5 stages of grief

It’s all I can do.

“We get no choice. If we love, we grieve.”

-Thomas Lynch

Today is Kellan’s due date. The one my doctor actually gave me. I think August will actually be harder then July. I hope I’m wrong.

I will never forget the first time I was introduced to the 5 stages of grief. I was 13 and my grandma was dying of pancreatic cancer. Hospice gave me several different things to read to help me. Nothing helped. She was a magnificent and amazing woman. I loved her so very much, and I was devastated that she was dying.

13 year old Tiffany, much like 33 year old Tiffany, didn’t want to read about the stages of grief. I was in denial (stage one) about my grandma dying. So much in denial that at her funeral I remember telling myself (in my head) over and over again that she was alive, going to get up out of her casket, and it was all a mean joke.

It wasn’t a joke. She was dead. And so is my son. There is no denial stage for me with this one.

I think the concept of the 5 stages of grief makes sense, but I don’t believe we move through the stages. This isn’t AA, and we aren’t going through the “steps to recovery”. I think we bounce between them.

  1. Denial – I never really had this with Kellan. Just that I couldn’t believe this was my reality.
  2. Anger – I’ll touch on this stage in detail below.
  3. Bargaining – I’ve played the “what if” game from the second I found out Kellan was gone – and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to stop.
  4. Depression – I am not depressed, I am heartbroken. No medication or therapy will solve this. It will just take time.
  5. Acceptance – I have accepted that Kellan is gone, but I am still absolutely devastated.

The stage that really bothers me is anger. I think that in all explanations of the stages, they fail to explain with anger is jealousy. Jealousy and fear. This is where I am going to get uncomfortably real and raw….

I am in a phase of my grief where everything feels precious. I watch people walk around and post pictures with their pregnant bellies, their new babies, their children, their families. I watch and I feel a strong sting of jealousy.

I have never in my life thought of myself as a jealous person, so this is a very strange feeling for me. I have always been happy for other’s joy. But now I can’t help the jealousy I have and I hate it so much. It’s not that I don’t want others to have joy, it’s that I am jealous mine got taken from me. I feel resentment.

The weird thing about this whole process, is that I don’t want to NOT see these things. I don’t want to be excluded, or not be told about things. I AM happy for people and I do want to know and see things. Sometimes I’m ok. Sometimes I break down. Sometimes I’m jealous. I don’t know how I’ll be, and I truly can’t control it. It sucks.

I also feel guilt for feeling this way. I feel embarrassed. It is horrible. And no “stage of grief” describes this or tells you it’s coming.

I was talking to my husband about these feelings and he said something that made a lot of sense. Not to feel resentment, but to see how fortunate others are. Feel happy for them, but it’s ok to feel sad for us. He is such a strong and intelligent man. I wish so badly that I could channel his thoughts and feel the way he does. But I get jealous. I get resentful. And I didn’t know I would feel this way.

Fear and anxiety. The only reason I know that my fear and anxiety of things is normal is because of the other articles and info I have read or gathered from women who have gone through what I have. No stage of grief describes fear.

Fear of seeing people. Fear of being asked if you had your baby. Fear of breaking down in front of others. It makes you want to isolate yourself as a form of protection. I have done my best to not do this, but some days I wish I could just run away as far as possible where no one knows me.

But that’s not realistic. People do know me, and people know I was 36 weeks pregnant. A lot of people know I lost my son, a lot of people don’t. And I have to be prepared to handle it. And it’s scary. But being scared of it isn’t going to stop the situation.

Yesterday I went and got my nails done. It was something I was very scared to do. I knew the last time they saw me, I was about to have my maternity pictures taken. I picked the specific mint color because I thought it would look great for baby boy maternity pictures. I knew they were going to ask me about my baby. I was very fearful.

Sure enough, I sat down and the question was asked with happiness and excitement, “Did you have your baby?” and I broke down. I told her through shaken words that my son passed away. The tears came, I couldn’t stop them. My heart hurt for her as much as it hurt for me. You could see the complete look of horror and devastation she felt. That is what I feared. But I got through it. I wiped my tears and I breathed.

I am fearful because I wonder when I walk into a room if everyone knows what happened. Or do they not? Are they all looking at me like I am broken, and feeling sorry for me? Or am I just another person in a room full of others? I never know, and this is scary.

Sometimes I do know everyone in the room. And it feels as though each person is walking on eggshells wondering what to say to me. Feeling sorry for me, and just waiting to see what I do and how I act. Is this really happening, or is my fear making it up? I’m unsure. But I do know fear is a very real part of grief, and I never knew about it.

As I continue to navigate through this process, I keep realizing how much I didn’t know. I’ve always thought of myself as a well educated individual, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

I wish so much that I could somehow prevent anyone else from ever feeling this way. But I know I can’t. So I will continue to write, and I will continue to be real. It’s all I can do.

you should be here

You will forever be my world.

“I will always wonder who you would have been.”

When I found out I was pregnant I put it into my phone and it calculated my due date as July 28th, 2019. My doctor told me July 30th, so I decided in my head that July 29th should be the day. July 29th is Scott’s grandma’s birthday, so I wanted that for him & his family. She called me Tinsel and I loved her. I thought it would be so special for them to share a birthday.

But today, July 28th was the day I put on all of the announcements. Today is the day I should either be having a baby, preparing to have a baby, or already have Kellan in my arms. The next few days are going to be hard. So again, I will write to my baby in heaven.

Dear Kellan,

I think about you every minute of every single day. Today as I drove home from the grocery store, I held my hand on my chest to feel my heart beating, to feel myself breathing. It feels so broken without you that sometimes I just have to make sure.

There are so many things I wish I knew about you, it’s hard to narrow it down to just three. I don’t think I will.

One night when I was pregnant with you, I stayed up late thinking about how I’d make sure you understood the different sports teams we were fans of. Of course you’d understand Kansas Basketball, and why we love them so much. I’d need to make sure you knew our obsession with the Eagles, and how your uncles both love the Giants, but we still love them.

How Dad makes us watch the Yankees all the time, and I’d probably have to deal with you loving them too. Then I’d have to make you realize we loved the Northwest Bearcats when it comes to Division II sports. And with hockey – we have to watch every single game that’s on. But we cheer for the New York Rangers…and the Philadelphia Flyers…when they aren’t playing each other.

I remember thinking how confusing it would be to you, and then realizing how silly I was to be worrying about it. How much I wish I could go back to those worries.

I wonder which sport would be your favorite. I think about what sports you would have played. I wanted you to play basketball, and I’m sure Scott wanted you to play baseball. We joked that we hoped you didn’t want to play hockey. But we would have loved it. I wish I knew if you would have played hockey. If you would have been a forward or a defenseman. I couldn’t handle you as a goalie.

I worried about you playing junior hockey. Wondered what coach you’d play for, because I knew your Dad said he wouldn’t want to coach his son. He would just want to be a hockey dad. How silly it seems now that I worried about what 16-20 year old Kellan would be doing. But I did. I always thought about who you’d be as you grew up. I knew you would be great.

I wonder if you would have loved school like I do. I had such high hopes about how smart you would be. You have so many books in your room. Books are one of the first things I purchased for you. I wonder what your first word would have been. What your favorite subject in school would be. If you would do your homework without me telling you. I wonder where you would have went to college. If you’d play sports in college, or maybe get an academic scholarship.

I wish I knew what your voice sounded like. I remember right before we had you, they told us it would be just like a normal birth, except we wouldn’t hear you cry. Hearing that killed me a little inside. I knew that was reality, but hearing them say that to me was painful. I wish I could have heard you cry.

I think about what you’d look like as you got older. I see babies, kids, teenagers, all of the time around me. I wish I knew how tall you’d be. I think you would have been tall.

I know you would have been a sweet little boy. I was going to make sure you knew your manners. To say please and thank you, and to be polite. To be respectful of those around you, to treat animals well, and to be a loving person. I couldn’t wait to teach you to pay it forward. I had so much to teach you my sweet baby.

I wish I knew so much about you Kellan. But I will never get the chance to know. My future with you got taken away from me so quickly. I never even knew a life without you was a possibility. I never knew I wouldn’t get to meet you alive. I wish it could be different, you should be here. But I know it can’t be different, and I know you can’t be here.

I hope every single day that you know how much I love you. I know in my heart you do, but I still hope. My heart aches for you like I never knew it could ache for someone. I wish I knew what you thought about me. I wish I knew how much you loved me. I hope I make you proud that I’m your mom.

You will forever be my world.

Love always, Mom

dear kellan

My heart & soul will always long for you.

“No one ever wanted anything more than I wanted you.”

– Unknown

The first week after Kellan died, I searched for books and journals to help me through the process. Writing has always been something I have used to express my thoughts.

I stumbled across the most perfect one: Angel Book – a baby loss journal. There is a free download available, I also bought a copy because it was beautiful and I wanted to support the creator. Here is the link to the free download: https://sweetjulian.ghost.io/baby-loss-journal-healing-one-broken-heart-at-a-time/

So now that I am upon Kellan’s due date I have decided to start my way through this journal. Instead of writing in the book, I will write here. Page one, here we go.

7/26/2019

Dear Kellan,

I found out about you over Thanksgiving. I was in Topeka and moving my store. I remember looking down at the test and seeing the word pregnant and my whole world stopped. I couldn’t quite believe how lucky I was that I was going to get to be your mom.

I took two more tests. Not because I didn’t believe it, but because I was so excited to see them say yes. I couldn’t wait to tell your dad, your grandparents, and of course my best friends. But I was also scared to lose you. I was always scared to lose you. I think it’s because I loved you from the moment I knew you existed, and I couldn’t bare the thought of ever not having you. Now that I know a world without you, I understand that feeling more than ever.

I knew how special you were, and how good of a mom I was going to be to you. I wanted to make sure every single person I told about you was told in a special and thoughtful way. I made the most precious and beautiful onesie for your dad. It had buffalo plaid print and said Hello Daddy – Baby Langer Due July 2019. He was so surprised. I recorded his reaction so someday I could show you. Kellan, he would have given you the world.

I told your Grandma and Grandpa Logue with a surprise photoshoot and video. It was perfect in every way and their reaction was exactly how I thought. We told your Grandma Langer and Uncle Ray with a surprise package to New York. I will never forget being on FaceTime with them and seeing their joy. I recorded everything , because I wanted you to be able to see someday how excited we were for you. Your Uncle Timmy got a special package as well.

I told my girlfriends, the ones you would have called your Aunts, and they were all so excited about you. You got your own stall in the hockey rink, for your dad’s team to learn about you. I even designed wine bottles for you.

I planned everything and did each step with so much care my sweet baby. I purchased your first pair of hockey skates, and we took pictures to tell the world about you. Your dad hates pictures, but he was such a good sport. He knew what it meant to me to have everything for you. I wanted every single thing I did for you to be perfect, just like I knew you deserved. I even sent out postcards announcing your due date.

Originally of course I wanted a gender reveal party, because that’s what everyone does. I decided against it because all of your family & our friends are spread around the states. It wouldn’t have been as fun without everyone there. Your dad and I decided to just find out together, and I’m so glad we did it that way. It was so special. When we were told you were a boy, I remember it was so quick I was surprised. I thought it would take some time, but nope. You, my love, wanted to make sure we knew.

I wanted to tell everyone again in a special way about you being a boy. So I kept it a secret and revealed it to people in unique ways. My favorite was to the hockey boys with a puck I ordered that burst open with blue powder. Their reaction was priceless, and my heart exploded with joy watching the video. I must have watched it 500 times.

You deserved it all sweet Kellan. You made your dad and I so incredibly happy. I’ve never been so proud of something more in my life, as I was of you. You my son, were perfect. Too perfect for this world. And I will wait for the rest of my life to hold you again. I will love you and miss you forever. My heart & soul will always long for you.

Love Always, Your Mom

3 weeks later

I love you KAL.

“Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s been 3 long/short weeks since I last held my lifeless baby. I say long/short because it feels like time is dragging, yet I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks. He was supposed to be born in 3-5 days. I’m supposed to be miserably pregnant right now or holding my sweet baby and posting a million pictures of him. But instead I’m writing about his death. What a cruel cruel reality.

Today started out rough, but got better throughout the day. It’s like people around me knew it was going to be a tough one, so I was constantly sent love and surprises to make my day better. Thank you to everyone in my life for that.

I tried to explain my pain this morning. The best way I could even attempt to describe it: it feels as though there is a huge weight on me and I can’t get it off. It just feels so heavy, and I’m forced to go through the motions of life with it constantly pushing down on me. But I can still move.

I went into Kellan’s room today. My mom had started the process of washing all of his clothing (because apparently you’re supposed to do this before your new baby wears them). She brought them back to me, because I have been so graciously gifted a bear to be made from his clothes. I needed to decide which items the bear would be made from.

I picked up each of the clothing items I so lovingly and carefully had selected for him. A whole new layer of my broken heart ripped in pieces. I broke down and collapsed to the floor. The unbearable pain of holding the clothes my beautiful Kellan will never get to wear. I couldn’t do it, I had put them down and leave. I will try again another day.

I read another article today. The last paragraph felt so real to me. Here’s the link if you’d like to read the entire thing: https://sojo.net/articles/new-normal-ten-things-ive-learned-about-trauma?fbclid=IwAR0R7LIhMVKl8mdVfM6SF11bP-UjPOmeapNq6AV5wHGInY9yCxdP_rzhvlY

“Living through trauma may teach you resilience. It may help sustain you and others in times of crisis down the road. It may prompt humility. It may make for deeper seasons of joy. It may even make you stronger.

It also may not.

In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you.”

I feel as though one of the hardest, yet most remarkable parts of life is that it does go on. Some days I wake up and don’t want to move, but I know that I have to. Either way the world is going to continue moving, so I might as well get up and face it.

I’ve learned throughout my life, especially in the last 3 weeks, that every person that is placed in your life, even the negative ones, are meant to be in your life. You may not understand why, but they are teaching you something. You will need them or they will need you. It’s truly fascinating.

A group contacted me on my business Facebook page June 12th to schedule an event in July. That group? Mothers of Angels. They scheduled for July 10th. I didn’t realize I had met the founder of the group months earlier when she was at my store for 2 separate things. Turns out I needed her and this group more then I ever knew I would.

The group serves as a support system, and also creates memory boxes for hospitals. These boxes go to families who have lost a baby. They have special keepsakes, molds, and books. Things I had no clue I needed, but am forever thankful for now.

What are the chances that not only had I met the founder, but that their group was coming to my store the week after I lost Kellan? I get Aberdeen is small, but not that small. I am navigating my way through the group, and learning their stories as I go. I always knew that women are strong and powerful, but I never knew just how strong and powerful.

While I do believe people are placed in your life for a purpose, everything does NOT happen for a reason. Absolutely not. After my nephew died, I stopped believing and saying this phrase. Now that Kellan is gone, I feel even more strongly that this concept is ridiculous. I highly suggest to everyone I know to do your best to not say this phrase. It’s painful to hear, even though it’s said with good intention.

While I refuse to concede that everything happens for a reason, I will not let my child’s life go without reason. He will have a strong purpose in this world, and he will make a difference. He will do it through me, his mom, his warrior. I will forever make this world a better place in memory of Kellan. I am a better person because of him. I love you KAL.

tears never run dry

I am a mom.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

– Queen Elizabeth II

I walked through Walmart today and am unsure what happened, but I just couldn’t help but want to cry. I felt the tears start to well up, and turned down the trash bag aisle. I stood there blankly, trying to pull my shit together.

As I continued on my way, the tears gathered in my eyes. I wondered as I walked by people if they noticed. If they could see my crushed soul, or if I was just another body walking by them. I wondered how many people I walk by every single day that are fighting back tears. It made me feel a little less insane.

As I walked through the parking lot I tried to lie to myself. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t want to be a mom. How difficult easy tasks like going to Walmart would be if I had a baby with me. But it’s not true and it didn’t work. I shook my head as I got behind the wheel to head home. What a stupid lie to try to tell myself. Nice try Tiff.

I’m cleaning out our storage unit because it’s been sitting there since last August, and it needs to be done. I found 4 bottles of wine today. I threw them away. The last thing broken hearted Tiffany needs is wine or any type of alcohol. At least I’m smart enough to know that I can’t drink. I need to stay smart.

It’s crazy how your perspective on life can change in the blink of an eye. The things I thought mattered so much, just really didn’t matter. The energy I wasted. I really hope that I hold on to this perspective. If there’s anything to take from everything that’s happened, I’m thankful to be woken up to what matters in life.

I find it fascinating that our bodies never run out of tears. You’d think that one could cry themselves dry. Turns out, each day I seem to find all of the tears, especially at night. I wish I could run out of tears.

Sophie went to Kellan’s bedroom door twice tonight and barked at it. She’s never done anything like that before. I’ve always heard that dogs sense angels or spirits. I hope Kellan is here with us. I wish he really was.

We got our pictures we took at the hospital with the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer. I can’t look at them yet. I just can’t do it. I want to so badly, but I know it will tear the broken pieces of my heart into even tinier little pieces. If that’s even possible.

I am so scared to dream of Kellan. Only because I know I will wake up to the reality of him not being here, and be devastated. Every single night when I go to sleep I always hope I will not dream of him. How sad is that? Most people would probably think I’d want to dream of him. But no, I don’t. I can’t.

I think I am starting to enter the anger phase of my grief. I hate the stupid phases that are talked about, but unfortunately they aren’t wrong. I am not sure who I’m angry with that Kellan is gone. I guess I just don’t understand why, and it makes me angry.

I am unsure of so many things lately. But I do know that I wanted to be a mom. I want to be a mom. I am a mom.

nobody talks about it

I just didn’t know this could happen.

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”

– Anne Roiphe

It frustrates me now that when you go through the pregnancy process, no one talks to you have the possibility of having a stillborn baby – especially at 36 weeks. I’m a numbers person. My husband’s a coach, so I love running numbers and statistics.

I knew that after I heard Kellan’s heartbeat at 6 weeks our chance of miscarriage went down to 1 in 5 or 20%. I knew after we made it to 12 weeks, miscarriage risk went down to 3-4%. After 20 weeks it was 1 in 160. I knew those numbers and more.

I love setting goals and dates in my head. Little milestones no one else knows about but me.

Each doctor’s appointment I was so excited to know we were doing ok. I knew at 20 weeks we would finally find out the gender, and if there were any possible issues that could be seen on an ultrasound. Next was our 28 week appointment, then 32 weeks and things were always great.

I was constantly fearful of what could go wrong in the back of my mind, and in my head I just wanted to be at 36 weeks. I was so happy and relieved to be at 36 weeks. I knew at that point, we were in the clear. What a cruel cruel fake reality. I was wrong.

I don’t know if anyone had explained to me that this could happen if I would have been more prepared. I doubt it. But why don’t we talk about it? I had no clue that I wouldn’t get a warning that my baby was in trouble. I thought I would know. I want so badly to go back and know. How did I not know his heart stopped beating?

So many babies come early. Why didn’t Kellan just come early? Why didn’t he just arrive in this world 1 day before? He was 36 weeks – 5 pounds 12 ounces, and 19 inches long. I know it’s not logical or healthy to think this way, but I can’t help myself. I wonder when this feeling will go away. I feel like it will never go away.

I read a few really good articles today. I try everyday to do this and help process what I’m going through. One I thought was very helpful, and I wish I had it when my nephew died in 2016. I shared it with a few of my friends. It talked about what you can expect when someone you love is grieving a child. Here’s the article: https://stillstandingmag.com/2018/06/25/what-to-expect-when-someone-you-love-is-grieving-a-child/

There were 2 aspects I struggled with when reading it.

First – it said to say our child’s name and talking about them doesn’t bring up grief. I’m not there yet but I want to be. Sometimes I can talk about Kellan and get through it without breaking down. Usually I break a little. But his name. That’s the hardest part. I love his name so much and just trying to get it out of my mouth is so painful. I am working on this. I need to be able to say his name because it is beautiful just like he was.

The next is the part where they say, “We are not the same person that you once knew.”

This is what I’m scared of. I love who I was, and I am scared I won’t get her back. That fun, crazy, says anything person who can make a friend with anyone. The life of whatever event is going on. What if she’s gone forever? I am going to do everything in my power to get her back. But for now, I suppose she’s just crushed under the many layers of my broken heart.

I just didn’t know this could happen.

a broken heart is real

I will be okay.

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” 

— E.A. Bucchianeri.

Everyone tells me I’m strong. But I don’t feel strong.

Every single day I know I am going to wake up, and I’m thankful I do. I’m just not thankful that I’m waking up to a home without my son. I want him back more then anything. I know that I’m going to wake up though, so I have to continue to live and breathe.

Today I didn’t want to leave the house. I wanted to close my store and lay around all day and do nothing. But what would that have done? Where would that have gotten me? I keep telling myself I can’t allow the situation to give me the excuse to fail. I can’t allow my business and career to fall apart because I lost my child.

People die every single day. It is a horrible reality of life. And life continues. That’s the way it is, and I try to remind myself of that. I am not alone in this and there are people going through the exact same pain I am. It doesn’t make my heart hurt any worse, but it does make me feel less horrible for myself.

I went to the grocery store today. I got us dinner for the next 3 nights. Dinner is the only meal I care to eat. I know that’s not good, but I’m trying. I bought protein shakes to make Scott feel better and I’ll try to drink them in the morning. Everything I eat makes me physically ill.

Back to the grocery store though. As I walk around, it just boggles my mind. I want to scream. The entire world just continues to move while I’m stuck in this horrific nightmare. Every single move I make feels fake. I’m just a robot, programming myself to go through the motions. I just want to collapse and scream, but I don’t.

I have always loved to be around people. Talk to strangers, be surrounded by friends. I just don’t care to do that right now. It takes so much effort to just be “normal”. Every single second I am thinking about my son that I can’t have. Even when I don’t realize I’m thinking of him, I am.

I have truly never felt heartbreak like this. I never even understood it could exist. I read an article the other day (Because it’s all I do now) that talked about actual heartbreak being real. And I believe it. I can feel it. My heart is literally shattered, and I’m not sure when it will be whole again. I know it will mend. I know time will heal it. Not fully but it will mend. I just want time to speed up.

It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days since I last held Kellan in my arms. My beautiful stillborn baby that was absolutely perfect. It’s ironic because it feels like time isn’t moving, because I know time is the only thing that will heal me. Yet it feels like time is flying by and I’m just watching.

I often try to convince myself that losing Kellan at 36 weeks pregnant has got to be easier in some way then if he had been born and I lost him at some point in his life. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I always try to tell myself that.

I have so much guilt. I often think about how much guilt and regret I had when my nephew died, and hate that feeling I have now with my son. I really didn’t enjoy being pregnant because of all of the things I couldn’t do. Now I hate myself for thinking that way, and would give anything to have him back inside me awaiting his arrival. I can’t help but feel like I did something wrong, and I know that I can’t think that way. But who could help it?

I do feel the most level headed and mentally clear then I have for a long time. I just want so badly to have Kellan and I know I can’t. I know I can’t bring him back, and I know I will never understand why. I just wish I could see a clear path to feeling whole again. That’s the logical person in me, wishing to make this horrific process somehow easier.

In my head I want it to be September because I have decided for some reason that I will be doing better by then. I guess we will see if I’m right. Until then, I continue down this journey I would give anything to not be on. I will be okay.