It has been a month since I last posted. I would talk about time, but its passing is something I still struggle with. I am always writing (and re-writing) in my head, trying to make sense and order of the thoughts that continue to cycle through my entire being. Still desperately looking for answers. For understanding. For something.
November has served as an emotional detox from October – a month I had built narratives for how it would go, yet, as with everything along this journey, it still managed to floor me. The month seemed to consume us, taking hold of all of our emotions (the happy, the sad, the everything), presenting them to us in any order it saw fit. It was not easy, but we let it. We needed to.
October is infant loss awareness month, a time to formally recognize our children, the beauty they continue to shine, and the love we carry with us. It is also the month that welcomed our son into the world in 2014. There was a lot going on in our little world.
We participated in Capture Your Grief, a month-long grief project for bereaved parents. A project that touts mindful healing, reflection, and storytelling. Each day, we were encouraged to face and talk about specific elements of our family journey, some that we had been avoiding, others that we had not realized we were aching to share. It was difficult, there were many (many) tears, but it proved to be worthwhile and beneficial. It gave us another platform to introduce our beautiful little boy to the world, an honour leading up to his first birthday at the end of the month.
Back in early March, we approached our local council to have October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, formally recognized in our town with the lighting of a local landmark and a sign with words of support. Weary and broken-hearted, we made our first venture into our town to honour our son and attend the local council meeting. We sat, anxiously waiting through other local business to hear our little boy’s name. As the mayor uttered “Owen Benjamin Edmondson”, our hearts swelled with the pride that only a parent could know. In the words of a friend, and local councilman,
“… just to say that we love you guys. This is hard for so many people in our community and I’m grateful that you brought it to the table. His precious life is starting this in our community.”
The meeting ended in silence and sniffles. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
On October 15th, our family invited our little mountain community to join together for the lighting of a covered bridge in pink and blue. We planned an informal get together and candle lighting in conjunction with the wave of light travelling around the world. The response was beautiful. Messages of love and longing were written on tags to decorate the bridge. Hugs, tears and stories were shared. Hearts were joined.
October 30th, 2015. Our little boy’s first birthday. We weren’t certain how a year had already passed, but we embraced it. It was bittersweet, but we made an effort to place the focus on him (after all, it is his day). And we did. We celebrated the special little boy who made us a family. The love that poured in for Owen was heartwarming. We awoke in the morning to the excitement of beautiful gifts and cards. Treasures and new stories to share. Donations (some from complete strangers) to the Children’s Hospital in Owen’s name. 540 bricks towards a community centre in a village in Cameroon. Our first family floatplane adventure (very exciting). A weekend adventure in a tent house overlooking the Pacific, complete with exploration and wildlife sightings. Throughout the day, the messages and gestures continued to arrive celebrating our little boy. The day ended with a single candle, the family happy birthday hum, chocolate cake, a story, I love yous and goodnights. There were tears, there was yearning, but we had so many smiles (giggles, too). We made memories. For plan b, we had a beautiful day. For plan b, it was perfect.
So that was October. I am not sure where November has gone, but time and the space to breathe has been just what our hearts have needed.
Our Capture Your Grief project, in order from the beginning to the end of the month, copied from our Instagram feeds.
owenswonderfulworld I echo the sentiment of many others when I say we were not awake for the sunrise this morning. Without fail, the sun has risen every day for nearly 11 months. At first, I fought it. I could not comprehend how life dared to continue, how the sun had the audacity to rise without our son in our arms. It felt like mother nature was taunting us. However, we have learned that our son, our little Owen Benjamin, is our light. Everyday, he rises with us and keeps us moving forward. As a family, we are learning to navigate the darkness, with our light always with us, there to guide the way to the next adventure. Together. “Just enough dark to see how your the light over me” – Tallest Man on Earth [clip from August 22nd/ The Orpheum/ Vancouver, BC]
markwhistler Behind the mountains, the sun rises but we don’t necessarily see it with our eyes. This is much like our family, it may not be possible to see Owen but he lights up our lives regardless.
owenswonderfulworld A very thoughtful care package arrived from the family of Owen’s good friend in New Zealand. It was put together to comfort our hearts leading up to Owen’s 1st birthday. These gifts are so special to us. Two stones from Zach’s big brother’s collection (one from each of them), chosen specially for Owen’s garden and a plaque made with limestone from a quarry close to their hometown. The love heart is designed with ‘korus’ (inspired by the New Zealand fern frond, unfurling as it grows). It represents peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change and awakening. All things that Owen has brought to our lives.
We are so thankful for those we have met along this journey, who have set the same intention to offer support and community to each other’s hearts. While I wish we had never met, we would not be able to do this on our own. Thank you for loving our family.
owenswonderfulworld Our two year old neighbour recently ran in the Terry Fox run with his daycare. He ran in honour of his little buddy Owen. A friend that he will never physically meet, but is being raised to know in other, beautiful, ways. “Who are you running for?” “Oweeeennnnn!”
We even got to see a bear crossing the street, which is a great way to top off any day, never mind a special adventure one.
owenswonderfulworld Yesterday, we smiled for a family photo together. I actually smiled and it didn’t feel forced. I thought of my family, and felt the corners of my lips rise. Out on an 11 month birthday adventure, I could feel Owen with us. He is in the sunshine, in our smiles, in our actions – in everything that we do. He is so very present in our family. He is everywhere, shining light into our lives. This doesn’t mean that we are ‘healed’, it means we are learning how to embrace our family as we are – beautiful, together, and full of love. We love our son so much. He made us parents. He gives us so many reasons to smile. Even through the darkness, there is light.
owenswonderfulworld Empathy is letting someone know you care, even when you may not understand. It is sitting with a broken heart, absorbing all the sadness brings, knowing it has no bounds, understanding there is no fix. It is being there for someone when they need it most, without having to be asked. It is placing the needs of someone else before your own. It is community. It is love. It is appreciated.
markwhistler Empathy goes both ways, which when you are in the depths of raw grief is hard to see. It’s taken this amount of time and hard work, and there are still slip ups, to know that it can’t just be expected from others, they have had their own journey, losses and suffering which need to be considered and listened to before you truly know someone. Judging others is an easy way to offload pain, to wrap up anger and cast it onto someone else but it’s a weakness and only sharing in empathy is truly being empathetic.
owenswonderfulworld We read to Owen every night before saying goodnight. It is one of the many ways that we parent our son. One of the many ways we share our love as a family. The little guy has quite the collection of books. We have read some very exciting stories together, and will read many more.
markwhistler Books? What books? For fathers it seems the only option is to mentally replace every reference to mother and try and absorb something that’s not written specifically with you in mind, not easy when you’re just desperately looking for any words of comfort. The bookmark is how far I got through this before the use of ‘mother’, when ‘parent’ would have sufficed, was too much.
I get that mothers and fathers grieve differently and experience loss in different ways but there are also parallels, which if addressed together would go a long way to helping a shared experience and give fathers a voice.
owenswonderfulworld The squeeze of a mother’s toes and the tears as a daddy sees his child’s heartbeat for the first time, the pride of a mother hanging her baby’s clothing out in the sunshine, the sound of a father’s voice regaling a tale to his son (often followed by a hug, a play, or a combination of the two), the thrill of a family chasing the sunset together in Costa Rica, the happiness on a mother’s face as she eats a flight of her favourite dessert with her son, the gentle caress of the first touch, the rush of love felt the first time a mother holds her son – as he is lulled to sleep by the sound of a heartbeat he knows so well, the peaceful sight of a father having a sleep with his son. The moment shared between our family of three as Owen Benjamin opened his eyes and recognized the voices of his parents. The love. The intense love that we carry with us. So many memories that we hold onto, that we are thankful we have and took the time to make. Memories that we are continuing to create, even though they do not look how we expected. Even though they are overshadowed by ‘what should have been’ and sadness. We are trying. Our memories are precious. They are sacred. We cherish them.
markwhistler I’ve struggled with the topic of memory. Sometimes it’s all I feel we have and they’re so numerous, choosing one to focus on is almost impossible. Many of my most vivid memories of our time spent with Owen in the hospital are dark, places I don’t go too often, it’s cruel that the crippling memories sometimes fog the beautiful ones.
But as we stood outside in the Vancouver rain, a son in his mother’s arms taking small gasps of air, a family sharing the last moments together on Earth whispering comforting words to each other, in the midst of the most heartbreak any parent could experience, perfect memories were being forged from pure love.
Something else took over that night, and from the worst possible experience now lie only positive, beautiful memories.
owenswonderfulworld I love. I long. I wish.
markwhistler I’m playing catch up… Again, there’s a million things on the wish list but because of the timing, this one stuck out. Our little guy getting the chance to run around on this patch of grass that his Grandad’s mowing.
I spent days and days of my childhood kicking a ball around on this corner of the garden dedicated to such things, and deeply wish Owen had the chance to do the same.
owenswonderfulworld My family is beautiful. We do not look how we expected, but if you look with your heart, you will see us. All of us. I love my family.
owenswonderfulworld Congratulations. A solitary word I wish we had heard or read when our son was born. The moment we were officially recognized as parents (out of the tum). Owen Benjamin, our beautiful firstborn, arrived on October 30th, 2014, bringing with him an abundance of love and joy. I will always regret not announcing his birth when he was born. In the midst of tragedy, influenced by grief, shock and immeasurable sadness, I allowed my little boy’s introduction to the world to be overshadowed by his death that followed 5 days after his birth. He deserved so much more than this. He deserved welcoming, positive words full of happiness of his arrival rather than the condolences filled with sadness and pity. I feel like he missed out on the beautiful welcome into the world that he so rightly deserved. I feel like I took this away from him and I cannot change it. As parents, we want to celebrate our son. I refuse to allow my little boy to be defined by death. He deserves so much more. He deserves it. Welcome, little one.
markwhistler Words. Words like fuck, why, misery and anger, but also love, lucky, handsome and family.
owenswonderfulworld In the early days of our grief, we listened to a talk by artist Robert Bateman about the value and importance of spending time in nature to nurture well-being. At the time, when we were struggling to understand existence, it is what we needed to hear – how we could possibly begin to reconnect with a world that felt so foreign. Over the past 11 months, we have spent a lot of time exploring the natural world of our backyard. Feeling the bark on the trees, breathing in the crisp mountain air, dipping fingertips (and sometimes toes) into the glacial waters, listening to the crunch of leaves and pine needles of the ground beneath, spotting and appreciating wildlife, watching the seasons change. Sitting and just taking in the glow of the woods. The beauty of it all. All time spent with our son, learning about the world around us, everyday a new adventure. Together.
markwhistler My literal glow in the woods is my commute to and from work, when the weather and timing is just right to cast these beautiful colours into the forest it makes it impossible not to stop, think of our little boy, and smile.
owenswonderfulworld We have spent the past 11 months adjusting to a life different to expectation, learning ways to parent our son, in spite of physical separation. It hurts, there will always be tears, but we continue to persevere, knowing there are no other options. We are learning to carry the weight of the sadness the grief has brought with the happiness that our son continues to bring to our lives. This is our ‘new normal’. A delicate balance of emotion, always leaning towards love. This is us. This is our family.
markwhistler Normalizing grief
owenswonderfulworld I am not sure how we walked out of the hospital that rainy night last November. How we were able to let go of our son’s beautiful body and decide it was time to go. How we gave our last kisses, our last cuddles, and were somehow ok with that. I am not ok with that. I regret leaving his body in his room on his own and just walking away. I am not sure how we left him. I regret so willingly leaving the hospital without kicking and screaming. I didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t know. I wish I could go back. I need to go back.
owenswonderfulworld I have not been afraid to talk about my son, to expose matters of my heart. It feels good. It honours my son and the important role I carry as his mother. It matters. He matters. However, when it comes to the heart, vulnerability can be scary. To the bereaved parent, silence can be safer. They do not feel there is a space to share. They are protecting their hearts. People may misunderstand, they may say the wrong things, they may say nothing at all. People may also try, they may say the right things, they may learn. Tomorrow, October 15th, is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day. A time to honour all children held in our hearts. A day that gives the bereaved parent a voice, a step towards the acknowledgement their families deserve. A way to express matters of their heart that they may be protecting. Tomorrow, we share, we love, we celebrate.
owenswonderfulworld This evening, our community will be gathering to see a local covered bridge lit up in pink and blue in honour of all children carried in our hearts. Surrounded by love, we will tie these tags up to the bridge alongside messages from others. Candles will be lit to continue the wave of light that has travelled around the world to reach the west coast of Canada in Whistler, BC. Owen has brought this event, this celebration, to his community. He has brought, and continues to bring so much. He is so very loved.
owenswonderfulworld There are no words to adequately express how beautiful tonight was. So many beautiful hearts came together. Stories were shared. Tears were shared. Hugs were shared. We love our community.
owenswonderfulworld The changing of seasons reflects the passing of time. Another element beyond our control, surging forward despite any desire, need or effort to slow it down. Moving with it is our only option. Making the most of it is our only option. Not accepting, but embracing the changes of the seasons. Together, we have felt the raindrops of autumn, marvelled at the sparkle of the snowflakes on the trail, experienced the forest wake up from its winter slumber, witnessed the world being bathed in colour, and crunched every leaf we could crunch. We have, and continue to celebrate the beauty of the world and this life we have together as a family.
owenswonderfulworld The other day I learned that while listening to Owen’s heartbeat recording, if I put my phone at full volume, I can feel the vibrations of him. Of his heart. My little boy. Music to this mother’s heart and soul.
markwhistler As an outlet for my grief I picked up the dusty guitar in the corner and vowed to learn to play “Love is all” for my little boy. It’d had been years since I’d grasped a few chords so I had set myself a pretty good challenge, it’s taken me almost a year to feel like I can say I almost accomplished my goal. Using music creatively has helped me focus and re-find meaning in feeling accomplishment and I’ll always have our little boy in mind as I learn and play more.
owenswonderfulworld We are grateful for those who have asked about our son and have given us the opportunity, the space, to introduce our little boy, to continue to talk about and to proudly share him. We are appreciative of those who let us know when they have been thinking of Owen, allowing his spirit to flourish. We are thankful for those who understand that our son is so very present with us, and allow for the space to keep him there. We cherish this space that many have given to our family, recognizing that our love, our bond, transcends death and physical separation. We value this space. It is our sacred space.
owenswonderfulworld My love letter. Little messages sent in the most beautiful ways. We love you too, little one.
owenswonderfulworld FedEx Employee: “Who is Owen?” Me: “Owen is my friends’ baby! He’s turning 1 on Friday!” FedEx Employee: “Happy Birthday Owen!”
— Happy tears. I have so much gratitude for those who continue to celebrate Owen with us. For those who love our little boy and have made a place for him in their hearts. For those who have stood next to our family, recognizing our love – understanding it has no boundaries, knowing that smiles and tears can co-exist. For those who reach out, offering comfort with their words and thoughtful gestures. For those who do not hesitate to let our family know that we are loved. All of us.
markwhistler Gratitude for the delivery staff at St. Paul’s Hospital for fighting for Owen and gifting us 5 days together.
Gratitude to the NICU staff at BC Women’s who treated Owen with the special care he deserved and went above and beyond their jobs, particularly this amazing woman who gave her heart to him.
Gratitude to the continued support of close friends who show their love and care with the smallest gestures and words.
markwhistler What heals you
owenswonderfulworld It was on this day last year that we met as a family (outside of the tum). It was on this day that my heart learned a love it did not realize it was possible of. Every day, every moment, every breath since, has been spent appreciating and reflecting on the love and joy our son has brought to our lives. He made us parents. He made us a family. He makes us better people. Today, we celebrate Owen Benjamin’s first birthday. Happy birthday, little one. You are so loved.
owenswonderfulworld As one day ends, another soon begins. Even when some seem impossible, we get through. One breath, one moment at a time. Together.