The loss of a child is something no one ever wants to go through, nor does anyone ever think it will happen to them. I lost my son at ten weeks old on June 7th, 2013. I woke up the morning to my son not breathing and there is no clear answer as to why. It’s not easy for me to talk about but after almost three years now I feel like if I don’t say anything it would be a waste. Maybe something I have experienced or something I thought about in my grief journey could help someone else.
What happened to my son is generally categorized as a SIDS death. He stopped breathing but there was no physical obstruction to his lungs or airways, and there were no toxins, bacterial, viral or disease causing factors. Before it happened he was healthy and normal.
Some Facts: SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Very little is known about it. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the causes and preventative measures required for this silent passing. Some say it is bad to co-sleep, or bed-share, with your baby because it increases the likelihood of SIDS[1,2], and others say it is best to sleep with your baby in bed with you and that greatly lowers the risk of SIDS. Other research points to racial factors, gender differences, environment, etc.  However, it seems no matter what the statistics say, SIDS can happen to anyone. 
So all sciences aside, SIDS is something that above all else has a devastating emotional impact on everyone surrounding the child.
Needless to say, the parents are the ones who carry the greatest weight of all. Grief is already a tough subject in society, but the loss of a child is even more taboo. Bereaved parents often live double lives where at work and in public, they sometimes(or often times) have to pretend to be “normal” and “happy”, but when alone, the emotions can be unpredictable, and sometimes debilitating. Other times, being alone is what is needed most, because when you don’t have the space to grieve, it’s almost impossible to function.
There are sadly many other grieving parents out there. There is an “invisible” population of parents living life after their children have passed away. Some people lose their children as adults, others as babies or toddlers, but regardless of the time spent here on the planet, you cannot compare the grief. A child is a child to the mother that loves them. Everyone feels it differently.
I feel like we can appear “invisible” because grief and loss are hard to talk about in every day life. I wish there were more accessible and easier ways of connecting and creating constructive awareness.
Common things a grieving parent hears (But is hurtful):
“You can just have another one”
“He’s in a better place”
“You are selfish for wanting him with you when he is with God”
“At least he was young”
“People get what they deserve”
“Everything happens for a reason”
“Who ever said life was fair”
“Get over it, let it go”
“It happened because (insert personal negative criticism toward the parent)
It is difficult to talk about because often times, people don’t know how to react, and will say something more hurtful than helpful. Sometimes I can’t tell if the person’s intentions were ever good or bad, other times it is obvious that the person had good intentions but just failed to see what the comment could have meant to someone who lost a child.
What are some things you can say instead?
This is a GREAT resource, written by a fellow grieving parent:
“I think all the time about how different things would be if Reason hadn’t died. How much better our lives would be. How much happiness we would have but instead we have this. This life I never wanted in this world without our daughter. All the time I get told to move on and forget about it. Stop living in the past. They don’t know my daughter isn’t something to move on from. She’s still my life. The only good this world has ever given me, I just wish it hadn’t been so cruel as to take her away.”
A Real Life Experience
Through my grief journey I have met many other grieving mothers. One in particular I was fortunate enough to stumble upon her blog, to which I related with more than anything else I’d read until then. I felt a different kind of connection with her posts because I felt like I could relate to the experience on a deeper level. There are a lot of things we have in common, but what stood out to me the most was that she is closer to my age and her precious daughter passed away due to the same cause. Her blog is a good example of the many different thoughts and experiences a grieving parent might go through.
Child loss is a hard topic for a reason. It contradicts the natural order of life because the parent is not supposed to die after the child dies. As a parent you feel like you will never have to see the day your child dies and that is something you are grateful for, because it’s hard enough having to accept that you are gonna see your child get hurt, be lied to probably at some point get their heart broken, etc. But this point, after losing my son, I would give anything to have the day come that my little boy comes home from high school saying, “Mom, a girl (or boy) broke my heart.” It would still be a sad thing, but at least we would be together and he would get through it and be okay.
The hardest thing is living the rest of my life this way. Death is final. There is no tomorrow.
There are just a few things I can do to get through each day, but it’s hard for me to say what actually works. Some days are good and some days are bad, but it’s always there and makes me perceive everything differently, to the point now where I almost can’t remember what it was like to not feel this way. The grief is part of everything I do and every decision, for better or worse. There are still positive outcomes.
My son’s prayer card I created for his first birthday
My son’s father and I on Thanksgiving during my pregnancy.
Ultra sound of Miles at 22 weeks
Miles on Easter 2013
Miles on Easter 2013
Miles and Daddy on June 1st, 2013, just a week before he passed away
A rare picture of all three of us…
My memorial tattoos for my son. The awareness ribbon has his birthday and first name. The other one is the Aries symbol, which is his Zodiac sign, and has a teal color for Aquamarine which is the March birthstone. The design is something I drew. My son’s father has the same Aries tattoo except his is on the opposite arm and in all black. We got them on the same day, one week before our son’s funeral because we wanted to memorialize him in every way possible.
One of the ways I deal with the loss of my son is by working on a project that originated in my days of late pregnancy.
Through this project, in which I keep alive a concept my son helped me invent, as well as donate to the cause of researching SIDS as well as providing awareness and support.
“The CJ Foundation is still the only private organization that funds research and support services for SIDS/SUID. The CJ Foundation for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a national organization dedicated to recognizing the special needs of the SIDS community through funding SIDS research, support services and public awareness programs. The Foundation hopes to increase public awareness of SIDS and to contribute to a future in which no parent is faced with the tragedy of losing a loved one to SIDS. Recognized as one of the largest, leading SIDS organizations in the country, the CJ Foundation was founded in 1994. Since its inception, the CJ Foundation has provided millions of dollars towards SIDS research projects, organizations, support programs and public education and awareness campaigns throughout the nation, making tremendous strides in its fight to eliminate SIDS.”
A chart showing that most of the money donated to the CJ Foundation for SIDS goes directly to research and services (the program)
One of the main reasons fundraising can take up a lot of expenses is the lack of awareness. That’s why spreading awareness is so important for an issue like SIDS. It something hard to talk about but it can happen to anyone and it is worth starting the conversation, because the only way things will change is if more people are aware of the problem. SIDS is a medical mystery, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully someday soon there will be more information about the causes and prevention of SIDS.
The way I do this is through donating 10% of all profits from Zodiac Angels to The CJ Foundation for SIDS. 
One of the main reasons I trust the CJ Foundation is because the founders were parents of a baby they lost to SIDS, back in 1994, when there were even less resources available. The loss inspired them to create the CJ Foundation, CJ being based on the name of their daughter who passed of SIDS.
Pictured above are the original Zodiac Angels I created for my son. They were randomly pieced together from scraps of fleece fabric. I made the first one with the idea of the theme “March”, since all I knew about my son was his due date, which was originally March 17th. I wanted to make a personal stuffed animal for him. After I made the first one, I wanted to make more, and I made month themes, which turned into Zodiac themes since there are lots of ideas to get from that theme.
The first Zodiac Angel I ever made, a Pisces for my son, whose original due date was March 17th, 2013.
MEET THE ZODIAC ANGELS:
Scorpio’s design is based on the Scorpion, Deep Sea Creatures
Pisces’s design is based on Fish, Aquatic Animals, specifically a Koi
Capricorn is based on a Mermaid, a Goat, Dinosaur, and a Mountain.
Gemini is based on a Cat, Butterfly, Jester, and Split Colors.
Taurus is based on the Bull, Plant Life, and Ladybugs.
Leo’s design is based on a Lion, a Sunflower, and the Stars.
Libra’s design is based on Owls, Autumn, and Multi-color to represent balance.
Aquarius is based on a Rain Cloud, and Flight/Birds/Wings.
Virgo’s design is based on a Rabbit and Plant Life.
Aries is designed based on the ideas of a Ram, a Volcano, and a Bat.
Cancer’s design is based on the Crab, as well as Ocean Life.
Sagittarius is based on a Flame, and a Horse.
Every single Zodiac Angel is made by hand, and each one is a little bit different. So even the same Zodiac sign can have a rainbow of different colors to choose from. It is to represent how everyone is unique and different.
Sagittarius, Aries, Leo
A new batch of Aquarius. 10% of the profit I make selling them goes directly to SIDS research and grief counseling support for bereaved parents.
A Cancer Zodiac Angel.
Aries Zodiac Angel.
A group of Cancer Angels
I want to expand the Zodiac Angels idea so much further than just some dolls that I sell on Etsy, or any other platform I might pursue in the future. I am grateful to have so many way to memorialize my son Miles. Another idea I have would be to start a fund for young parents who have lost babies, pregnancies, or children and want to go back to school or work but need financial help or help affording therapy to be able to cope with returning to school or work.
Even if I never make the money needed to pursue these goals, at the very least I would like to raise awareness of this issue so that people stop being afraid, insensitive, and/or uncomfortable, because it makes the healing processes harder for everyone involved. I think society needs to learn how to value its grieving parent population, even if we are more sensitive and hard to understand at times. There are definitely ways that we can positively contribute to society and others if we are given the chance and allowance for what some would argue is a legitimate disability.
At the end of the day, I know that when I see the Zodiac Angels I think about Miles, and how he helped me create these characters. I don’t think I would have ever come up with an idea like this if it weren’t for him.
Zodiac Angels. You can read a lot more about this project on the project’s sites, as well as my son’s memorial page on Facebook:
 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/basics/causes/con-20020269 Mayo Clinic Info Page on SIDS. Causes
 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/basics/risk-factors/con-20020269 Mayo Clinic Info Page on SIDS. Risk Factors
 http://www.cjsids.org/resource-center/sids-statistics.html CJ Foundation Website Info Page about SIDS Stats.
SIDS Network Organization Info Page.
 https://thelossofreason.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/still-not-making-it/ The Loss Of Reason Blog on WordPress.
 http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6806#.VtdLBOY27oA The Charity Navigator page for the CJ Foundation.
 http://www.cjsids.org/ The official website for the CJ Foundation.