April 1, 2016
My baby boy Mason James Hanson was the victim of a tragic accident at 9am on March 31, 2016. This accident took his life, and a piece of mine.
When I looked at Mason he would literally take my breath away with his love for life and constant smile. He was the most precious, perfect, little boy that anyone could ever ask for. I thank God that I got to spend 660 days loving this kid, he taught me so many things. Things that only the purest most innocent life could teach.
I am preparing to go to sleep for the second night in a row without my precious Mason near me. The first night after my sons passing I surrounded myself with his dirty clothes. It made me feel like he was next to me, I could still breath him in. I will attempt to do the same tonight, but as time goes by I know the dirty pajamas will lose the fragrance, and I will have to face a night without him.
The sun will not shine as bright as it has in the past, my breath with not be as deep as it was before, my tomorrows will now be faced with an emptiness that will never be filled. I am sad. This is horrible.
Tomorrow we will be planning the celebration of my sweet baby Masons life. I will announce the details.
As of now, I am planning to do a memorial garden for him in our yard. I would like help with this garden, and I want it to be done before the funeral so the attendees can bring anything that they would like to contribute to “Mason’s Garden.” If you would like to help with the construction of the garden please contact Holly Zietler.
I am overwhelmed with the love I have felt from this community, I apologize for not getting back to all the phone calls and text messages. Know that your kind words are appreciated.
Planning a funeral
April 3, 2016
Today we took steps toward the unimaginable task of planning the memorial service for our sweet baby Mason. Although we felt excruciating pain with every decision made we were able to find a sliver of comfort in the people who surrounded us. Thank you Flagstaff for being the support system that we need. Everything that has been done in the last 48 hours has confirmed that we live in a very special place.
The memorial service for our sweet baby Mason is going to be on April 10, 2016 at Mount Calvary Lutheran church at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I would like to send formal death announcements to anyone that might want to receive them. My dear friend Leah Addair has taken on the task of gathering all the addresses and names for family and friends. Please message Leah with your address so we can get these out to everyone as soon as possible.
Tomorrow will be the 3rd day living without our Mason.
Finding Joy in darkness
April 6, 2016
I found joy as I was sitting outside writing what I will be saying at Masons funeral. The sun was warming my skin and the breeze was blowing my hair. I was writing the hardest paper of my life and suddenly I could feel his presence. I stopped writing and walked over to the swing set nearby. I sat in the swing and found the smooth sway of the swing comforting, I could feel Mason and that feeling turned into joy. He continually surprised me with his ever happy demeanor while he was living, but I didn’t expect to be surprised by his happy demeanor after he was gone. With this discovery of joy I also felt hope for the future. I will be able to be with him again, I will be able to laugh and feel again, I will be able to make a difference in the name of Mason. My expectation is not to do these things in any sort of time frame, I am just excited that today I was able to see past tonight.
The therapeutic value of Mason’s Memorial Garden is blossoming. It is hard for me to comprehend the love and support that this community has shown us. Today I had friends/ family/ and strangers come to my house with shovels and wheel barrels ready to get their hands dirty and make a difference. I also heard laughter outside, the best medicine is laughter and listening to laughter was exactly what I needed. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you… This means the world to us.
April 15, 2016
I finally decided to read the sympathy cards that were mailed to us for Masons death. This daunting task has been hanging over my head since 3/31/16. Every day we have received a handful of cards all of which I could not seem to open. Every day I would look at this massively huge stack of letters and think that I might not ever read them. I considered hiding them, so I wouldn’t have to feel guilt every time I glanced that direction. The opening of all the cards was partially forced. My beautiful daughter decided to take matters into her own hands and start ripping open the letters. Needless to say paper envelopes were flying. As she opened each one she approached me with a grin and asked if I could read it to her. I agreed to read few, but after we stared we were not able to stop. With each note I gathered love, hope, and promise. I could tell that my kids were enjoying the reminder of how loved Mason was as much as I did. We sat and read the cards for hours, and with each card came another reminder. So thank you, thank you to the people who made us smile. We will continue to smile. #livelikemason #660
April 22, 2016
Today is the 22nd day that I have been without my son. I still find myself waking in the middle of the night to check on him. Picking up Mikey’s Legos to make sure he doesn’t choke on anything. Waiting to hear his “Hi Mama” welcome when I walk in the door. It seems as if I am living in a dream and will wake at any moment. This isn’t a dream…this is my reality, I struggle with that. I struggle with the loss of control. I struggle with finding the words to comfort my family. I struggle with watching my children experience a pain that I know I can’t take away. The struggle seems endless; through this struggle though I am finding beauty. Maybe for once I need to embrace the loss of control, and see what life has in store for me. Maybe instead of trying to find words I don’t speak- just be. I know my children need to experience this pain, I am sitting back and watching them grieve while offering support through my presence and understanding. Watching my children suffer is almost unbearable. In the last 22 days I have seen them express more compassion and a deeper love. For example, we were eating lunch with Mason the other day at the cemetery, Megan decided to go and give flowers to each headstone. Mikey followed suit and started singing songs to all the babies. They both expressed the sadness they have, not just for Masons death, but for all the death. They both cried and asked me questions regarding the death of all these children. How do you explain the death of 100 children? I have worked hard at giving them comfort and hope when it comes to Mason’s death, but the reality is death sucks. And it sucks that I have to explain the unfairness and sadness in life to a 6 year old and 5 year old. I don’t know what life has in store for us. I do know that this family will never be the same, we will face our tomorrows with more sympathy and compassion then we did yesterday. I have just recently realized how unbelievably lucky we are to have each day, for every morning that we wake we should be grateful. I am not going to foolishly let my days go by without enjoying some sliver of beauty. I encourage each of you to do the same. Please find joy and happiness, don’t waste your days here. “LiveLikeMason #660
Celebration of a birthday
May 7, 2016
Yesterday I was lucky enough to watch my oldest son turn 7 years old. The overwhelming sadness I felt on this day was shocking. Something as simple as picking out a gift for my growing boy made me think about how horrible it is that I will never get to watch Mason open another birthday gift. As I watched Mikey giggle with delight at his party, I couldn’t help but wonder what Mason would have looked like at the age of 7. I couldn’t help but think of why this would happen to our family. I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else was happy and I was consumed with sadness. The downward spiral of thoughts and emotions was taking me to a place that I didn’t need to go. A place where Mason wouldn’t let me go. Then a light bulb went off. As a mother of two additional adorable children I will celebrate their life. I will cherish every milestone. I will know how incredible lucky we all are to have birthdays. Mason has taught me so much about life, love, and loss. He has taught me not to take this life for granted. As I look at tomorrow I will not start with a clean slate. I will start my tomorrow with a crumbling slate, I will have appreciation for all the imperfections of my life. I will love deeper, laugh harder, and appreciate more. Please don’t read this and feel sorry for me. Instead read it and take action in your life, read it and start treating every day with respect and appreciation. Life is to short, start living. #660 #LiveLikeMason #ListenFocusBePresent
The Fear of Eye Contact
May 12, 2016
43 days. It has been 43 days since sweet baby Mason died. In those days I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by an amazing support system. To my friends and family I thank you, you have been everything that I have needed and I will forever be grateful.
As I approach going back to work (next Tuesday) I thought it was important for people to hear a few things from me. I am different. I have changed, but I’m still ME. I’m not scary. I don’t mind making eye contact and smiling. I won’t crumble to my knees if you speak of Mason. Trust me, nothing that you say is going to hurt me anymore then I have been hurting. In fact please talk about him, please let me know that you still think about him and you are doing your best to live better.
I can’t write this post and not admit to my own short comings before his death. When I saw someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one I avoided them like the plague. I didn’t want to let myself be vulnerable to their pain. In fact, there were many days I would think I couldn’t talk to that person because I might have to briefly feel the pain. How scary is that? A conversation with a grieving person might actually force you to stop and consider that life is more fragile then we could ever imagine. It sucks… It sucks avoiding the grieving person, and then it sucks even more NOT avoiding that grieving person. To let yourself feel that vulnerability for a minute is exhausting. I guess what I am trying to say is…I get it. I understand if you are not able to look at me as we pass in the hallway, I understand if you can’t find the right words to say. I want the transition into my new normal to be done with honesty, honesty from me and honesty from the people that I will inevitably encounter. This task is certainly attainable with the help of our little mountain town. 🙂
This afternoon I went on a hike and ran into a neighbor, she approached me with a deep sadness in her eyes. I could tell that she wanted to say so much, but was speechless. Before she mumbled a word I asked her to not be so sad. I asked her to live her life well because ultimately life is to short. I will refer to this frequently when approached about Mason’s death. Please don’t be sad. Please use this as an opportunity to recognize the shortcomings of your life and fix them before it’s too late. #660 #LiveLikeMason
Mason’s Second Birthday
June 11, 2016
Tomorrow sweet baby Mason would have turned 2 years old. Last week I would have been planning a birthday party for the cutest toddler I have ever seen. Instead of planning his party I am faced with planning my survival. How will I make it through his birthday? How will my children make it through his birthday? The way I handle tomorrow will forever be engraved into my mind and the minds of my children. The actions that I take tomorrow will be yet another test of my strength and grace. My plan for tomorrow is to celebrate Mason, we will release balloons with notes to heaven and sing him happy birthday. Mikey, Megan, and I will talk about him. We will giggle while telling stories and cry when we realize that we won’t have any new ones. We will spend our day remembering. My hope is that my family will stop and recognize Mason’s life and death with this day. My hope is that we will make a new tradition/ celebration that is more meaningful than any other holiday. Tomorrow I will set the foundation for a lifelong tradition. Tomorrow I will show my kids the appropriate way to celebrate and honor Mason’s life. Although the honoring of Mason doesn’t have to be consolidated to one day it is a good place to start. As always #Listen.Focus.BePresent #660 #LiveLikeMason
Establishing a new normal
July 6, 2018
Today I came home from a 4286 mile 18 day camping trip with my children. This trip was planned in January prior to Mike and I deciding to separate and Masons death. I hesitated on taking such a huge trip independently with my children. I decided to go for it when I recognized that this would help establish a “new normal” for our little grieving family. I watched my children laugh and bond on this trip, I also answered many lingering questions about Mason’s death. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to take Mikey and Megan on an Epic camping trip, but I am so happy to come home to this sweet mountain town and Masons Garden. We went to Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, and Lake Tahoe. I took my own advice and put my cell phone away I listened, focused, and was present for the entire trip. #660 #Listen.Focus.BePresent
The first day of school picture
August 11, 2016
Today I took my sweet Megan to kindergarten for her first day. I got her dressed, packed her lunch, and brushed her hair. I watched her giggle with excitement as she saw all of her friends and asked about their summer vacation. As I was going through the motions of this day I found little joy. I could not help but think about how this shouldn’t be my last first day of kindergarten. This shouldn’t be the last time I watch one of my beautiful children giggle with delight as they are walking through the doors to a wonderful new world of learning. I avoided eye contact with most of the parents today because I knew that my response to the question “How was your summer?” would not be one they were not ready to hear. I made the mistake of answering that question once “well… it kinda sucked, because I have a dead baby.” I was shocked that I let those brash words leave my lips. After I said that the people around me looked stunned. In shock, scared of saying anything that might upset the clearly frazzled grieving mother.
Today I felt vulnerable. Strangers, acquaintances, and friends looked at me and my two children with trepidation and sorrow. Sending my children into a school where I have no control over the questions or conversations that might arise scares me. I have prepared them for such questions by talking very openly about Mason, I let them ask any questions they have or I listen to them tell the story of his death over and over. I held it together today for Megan and Mikey. I took the classic picture of them next to the schools sign. I sat with Megan as she traced her hand, and I ate ice cream with them so I could ask about every tiny detail of the day.
Today I took one step closer to recognizing that my life will forever be without Mason. Today I took one step closer to accepting that I will not reach important milestones in Mason’s life. Today I forced myself to appreciate how incredibly beautiful life is. I am glad today is coming to an end, and I look forward to tomorrow knowing that I will feel slightly less pain when I wake. Please remember to listen to your loved ones, to focus on your moments, and be present with wherever you are. Life is too short not to live well. #660#livelikemason
Decorating a casket
August 18, 2016
It has been 141 days. The last two days I have been scrutinizing the way I handled Masons death. More importantly I have looked closely at what actions I have taken to comfort my children in this confusing time of extreme pain. I was warned by a friend before leaving the hospital the day Mason died to not exclude my children from grieving. She had a personal experience with the death of a sibling and still had resentment toward her parents because they hid their grieving from her. She tenderly invited me to share my grief with the children. I took that advice and ran with it. Initially I didn’t know how to approach inviting my children into the grieving process, all I knew is that I needed to show them unwavering fierce love as they were walking down this dark road. I wanted them to remember the experience and remember how strong they were through the process of losing their baby brother and best friend. I have witnesses my children grow into sweet little bundles of love an empathy surviving much more than any 5 year old and 7 year old should ever have to.
Almost immediately upon telling the kids that Mason was dead I realized that they wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t understand. I told them that Mason was gone, I explained to them that he was never going to come home. Still they asked me where he was when they woke in the morning. I knew that I was going to have to be bold without being aggressive. I needed them to understand death BEFORE the funeral. I didn’t want them to be blindsided when they showed up at the funeral and witnessed everyone crying. They needed to know who was in the box at the front of the church. So, I made a decision. I decided to bring the casket home, this decision didn’t go over well, some said that I was potentially traumatizing my children. Against the will of a select few influential people in my life I proceeded to bring it home. I reminded myself that there is a taught social stigma that surrounds death in this country. We have been taught to fear caskets. I delicately approached showing my children the “box”. When they looked at it for the first time they both commented on how beautiful it was. I explained the plans for the casket and asked if they would like to help decorate it. Both of them beamed with pride as I explained the plans for the box that would hold baby Mason forever. Both of them selected some toys for Mason, and helped make his bed for the last time. Mikey wanted to paint a rainbow, and Megan wanted to bedazzle it. So we did. With each paint stroke I could feel the death of Mason sinking in. “Why does he have to stay in this box forever?” and “Can we open the box if we forget to put one of his toys in?” or “Does everyone who dies have to go in a box?” Bottom line is, there is no book on how to walk your children through the death of a sibling. My intuition told me that letting the children touch the box that would forever hold Mason would solidify his passing. It did, and I am proud to say through the blanket of darkness that I made a good decision.
There is a good chance that I will be scrutinizing the way I handled Masons passing for the rest of my life. Today I decided that I am not ashamed of bringing home the casket. In fact, I am thrilled that it helped my children understand what death is. It also showed them that caskets are nothing to be afraid of. #660 #LiveLikeMason #surthrive
October 9th, 2016
This weekend I watched my grandmother die. My grandmother was a strong, independent, fierce, stubborn women who raised 5 children by herself. She was intense… and honestly scared the shit out of me, but I loved her. For everything that she was and wasn’t, I loved her. She was diagnosed with cancer on Friday when she came to the hospital. The surgeon who performed her tumor removal surgery predicted her death to be imminent, he was correct. We took her off “life support” on Thursday and she passed an excruciating 30 hours later. Prior to taking her off life support the Chapman asked us to say goodbye. Each one of her children was in the room, they all stated how much they loved her and kissed her on the forehead. She mumbled that she loved them knowing that her body could no longer keep living. She was asking for death, stating that she didn’t want to be here anymore. So it came to her, slowly… We watched Grandma deteriorate. Sitting next to someones bed waiting for death is a horrible, painful, and heart wrenching experience. What do you talk about? Do you remain silent? Should you listen to music? Is crying uncontrollably distracting for someone who is wanting to die? Is it disrespectful to eat? This experience was nothing like the previous. But it was a reminder that death is death. Sad is sad. Shit is shit.
As I was watching her drift off to being gone for eternity I couldn’t help but feel jealousy. I am jealous that she gets to see Mason. I am jealous that she gets to hang out with the sweetest little angel that heaven has ever seen. I am not suicidal. I do not want to leave this place to see Mason sooner. But, I do want to find some positivity in this swirling darkness. The positive is that Grandma and Mason are playing, and they will be waiting for me when my time on this earth is over. We also got to say goodbye. How cool is that? I am so proud of how my family handled this situation. Everyone came together and showed her how much she means to us. This was a horrible death experience but at the same time it was absolutely beautiful. Please let this post redirect you. Let it direct you to living well. Again we are reminded life is to short not to. #660
November 26, 2016
Initially upon facing this day I accepted the pain. I let myself fall into it, the immense breath stealing pain that takes over your whole body and knocks you to your knees. I have been working on this, working on controlling the waves- or riding them. Pain sucks, but it also reminds us of how deep we have loved.
Since the beginning of this month I have contemplated writing one thing I am thankful for each day. In this contemplation I gave in to the fact that I don’t have a lot to be thankful for. I allowed myself 24 days of feeling sorry for me. Now, my pity party is over. I am going to look at what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my children- Mikey, an intelligent, witty, empathetic, introvert with love and affection for everything. Megan, a strong willed insanely gifted spit fire with a fierce innocent love for nearly everyone. Mason, a sweet energetic bundle of joy that brought our family life.
I am thankful for the countless gifts that Mason gave me and his siblings in his passing. I am thankful for the 660 days that I got to spend with this incredible child. I am thankful that he taught me how unbelievably strong I am. I am thankful for how I displayed my fierce love in his rescue efforts. I am thankful for the courage that I found after his death. I am thankful that I get to see life in a different light after his death. I am thankful that I now see the precious minutes that we throw away on a daily basis, I will not throw them away any longer.
I think the easier approach to this question would be to describe what I am not thankful for. Of course that isn’t my style, or survival method so I won’t be focusing on that. 238 days… It has been 238 days since the death of my son. In the last 238 days I have had to get creative in my quest for joy, in this quest I not only discovered joy but I managed to find strength. If I can find joy after death, then I must have something to be thankful for. I am thankful for morning snuggles and uninterrupted time with my children. I am thankful for my house. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful that I have realized how unbelievably important family is at the young age of 28. I am thankful for my friends, thank God I have such amazing people in my life to carry me when I fall, cry with me when I need to, and stand beside me when I work. I am thankful for my personal growth in the last 238 days. I am thankful for my discovery of emotional intelligence. I am thankful that I have revealed a mental and physical strength within myself that I never could have imagine existed. I am thankful that I have experienced the lowest low, as now I have a better understanding of what it means to be human. I am thankful for my ability to surthrive. I am thankful for Masons life. I am thankful for Masons death; in his death I discovered how fragile and vulnerable life is.
2016… I quit you
December 27, 2016
An explanation of my year is enough to leave anyone speechless; including myself. I had a complete stranger ask me how my 2016 was. In attempting to answer this question I choked on my words. I scrambled for a glimmer of positivity or hope in the next sentence that was sure to leave my mouth. Instead, I stood there starting at her; like a deer in headlights I stared, I watched her get uncomfortable with my silence and finally mustered up the words “good…it was good.” I didn’t want to tell her the truth, because the truth hurts. The truth is that 2016 was bad… really really bad. Since March 31st at 1000 in the morning I have had days where I struggled to breathe, eat, walk, or focus. I have had to be creative in finding joy. I have chased sanity (and thankfully found it) by pushing myself physically harder than I ever thought possible. I have found comfort in my children’s ability to heal. Most importantly, though, I have survived.
I, for one, am going to miss 2016. I got to live for 90 days with my son this year. I spent 90 glorious days soaking up his awesomeness. 2016 is the last year that I will ever be able to say that. This is the last year that his name will be on my medical insurance card. This is the last year that he was present for my birthday. This is the last year that I had three living children. So, thank you 2016 for giving me moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. Thank you 2016 for allowing me to recognize how strong I actually am. Thank you 2016 for pushing me outside of my comfort zone so I can really start living.
Cheers to 2017 being everything that you want it to be.
My 29th birthday
January 9, 2017
Well…hello, almost thirty. I am approaching you with trepidation as the last year has knocked me on my ass. In the past, I would raise my glass and do some sappy toast to my future and all of the positive growth that was certain to happen. If I were to do a toast this year it would look something like this “Cheers to change, suffering, depth, forgiveness, acceptance, death, and dancing with the pain. Cheers to recognizing my vulnerability and finding beauty in it. Cheers to having the courage to walk into 2017 with an open mind and an open heart. Cheers to adventure, love, and focus.” Thank you all for the birthday wishes, thank you for your friendship.#letsdothis #29ismyyear #660
How do you survive?
March 20, 2017
After Mason’s death a little old lady (patient of mine) found out that I had a dead child. She stopped and stared at me for an uncomfortable amount of time, and finally broke the silence by asking; “How do you survive something like that?” My immediate thought was to tell her that I haven’t survived yet. I’m still not out of the woods. I still struggle to survive on a daily basis. But, if I am honest with her and myself, I have to admit. I have survived, today marks 354 days.
Immediately after Mason died I was questioning my ability to eat, breathe, walk, or take a shower. I wasn’t sure I would ever find joy again. What I ended up finding was a deep rooted tenacity towards living well. This soul altering experience has allowed me to grow, more than I ever wanted to. I am thankful for my growth.
My definition of survival has transformed into something more powerful and beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I am not a somnolent survivor. I am running into my future with a fierceness and insatiable hunger for happiness. Prior to March 31st of 2016 happiness just fell into my lap, joy was ever present without me having to work for it. Now, I have to get creative in my discovery of happiness. When I am able to find this… it is amazing. I consider myself lucky to find bits and pieces of joy on the daily. I recognize that I am ridiculously stubborn and quite frankly, I’m pretty damn resilient.
Survival has been achieved through a combination of love, self-discovery, the garden, pain, self-discipline, maternal responsibilities, intense exercise, acceptance, a shift in perspective, family, friends, yoga, humor, honesty, vulnerability, and nature…
Remember to LIVE, remember to LOVE, remember to LAUGH. Life is way too short to not be living well. #listen.focus.bepresent #660 #dancelikenooneiswatching #surthrivinglikeaboss
Happy Mother’s Day
May 22, 2017
The pleasantries associated with this day are top notch. In the United States it seems like everyone and their Grandpa knows that you should find a mother (any mother) and wish them this all-encompassing statement “Happy Mother’s Day”. Last year I was grieving so deeply I didn’t leave the house, I was physically ill to the point of not being able to eat. No one texted me “Happy Mother’s Day” and no one assumed that I would be okay. This year, however, I went into the world; as expected, 400 plus days after Mason died. I walked through a grocery store, a gas station, and had a meal at a restaurant. I had Mikey and Megan with me making it easy for someone to identify that I was indeed a mother. I had multiple people wish me a “Happy Day”… My reaction was pretty robotic. I didn’t put much emotion into explaining myself to these strangers. My focus was inward. Why was I so distraught about the 30 text messages, and the people in the store wishing me happy? Why don’t I want to be a happy mother? What is preventing me from being happy today? Aren’t my surviving children enough?
In my attempt to answer my own questions I had to dig deeper into what mother’s day even means. I have heard this holiday referred to as a hallmark holiday. I have overheard conversations about people not wanting to call their mom because she will talk forever and ask too many questions. I have held space for sadness and confusion surrounding this holiday my whole life, until now.
This is NOT a hallmark holiday- this holiday is everything. Becoming a mother has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I didn’t think that I was a good mother until I helped my son die. I didn’t know the lengths I would go to until I decided to do CPR on Mason in the emergency room. I wanted to feel the warmth leave his body. I beat myself up daily for not being good enough at cooking, or cleaning. I thought that cereal and Legos on the floor would throw me into a category of “lazy moms” that have no standards. But what I didn’t realize is that I am good enough. In fact, I am better than good, I am a fierce loving mother that would do absolutely anything for my children.
Do I think that mothers should be celebrated? Hell yes… Do I think that my friends and family should continue to wish me a happy mother’s day? Of course… Because ANY day and EVERY day that I get to be a mother is the best day. Quite honestly having 660 days with Mason is enough to celebrate for a life time. I feel honored that I got to be Mason’s mommy. I feel overwhelmed with joy and contentment that I get to continue to be a mother to Mikey and Megan. To my friends that wished me a “Happy Mother’s Day” thank you, please continue with the pleasantries for years to come. I may be a few days late, but to ALL the mothers who are reading this – Happy Mother’s day- know that you are kicking some serious butt when it comes to motherhood. Keep it up!
#surthrivinglikeaboss #660 #perspectivechange #listen.focus.bepresent #yogaeverydamnday
The first day of my life
October 12, 2017
After Mason died I had a realization. More of an ah-ha moment. I realized that I had been numb to feelings- good and bad- for my entire life. This is something that I wasn’t taught as a child, however, it was something I learned through observation. I observed key adults in my life numb pain and suffering with distraction; work, alcohol, excessive exercise. I learned that distracting yourself from suffering was a brilliant way to go through life. Why would you sign up to feel pain when you could avoid it? I successfully managed to numb myself emotionally for 28 years.
I was in the back of a police car when I realized that my son was dead. My beautiful, perfect, innocent, panda bear was dead. In the seconds following my realization I had an animalistic rage come over me. Anger- deep rooted gut wrenching anger took over every piece of me. It was something I had never experienced before. Something that I didn’t even know I had inside of me. Something that I had successfully suppressed for my entire life. Something that I couldn’t possibly suppress for another second. I screamed and yelled at the top of my lungs, I punched the plexiglass in the back of the cop car so hard I thought I broke my hand. Following the anger was deep sadness, grief, fear, and helplessness. On March 31st of 2016 for the first day in my life, I felt.
My expectation when I allowed myself to feel the bad was that I would only feel bad. What I ended up realizing is that I could feel everything. Everything. I realized that making myself numb to the “bad” feelings actually numbed me to all the “good” ones. Often times when people talk about death they mention something called collateral beauty. I used to get pissed off when someone would talk about all of the beautiful things that have blossomed from Mason’s death. Now, I realize that it is true. I don’t look at anything like I did before 03/31/16. In the last 559 days I have been able to love deeper, laugh harder, listen with purpose, feel human emotions to the extent that they can be felt, face my tomorrows with courage and strength, hold my head high knowing that I am a fierce loving women. I have been able to prioritize my life. I have been able to look at my children and know that my love for them is an all-encompassing cell saturating love. I have been able to look at people who have an altered perspective and have empathy for them (#soymilkmatters). I have been able to look at myself in the mirror and know exactly who I am. It turns out- I really like me.
Now, I don’t think that we all need to have an overly traumatic experience to break us from the mundane. I think that we just need someone to point out when we might not be living to our fullest potential. So here I am… pointing it out. Please- let yourself feel- let yourself be vulnerable- let someone love you- love yourself. Life is so beautiful, start living. #surthrivinglikeaboss #allthefeels #660 #Masonsmakingadifference #Listen.Focus.BePresent
February 6, 2018
In the last two months I have jumped over hurdles, some people like to call them milestones. Trudging through the vast valley of suffering has been exceedingly difficult lately. Mikey and Megan were with me on Christmas this year, the day was pretty good. Almost like it was on cruise control. Then we all spoke about our “favorite part of the day” as we do every night, taking it a step further we spoke of what we were grateful for. The answers around the table were pretty basic, until Mikey spoke up. He told everyone at the table that he was grateful that he got to share a room with his “dead brother” then went on explaining how great it was to give Mason bottles when he was going to sleep. He talked about him, giggled, and shared…just beaming with joy at the thought of Mason. I don’t know what hurts more, knowing that Mason is gone or knowing that my children are going to have to survive this life without him.
The next few hurdles were not as big, but hurdles none the less. Starting 2018, turning 30, Megan’s 7th birthday, finalizing the divorce, and taking steps towards starting a business. The icing on the cake was certainly day 661 (January 21st).
Since Masons death I have talked about living life like I only have 660 days left. I have passionately lived, not wasting time for people or things that I don’t have a desire to be around. Day 661 was heart wrenchingly horrible. I literally had to pick myself up off the floor and decide how I will go on. Did anything change? Nope, I still have a dead child, I still have to survive. Why did this feel different? Well It reminded me that I am human and I am allowed to struggle to breath sometimes. It reminded me to be humble and respect the power of grief. It reminded me that in order to feel this much pain, I must have been lucky enough to love deeply. I was shattered feeling day 660 approaching, knowing that I have lived longer without my son than I had with him. Deciding to continue living life like I only have 660 days left wasn’t easy. Part of me wanted to give up, part of me wanted to revert back to the old me, the me with little perspective and less appreciation for life. However, after much contemplation I decided that I wanted to live.
Not just the regular living, but the crazy good living. The living that fills my heart, and satisfies my insatiable desire to find joy. My goal is to be like Mason (not in every way… I mean, I don’t want to poop my pants). But, if I could spread HALF the joy that he did I think it could be considered a win. I will strive for that, strive to be a better person capable of spreading joy.
I miss Mason, I miss the late nights that I got to sing to him, his squishy face pressing against my chest as he drifted off to sleep, his random dance parties, the way he smelled. I miss his tears… and the magical healing powers of my kiss. Every cell in my body wants to care for him, hold him, be with him. I know missing Mason isn’t going to go away, but I am trying to use the pain and sorrow as a reminder to live well. I recognize now more than ever that life is too short not to.
Cheers to 2018 friends, cheers to deciding to live well, deciding to love like you only have 660 days left, deciding to spread joy, deciding to dance like no one is watching. Cheers to LIVING this year. Every piece of me believes that 2018 is going to be the best year of my life. #660 #surthrivinglikeaboss #project660 #listen.focus.bepresent
The Gift of Perspective
March 28, 2018
Lately I have been thankful for what Mason’s death showed me. Let me break it down for you. I am broken, battered, bruised, destroyed, and sometimes I can feel my cells aching. Some days I struggle to breathe, and most days I have moments of sadness. This new me… the “broken” me is working towards being the best version of myself. You see, before Mason died I thought I was living well. I tricked myself (and everyone else) into believing that I was fine. Mason’s death gave me the courage to say out loud that my life isn’t perfect, in fact it is far from it. His death showed me how resilient I am. It helped me discover the brutally honest, fierce loving mother that I had to be. His death let me experience what an incredible community we have. It showed me the depth of my friendships, these women literally walked through hell with me just to keep me company. Mason’s death destroyed me, then showed me that I am strong enough to rebuild myself. I never would have realized how breathtakingly beautiful death can be if it wasn’t for Mason. I never would have decided that I deserve to live a life full of love and passion if Mason hadn’t died.
So thank you Mason for living, and for dying. Without your insanely beautiful life and painfully tragic death I wouldn’t be living this life to its full potential. I thank my lucky stars every day that I got to be your mom… I wouldn’t have traded your 660 days of life for anything. Life has a new direction now, a new purpose, a more vigorous passion for living. I am grateful for this.
Although I have assigned collateral beauty to Mason’s short life, I don’t want you all to be confused about my desires. Every piece of me wants to go back to March 30th of 2016 and prevent this from happening. Sometimes I find myself super pissed off that I have this life perspective. I get mad at myself for not getting mad at a waitress because she waited 45 minutes to give me a menu. If I had a choice I would go back to the old me in a second. The me that pretended to be okay, that had no real life perspective. Obviously I can’t do that. So I will take the gifts that I have received and run with them. I can’t change the past, I CAN change the way I deal with it. Please try to honor any suffering in your life today, realizing that we can’t grow without suffering a little. Live well, life is short. #660 #learningperspectivesucks #surthrivinglikeaboss #Listen.Focus.BePresent
Surviving the third Mother’s Day
May 14, 2018
Often I think of what the best day of my life was. Without any hesitation I have pegged May 6th 2009 as the best day of my life. At 1:23 in the morning I welcomed Mikey into the world. At the sight of him I was able to redefine what love is. Love isn’t just patient and kind… Love is a cell altering, breath stealing euphoria that some of us are lucky enough to experience. The first Mother’s Day that I got to experience post child birth was emotional. I just looked at Mikey and wept. I wept because I was grieving the loss of my old self, and recognizing the potential of my new self. I wept because this perfect little human controlled my heart outside of my thoracic cavity. I wept because I felt like the luckiest most unprepared person in the world. I wept because I wasn’t planning on having children… and I realized how my life wouldn’t be nearly as full without him.
I don’t have to think about the worst day of my life. Without hesitation I have pegged March 31st 2016 as the worst day of my life. At 9:00 in the morning I started helping Mason die. This moment in time also helped me redefine what love is. Or maybe it helped me discover the depth of my love. Love isn’t just a cell altering euphoria. Love is fierce, animalistic, and strong. Love is resilient, and brutal. Sometimes it is ugly. Sometimes it takes a warrior to love as deeply as mothers do. On this day I wept. I wept because I was grieving the loss of my child, and the loss of the old me. I wept because my worst fear had came to fruition. I wept because I realized that the saying “my heart is walking outside of my body” was true. I wept because I feared that Mason felt pain. I wept because I felt like the unluckiest person in the world. I wept because I realized my surviving children would have to live with a pain that is similar to what I feel, forever. I wept because I realized that my life wouldn’t be nearly as full without him.
Being a mom isn’t for the weak at heart. Being a mom takes more time, effort, and patience than you can shake a stick at. Motherhood hasn’t been a walk in the park for me (or anyone-lets be honest) but it has taken me outside of my comfort zone and given me permission to be a better version of myself.
I think that many mothers would identify the BEST day of their life being the day they brought a child into the world. Easily empathizing with a mother who identifies the worse day as one where a child’s life is taken out of the world. Isn’t this interesting? The most profound moments in our life are surrounded by becoming a parent. I think it’s because at those moments… the really really important ones. We let ourselves be completely human. We let every emotion flood through us as if it were our job to allow time to slow down and experience every second of the pure joy or misery that is helping this moment unfold. Something that I have been working on since Masons death is being completely human, allowing and encouraging myself to be authentically me. This authentic me isn’t always pretty, but its real. So here I sit creating all these moments in my life, with and without the kids. These moments where time is slowing down and I am recognizing the beauty. Motherhood has taught me more than I EVER imagined it would.
In the mist of the chaos that is our lives, try to slow down and be human every once in a while. Encourage yourself to discover feelings in a wide variety of moments throughout your day. All the sudden life will be richer and full of meaning. I feel lucky that Mason taught me to be more human… Im hoping that he can help teach you all too. Happy Mother’s Day friends. Keep showering your kiddos with love, and giving kisses when they don’t want to. #ilikehumiliatingmykids#momingisnteasy #slowdown #surthrival #660
October 28, 2018
I am expecting my fourth baby. Chris and are anxiously awaiting our sweet baby girl. This pregnancy has been incredible, on every level. An incredible shift in the direction of life, an incredible transformation of who I am and who I thought I would become, an incredibly scary emotional journey that is forcing me to heal, an incredible “Ah-Ha” moment that helped me realize that new life can (and will) find a way. Now, this has not been all unicorns and rainbows. Having a baby after losing one has proven to be hard. I suppose most people would think that it is hard knowing that your baby might live longer than the last one that died. Or, hard not becoming a helicopter parent that dictates anything and everything that might come this child’s way. That’s not what I am scared of. I am scared of loving and losing again.
For those of you that are parents. Remember that moment that you saw your baby? The moment when you realized that you would do anything and everything to protect this little one? The moment that you realized that the only reason you were on this earth is to love and provide for this human? I remember; I have loved fiercely, with all of me, that deep consuming love that tricked me into believing that if I loved this hard, this much, this intensely-nothing bad could happen. That life, the universe, God wouldn’t take that love away. How could something so completely and breathtakingly beautiful be taken? It doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you don’t have to learn the “life lessons” that some of us endure. Sometimes, if you get the short end of the stick, you must go through it. Endure the bad, suffer a little, and hope you surthrive. So here I am surthriving 2 years and 7 months after losing Mason. Looking at myself in the mirror and noticing that my body has transformed into a vessel for life, nurturing and supporting a new human. Here I am 36 weeks pregnant and scared. Scared of the “moment” the “moment” when I look at her for the first time and everything changes. I realize now that that moment will never be as ignorant and blissful as it was in the past. Could it be better? More profound? More life altering?
Now, I have mulled this over for the last 8 months. What I decided is to allow myself to fall head over heels in love with her, the ignorant kind. I have decided to not allow my past to ruin her future. I have decided that I am lucky to have this baby (and her handsome daddy) as part of the people that I get to love blindly. Will the moment I see her be different? Holy shit YES. But, this new me… the broken me… has a better perspective on the value and beauty of life.
I still approach life like I only have 660 days to live. I still live a fierce no bullshit kind of life that has proven to be exciting and unpredictable. I have an insatiable hunger for showing family and friends the good, and not be consumed by the bad. This baby’s life is going to be amazing. I am going to teach her to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, the beauty in the imperfections, the growth potential in the hard times, and most importantly to live life like you won’t be here forever. I hope she is ready for a wild ride, because her life is going to be incredible. #660 #Masonismakingadifference #surthrivinglikeaboss #Listen.Focus.BePresent #Dance #Outside #babymaking #letsdothis
“Happily Ever After”
April 14, 2019
Chris and I have created life. Some noteworthy qualities of her life: eye contact followed by the most beautiful toothless smile I have ever seen, massive blue eyes with dark hair, a ticklish neck that is constantly filled with food, one foot that kicks around like mad when she gets excited, a snort like giggle that forces your body to be filled with joy-whether you want it or not. I get to be a mother to this beautiful little girl. I get watch as her sweet little face melts into my chest when she falls asleep. I get to kiss her feet. This little baby has rocked my world- she has brought so much joy into life, and I know she will continue to do this. I could not love her more.
Something that has upset me from the beginning of my grief journey is when people would tell a story about someone who lost a child- then they would quickly follow up by saying “It’s okay though…because she got pregnant again”. Whaaaaa… I don’t get it, what part of being pregnant again makes the situation of her dead child okay? It never sat well with me. However, overtime- I somehow tricked myself into believing that Annika might take away my pain, that Annika might be my “happily ever after” unknowingly I started to just fall into this belief. Until a realization I had today…
Today I woke up and thought “who am I kidding” the only reason I have this beautiful perspective and recognition of how insanely awesome my life is… is because of Mason. The only reason Chris and Annika have entered my life… is because of Mason. The only reason I know how cell altering and mind-numbingly beautiful being a mom is… is because of Mason. The only reason that I have had the guts to truly live… is because of Mason. I have recognized that you cannot talk about death, be affected by death-without recognizing life and living. You cannot go through suffering and be ridiculously uncomfortable-without getting to the other side of the discomfort and realizing that it was necessary for your growth.
You see, Annika has all the ingredients to mold into my happily ever after. However, she wouldn’t have the foundation to build off of without Mason. She doesn’t have the power to make me happy, I get to choose. I realize that this happy is something that I have earned through heart ache ,failure, and unbearable pain. I guess what I am trying to say is just because someone has a uterus and the ability to grow a baby inside of it, doesn’t mean that the baby they are growing will automatically bring contentment. It may seem like that is an automatic “get out of jail free” card but it isn’t. The people who make babies after losing one, consciously choose what they want life to look like after that baby arrives.
I cannot sit here and pretend that Annika is my happily ever after- without recognizing that Mason has given me the courage to allow her to be.
#iloveyoumason #lifeisbetterwithshugi #660 #masonismakingadifference #Happilyeverafter
Desire to be seen
May 28, 2019
Being seen is something I think we all truly desire, it helps us with human connection and fosters a depth in our relationships that inspires and transforms us. I want transparency- honesty- recognition of raw beauty- silence- respect- decency- passion- fierceness – fearlessness. I want my relationships to reflect my soul. I want my community to be an extension and representation of joy and foundational contentment. I want beauty, and in the ugly times- I want to recognize the suffering as something that is beautiful too- because it is making us stronger. Unfortunately, or fortunately everyone in my life has become victim to the way I try to live. I challenge my best friends, my family, and my partner to live better; to welcome change, and to ride the wave. I am almost aggressively pursuing this life. Searching for the best of the best. What I have discovered is I am truly finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, I am looking at my children with curiosity and approaching our relationship with a realization that they might not be here forever. Recognizing that we only have one life, and we should choose to live it like it won’t last forever. Thankful for this life, feeling lucky to live it. #tobeseen #660 #lovelife
What is love
December 10, 2019
I have been asking strangers and colleagues- baristas and janitors- cab drivers and my children. What love is- I ask them if they have someone that they love and watch their face soften with the thought of them. Some of my favorite answers were:
“It feels like home, joy, peace, everything”
“It feels never-ending and perfect”
“It is definitely what we are supposed to do on this earth”
Mikey my 10-year-old said “It is like infinity Mommy, because no matter what it is always there”
Love is a beautiful thing; unfortunately sometimes we lose the people we love- the people who take our breath away when they enter the room, the people who we could watch silently for hours as if attempting to burn their every movement into our memory, the people who have changed our DNA- because there is no way it would be possible to LOVE someone this hard without biologically changing forever, the people who transform our life into something more beautiful then could have ever been imagined.
To those of us who have loved hard and lost big this holiday season- I see you. I can see you wince when you hear a song that reminds you of them. I see you stop talking when everyone else is discussing what they are thankful for. I know occasionally you hide your truth to protect the people around you from your grief. I see you deeply moved when someone mentions their name. I know it hurts, but I want you to know you are not alone. It is an unfortunate club, but I truly believe some of the best humans on this earth are in it. If you know someone who has loved DEEPLY and LOST big please listen to them when they need to talk about their person. It can transform a holiday season into something a little more bearable. #660 #surthrivingisnteasy #loveDEEPLYlostBIG