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Capture Your Grief, Day 5: Empathy

5 Oct captureyourgrief

I’ve always identified as a sympathetic person, but it wasn’t until I lost my son that I realized the imperative nature of empathy- not only when it comes to processing grief and helping others do the same, but in life in general.Β  Not sure of the difference? This video is the shortest, easiest way I’ve found that illustrates it in a way that resonates with people of all ages via a talk from one of my favorite authors.

What empathy looks like in terms of child loss means not even attempting to placate or identify with the situation or feeling unless you really, truly know what it feels like. Sympathy wants to cover, smother, fix; none of which are even possible with this subject. Empathy sits down quietly and nods.

Even as someone who has experienced child loss firsthand, I’d never assume that I know that another person whom has just lost a child is experiencing- it’s impossible. I’ve found that saying the simplest truth is best, “I can’t even imagine.” or “I’m so fucking sorry, dude. Thank you for trusting me with that. Fuck. That’s awful. It’s so clear how loved _____ is.” Any or all of those sentences work, with or without the emphatic profanity, that’s just how it would sound coming from me- your authentic, honest words are your own to phrase.

It’s uncomfortable to see someone in the throws of soul-wringing grief– but your presence is not about your discomfort, it’s about supporting a loved one through their own. (see the Silk Ring Theory, or “How Not to Say the Wrong Thing here, and How to Hold Space Instead Of Fixing People here. Your presence in whatever way you are able to make it known and holding space for the presence of the person missing from your loved one is the most valuable thing you can do. Whatever pangs of heartache you feel and want to run away as far as you can and shield yourself from are signs of your empathy; you are sharing in that pain, which is the most comfort you are truly capable of giving. Your not shying away, not sugar coating, not denying the injustice and hurt from yourself or from the person you care about that doesn’t have that option is the greatest gift you can give to a grieving heart.

Empathy is validating the amount of hurt someone has and holding space for it without judgement or agenda. It takes courage to approach a situation you know is going to rip your heart wide open to be in and that you can’t control. Believe me, I get it. My first instinct, even after hearing from dozens of people share their own grief with me is still commonly to want to fix, to hug it away, to find a magic wand and reverse what can’t be true, but is- yet all that’s truly in our power is to acknowledge our powerlessness and the suck of it all and to maybe offer some ice cream, a kind comment, whiskey, a walk or a scenic drive when the timing seems right.

Sympathy begets pity, which is something no child loss survivor wants or needs. Pity and sympathy are disengaging, whereas empathy sits right down with the hurt and looks it in the eye. When a child dies, the world comes to a screeching halt for the family while it keeps turning for the rest of us. What they need help with is dealing with reality while they focus on breathing through their shock. All parents who have lost a child want is their child back, which you can’t help with. Where you can help is with meals, childcare of other kids, shopping, appointment keeping, checking in, pampering. If all you can do is send a card or comment from afar, do that, too- that is still an action.

Empathy is a participation sport. Sympathy is for spectators. For those or you with the heart to support us throughout our grief cycles, whatever they may bring: thank you. Your compassionate action is the glue in our crumbling worlds, the spark when our flame is most weak. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of our perforated hearts. Thank you.

darkest moments

Capture Your Grief, Day 1: Sunrise

1 Oct captureyourgrief

I’d love to have seen the sunrise
but I missed it for fitful sleep
seeking to behold my son’s eyes
available only in dreams

I don’t have a sunrise picture and only read the details of Capture Your Grief this morning after waking up to Kaya barking at something outside. I got irritated, but I got her because I missed having the movement around the house and needed a reason to get outside- the rude awakenings were a substitute I was going for, but whatever.

I’m not much for putting myself through other people’s filters and projects, but I haven’t been writing and I’ve been meaning to, so it seems like a good time and idea; October first not only marks the beginning of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, but it is also my father’s birthday. He died on September 2, 2010 still planning is annual fishing trip- we took the boat out in his honor instead.

captain's hat


I guess in some ways, that’s what grieving is… finding ways to hold space for who the person was and would have been by bringing them into conversation and doing things and bringing people together that honor them– and dealing with letting go of the attachment you have to the way it should damn well be. I know I try and do that with Patrick all the time at home and in social media, alike. Timehop has actually been a bittersweet way to both jog my memory and bring the people I miss into my daily life, like the picture above as well as the one below. Sometimes it can be triggering, but I wouldn’t change having or seeing those moments for anything- it’s an honor that they exist in the first place and that I have them to remember.

Patrick had a natural 80’s skate punk hair combo- a mullet AND a rat tail. Rad.

Patrick was named for my father. He was a rainbow baby of sorts- after heavily grieving death, Patrick was the life to be a light to me after dark times… it made his sudden, unexplained death all the more difficult. In some ways, I’m glad I had practice grieving in such a deep way- although nothing, nothing can compare or even touch what it feels like to lose a child. My father was a wonderful, kind, patient, gentle, generous, silly, curious, creative, can-do person that I love and appreciate every single day of my life and I am still prostrate with grief some days at the loss of- but losing a parent is a part of life, however soon that part may have occurred in mine. It’s still within the right order.

No matter how you turn it or for whatever reason, losing a child just isn’t fucking right. When it happens, it’s a feeling as primally discordant, heartbreaking, soul-deflating as they come. I’m so glad to not be in those first days. The first months, even… I can’t even find words to describe them. Feel free to hit the “Grief” or “Poetry” sections on my blog if you want to read what they were then. Though it’s what caused me the most pain, especially at first, I now miss the visceral memories of his skin on mine, hearing echoes of the sounds he made throughout the house, his smell, his things about the house. I’m at my new normal, where a part of my life is accepting that a part of it will always be missing, and I’ll always have ways that absence affects the rest of it.

Danny and I had broken up months before Patrick passed- in fact, he was supposed to move out that very weekend. We cohabited for another 6 months through the early shock and grief, then went our separate ways, and I haven’t had another serious relationship since. In some ways, taking time to work on myself has been very beneficial; I am a raging phoenix lion goddess of a human compared to who I used to be and I’m grateful for and love myself very much. But I hate the reason why I’ve had such a rapid spiritual regrowth. I have to be fierce because my heart is so tender, so vulnerable, so perforated. It’s hard to bring those things to the table and keep them in balance when it comes to addressing old friends and meeting new ones, but I’m working on it.

It’s hard because SUDC means I’m fairly certain what I’m putting my time and effort into is going to get ripped away from me, suddenly and without cause- it applies to basically everything I own or love, most of all people. It makes it hard to form new attachments after I lost my friend suddenly, then my marriage (and everything I’ve ever owned, save what was in my hastily packed suitcase to attend said friend’s funeral across the country), my father, then son. (There’s a post with more detail/summation of that from when Patrick was alive here.) I’m no stranger to loss, yet 137 weeks later, (okay, 136 weeks and 6 days, but who’s counting?) I’m still reeling from the lack of Patrick and trying to figure out how to relate and connect to others, how to parent, how make a living as a grieving introvert with anxiety.

Losing a child just isn’t right. It’s fucked up and it fucks everything up. Sometimes I can get up in the morning now and get all the way to the coffee machine before remembering what my life has been and where it is now. I imagine I’d feel the same after losing a limb- I would wake up after a time and expect it to be gone and go about my day with perceivable “ease”, but always there are the reminders. The reminders can come from within my own body, from a situation, from others, from a certain sense or impulse, a memory of what I used to have, a thought of what should be, of what would be if only… If only. So many ways to end that sentence and all of them hurt.

So I continue, because it’s all I can do. Progress, I guess… though I never meant for my blog title to bear such a heavy, personal imbuement of the word. I’m still getting used to it. Anyhow- here I am. I’m writing. I’m doing a thing to kick my butt into it. If you want to participate, too, check out and click through the picture below.

1 in 4 women has experienced pregnancy, infant or child loss. This month is about giving those women space to have their voices heard- and I appreciate you taking the time to listen to mine.


Phoenix Tears

6 Jul

There are no words
for how it feels
for a phoenix
to burn alive
What it takes
to make spark from ashes
embracing embers
every cell combusting
fire born within
There are no words
only knowing
the smoldering touch
between beginning and end
love and pain
fullness and ache
The miracle of
surrendering into
our molten source
is that it can teach us
to fly again
and the tears of a phoenix
can heal others
and help them fly, too

Phoenix Tears


19 Jun

It’s been 122 Fridays since I last held my littlest love. I count because I can’t help it. I count because he’s my son and he’ll never stop mattering to me. I count because numbers are something real that makes sense to me, unlike his absence, unlike SUDC. Patrick should be three and a half years old, a bundle of energy and curiosity, making me exhausted, flabbergasted and completely in love now, but all I can do is hold space for how long it’s been for me since a time when that was my reality.

I remember life with him like a dream I just woke up from- flashing details, some tremendous and metaphorical, others just inflections of scenes from every day living. I remember the feel of his full cheeks against my skin and the feel of his left hand pat pat-pat-pat-ing my chest while he nursed. Sometimes it was a literal slap in the face- the variation is akin how my heart being touched by his memory feels now, usually I just notice it and keep doing what I’m doing, but sometimes it surprises me and demands attention.

I can’t always write about Patrick because it still fucking kills me inside in some way every time, no matter how much bigger my love than my ache. I don’t always want that visceral reality front and center to my own because I can’t function very well from my knees, which is where it brings me in every sense of the word without fail. But I’m getting better, and have found that speaking one on one or in a small group is easier than writing because it’s back and forth and there’s someone else participating and sharing. Here, it’s all me, just staring at my abyss, then making it public. Yikes. But I’m doing it. Progress, or something. Coming to terms with vulnerability and making baby steps.

I went to hang out at a friend’s yesterday and ended speaking openly about grief and loss over beers around a pool- and I realized that that’s what my reality is now: my grief is fully integrated into my joy, and authentic life lies somewhere in between. After a minute, I found out his roommate’s mother was a hospice nurse, and she had some really wonderful insights around life, death and the in between. I went from hesitantly sharing bits and pieces into a full blown conversation on cultural grief processes that I’m really grateful for.

Another friend messaged me last night to tell me that she thinks of me every time she wipes fingerprints from around her house and takes an extra minute to be grateful for her son because I shared. It takes courage to be vulnerable on both ends to have a conversation like that, and I’m honored and grateful every time someone takes a step outside of their comfort zone to make that connection. When I think about it, every. single. time. I’ve written something or shared about my grief in whatever minutia or grandeur it occurs, someone has thanked me, and/or shared that they’ve been carrying similar grief and never had the tools or place to acknowledge or (start to) process it.

I still don’t know how to help someone process their grief, I just share what works (and doesn’t) for me. Bereavement Doula Training helps, but all I know to get myself through the day is to acknowledge my feelings and know they’ll end, just like a contraction. Some require stillness paired with reflective, internal pep talking, some require animalistic howling and movement. It’s different every feeling, every person, every time. All I’ve learned is to not sugar coat the tough stuff- life is full of it, and the more experienced we and our children are with it, the better we’ll be able to handle hard times when they come. The best we can do is stay with it. So here’s my attempt to.

On top of being a Friday, it’s also Father’s Day weekend, which has been particularly painful since my own father passed from Melanoma in 2010. My newsfeed the past few days has been drenched with an influx of painful reminders of being unfathered, as well as news upon news about awful, tragic, downright infuriating and embarrassing racism and misogyny– it all just makes me want to curl into a ball and hide. One person’s baby shot 9 other people’s babies because of the color of their skin. That’s all I see when I read the news… babies. Even people three times my age are someone’s baby- children SUDC didn’t touch that got to grow up and end up where they are.

The grief in the world is exponential with each loss, and my mother’s heart is heavy thinking about all the other parents’ hearts out there in their first stages of grief. I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve had last night that consisted of essentially waking up over and over again to be reminded that my close friend had died in a tragic accident; reliving the hardest part of grieving for my head and heart on repeat. Those first fuzzy seconds upon waking where the rug gets pulled out from under me and the world comes crashing down anew are still a place I have very, very deep fear, I know. I’m afraid all of my loved ones are going to suddenly and unexpectedly die every second of every day. I try and use that fear to encourage my love, if that makes any damn sense, but it doesn’t take away the undercurrent of anxiety. I cried in relief when I woke up and realized that this one time, I got to wake up like I’ve prayed every morning to for 121 weeks now.

I’m heartbroken for all the parents that don’t get to wake up knowing they’ve had a long, cruel dream. (I sent my still very alive friend a text first thing this morning, even before coffee) My best during the times when I feel helpless is to provide space for myself and other grieving hearts to say, “That is awful. That should never happen. I hear you. I’m so sorry. Life makes no fucking sense sometimes. Thank you for trusting me enough to share. I have no words that can help, but I’m here. This sucks and I hate it for you and I’m here.”

And I’m here. For the parents with babies of any age who are gone too soon for reasons known or unknown, that we can understand or that we never will. I am here, and I will love my own children so damn hard that they’ll never think of harming yours. In 20 years when this generation we’ve parented grows up, we’ll see the difference we’ve made and it will all add up and mean something.

122 quote

I often feel insignificant -and in the grand (and even minor) scheme of things, I absolutely am- but that shouldn’t keep me from sharing what matters to me, just as none of us should ever hold back from doing the small things that help ourselves and others, whatever they may be– doing so is exactly how the world gets better. For me, I help by writing. For me, it’s helping others try and slow down, prioritize and to be kind and grateful to ourselves, our children and each other.

I encourage you to bring my SUDC goggles with you the next time you’re feeling frustrated or helpless in your homes or reading your newsfeeds. All of those grown up babies need love and education, and some are glaring examples of what happens when the lack of those things meet. Unfortunately, we don’t have time machines and can’t go back and fix the childhoods of the adults that make hateful, poorly informed choices, we can only learn from them. What we can do is make sure the childhoods we CAN affect are met with love, always seeking to learn and grow together. Keep bringing love, vulnerability, empathy and education to the table. It’s gonna be okay.

Parenting Privilege

13 Mar


There was a post going around a while ago on how having or being a stay at home parent isn’t a luxury and I agree: the word you’re looking for there is privilege.

To even be a part of that conversation presumes the privilege of having a two-parent household to begin with. Having a spouse is another example of a privilege that is not a luxury, and one some in our country only very recently have. It’s common knowledge that marriages take work, and it’s a wonder parenting isn’t accepted in the same way. Parenting is hard. For everyone. Parenting is not a competition; it’s a free-for-all mad dash of boogers, sleepless nights, peanut butter and jelly, tender, fleeting moments, questions and insights flanked with the most raging frustration and the most abounding love we’ll ever know. And then that part is over- sometimes far before we’re ready.

When I woke up 127 weeks ago, trying to find the best way to parent was (one of) my struggle(s), too. Well, it still is, but after losing Patrick, sometimes my struggle is to stay on the planet with my head and heart and not get lost clouds of numbness and disassociation because of the absolute unfairness of it all. It wasn’t a luxury to wipe his nose and stay up when he didn’t feel well at night, but oh, how I long for that privilege. From a post-SUDC perspective, having a child at all is a privilege (as is making the choice not to be a parent), no matter how you decide they are raised. Many spend thousands upon thousands of dollars just to have a shot at getting pregnant, while others choose abortion and both are personal choices- even having those choices to make is a privilege in itself.

Wanting respect for my choices means I (must) give it to other parents, which is why I don’t have a specific “way” of parenting I tout. (Although I am against harming children in any way, which means I don’t spank or circumcise, but let’s leave those topics for another time, shall we?) I have been a zillion different mothers in the last thirteen years, and been in fifteen gazillion (give or take a few) different situations. In order to accept (and sometimes learn to forgive) myself and look at the facts in order to improve, I have to view other parents with the same compassionate eyes I give my old self: I didn’t know better, I never thought I’d be in that situation, it was just one time, I didn’t think that would happen, whatever. I have younger sisters I’ve grown accustomed to watching develop as humans, and it’s having cultivated that thought process through watching and helping them along that I am able to put it into practice with myself, and then others.

I chose the name “progressive” based on the meaning continuous improvement, not because of any political leaning or particular stance: I just want to keep getting better, and help others know that they’re not alone in wanting the best life possible for themselves and their children and in struggling every damn day to not only find out which path to choose, but to walk it.

Let me take a minute to tell you something, because it’s imperative you not continue your day without knowing this:


I am SO proud and so grateful for the world you’re building for our children to grow up in. Thank you. Thank you so much for how hard you’ve been trying, for those times you didn’t repeat your own harmful patterns, for letting the mess go so your kids can play and you can grab a few minutes of sanity. (Self care is important!) Yes, I know there are million things flooding your mind that you’re not proud of, but you tell that shame monster to shut the absolute gollygoshdarn fuck up for a damn minute while you listen to me: you have created/are raising life. That is AMAZING. That is a privilege.

Through all your struggles, you are right here now, on your computer or phone, somehow having gotten to this post so that I can tell you that even when you don’t feel validated, appreciated, loved or enough– you are. Perfect is a ridiculous, maddening concept to strive for and normal is just a setting on the dryer. Progress in accepting your (children’s) human limits and needs and seeking/providing empathy and education is far, far more valuable not only in your heart and home, but to the world we are creating together as a whole.

I can tell you the most valuable thing my grandmother (on my dad’s side, which means she’s lost a son, too) has repeated since I was small and is never more true than from a post-SUDC standpoint:

This too, shall pass.

For better or worse, the sleepless nights and adorable barnacle part gives way to tantrums and tiny tornado-ness, then the scraped knees and loose teeth, mood swings and growth spurts, then, if you’ve the privilege to have gotten that far, our children are adults and move out and sometimes away. If we’re lucky and we’ve done our jobs right, they’ll come back to visit as healthy, well-rounded, intelligent, functional, compassionate individuals and thank us for taking care of ourselves and of them in the most loving way possible, realizing what a privilege we have to be able to do it at all.

For more information on SUDC, click here.


4 Mar

I want a giant iron
to smooth over all the wrinkles
in this wretched system
a psychic microscope
all must pass through
who enter those gates
from any angle
a deflective umbrella
made of Care Bear stare
to hold over those I love
to protect them
when it all falls down
and cupcakes to give
as I sit down beside them
and say wow
it’s bad out there
yet all I can do
is write

I want to tell her
I know how sorry you are
that you never meant
for it to be
this way
for her to know
that I still see light in her eyes
when she looks at that child
that I see she is broken
and I know how it feels
to really know
that life is kind of like that
and then get up
put that in your pocket
and keep moving
because you can
you can
you really can
I promise
and we’re all here
maybe for truth
and apologies
but mostly for
the woman
you’ve been hiding
but all I can do
is write

I want to tell him
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry
I was such a shitty teenager
that I didn’t check my oil
that I learned integrity
gentleness and generosity
from you
and I can tell
your mother misses you
like I miss my own son
and I hope
in some way
that you two
have some sort of
magnetic soul tag
from how deeply
I will always love you
like a bat signal
on another plane
that brings you
to a place where my love
touches where you are
and for you to know
as deeply as I feel
how much
you are loved
and missed here
where all I can do
is write


4 Feb


I took you there
to celebrate the harvest
pumpkins and hayrides
the giant Ferris Wheel
I can still feel you
pressed against my chest
and see your bright eyes
taking it all in

It was your complexion
like your sleepy smile
downy fluff hair
flushed and full cheeks
delicious thighs
and eyes
that hold the stars
and my heart

It’s what is isn’t
that you’re not here
and I’ll never know why
It’s what it’s not when
I sleep alone
when my breasts still long for you
when any baby cries
It’s what it’s not
that I couldn’t
protect you
and still not know
what from
What it is
is exactly
what life

The Unrest

2 Jan

Some days
all I do is miss you
it comes out of the blue
like a star fell and burned
straight through my heart
and it’s all I can do
to get through the day
without your arms
reaching for me

and I miss the feel
of each individual finger
of your left hand
upon my chest
the way my left shoulder hurt
because that’s the side
you liked best
and I feel like
I will never rest again
even in my sleep
I’d never dream reality
would hold this type of
nightmare for me
when I wake each day
I never prayed
your soul to take
to anyone
or thing

Some nights
all I do is miss you
I miss the curves along your face
the smell of the triangular shape
between your jaw and ear
when I pulled you near
the way your eyes
were little twinkling sapphires
that I’ll forever chase
and you will always be the name
that’s firmly held between the places
where my heart skips a beat
i carry you with me
laying in the space we shared
how I am suffering
sweet child of mine
without you
in so many more ways than
I thought were possible

Soapboxery for the New Year

2 Jan

It’s been 98 Fridays with a broken heart, 37 days until it’s been two years. I said that on Facebook this morning, and watched my (overall Facebook) likes fall by a handful- the kind comments have followed, but the former always strikes me. It seems like every time I post about losing Patrick I lose people, so let me just get this out of the way:

If you can’t deal with the fact that I occasionally post about being sad because I suddenly lost my 14 month old for no reason, GO THE FUCK AWAY RIGHT NOW.

…but don’t go without recognizing the fact that you have that privilege, and what a huge one it is. Don’t go without remembering that SUDC = Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood = no cause, no cure = there’s nothing you can do to protect or prepare yourself for it.

Trust me, you are learning about this the easy way.

Grief is far from my only life or subject matter, but unfortunately for me, it’s become a part of who I am because Patrick is a part of who I am, and nothing will ever change either of those things. If there’s a singular thing I wish to impart on the world for Patrick’s and my stay here, it’s to encourage people to be grateful for every. damn. day, and to be kind to your children and each other.

One of the only things that provides any balm for me about Patrick’s life is that I spent every day loving and appreciating him (and continue to do so with my other children) because I learned that lesson in a lighter way after losing my father to Melanoma in 2010. I’m grateful I left him intact, grateful he was still breastfeeding, cosleeping and being worn every day, grateful that he was close to my heart in every way, every day of his entire life.

Because of my PTSD & SUDC, I evaluate every decision with “If I (or ____) died tonight, would I regret this?“, which is both a blessing and a curse; I get incredibly soaring heights of anxiety, but I also am pushed to find the courage to show up for my life and share my heart with others, even when it’s terrifying… it doesn’t make the latter any easier, but I go to sleep at night knowing I’ve said my piece and done my part. I always think about how need to write more. This is me trying.

Anyhow- if you can’t handle witnessing not made-for-TV grief, the fact that I occasionally say fuck, (and have an album just for swearing, actually- and one on cannabis, too) that I’m a feminist, humanist, science-loving hippie-nerd that writes sporadic, random poetry and posts, and embraces a coffee addiction open-heartedly: peace out. *If those things happen to appeal to you, consider following my blog (via the link on the top right side of the page on desktop and after the comment form on mobile)Β  if you haven’t already.

I’m here for authenticity, not approval. I’m here to learn and improve myself and the world around me. I’m here to hopefully lend some perspective and to share what helps me with my own, to keep my son’s memory alive, and to promote awareness for the SUDC Foundation– and that means I will never stop talking about them- and the other things that matter to me- ever.

Okay, enough soapbox for awhile. Now, go hug your kids and remind the people that you love in your life how much they mean to you. Dammit.

SUDCLOGO*If you feel like helping SUDC families, please consider participating in the Sing for SUDC Challenge, or donating to the SUDC Program here.


13 Dec

95 Fridays
and I still keep count
ever increasing numbers
they’ll still never surmount
or even touch
the aching vacancy
the numbness
that I hold
it’s just a silly way
to find some sense
within my soul
because your ab-sense
is exactly that
away from logic
fact or study
away from any truth
except goddamn
I miss you, buddy
and that’s the truest verbage
I can craft around that bubble
the shining fact
that I can excavate
from all the rubble
of the world
that I once knew
that I held dear
where I could hold you
not this one
where it’s all that I can do
just to uphold the who
you might have been
and who you’ll never even
get the chance to be
where the only way I hold you
is in silly poetry
where I can wrap my
words around you
instead of loving arms
carving verbal shapes
that hold the sillage of your charms
it’s still alarming
every morning
when I wake
without your face
without your breath
and the smell of your sweet head
here in my bed
and in it’s place
I just have
95 Fridays
in growing amount
665 days
and I still keep count
you do


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