When everyone else is celebrating and your heart may be breaking

Back to school….back to schedule…back to pain?

I.  Love.  School.  Have as a kid.  Have as an adult.  Have as a mom.  I always say that I wish I were “that mom” that would say, “NO! I don’t want summer to end!   I don’t want my kids to go back to school!”  to which my response is, “I LOVE our children.  I also LOVE our children’s school” :):)

It usually is the first week in August when I’m ready for them to go back as the bickering, button-pushing, and complaints of boredom reach an all time high.  I am SUCH a believer in year round school!! :):)

So our two little ones actually went back to school before Labor Day.  Ben was SO excited to go back, Lydia?  Well….let’s just say not nearly as anxious to return.

Ben is going into 5th grade and Lydia into 6th.  On a side note, our Lydie was adopted from Guatemala when she was 2 1/2.  She has special needs and has a wonderfully sweet caring heart.

Back to school… the way it used to be

So this back to school gig really is no sweat for me as a mom today compared to what it USED to be like!  Back when the older 6 were younger….it was ALOT more hectic!  Just the vast number of backpacks, lunches, gym shoes, and jackets needed to be in the right place at the right time!  Mornings were…..well….let me just say….LOUD and HECTIC.  🙂

savingPNG (1)
1st time in school for Seth and Luke

savingPNG (2)

I have no clue why Caleb was wearing his Russian hat! 🙂


I was THAT mom who when she got them on the bus….did her dance of joy…..for ALL of them to see! (isn’t embarrassing children one of a mom’s responsibilities?!?!).  As the kids got older, they would BEG me saying, “PLEASE Mom!!!  Just wait to do the dance until we’re down the street a ways!!!”  Gotta love ’em!!

I would then jump in our van and drive to school to be there when they all got off the bus….and to make sure they all made it around the school building to where their grade line ups were located.  Now before you think I’m all creepy and a stalk-ish mom…our school had a great fellowship time on those first days of school.  All the parents would come and grab more pictures along with a donut and juice/coffee.  It was a sweet time to reconnect with parents.  And another school year would begin.

But it’s not always a happy and exciting time for some families…

As I think about the excitement that 1st days of school may bring, I also think back to 2008 and following….when it wasn’t as happy.  For many of us, these days can bring a wealth of emotions – including raw and overwhelming sadness and grief.  Let me explain.  September 2008 – first day of school looked VERY different for us as it was the first time taking a picture without one of our children.  Our son, Seth, had died the previous November.  That first day of school picture was heart wrenching.  Instead of seeing 5 healthy, beautiful, and some excited children – all I saw was the empty space where Seth would have been.  I actually took pictures differently that year.  I took 2 separate ones – one of Caleb & Grace who were in middle school and one of Abby, Luke and Andrew who were still in elementary.  I couldn’t get myself to take one of them all together because they weren’t all together….Seth was missing.


Please hear me when I say I am not writing this to get a “oh, you poor mom!” response.  Yes, it was difficult.  Yes I wish with everything in me had different pictures.  And yes I wept my eyes out after they all left for school.  It was the first year they did not see my happy dance.  I say this only for you to think for a moment about those moms and dads who are living this truth for the first time this year.

How can you help someone experiencing this type of loss?

Do you know of a neighbor, a family member, someone from your community that has experienced a child’s death this past year?  Wondering what, if anything, there is that you can do to encourage them?  Let me offer some ideas if you find yourself in this situation….

  • write them a note and include their child’s name in the note.  As a bereaved mom, you LOVE when someone says your child’s name.  Offer your thoughts and prayers to them – and then
  • ACTUALLY pray for them!  How many times have you told someone that you’re praying for them only to get busy with your day and never do it.  PRAY for them!
  • Truth be told – the grief is probably very heavy for them this week – possibly drop by some restaurant gift cards or a meal for them.  They are physically exhausted from the grief and may not have been prepared for this wave.
  • Whatever grade their child would have been in, call, email, or text that grade’s teacher.  Reality is going to hit those kids when they see their classmates desk empty.  Let the teacher know you’re thinking of them.
  • Contact the other student’s parents and perhaps suggest having them send cards to the family.  Knowing that other people have not forgotten our child means the WORLD to us.  Don’t worry about “but I don’t want to bring up a bad memory for them and make them sad”  TRUST me….we’re already sad – you’re not reminding us of anything we aren’t already living.  Just the opposite – seeing that people care enough will lighten our heavy hearts.

Not to leave y’all with a “downer” post, I want to encourage the families of children who are no longer with us.  It’s been almost 11 years since Seth’s Heaven Birthday.  Seth would be 21 now and either going into his junior year of college or working at a career.  I still think about him every.  single.  day.  But the pain is muted.  It’s there – it always will be.  It’s a part of who I am now and forever, but it hasn’t taken over my life.  My grief….it’s a part of me.  It’s a part of our story.  But so is so many other things in my life right now.

Healthy children are a part of my story.

A new daughter is a part of my story.

A new granddaughter is a part of my story.

A wonderfully caring and loving husband is a part of my story.

Joy is a part of my story.

Happiness is a part of my story.

God’s never ending, everlasting, amazing love is a part of my story.

I choose to concentrate on those things.  Some days I do think about the “could have beens” or the “should have beens” and that’s ok – I give myself permission to have those days to grieve.  But I cannot and refuse to stay in that mindset.  God has continued to bless my life in so many ways.

For now….I am back to “performing” my dance of joy on the first day of school….and I laugh….and I dance.


There is a time




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4 thoughts on “When everyone else is celebrating and your heart may be breaking”

  1. I really appreciate this truth, Jolynn –

    “Don’t worry about “but I don’t want to bring up a bad memory for them and make them sad” TRUST me….we’re already sad – you’re not reminding us of anything we aren’t already living. Just the opposite – seeing that people care enough will lighten our heavy hearts.”

    Also, good job on those pictures!

  2. There are some dates you never forget. I always remember the dates by 2 babies died. I’m thankful for by wonderful girls and also for 5 wonderful grandchildren. God is good and I learned a lot during those hard times.

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