Parenting with a Stitched Heart

There are thousands of blogs out there on how to parent and how not to parent, and every point of the spectrum seems to be touched-on when it comes to what ‘type’ of parenting style you should choose. This post, by no means, is a ‘how to’ sentiment.

In my opinion, parenting is love put into action. It can’t be much of anything else because so much action and so much love is demanded and necessary for the job. It’s non-stop work on the soul with lots of play in between so that’s why parents are tired all the time! Love put into action can take on many forms, and parenting is full of different stages and purposes so for that reason I will not even bother painting an image of what parenting should look and feel like because I’m not sure of it myself, but recently my husband and I have felt called to share our perspective on parenting after loss. In opening up about our parenthood with a new awareness of life’s fragility, our hope is to let you know that you are not alone in these thoughts and worries, that you do in fact encounter a strange kind of bereaved-parenting, and that hope can be pulled from the scars.


Laying in the dark, listening for noise, leaping out of bed to check once again that your child is breathing… Bracing yourself always, for the worst.

Flashing back, flashing forward, immediately worrying that silence or a phone call means death. 

Fearing the worst when your living children complain of anything out of the ordinary.

Saying no to anything too far out of your control for fear that you may be saying goodbye to your loved one for the last time.

Absolutely cringing when you witness people doing anything dangerous or taking their children’s lives for granted.


 

This list could go on for quite awhile but you get the point. The main commonality my husband and I have noticed when listening to other bereaved parents is the appreciation for every day/moment we are given and the anxiety of knowing that life is so very fragile and can be gone in a second.

Living with these fears can cripple a parent and their relationship with their God, spouse, children and peers. I remember listening to one mom describing her struggle with OCD and another couple who couldn’t bring themselves to have children again since losing their child in utero. It is hard, hard work to keep the fear in check. I, for one, have struggled with an anxiety that can effect me physically, so know that I do not pretend to have figured any of this out.

This new place we find ourselves in as parents means realizing new things about ourselves, about this life, and about death (which obviously has been around forever, but is different when it takes a child). I recently read an article from a Grieving Mom to a NON-Grieving Mom that put into words what our hearts were already experiencing. It might shed some light on how learning to live with this ‘anguish’ would affect everything about you, including your parenting.

 

Have you ever been in a store, at a park, in a crowded area filled with strangers and turned around to suddenly realize that your child has disappeared? Do you know the feeling of panic that ensues? Are you familiar with that terror? That ‘aloneness’? That horror? The utter confusion that envelops you? The trepidation that is felt in every fiber of your body? That momentary feeling that your heart simply forgot its next beat? The initial denial that is suddenly transformed into terrifying anguish?

. . .

If you can relate to this, then imagine it continuing on for hours, days, weeks, months, years…. Imagine being forever lost in this endless torment of crying out with every fiber of your being for your child that has disappeared. If you are able to relate to this for even a moment, you have for this moment, tried on my shoes.”

 

Much of the pain we encounter in our parenting with stitched hearts is this crying out for a child who is no longer here. It is love, wanting to be put into action for that specific child, but with nowhere to go, so it often manifests itself in a fear of some other impending death or a struggle to have joy because the void cannot be filled – the ‘crying out’ will not be silenced. It is a battle to stay present, to refocus over and over again on what IS and to leave the rest to God’s power and will. What is God’s will in all of this anyway? This place where our family feels broken but is also continuing on? I know that evil would like to rob us of any good, but God has much to give through our parenting children on earth and in heaven.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

-Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 

For example, when we watch our living children play, we soak in the moment like none other because this moment is a gift from God. We snuggle extra long, we kiss our babies EVERY night, we don’t hesitate to say something kind, deep or sometimes challenging to others because NOW is the time to say it. We let the small stuff slide – life is too short to avoid not getting dirty, staying up late, and experiencing hard but good things. Life is too fleeting to put God aside for a more convenient time. Heaven is real in our house – our children’s brother lives there so we talk about him and his joy as if we were talking about the neighbor friend going to summer camp. We wonder about what he’s done ‘today’ and we send him love notes in our prayers every night.

Speaking of prayers, parenting with stitched hearts means praying A LOT. Asking God for help, for the ability to trust, to love like him, to teach our living kids well and to help us all to heaven. Like all parents we worry if we’re doing it right and with the added fear and “down days” when your heart is so broken, it’s easy to fail in one way or many. We have found that praying from the heart as a family brings about the closest thing to healing and it allows us to reflect on our day, to be thankful, and to ask God and our saintly brother for guidance.

Fear is most definitely NOT the answer, nor the parenting style or lifestyle my husband and I wish to use. It is a symptom of the scars, it can be valid, but it should not be the inspiration. On our good days we remember to question what it is that we fear and why. If death is what we’re fearing, with faith that fear should be consoled. Death is not the end, only a spiritual death is worthy of being feared. Ecclesiastes 3:11 is so profound… “He has set eternity in the human heart;” Hasn’t death been stitched into our hearts? Pierced by the pain of realizing that life is fragile and fleeting? That we will never get to kiss our children again? On some days none of it seems to have a purpose, just so. much. pain. Rather than death, we must realize that eternity is what we are being made aware of, it’s absolutely brutal, but good, so good that “…no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

God has set heaven on our hearts as bereaved parents and our lucky children get to be there sooner than we do. Soak this thought in, and let that love wash over you Mom and Dad, let it inspire every day of your life here, every encounter with others, every act of love for your children. Living with this fear and struggle is in no way easy, but it can be good too. We pray for you!

Love, The Edmans

 

 

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Dear Dad…

Dear Dad,

I know we haven’t talked in awhile. I know you have done much of the talking with a broken heart. I know it’s difficult to understand life beyond, or what I would call life. I know pain and dysfunction seem to be far too common. I know you work so hard for Mom and the boys. I know you spend all your energy on running your race. I know you love God and you treat so many like an encounter with Him. I know you do a lot in the background. I know you have great dreams and goals. I know your character and I love watching you pass it onto your children. I know you have given so much. I know much of what you’ve given was for me. I know you still talk to me in the incredible sacrifices and virtue you practice in my name. I know your prayers. I know you love me. I know….

Watching you from beyond the veil is a pleasure for me. Not only do I know you, I know our Father as well. It is so amazing and so worth it, Dad. You will not believe it. You will love being here and even now you are being given so much purpose and strength to help you enjoy it all the more. I’m proud of you Dad. If I had lived longer I would have wanted to be just like you. But it turns out that I didn’t have to live long to experience your virtue and get a taste of what loving like Jesus on the Cross means. I think Christ’s love is a lot like the love of a father, full of sacrifice and strength… courage and love (even when it means heart-break). I hope you know that the love I experience from you, is a small, sweet taste of the love that your Dad in heaven has for you. “Do not be afraid,” you are so loved and WE are so proud of you. Can’t wait to show you all that I know someday!

I know we haven’t talked in awhile, but I talk about you everyday. Happy Father’s Day

Your biggest fan in heaven,

Clark
#lifeloveloss #happyfathersday #runtherace #thankfulfordad #ClarkJob#bereavedfathers

Dear, Brave Mama (a continuation)

“A little while and you will not see me,
and again a little while and you will see me.


Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

-Jesus (John 16:20)

“A little while…”

I’ve been trying to find the words to describe where my heart and mind are at in this grief journey as we come upon the 2 yr mark since we buried our child and experienced what I can only call an earth shattering paradox – my innocent baby is dead and God is good. I still am not sure how to express it.

Yes, earth shattering, worldview changing, something that cannot be fully grasped, something that seems to shock me more the longer I come from the time when it happened. I can say in many ways, I don’t mourn the loss of my son as much as I did at the beginning. I wish I knew him, I can imagine what it might’ve been like, but I don’t stay there for long because I can’t know and it wasn’t. Could this be healing?

Much of my comfort is from forward thinking, focusing on the hope that one day I can know him and experience with him the full presence of our Lord. Hoping that one day I can experience that joy that Jesus tells us about. Heaven truly is a consolation. But where does that leave me today?

Well, moment by moment I have to choose to be brave.

. . .

DEAR, BRAVE MAMA,
IF YOU ARE EMBRACING THE JOURNEY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT’S EASY TO FORGET YOU’RE GOING SOMEWHERE.
IF YOU ARE LOVING ANYWAY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, SOMETIMES THE SCARS FEEL CRIPPLING.
IF YOU ARE LIVING WITH PURPOSE, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT WOULD BE EASY TO LET GO OF THE DEPTH THAT KNOWS YOUR PAIN – WHERE GOD’S LOVING PURPOSE IS FOUND.
IF YOU CONTINUE TO SEEK GOD, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, HIS SILENCE CAN BE HEARTBREAKING.
IF YOU CAN BE OPEN TO NEW LIFE, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT’S SO SO DIFFICULT AFTER EXPERIENCING LOSS.
IF YOU CAN SPEAK/LAUGH/CRY ABOUT IT, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, THE WORLD WILL NOT UNDERSTAND. *you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices*
IF YOU REACHED OUT TO A BEREAVED FRIEND/STRANGER IN NEED, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT’S A VULNERABLE PLACE. 
IF YOU HAVE SOUGHT COUNSELING OR THERAPY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT’S HUMBLING TO ASK FOR HELP.
IF YOU MISSED YOUR CHILD(REN) IN HEAVEN TODAY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, THE YEARS CAN MAKE YOUR GRIEF FEEL LIKE A FAILURE.
IF YOU EMBRACED YOUR LIFE AND THE LOVED ONES WITH YOU, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, THIS ROAD CAN BE SO SELF-CONSUMING AND FORGETFUL OF THE MANY BLESSINGS BEFORE US.
IF YOU SOUGHT JOY TODAY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, JOY IS NOT ALWAYS GIVEN. *keep trying*
IF YOU HAD GRACE FOR YOURSELF TODAY, YOU ARE A BRAVE MAMA. BECAUSE, HONESTLY, IT’S EASY TO FORGET THE GRACE AND MERCY GOD HAS FOR YOU.
. . .

 

So often, still, do I fail at being brave. It’s so easy to try to run away, to hide, or to give up on the cross or the path set before me. I am a work in progress for sure, but hopefully my journey brings company to others in a similar place.

When I wrote my first Dear, Brave Mama letter I was a little more frustrated and impatient with where I was at. I had expectations of healing, standards that have proven to be difficult to attain, at least for myself. I chuckled when I read the part about my endurance being tested… “Oh honey, that endurance you thought you’d had, try throwing another year on it.” And I’m sure somewhere down the line, 5 years, 10 years, 30 years from now, that slice of our lives, that void of his, that ache that can’t grasp ‘why’ and the faith that sometimes struggles to trust that heaven is real, will show that this is a lifelong cross…

It just is. There are things we can do to help heal, to help cope and I’m trying to seek those out, but part of me is just learning that to be brave is also to accept the cross and to do your best to let it carry you to heaven. “In a little while” Jesus will resurrect us from our crosses. “In a little while” we will see that He saw us. “In a little while” we’ll know that this suffering was nothing compared to the glory He has for us. “In a little while” we’ll feel whole. But until then, learning to love God for who He is and how He loves us will be a full time job. Until then, learning to live joyfully and to find purpose and inspiration in our crosses will take energy. Until then, learning to love others without expecting comfort in return will be an active choice. Until then, we will have to keep being brave.

Click here to view the first Dear, Brave Mama post: https://lifeloveloss.org/2016/05/24/dear-brave-mama/

Life & Strength Amid Loss – Article

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A recent article that Cameron and I wrote about life with sweet Clark. Thankful to Mitchell Palmquist and the Diocese for wanting to feature our story (beginning on p. 12) in their beautiful magazine. With each little ‘Yes’ his life continues to direct us heavenward. Love you precious son 💙
http://faithdigital.org/Spokane/SPK0117/mobile/index.html?doc=A03FEDE68C21B522DF5988E335DDFF89

“On This Day”

A year ago to this day, much of the world got to meet our dear baby, Clark. Unbeknownst to us, the album, kept public for the sake of sharing with family/friends who were praying for us, went viral. These photos containing memories of his very short life capture things that cannot be said and the vulnerability and love that we experienced during this time is still difficult to grasp for ourselves.

A year ago to this day, I held the mouse over the “Delete” button as I watched numbers and comments soar… “This was never supposed to happen. I don’t think strangers should be seeing this. What will people say? What will they think of my sweet, broken son? Why is this happening? I will just delete it to be safe.” I sat there for several minutes praying and asking God why this was happening and what I was supposed to do. No great voice sounded telling me exactly what to do, I just forced myself to ignore the selfish reasons for hitting delete, like not wanting to be so open to the judgement of others, and only beautiful reasons to leave it remained.

I remember reading through some of the comments and couldn’t believe the love, prayers and healing that were taking place through the bright light of our son’s tiny life. Families facing the hopeless road of a bad diagnosis were given hope and a reason to hold on, if only for the gift of loving and embracing their child while they could. Mothers who were never allowed to see or hold their stillborn baby finally got a glimpse of that special baby. Siblings who never got to meet their sister/brother were able to feel a sense of love and closure for the person they knew existed but had no memory of. Nurses and Doctors who’ve watched parents treat life with such little respect were given hope by the love we had for our son. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends of parents who’d lost children were given a taste of the heartbreak that comes with loss like this. Families who were whole were reminded of the precious lives of their children and the blessing they are! And best of all, as Christmas was just weeks away, we were all given the opportunity to reflect on the tiny, helpless infant who would be born to such hostility and vulnerability, in order to save us all so that we might have heaven with him.

So what has a year meant to me and my family, since our greatest pain and most bittersweet experience of love was made public? Mainly two things:

  1. There is so much loss in this world and so many countless souls to pray for…
  2. Every. Single. Life. Matters…

In regards to the first, I will never, ever, ever, have cause to feel alone or ungrateful for the life I’ve been given. For the last year I have been a place to come to for empathy and prayer and I tell you if I truly prayed as much as I should for the many souls out there I would not have time for anything else. This is such a broken, tragic world. So much pain and suffering. Where war, hate, indifference, disease take countless lives, so many of them children… Where tragedy and odds strike innocent bystanders for no known reason. It is too much for me to grasp, too heavy for my shoulders, but so clearly real and constant in this life I can only pray and reach out to the closest broken heart. My eyes have been open to a small sliver of the knowledge of suffering and how no life is immune to it. Death is a daily reality and it’s worth praying about. And thanks to our sweet boy in heaven I have continual opportunity to hope in a life after death and to pray that one day we can all be at rest and made whole in that beautiful experience.

Secondly, every human life matters more to this world and to our Father than we will ever know. Want proof? Look at our sweet Clark Job. The objective details of is life? He lived in utero for 9 months. We have no idea if he ever had a single thought. He passed during birth, his lungs never experienced oxygen. He was deformed, incomplete. His life was essentially nothing. Yet here we are sharing how he was so much more and witnessing a greater impact on the world than most know in a lifetime. This is not to say that a life lost and forgotten does not have the same value, quite the opposite in fact. What we do know from witnessing this for a year now is that only God can fathom the impact of every. single. life. and we are doing an injustice by underestimating the beauty and value of every soul thought into existence, regardless of their time here on earth. For these reasons I will always weep with you for your loss (miscarriage, infant, child, adult), every single one matters! Every life lost is a void in this life. I’m reminded by the quote from It’s a Wonderful Life, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Yes, each life touches so many other lives, it’s beyond our knowing. That awful hole should always remind us of the great value God puts in each one of us and the beautiful purpose each one of us has eternally. 

A year ago to this day, I had very little understanding of how God’s plan was playing out or how His will corresponds to the tragedies that take place every second throughout the world, including the death of our son. Today, I still will not claim to understand. I will say this, He has shown us – by walking with us – the way we are to journey through this valley of tears. We must continue on by holding each other up, sharing the burdens, loving selflessly and wholeheartedly, praying and depending on him for everything, and with our eyes on the Joy of heaven!

I want to thank you all for this year and for continuing to send love and support our way. That awful hole is still there, but we are more and more inspired to follow God’s calling and the example of our son’s life. Wishing you a very blessed, meaningful, inspiring Christmas as we once again turn to the Infant Jesus and contemplate the incredible gift of Himself!

“Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is.”
-St. Irenaeus

View Clark’s Story & Album here: https://lifeloveloss.org/2016/02/26/meet-clark-job/

“It’s the kind of heartache you can feel in your bones…”

It just is… Taking a moment to recognize that the pain of burying your child(ren) does not go away. Life moves, seasons pass, new joys can be experienced but your bones feel old and tired and it’s okay to recognize the heartache of that missing, invaluable life. Hugs and prayers for the many aching hearts out there.#hopeinheaven #lifeloveloss #clarkjob

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Interview: Clark’s Story Parts I & 2

We recently had the opportunity to share Clark’s story with our dear friends Jake and Lindsay in southern Idaho on Salt and Light Radio, their show is called Where Faith Begins. If you’d like to hear Clark’s story from our lips feel free to click on the podcast below which features Parts 1 & 2 of Clark’s Story.

Being able to talk about our sweet son and all that he has done in our lives is such a gift and we hope it brings love and inspiration to the many out there who are suffering themselves. God is close to the brokenhearted. He is with us every step and asks that we reach out to hold His hand in trust. Praying for all of you and still passionately waiting to embrace God and our loved ones in heaven! Love you Clark Job

Part 1 of Clark’s Story:

https://secure-hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/5/7/d57cbf88715bc124/Where_Faith_Begins_Show_7_111016-PODCAST.mp3?c_id=13284680&expiration=1481681349&hwt=0436b1aab89a1922245dcc6a4c5e1c14

Part 2 of Clark’s Story:

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/b/1/8/b189e10c3619ae71/Where_Faith_Begins_Show_8_112416-PODCAST.mp3?c_id=13286658&expiration=1481681129&hwt=4d101b8809a23dcf91635d292f0e1d2c

You Are Never Alone

“To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself.”
– Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

Please know that we are always loving and praying for the many souls God has made known to us through suffering (and the many to come). You are never alone, we are all united by prayer and the compassion of Jesus. God be with us and our hope always in heaven

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Dear, Brave Mama

Every once in a while it hits me, the honest pain and grief and struggle of this life.

But much of the time I am doing my best to stay strong, to heal, to chase success, to meet other’s expectations, or the expectations I put on myself… The bottom line is, day in and day out, I fail at most of these exterior goals. Inside, I crumble under the pressure, and the pain I would love to ignore. I wish I could “Go back to normal” sometimes, especially with these worldly goals in mind. Let’s face it, loss is not the best for a light, goofy mood. Loss is not the best when it comes to caring about money, or materialism. Loss is not the best for baby showers, play dates or certain friendships. It’s not impossible, it’s just not easy. And when I find myself overwhelmed with hurt, I get frustrated.

Frustrated that I cannot get rid of this pain. Frustrated that time is going by, but it still feels so raw and fresh. Frustrated that our son doesn’t have a playmate. Frustrated that it’s so quiet. Frustrated that, with only one child, I am not more capable. Frustrated that I don’t laugh or smile more. Frustrated that no matter how good my intentions, I often return to the selfish pity party that haunts my heart and keeps me from loving unconditionally.

I never knew how brutal grief could be, I never realized how truly evil Satan is – that he would prey on someone already so broken. When I finally realize that much of these frustrations are attacks on my soul, that they are trying to pull me from the love and mercy and friendship of God, I’m moved to look at them with less frustration and more patience. Life, and this stage of grief, has proven to be a true test of endurance and faith. Many times, I don’t feel like I’m succeeding at either, but every morning I get up.

Every day I cuddle with my two year old.

Every day I love and thank my husband.

Every day I hope in what’s to come.

Every day I love my God, and I tell Him.

Every day, I miss Clark.

Every day I choose life, and I try my best.

In addition, every day I fail at something or many things. No matter. Through this humbling process God has taught me that to choose His life and love and faith (which is new every morning *Lamentations 3:23) is nothing short of brave.

. . .

Dear, Brave Mama,
If you are breathing, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it hurts to breathe sometimes.
If you are living this life, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, sometimes even death sounds better than this place.
If you are walking through the pain, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it would be easy to stay down.
If you can muster up the tiniest prayer, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it can be hard to trust God.
If you can rejoice for new life, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it’s painful to even see another baby.
If you can continue in friendship, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it’s hard not being understood.
If you listened to music today, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, the deathly silence of grief is sometimes too loud to hear much else. 
If you got up out of bed today, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, it’s very easy to give up.
If you missed your child(ren) in heaven today, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, the loss of a child can be numbing.
If you embraced others today, you are a brave Mama. Because, honestly, to reach out and to love when you are this broken, and at the risk of being broken again, takes incredible grace and courage.
. . .

 

Patience, mercy, love, hope, and the honest humility to know that this life requires God’s help… I pray all of this for you and I today. We are all works in progress; sometimes that progress seems so small and it’s easy to lose hope. But I pray that we will be strengthened by the fact that we are trying, and seeking and breathing.

Take a deep breath and ask God into your grief. Let Satan try to tear at the beautiful love you have for your baby(ies), he will only be met with an overwhelming light of that love that God has created to be so strong, so pure, so brave.

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.
– St. Francis de Sales