Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven

“This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke-

One month.

One month since Jayden has been gone.
One month closer to seeing him again.

My mind is just now beginning to clear, or maybe it’s returning to fog. I am still not sure which is more foggy, the months before and after a crisis, or the days lived in between life’s defining moments. I think it’s the latter, because every decision surrounding Jayden’s passing was so clear to me.

I am moving, but slowly. And slow feels right. The world just seems so darn fast. These days, I feel like peopling is like jumping on a treadmill that is already in motion, running to nowhere.


I feel like I’ve been skinned alive and then asked to mingle.

So fragile.
So sensitive.
So protective.

I have never walked though Target and wondered if anyone had their son’s ashes waiting in the car. (Me after the funeral on our way home: “I’ll be right back, Jut. You wait here with Jayden and the girls.”) I have never considered that anyone walking around Target may have lost a loved one recently. I have never, ever, thought it may be hard for a mom to walk by the boys clothing section.

Isn’t that weird?

That there are people all around us trying to navigate this world skinned alive by grief?


I wish mourning clothes were back in style. In the Victorian Era, widows wore black until they were ready to wear gray. Then wore gray until they were ready to wear color. Everyone knew they were fragile and no one expected them not to be. One famous widow wore mourning clothes until her death.

Someone once pointed out women that have lost their spouses are called widows. Children that have lost parents are called orphans, but there is no word for a parent that loses a child.

“Loses a child” is weird, too. We didn’t lose him. We know where he is. His ashes are in our bedroom. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up. His soul is with Jesus. He isn’t lost. If anyone is lost, it’s us.


People keep asking me how I am doing. It’s the same question I ask my friend, Kelly, who is grieving too. It’s kinda a dumb question in retrospect. You know what I’m going to start saying instead? “It’s good to see you. It’s good to hear your voice.” Right? Because it’s hard to go places and talk to people when you are hurting.

Most of our words we offer the grieving are really for us, to help us feel better and in control of our own mortality, aren’t they? It’s two fold, if they are ok, then we can be ok. We don’t have to find words that won’t work, anyway. We don’t have to sit in the awkward silence and tension grief brings. We can just pretend it’s all ok.

I get it.

I am usually thankful someone asked. I answer the same each time. “I think we are doing well. We are letting the tears come when they need to and we let the laughter come as well. We are talking about Jayden and how much he is missed. We are going slow. We are showering and eating and showing up. Justin is back at work. We are making plans and we are stopping to remember.”

All of it.

We are feeling and talking about all of it.

Then I end with, “so I think we are grieving well, whatever that means.”


You know what else I learned? You can never send a sympathy card late. I remember the first day I checked the mail and there were no cards. Day 15. I thought they stopped, but I was wrong. They keep coming. Just like the casseroles. And although a part of me is feeling pulled to start cooking (and work off these casserole pounds) and Christmas cards are starting to come more frequently than sympathy cards, it has been a nice transition to be remembered and cared for a full month. It gets harder, not easier, after a funeral.

In fact, I think getting the later cards are special. We have not forgotten Jayden. A card doesn’t make us sad, talking about him doesn’t make us sad. We are sad. A card or a question just says, “we see you.” It’s a person saying, “Me too. I am thinking about Jayden and missing him too.” We love that. I think most people grieving do. It’s just acknowledging what is.


I am binge reading. Two books in the past two days. Others I get half way through and toss aside. Not right. Not right for me right now.

That’s ok.

Week two I went back to finish teaching the Bible study I lead on Wednesday for a group of women. It was a holy and sacred space. The class was 10 weeks and I wrote the curriculum for each week.

Nov 8 I taught class.
It was Jayden’s last day at school.

Nov 15 I was supposed to be in Haiti so I planned for a guest speaker.
It was the week Jayden passed.

Nov 22-no class.

Nov 29
Teach on 2 Corinthians 4 and 5.

Dec 6
Teach on eternity.

I turned in the syllabus in August.

The class went so well, I signed up to teach it again. I am desiring to spend my time giving where it makes the most impact and I have found great success and personal satisfaction teaching and speaking. In fact, eight days after Jayden went to heaven, I spoke to an Intro to Nursing class at North Park University.



I keep waiting to see a blue jay at my bird feeder. I don’t know why I am so connected to that particular bird. Maybe it’s their “jay-jay” call. I keep wanting to see a bird, but they never come for me. They come for Justin and Ellie.

I am struggling to feel him. Justin prayed for a sign for me, something to remind me of Jayden, and a few hours after his prayer, I saw a politicians rented space with “JB” signs all over the windows. I guess a sign is a sign. Sometimes the sun will come through the window, especially when I am alone in his room, and I think I can feel him, but I find myself getting Jayden and Jesus confused.

Talking to Jayden and getting no audible response back seems natural. It’s how I’ve talked to him for most of his life. The difference is I was able to see and touch him. I like talking to him still, writing in my journal to him. Having non-verbal children has helped me talk to Jesus too. Just because I don’t get a voice back doesn’t mean I am not heard.


The sunsets are still pink and blue. Ellie says Livia and Jayden are painting the sky. I like to say that too.


It’s harder to share these days.

Harder to share myself, my time, and my children.
To share his clothes, his space.

I am more nervous to let the people I love out of my sight because now I know what it feels like to never get them back. I am no longer anticipating grief.

Things have slowed way down. I like it slow. A day of barely doing anything seems like a good day. Thank you cards take a full day. Laundry still piles up, even with one whole person’s clothes missing.

I cut them up.

Share, share share, I keep hearing from him. Share me. Share the lessons. Share your faith. Share our story. Share my sisters, mom. Give me away and watch love multiply.

Don’t horde the little you have, giving away only makes more.

I cut his shirts to make pillows as gifts. I cut them to make a quilt for us. Some were harder to cut than others. His shirts from the last week he was here are still folded in a bag. The last shirt he wore still has his short blonde hairs stuck in the seams of the collar.

I can’t smell him. I can’t find his smell anywhere. I haven’t washed the sheets in hopes it is still there. Jen can smell him. I think I can’t smell him because he smells like me.

I found two black GAP hoodies of his. I gave one to each of the girls they now sleep with.

The girls. That’s what we call them. We used to say, “the kids” or “J and B.” Now we say, “the girls.” No one will ever ask me if J and B are twins again.

“How do we sign the card?” I ask.
“Jut, Stef, and the kids” feels right.

I wear his socks. We’ve always shared socks. I have these really warm running socks that I used to put on his feet to try to keep them warm. They are with his shirts in the bag, still spread out where his feet once were.

I ran with his hat the other day. It felt good to wear it.
I always ran in his winter hats, but this time I felt bad getting my sweat in it.

Oh, and my gray cardigan. I wore it in the hospital in March, when we were praying God would give us one more summer. I had a hard time washing it until I knew he was ok. It’s oversized and chunky, stretched out from all the wear. I wrap my hands in the long sleeves and wrap myself tightly in its sides. I wore it for days as I cared for him in November, his skin touching every part of that sweater, pockets stuffed with used kleenex. It remains in the laundry room, unwashed. I grab it occasionally, and consider washing it so I can once again wear it, because I know he’s ok, but every time I go to stick it in the laundry, something stops me.

There’s no right time, other than when it feels right for me.
I’m ok with that.
I’m ok with all of it.



“How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

3 thoughts on “Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven

  1. Through your words I felt your grief and cried. God bless you and guide you through this journey. You have a wonderful gift in your shared words.


  2. Stef, reading how you’ve been navigating through grief has brought so many emotions out in me that I thought I already dealt with. I know that sometimes I sit down to read and only think of sweet Jayden! Then the other times mom my and sister engulf my thoughts. I truly appreciate your openness and how beautifully you write! Please know that on those hard days, I’m only a call away! Love you!


  3. Bless you Stef. I will never look at a sunset the same again. Children often have wisdom beyond their years. Thank you for sharing Ellies thoughts.


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