Confessions as I anticipate grief: part 1

little dipper

Confessions as I Anticipate Grief is a series of posts I will be releasing on This is part one.


“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

-Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


Warning: This one is an honest one. A dirty- handed offering.

Hey guys. I am broken, but not destroyed.

Whenever God is stirring, changing, growing me, it hurts. Growing pains-I suppose. I am happy AND sad. Hopeful AND discouraged. Joy-filled AND empty. I want to change AND I don’t. I want to speak out AND I want to hide.

All these opposing thoughts, swirling, fighting, all in conflict and all in the same moment. It’s paralyzing. Should I smile or should I cry? I feel both.

I want to tell you everything, but everything is too much. I want to tell you I am clinging to Jayden’s breaths like any one could be his last. I want to tell you I feel God preparing my heart to let him go. I want to tell you this year may be his last. But I don’t want to tell you, too. I don’t want casseroles or cards or extra pity. I don’t want to put nails in his coffin prematurely, so I try not to stay there. This is truth.

But I also want to tell you he’s laughing more. Some days, he’s even walking by himself. Yesterday, he was riding a roller coaster no handed and eating pizza by mouth. Yesterday, he was smiling in the car as we played Single Ladies. This is also truth.

This is life. This is regression. Good moments, bad moments. Holding on, letting go. Celebrating, grieving. Death and life co-exist.

I am no expert at grief, but I am a master at anticipating it. And living while you wait for your children to die, and dying while your children live—isn’t life to the full.


I wake up at 5:20 AM scared he’s not breathing, but tell myself not to check. If I don’t check, it won’t be true. So I lay there and pray. Pray it’s not today. Pray Justin sees the rise and the fall of his chest. And pray God will sustain me on the day it no longer rises.

And don’t get me started on Brooklyn. She’s next but not yet. Death is supposed to have a birth order rhythm, but it doesn’t. It’s as shifty and unexpected as the wind.

See, I want to let you in. But then I tell myself I don’t want you in. I convince myself to hit “save” instead of “publish.” You don’t want to read this, I reason. You want to read happy stuff. This—this pain? It’s too much. My “me too mamas” get it. These are just words to wrap around our bleeding hearts. Or maybe you are trying to understand without actually living it. I love that. Thank you for looking. And then there are some that believe if they don’t read it, it won’t happen. To your child. To your ‘comfortable.’

Maybe we all are a lot alike.  We all want someone else to check for the rise and the fall.

But no one is safe from pain.

You need to see me strong and smiling. I need to see me strong and smiling.

I’m starting to realize maybe you need me to show you both, the darkness and the light. Because you can’t have one without the other. We all have both. We all can be happy and sad. We all can be grateful and envious. Fear and confidence co-exist. We all live in millions of little tensions, don’t we? Which is why life is so damn complicated, yet wonderfully simple.


Jayden recently had some teeth removed that were causing him pain. And since then, he has been smiling and laughing and eating more. So have I-laughing and eating more. As he is dying, he showing me how to live.

He’s barely walking now. He is a 10-year old trapped in an 85-year old body. His legs are bent and trembling-fighting just to stand in front of a walker. I am proud. I am sad.

You know what else is tough? Seeing 10-year old boys. That should be Jay. He should be kicking a soccer ball. He should be playing with friends. He should be on teams. He should be playing video games. He should have friends.

What else do 10-year old boys do?                                                                                                                          I fear I don’t know.

But none of those “should be’s” mean much to God, just me, I suppose.  Ability can be deceiving.

He’s getting all his nutrients through the g-tube. A few bites here and there, but mainly g-tube. Today I got mad because even his ability to drink from a straw is failing. I am just not sure who or what to be mad at.

His information sheet still says he is a runner. He’s not a runner anymore.  Time continues to push us closer to grief as we dig our heels. We have been inching our way to the bullseye for 7 years. But July 25, 2016 -his 10th birthday- we found ourselves standing on it. There’s nothing shielding us from getting hit. There’s nothing left to lose. We stand completely exposed to the elements.


And there I sat, on the Little Dipper, at Great America, holding my son, tears rolling down my face for all to see.  I couldn’t get off the ride. It had been a tough morning, an even harder afternoon, and the weight of it all was too much to bear. Just me and Jayden, strapped on the roller coaster. As they loaded the cars around us, I wept. I just sat there in the open and wept as people stared. Time stopped. I felt alone, vulnerable, and helpless in the sea of people. Defeated and angry. Like a wounded animal in a cage with no one to save me. The teenage girls operating the ride, looking for words to say, found these: “His hair is so blonde.” And I couldn’t even lift my head to thank them.

Vulnerability is funny like that.  There’s this release. This freedom that comes when you just let the tears come and you give them space. When you stop hiding. Stop pretending. Stop rushing the moment away and actually sit in it and let it run its coarse.

Two by two, the seats filled up around us and everyone was strapped in.

“All clear? Take five.”

And as the coster clicked up the track, I lifted Jayden’s arms with mine and we laughed.


Part 2 and Part 3 available here.

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14 thoughts on “Confessions as I anticipate grief: part 1

  1. Thank you for not hiding your grief and pain. Because it’s real. It’s honest.

    I see so many people afraid of these things because they are unknown. They are unspoken. It’s such a disservice to hide real parts of life and only show the Pinterest worthy ones.

    And you my dear are showing truth. We need more truth. More openness.

    Thank you for this


  2. Thanks for sharing. I miss those two little bundles of laughter and joy. You are not preparing yourself, but all of us who love your children, as we too need preparing. As I read it remember the special memories I have of them from school and miss them more, but then I have the memories to comfort me.
    Take credit, you and your family❤


  3. Thank You so much for your sharing of visions of grief! I am just at the beginning as I wait to see how far the cancer had spread in my brother! My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family!💜🙏


  4. “And living while you wait for your children to die, and dying while your children live—isn’t life to the full.” ~ I’ve wondered for a very long time, “What is the abundant life?” But I think you are . . . .mistaken. I think as you described above, . . . is life to the full; full of pain and full of love and full of meaning in the mix. For me, broken = communion. You have communicated perfectly!


  5. Stef thanks so much for sharing. This was so timely for me and needed. I am on both sides as well as I watch my dad slowly fade with pancreatic cancer. This past week was spent laughing and crying – sometimes at the same time. Tomorrow is his bulls eye and I have anticipated things far too well to the point of going over his eulogy in my head.

    I have kept my feelings to myself and given the “I’m doing good” answer to those who desire to know how I am doing. Deep down that is not the truth. Thanks for challenging me to show my struggles and be real. If I am always good it does not show room for the Light in my darkness. Know that I rejoice, mourn, and pray with you guys.

    There are so many thoughts in my head to still process, but humbly I want to thank you and admit my weakness and struggles. Praise the Lord that in our weakness He shows His strength – to Him be the glory! Love you guys and praying for you!

    May God continue to bless you as you share so deeply and openly your life. You are a light!


  6. Stefanie – I do want to read about this part of your journey, as I know others do too. I hope that knowing that so many friends, family and “strangers” rejoice at your children’s accomplishments and grieve over their challenges and regressions, in some way soothes your soul.


  7. ❤️ universal truths, Steph. Your tears help me embrace my own. His grace is enough–yesterday, today and tomorrow.


  8. Thank you for opening up to the world. That young ride operator is proof that you are never alone with God.
    I have chills- tears and a smile….just what you are talking about here –
    God will hold you in His hand as you take this journey -sending love and prayers for strength
    And in the meantime I know you will keep laughing and enjoying the time you do have


  9. You are an awesome Mom! You are letting your sweet children live every moment. Thank you for sharing the happy and the sad.


  10. I appreciate and love how raw and honest your posts’ are. I know we weren’t close in our days at Immanuel, but I do know that I enjoyed every moment spent with your little Jayden and the times I did talk to you. It’s good to be honest with yourself, but better yet to share with the world.
    I am not going to write a bunch of words that can’t take away your feelings of sadness,but I will say to you I’m praying for you and that God gives your family super ,unbelievable moments with J. I love you from Wa. State!!! Give J a big hug from me!!

    Liked by 1 person

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