Milestones; To Recognize Small Steps of Courage and Healing.

Tragic loss is as much a battle of the mind as it is anything else, I'm finding. The enemy hits with every psychological weapon in his arsenal, particularly where we are so vulnerable and exposed- our hearts and minds. THE REALITY

With the significant “firsts” ( his birthday, Thanksgiving & Christmas ) heading our way, I’m feeling a bit unsteady and vulnerable right now. I’m frightened, to be perfectly honest. I’m afraid for so many reasons. Every day is still uncharted territory. Other than  acute awareness of my loss, I never know what’s coming and being on guard for that uncertainty wears on a person.

I know that every morning when I don’t go upstairs to wake him for school, Aiden dies for me again. Every ascent up the stairs face to face with his bedroom, he dies. Every time I see his soccer net sitting unused in the corner of our yard, I feel him die yet again. We were driving yesterday and passed a turn we always took for his tournament games. I heard Dave audibly sigh and saw his head shake. I know he felt him die again too. What is this going to be like October 17 and the other days? I cannot feel him die another 1000 times before January. I can’t. I’m just beginning to learn how to adjust the sails of this thing called grief. I’m not good at it yet. I’m far from being used to it. It is still so fresh and harsh. A silent but raging storm felt only by Dave and I. How do I navigate through this time of year as such a novice? I do know some of the hardest battles are fought in the mind.


Thoughts of the past that I can’t change and the future that can’t be can feel like an obsession. Well, it’s not really an obsession, it’s more of a thought process, but it’s so painful and destructive. I need it to stop. Have you ever had one of those days  ( or months or years ) where your thoughts are less thoughtful than they are obsessive? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a way of thinking that is unhealthy like an obsession, goes no where good like an obsession and hurts deeply like an obsession. It draws you back to a place that only brings heartbreak and entertains that thing within us that welcomes pain as the cost of reflection.

It always starts with the first thought of the day,

“Aiden is gone. He’s gone.”

So the closer I get to these big “firsts”, the more I am tortured with regret, guilt and shame, just to name a few. Emotions that I don’t deserve but that the enemy of my soul is relentlessly hurling in my face. Tragic loss is as much a battle of the mind as it is anything else. We are humans, after all, and even the strongest among us are still- just humans. So full of frailty. We think about times that were better, remembering a smile or the sound of someones voice or how your home felt “before____”. My God, how I get that. I wake up to it everyday, without fail. It’s the darker, less forgiving thoughts that are problematic. And they keep coming. As much as I recognize their destructiveness, I have felt powerless to stop it. Victimized by my own mind. I don’t want to lose the battle of the firsts.

So, this is my mountain of late. With Aiden’s birthday 2 days away and the holidays just around the corner, I am feeling like if I don’t prepare my heart and mind for the onslaught of memories, tradition and loneliness, it will ruin me.  Those deeply rooted traditions that brought the happiest of times, are the very things that could pull me down into the abyss I am working so hard to stay out of.

carrying on

THE PLAN                                                                                                                  

I like visuals and things I can actually touch and hold to remind me of how far I’ve come. Something better than a sticky note on my mirror. I really need that right now-something to encourage my faith and re-set my mind going forward. I decided to create these “milestones”. Each little stone has written on it an event or hurdle that has been overcome in the last several months. If it is written on a stone, it is something that I could not do or feel previously. These are going to be my tangible way to reflect back so I can see forward. (At least that is the plan)

During difficult struggles it's hard to be grateful and remember how far you've come. Create milestones to help with that.


Perspective is reality and it’s time to change perspective. To look back, not to wish for things that cannot be, but to measure how far I’ve come and how faithful God has been in getting me there. To look at battles won and be reminded that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  That I am doing something I was certain would kill me. That most days I do want to keep living, inside and out.

My bowl of milestones will be kept visible, where I can pick them up and contemplate the significance of what is written on them. I am going to try and set my mind on these things- the mountains I’ve crossed that I never thought possible. It feels a little silly typing these out because they sound so, well, insignificant from a “normal’ perspective. But I don’t have my new normal yet and my perspective will forever be filtered through my loss. So here goes;

I didn’t care if I lived or died. I really wished to go.

I couldn’t drive through town or to work without sobbing.

I couldn’t listen to a single note of any music. I existed in silence.

I couldn’t bear to look at a photo of my beautiful Aiden because of the anguish it would bring. Unbearable anguish.

I couldn’t be around any “normal” people other than family and my closest friends.

I couldn’t walk into church.

I didn’t know if God even was.

If he was, I no longer trusted Him.

And now…

To get through tragedy, remember to look back and see how far the Lord has taken you. You WILL keep going and surviving. Create milestones as a daily reminder. I have a blog full of Aiden’s photos and my thoughts on finding my way back, with the hopes of reaching other hurting Moms. I have a purpose.

I accepted an invite into a neighborhood Bible Study. I was so nervous to go and be with normal women, many of whom I had never met. (SO out of my grieving comfort zone.) I am so grateful for this group.

I’m Listening to music ( it’s 99% country, it doesn’t hurt to hear and I sing along ). I SING along.

We walked into church for the first time without Aiden (or the other boys, for that matter). It was lonely and sad, but we tried again. And we tried a third and a fourth time, and now it’s better than just tolerable. This week something in my spirit stirred. Something wonderful and familiar and now I want to go back.

I know Him and He is. He is the same God the little girl version of me grew to love and trust.

I am learning to trust Him again.

I want to keep living, inside and out.


I know that isn’t exactly a list of the most amazing human feats ever accomplished, but they were amazing feats nonetheless. I know if you are experiencing anything remotely similar, you get it. The point is- it’s more than a step from where I was, but not nearly where I need to go. I don’t want to be left here either. “Here” is better, but it’s not good.

I’ll be looking back so I can see forward. Recognizing the small steps of courage and accomplishment to have a perspective of hope, growth and healing ahead. I am most definitely a work in progress and so are you. Don’t lose hope.


I want to wake up Monday October 19, 2015 and know we made it through Aiden’s birthday weekend whole, not more broken. Having remembered without more injury.

I want to be able to walk up those attic stairs in a few weeks and pull down some boxes. I’d like to try and trim the tree and make cookies so when my boys come home from college it feels like Christmas in some small way. I want to be able to take some stones and write on one “Trimmed the Christmas Tree”, and on another “Put up Christmas stockings” and maybe even “Listened to Christmas Music”.

fall bridge-finding gratitude


I want to enter this time with gratefulness because a grateful heart sees beauty among the thorns. It finds blessings in the most hopeless of situations. Mostly, finding gratitude in the midst of tragedy is the most perfect form of worship. I want to look back at all God has done for us and all I have been able to withstand up to this point, so it will give me hope and confidence that He will do it again on Monday.

I know my victories and milestones will look different from yours, but I hope you’ll do this with me. If your circumstance is just beginning to unfold or your struggle is different, join me anyway. Even if it’s one little stone that says;

 “I showed up today, October 17, 2015”.                

One of my stones is going to say that.

Look back and see all the ways God has carried you through, meditate on what you are grateful for.

I hope you’ll share some photos of your own journeys milestones with me.




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About Jennifer

I am a mother first and foremost. I am also a mother who lost a child, suddenly and tragically. Like other bereaved Mothers, I am trying to find my way back, and writing and creativity is a huge part of that. I hope by documenting my climb out of this, that my walk, my struggles, my failings, my faith, my honesty, and my choice to live-in every sense of the word, will help someone else do the same.

4 Responses to Milestones; To Recognize Small Steps of Courage and Healing.

  1. Jill S. says:

    You have such a beautiful heart and are truly an inspiration Jennifer. We will trim your tree together and then add another stone to your bowl of milestones….that bowl which will only continue to get bigger and bigger over time. I love you so much ??

  2. ChristieLee says:

    Jen- every time I read your blog, my eyes get teary. Today, it happened again, but this time not out of sadness. This time the tears were there because of how proud I am of you. As I read what you wrote on the stones, I realized how big each of those things have been for you. I know that facing each day can be difficult for you, but yet you do it and not only do you do it, but you do it with determination. I truly am proud of you and I know that you are going to soon need a much bigger container for those rocks. Love ya’, Christie

  3. Mary says:

    I love the stones. What an amazing way to be reminded of the positive steps you are taking. Your stepping stones. I am so encouraged by your words. This weekend may be difficult, but you will be surrounded with the best people who will be there with you to remember your sweet boy Aiden.

  4. lgoosman says:

    Oh Jen, your stones brought tears to my eyes. You have overcome so many hard firsts in your journey. The stones are tangible and such a good inspiration and reminders of how far you have come. Know that your friends love you and our hearts are with you as you face your “firsts”. I pray as you are remembering and celebrating Aiden on the day of his birth, surrounded by the people you love, that God will wrap you in his loving arms and give you comfort. My heart and love and prayers are with you and the family. ❤️

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