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My experience with the loss of a child starts every morning when there’s this moment, a brief fleeting moment, when you first wake up, before you are actually awake, where you don’t immediately focus on your child who died.
It’s this brief second where you can maybe forget that your child died, that you are a mom to a child you only got to hold as she died.
This moment is when you can feel the person you were before you joined the crappiest club in the world: the loss mom club.
But it’s fleeting and as soon as the time clicks over to the real world, the grief, the feeling that a piece of you is missing, hits you with full force and you remember the reality: your child is not here and you are the parent of an angel baby.
One of the best parts about having an angel baby, though, is that, if you are like me, you can be constantly reminded of your child in a good way.
Our Colette finds ways to both humor us and send us her love. In what follows, I’ll explain how the loss of a child can also mean seeing her presence in our lives in both hilarious and beautiful ways.
Surviving the Loss of a Child by Feeling Her Presence
In the last two plus years, I have struggled to live in the reality that I have a daughter, but she is not with me.
She will not come toddling into the room to wake me up.
She will not cry out for me at night when she has a bad dream.
She will not try to wrap us around her little finger to get what she wants.
But, there is still a piece of me that remains in the alternate universe I briefly visit each morning—that moment where I don’t have to acknowledge that Colette isn’t here, the moment where I can imagine that Colette is just asleep in her room.
I know that I have to live in the reality that my daughter died a little over two years ago, but I long to live in a world where she is here.
In the absence of some sort of scientific magic, I have had to settle for the brief moments, the moments when I feel Colette’s presence the most, when I feel like she is trying to send me a message.
And as could be expected from my daughter, she has a lot to say to me and the rest of our family.
Finding Joy in Humorous Moments
Colette is a real prankster.
We first realized this a couple of months after she died. I had gone out, and as I reached up for the necklace I was habitually wearing that had her birthstone, her name, and an angel wing, I realized it wasn’t there.
I tried to remain calm, thinking that when I changed shirts at home, I must have knocked it off.
When I got home, I went to look and could not find it. My husband and I searched the house top to bottom, retracing my steps and then retracing them yet again.
As we continued to search, I grew more and more upset, thinking I had lost this sentimentally valuable necklace. I went into our bathroom once more to see if it had fallen off in there and started to sob.
It felt like losing Colette all over again, and I remember saying aloud to no one, please, don’t take this from me too.
As I walked out of our bathroom and into our room, it was sitting right there in the middle of the floor—a place that both my husband and I must have passed through a dozen times, a place that we would have been blind to have not seen.
When I called my sister to tell her the good news, she laughed and said, “That sounds like Colette is trying to mess with you and when you got really upset, she finally said, ‘Okay, that’s not so funny,’ and put the necklace back.”
Wave of Light
We have further seen our little trickster on multiple occasions. For the last two years, Mark and I have participated in the annual Wave of Light in commemoration of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day with our support group.
For the Wave of Light, bereaved families across the globe light a candle at 7pm their local time and let it burn for 1 hour. As the 24 hours of a day elapse across each time zone, a wave of light goes up across the world and honor and remembrance of our little ones.
The first time we participated, we got up to share a little bit about our story and light candles.
While lighting the candle, I burned my thumb. The whole room started asking if I was okay, and a fellow loss mom offered me lavender oil to help heal the pain of the burn.
The second year, I told Mark that I would not be lighting the candles this time.
While we were waiting around the coffee shop for our meeting and lighting, I told the story of getting burned and said that this year, Colette was not going to burn me.
Just moments later, the hot chocolate I had flipped and landed on Mark and me, causing us to rush to clean up the mess. Colette just keeps asserting her independence.
The Muddy Shoe
Some other times have been more fleeting, but they are just as much of a reminder that she was with us. And as all children do, she was laughing at her parents.
We went to visit Colette at the cemetery, and as we were getting back into the car, something unexplainable happened. I stepped, lost my shoe, and my foot landed in the only small piece of muddy ground anywhere near where I was.
I swear, I could almost hear her laughter.
Mixed Up Mail
On other occasions, we have found that I will send out mail related to Colette’s foundation, only to have it returned to us, or to have others mail things to us that are then returned to them, and then to try again with mailing, and have it work with no issues the second time.
Every time I hear this now, instead of getting frustrated, I just smile and think about my daughter and her terrible twos.
Touching Reminders of Colette’s Presence
Colette is not always just laughing at and pranking us.
She can also be very sweet and loving in her messages. Both my husband and I have found that since her death, we find white feathers on or near us on a regular basis.
White feathers have long been associated as a sign from angels.
Hearing Her Name Just When I Need It
On other occasions, I have felt like Colette’s name, her nickname “Coco,” or her middle name “Louise” pop up from time to time, sometimes just as I need the sweet reminder.
Last summer, we were at my dad’s company picnic and having a caricature done. The artist was chatting as he was working, and it turned out that he was a loss dad.
We were sharing our respective stories, and I remember that while it was nice to be able to openly talk with another loss parent, I also felt so sad that Colette was not with us and would never be with us for this yearly event.
Almost immediately, I heard a woman behind us yell at her daughter, “Colette, come over here.” It was like feeling her presence and thinking oh, she may not be here physically, but she is here.
Finding Dimes Everywhere
Earlier this year, I kept finding dimes wherever I was.
I would pick them up, but always wonder why dimes seemed to appear. There was even one occasion where I found one in our house, but I had walked that way multiple times in my pajamas (so no pockets for change) and had not seen it.
I thought it was odd, but it felt very personal, and I took it as a sign that Colette was saying hello.
A few weeks into this, I traveled with my mom and told her about it, saying it was strange. All of a sudden, my mom gasped and said, “Oh my God, the same thing has been happening to me—I find dimes all the time!”
As we chatted about how similar our stories seemed to be, my mom walked over to get something from her suitcase and found another dime.
It was so comforting to find that Colette was watching over both of us in her own special way.
Colette’s Guidance as We Grew Our Family
And of course, one of the kindest, most amazing times that we heard from Colette was during our journey to grow our family.
We finally decided to use a gestational carrier after I admitted that I was deeply fearful of being pregnant again.
On the day of the embryo transfer, we stopped at Colette’s grave to say hi to her and remind her that she would always be our oldest and nothing would change how much we loved her.
I also asked her to watch over her little sibling and if she could, send us a sign to let us know that she understood.
After the transfer happened, the doctor came back to find me in the waiting room and showed me a printed picture of our surrogate’s uterus.
I looked at the photo and in the corner, there was the shape of a heart.
I knew that Colette was sending us her sign, telling us that she was watching over us and her future sibling.
I also knew that our surrogate was going to get pregnant, and she did. We are expecting our second child in just a few weeks.
“I Love You, Goodnight”
Every night when I head to sleep, I always kiss my husband and say, “I love you, good night.”
I also look at the picture of Colette that I keep on my nightstand and that travels with me whenever I leave home and say, “I love you, good night.”
In addition to looking for the signs that she is still with us that we see so frequently, I will continue doing this until my last breath and until the day that waking up means that I get to be with Colette.