Guest post by Jill Burnham
Our youngest son Wesley was killed on December 19, 2014. He was six weeks away from his third birthday and so excited for Christmas. He didn’t ask for toys for Christmas, but he was very specific with his wish list. He wanted a navy blue electric “gee-tar”– as he affectionately called it– with a strap, a yellow pick, a case and a tuner. Pretty tall order for a two-year-old, but that is what his heart desired. He was a lover of all things music. He graced our home with a talent show every day. He took his guitar to the ballpark, the grocery store, and even to preschool. On his last day with us he lead his preschool, along with their music minister, in their Christmas program. It is a moment I will never forget.
I don’t remember much about that first Christmas, except for sitting on my closet floor sobbing as I began to sift through the bag of stocking stuffers that had items for all three boys. With each item I pulled out of Wesley’s I sobbed harder. I felt desperation, anger and hopelessness. What was I supposed to do with his stuff? How could I simply put them back into the bag like he was never here? I knew I had to carry on for our other two boys, but we all felt a mind-numbing shock and nothing felt real.
After Christmas many more “first” milestones arrived. The one month mark since his accident, his third birthday on January 30, Easter, etc. They just kept coming. I knew down to the days how long I had been without him. I read in many books that eventually you will lose count of the number of days, you will then remember it by months and then years. That hasn’t been the case for me.
From the very beginning I dreaded the first year anniversary of his death and the third. The third seems odd to people when I say it, but it has weighed heavy in my heart from day one. I tried tricking myself into thinking if I can make it one year without him I would have some peace, knowing I’ve made it this far… I didn’t. It still didn’t feel real. After the first year anniversary passed, what should have been his fourth birthday arrived– followed by many more milestones I had to miss. Year two was no different. Another birthday and the realization that I will never get to walk him into his Kindergarten class. It was just one more year of ups and downs, moments passing me by– leaving my heart shattered each time.
Being a bit of a control freak, I researched very early on how many days we were blessed with him here on Earth– 1054 days. I know that November 8, 2017 will mark day 1055, and our family will have lived one day longer without him than we lived with him. I am not sure how this is possible. We are fortunate to have the support of family and friends, and we have faith on our side. But it still feels like a bad dream. How has everything around me continued to move forward, while my heart is standing still?
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were sitting on our back porch talking about our day. Out of the blue, I began to cry tears so heavy that I could barely speak when he asked what was wrong. I told him, “I feel crazy.” We’ve slowly learned over time that there is nothing we can do to take away eachother’s pain, except be there for each other. No words comfort this type of broken heart. This time was different. I explained to him that I felt crazy for knowing Wesley lived 1054 days. I told him on November 8, we will have lived one day longer than he was alive.
“Why do I do this to myself?” I said, “Who knows how long her child was alive, down to the day?”
He looked at me and softly said, “A mother who has lost her child knows that… You aren’t crazy, you are heartbroken and you are a good Mom.”
In that moment I realized, he was right. I am not crazy, I am a mother who has endured the greatest heartache possible– and I am surviving, milestone by milestone.
As November 8 draws near I already feel myself starting to retreat. My body physically feels the weight of this milestone nearing and aches all over. I know I need to let my heart go through the process of feeling whatever it is I need to feel, but going through these emotions is like ripping off a Band-Aid each time. I hope to find comfort in going through Wesley’s clothes, remembering each moment we shared together in them. I will hold his guitar (looking for his fingerprints,) and I will snuggle his stuffed animal shark that he loved so much. But I know nothing will replace the longing I have to hold him again.
As one of my biggest hurdles is staring me in the face I have accepted the fact that I’m not crazy. I am a mother whose love for her children never goes away. Not having Wesley to hold in my arms doesn’t make me love him less. I am his mom and I always will be.
Each of us deals with the loss of our children in different ways. Know that your way is right if it helps you heal. You aren’t crazy, you are a Momma with a heart that longs to be in two places at one time. You are surviving. You are loved.
Jill Burnham is an aspiring writer, hoping to engage readers by sharing her raw and transparent experience of child loss, after losing her youngest son, Wesley. Jill is an Interior Designer by trade, but is taking a leap of faith and fulfilling a calling from God to embark on this journey. Jill has been published as a guest writer for Still Standing Magazine, and is the Co-Founder of the Wesley Burnham Foundation. When Jill is not working as a designer, giving the gift of music and scholarships through the foundation, or writing, she is finding ways to be thankful for the little things with her husband and two sons. Jill will always be the proud mother of three amazing boys.
Copyright © 2017 A Bed For My Heart. All rights reserved.
You are a wonderful Mother of three forever. I know the heartache all too well. We Mother’s measure time as before and after, and always will. Thanks for sharing your story.❤
I am literally in a puddle at this moment….I am so sorry, so very sorry, for the loss of your precious Wesley..
Until I read your story, I thought I was going crazy, myself. Today marks 1, 246 days since my daughter was killed. Only my husband knows that I keep track. His response is “whatever you need, babe..you know I understand”..
I am also fortunate to have family and friends who are super supportive, but many times I still feel alone even when in a group of people. Because only another bereaved mom will “get” where I am at.
Thank you so very much for sharing your story, and your pain. You helped me today in more ways than I can put into words.
Much love. Keep shining, Momma!!!
We also lost our youngest son of three boys, 3 days shy of his fifth birthday. He lived for 1822 days. Your words could have been taken out of my own heart. I’m walking right here with you. Xo
Tears run down my face as I read your post. If I could I would cry with you and sit with you for a while. I understand the feeling of being crazy, I now know it the grief of losing a child. I will keep you in my prayers. Love you❤️
Sharon Munson says
My heart aches for you and your family, on June 16th 2007 I lost my son Eric Woulard he was 21 years old he to was killed there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my baby, I share my story with you because I truly feel your pain. You and your family are in my prayers. ????
Roma Holley says
I, too, feel your pain. My son was 21 years 09 months 21 days old when he was killed 5 years ago. I’ve felt what you are feeling. I’m just a little bit further down the road on the same journey. I hate that we have this bond. However, I know that we have the same bond with God and that he too understands our heartache. But he sees his son again. We will also have the opportunity to see our sons again. This gives me some degree of peace. I hope that it helps you too. Praying for you and yours……~~Roma~~
Ann Marie Knox says
I found “A Bed for my Heart” shortly after my son’s death and it has helped me more than I can say. Thank you SO much for sharing. My first pregnancy in 1968, ended in a miscarriage, and I don’t know where the remains are, and it breaks my heart. On July 16, 2016, my second born son died, he was 44 years and 9 days old, and the only difference is this time, I know where he is buried. I am so happy to know that I am not crazy!!! Both of these children (yes, I know that Eric was a man but he is my child) and I mourn each of them to this day. I made myself a “crying” cd that I listen to – I drive my car to the cemetery where Eric is buried and listen to that cd. The cemetery is so peaceful and quiet. I have been blessed with 4 sons (3 surviving and my miscarriage baby was to young to know the sex), great daughters-in-law and 15 grandchildren and I thank God for all these blessings, but it can never replace the 2 that are not in my life! And I do think of my life as before and after! I always thought that a parent “gets over” these losses, but I cannot ever get over it. People say, but you have other sons, yes, but 2 are not here and I will never get over these losses. Life goes on and I try to enjoy the memories I am making now – but it is always through the lease of those that are not still with me. Thank for letting me write! thanks for helping me feel “not crazy”! If you ever consider making a baby remembrance that is not the blue or pink, I would like one.
Shannon Westerman says
Living after my child is gone does feel crazy, like a surreal nightmare. Life doesn’t feel real or normal anymore, because it is not. Learning how to live with constant pain and sadness, and to try to enjoy what’s left, my surviving children, is a daily battle.
Joanie Madsen says
Just knowing that I have my sisters of the heart who understand the language of loss, grief and finding hope in the midst is what helps me to continue to walk this path none of us ever imagined being on. 9098 days is how long I had my son, Douglas, earth side and I miss and long for him with every breath I take. Deeply LOVED and sorely missed always.
I’m so sorry Wesley is not here with you in the ways always dreamed of and together, Hand in hand, Heart to heart we will learn how to integrate our loss into the fabric of our lives now.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart as I found myself nodding and saying, “Me too.” This is where my healing lives as a verb, in times such as this when I understand that I am NOT alone even though the path can feel SO very lonely at times.
Gentle care and SO much understanding~
Angela Palmer-Fisher says
I hate being part of this group that no one wants to be part of, but there is one thing I have learned…my love for my son didn’t go away when he died. And though it is so easy to continue to love him, it is so hard to accept that I can’t love him the way that I want to and that I am missing all those things I so looked forward to. While all of our losses are so very great— When I read the exact date of your numbers I couldn’t help but recognize the significance of yours. I often look at a clock and it will always be the same time.. I have experienced this so often both before and after the loss of my son that I could help but notice the ribeye in randomness of it. Shortly after my sons passing, I started to see a new number all the time. 10:55. It didn’t take me long to realize that if you look closely at it— it spells loss. For me it is an acknowledgment and a confirmation of the great loss that I have had. I like to think it is a small message from my little man recognizing my love for him and letting me know that he knows how much that I am missing him and wishing he were with me. I know I sound crazy— but I think that most people who know me would say that I am as level headed as they come. Just thought I would let you know I understand… and for me— when I read the caption of your piece— I thought about loss. Thinking about you and acknowledging the greatest of your loss in the upcoming days.
Debbie Kimbrough says
I had my son 44 years until he was killed March 13, 2017. I don’t know how it must feel when your child is so young. I wanted God to take me too. But I must go on for him. He would have been 45 this past Monday, October 30.
Maura Mackey says
What a loving testament to your beautiful son. We lost our grandson three years ago. He was 22 mths old and died very suddenly of an invasive A type strep. Never sick a day in his life. Brought to the hospital at 10a.m. and dead by 3p.m. We live with the grief of his death and the grief experienced – just like you and your husband – of our daughter and son-in-law, every single day. They also have two more beautiful children, now just 9 and 7. Life is certainly very different from what we envisioned when Niall was born. All the milestones, events, special occasions that are so painful now for Deirdre and John – are also so painful for us. Reading your post Jill really gives myself – and many others – the strength to take each day and to share part of ourselves with others. Thank you for expressing so profoundly how many of us feel. Thank you.
Just this week I was counting how many days since my son went to heaven- never did that before, and it will be 3 years on Jan 3, 2028. I miss him all day everyday.
Jill Burnham says
Thank you everyone for such a loving outpour of support. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this article. Thank you Angela Miller for allowing me to use your platform. I am sincerely grateful to you all.
Arlette Phillips says
I have three boys too and my oldest was killed Aug. 7, 2014. I have been in bed all day sobbing because the pain is so severe. Why is year three as difficult as the year it happened? I saw your sweet little boy and cried all the more. I am so sad for us, all of us who have lost our sweet children. Please be kind and nurturing to yourself and kiss your boys. Take care.
Miranda Parker says
November 8th is my brother’s birthday. He would be 42. He was 22 when he died… on November 15th, 1997. 20 years this year. In 2 more years he’ll have been gone longer than he was here. I’m a sister, but I count the days too.
You’re not crazy.
Sending loving thoughts your way. <3
Deb Baltenberger says
My heart breaks for you and understand every bit of what you wrote.
On November 8th 2017 at exactly 3:45 pm I will be in my bedroom, I will look at the north facing wall, waiting for the sunbeam to come in and rest on the place where Melanie Ann was laying in the cradle (27 years ago).
Every year I take the 8th off from work. I spend the day remembering how wonderful a day it was… 27 years ago. I remember, coming into the bedroom (at 3:45 PM) and, as I looked at her sleeping in her cradle, saying aloud to myself (not knowing what would happen a mere 4 days, 12 hours and 2 minutes later) “She’s such a beautiful angel”.
She lived exactly 6 days, 21 hours and 44 minutes. When Kimberly was born 14 months later… making it to 6 days, 21 hours, and 45 minutes was monumental. Each minute, each day has been such a gift. Kim turns 26 on January 19th. Melanie would turn 27 on November 6. The 8th is the day we brought her home from the hospital and I take THAT day to remember the gift of her life.
You’re not the least bit crazy. You are loved and you have loved, and you continue to love.
Lois Schmidt says
I can identify with all the mothers that lost their babies, and yes they are your babies, no matter the age, I have lost four,two boys and two girls,I’m old now,and I don’t want to discourage any one of you, but the pain never goes away, in my case it is Jesus that gets me through, cause with out Him, it’s very hard, He assures me I will see them again, so that’s my hope, the holes are there, but,time does lesson the pain, I will be praying for all mommas out there, that’s been where I’ve been, May God give you His peace. Lois Schmidt
I lost my son 13 years and 6 mos ago. He was 12years and 6 mos old. May is the month he died in and November is the month he was born in. I always dread November, as my birthday is 11/11, and my sons birthday is 11/12. To this very day, the hardest part is
The world moving forward while my heart stands still. I hate that the world keeps going on May 19, and on November 12, while I continue to grieve.
Praying for you and your family
Blue Ridge, TX
Carrie Field says
Yes Jill, I worked out the exact days my child lived (14 months) and then worked out how many hours I was at work and subtracted that and could see how many hours I spent with her. I absolutely get you with the days crossing over when we start to outlive the time they were with us. I don’t think we are the only ones and I think this certainly pertains to younger children dying – it seems so mean to be robbed so soon. WHY oh Why – http://www.inmemoryof.com Juliette Wright – driveway accident. xxxxx I will be thinking of you on Wednesday 8th November dear Jill hugs xx
Kelly Anderson says
Yesterday was my son’s 31st birthday. He died 619 days before that. I stayed home from work – I can’t work on his birthday or the anniversary of his passing. I spent most of the day with memories and thoughts of him, lots of it through tears that flowed as much as the day he died. I am blessed that he had lots of wonderful friends and I have wonderful friends who remember his birthday and send me messages, call me, visit me. Last night we had a cross-country and international toast for him at 8PM my time! It was such a good feeling to know so many were thinking of him and sending him love at the same time! I also read your post, Jill, and all of the comments from mom’s who know. I just couldn’t respond yesterday. It is always so comforting, but also sad, to hear from others who share this pain. No matter how you express it, we all understand exactly what you’re saying. I miss my sweet buddy every minute of every day. That will never change. I look for signs of his presence everywhere – feathers, cardinals, pennies – and I know that sounds crazy too. But we all find our own way of dealing with the loss and holding them close in our hearts. You are not crazy. None of us are crazy. We are just Mom’s trying to stitch together our broken hearts any way we can. Peace and blessings to all!
Today is November 8, 2017… It is now one day more that Wesley has been gone from you since he has been with you. But you know what? … It’s also 2109 days, plus 9 months, that you’ve known Wesley…. And he’s still with you. In your memories as you remember his guitar picking, in the puff of wind that brushes against your cheek like a soft kiss, wafting from the scent of a child’s bubble bath, and a seemingly similar grin that erupts from a strange child that reminds you of your boy. Be at peace and know… he is still with you.
We lost our son on 11/15/17. He was 10 years and 29 days old. He lived for 3,682 days and has been in Heaven for 19 days. There aren’t words to express what we are going through, but you all know so I don’t have to try to find the words. I am so thankful for Angela Miller.
Jennifer Evans says
In March of 2005, Our Joshua was born 9 weeks early and in renal failure. Along with that, he had hyper dysplasia lungs due to the fact that there wasn’t much amniotic fluid because of the renal failure. He lived 2 days shy of 8 months and never left the Hospital. When we chose not to abort him we knew that it was going to be difficult. And that he would have many many medical. And that there was less than a 50% chance that he would live. Knowing this you would think that it would be able to prepare us for what might come. But as you said he was a living breathing part of my heart.
What I found to be so strange is family and friends who were there to support us he was alive Now don’t understand why I still grieve. And why I still have little celebrations of his life on his birthday. I have managed to take my grave and use it for good having an annual blood drive in his memory. I would suggest to anyone to try to find something that you can do to channel your grief as I have done. It does give me a sense of, maybe the word is the satisfaction that his life and loss does have some meaning to it.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m grieving the loss of my 3year old baby boy. I miss him so much. Even though I have 2 other boys and blessed by god with one on the way. I miss my little josh. My soul is lost I’m not the same my heart breaks
Sandy Smith says
I am so thankful I came across your blog.