had been given.  His memory sounds more like he was locked in his room like a dog is locked in his cage.

I tried to explain to him that he was in his room to keep him safe and it was the best way to help Owen.  There were so many doctors and police officers in the nursery, that there wasn’t any where for him to go.  I had even been backed into a corner and I couldn’t even move in the nursery.  I asked him if he remembered the next day when Doug and I had come home to shower.  Jaden asked to see his brother again and we said of course.  Later that afternoon we made sure someone brought him up to the hospital for a visit.  We just had to wait until things had calmed down before he could see Owen.

It kills me that this is hurting Jaden.  In the moment I did everything I could to protect him.  I remember calling out to see who had Jaden in between CPR compressions.  I remember texting Rachael all night asking her how he was doing.  I spoke with the family counselors before Jaden came to visit – to make sure I did things the best way for Jaden’s healing and understanding.  I didn’t want him to have any anger about the situation.  I wanted to handle it in the “right” way.  In a healthy way.

You hear about kids who are angry later on in life because they felt left out of a family tragedy.  In the moment, parents think they are protecting their kids, but in the end, the kids feel abandoned.  I tried to stay open and let Jaden be where he wanted to be.  I opened myself up to include him, thinking that it would heal him.  Like it was the magic answer to making sure Jaden didn’t feel pain from this.  I had myself convinced that he was really too young to remember this in great detail.  It would eventually become a vague memory for him.  Who was I kidding?  What kind of powers did I really think I had to protect Jaden from this kind of pain? Maybe someday it will be a vague memory, but not today.

He asked me about all the tubes.  He remembers what Owen looked like quite vividly.  The details … what was the tube in his mouth for?  What was the tube in his nose for?

There is just no protecting your children from the world.  It’s sort of like the first heart-break.  You know they are going to have their heart broken by a boyfriend or girlfriend at some point in their life … there is no stopping it.  As long as there is love, there will be pain.  As parent’s it matters what we say and do before and after the life changing events.  I wish I could just protect him from all this.  I would carry the grief for all my kids if I could.  I would rather die a million deaths than Jaden, Weston or Logan feeling the pain of loosing Owen.  But I can’t.  It doesn’t work that way.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my mom had been able to protect me from all my pain.  In some ways I know it’s good for them … I just wish they had “normal” pain – like a first breakup, not making the basketball team, getting into a fight with your best friend.  I never imagined that my boys would feel the pain of loosing their baby brother.

The thought of an angel reading bedtime stories with us is oddly comforting.  What does an angel named Owen look like?  Does he have the halo and the white feathered wings?  Or perhaps there are no words we can use to describe the beauty of God’s angels …

Love, Mel


Filed under Grief