This past year has been the hardest year of our lives, by far. Losing James was the most heartbreaking thing either one of us has faced. We never knew of such deep, deep pain and heartache. The sadness tugs at our hearts constantly and makes life feel unbearable some days. On the other hand, we would not have thought that there could be such a deep, deep love that exists and continues to exist for someone we only met so briefly. We miss James every day. Every day we think of him and wish he could be here with us.
In the past year, we did many things to try to mend our shattered hearts. We went to support groups for infant and child loss, read self-help and grieving books, talked to professionals, and mostly made sure we were there for each other. We were purposeful with our time and efforts and made the focus our family. Still, the missing piece of our heart was always there.
To have some time away, we traveled more than usual. The favorite cities visited were Honolulu, Montreal, Quebec City, and Niagara Falls. Hailey enjoyed learning about other cultures, seeing different landscapes and most of all, riding the rail in Canada.
On top of that, we also did more research on Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia and Cherubs. In June we flew to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend the annual Cherubs/CDHi conference to learn more about the organization and their research efforts. We met the founder, Dawn Ireland, who acknowledged our Games for James fundraiser and asked us to speak about it during the conference. We hope we can continue to raise money and awareness for this cause.
The most memorable trip from last year was a retreat put together by A Memory Grows. This non profit organization helps provide a space of healing for parents who are grieving the death of their child. Living with the loss of your child is a lonely road, but during this retreat, we were able to connect with other couples. We found comfort in being able to talk about James and our loss with people who understood and shared similar feelings. It was a healing experience and we made some friends who are now a big part of our lives.
Hailey also attended a weekend retreat called Camp Erin. Camp Erin is a camp for kids who have experienced the loss of a family member. They spend the weekend on the lake doing activities that help them identify and express their feelings. This allows them to grieve in a setting that doesn't make them feel out of place. She said she had fun and it also was meaningful.
As difficult of a year as we had, we were pleasantly surprised to find support in unexpected places. It is amazing how people we have never met before reached out and happily lent an ear or listened without judgement. The loss community opened up their kind hearts to us and we will always be grateful for them as well as our family and friends who were there for us.
Every day we wonder what life would be like if James was still with us and even more so lately since he would have been turning one. We imagine how he would be stumbling around the house, playing with his big sister, Hailey, and maybe saying his first words, “mom, dad”. We dream we could be holding him, kissing him, and hearing him laugh. It would have been wonderful to be able to celebrate his first birthday.
Instead, for James’ one year, our family came together in his memory and made birthday boxes that we donated to Hope Supply. This organization, among other things, delivers these birthday boxes to homeless children in the North Dallas area so they will have a gift (from James) to open on their birthdays.
We aren’t sure how year 2 will unfold. For a fact, we know that we will always miss James but will continue to live our lives as best as we can. James has turned our world upside down and then back again. We now see life with a new set of eyes and have an appreciation for what’s most important to us. Moving forward, we do not want thoughts of James to only bring sadness, but to think of him and feel the joy he has brought to us in the short time he was here and the legacy we will try to build for him. We want something good to come of this.
Our moments of joy were minimal last year after losing James, but one of them was our fundraiser. On that day, we were able to feel the love and support surrounding us while we helped a great cause in memory of James. A big fear we have is that the world will forget about him, like he never existed. We hope to make Games for James an annual event of bringing people together as we continue to raise money and awareness for Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia in hopes that one day there will be a cure or a prevention. Thank you for helping us keep our son’s memory alive.
James' One Year Celebration. We made 20 birthday boxes, decorated candles and mini flags for him.