Loose Boards

Early on, in my grief journey, someone told me about “Loose Boards.” When you are in the store, and a song comes on that you weren’t expecting, that’s a loose board. When you are at a place that you had gone with your loved one and the memory comes flying back, that is a loose board. When you are cleaning and you find something that you hadn’t seen in a long time, that is a loose board.

Loose Boards can smack you down so fast.

This morning, I was cleaning the laundry room, of all places. When I moved the detergent, I found Jackson’s wallet that his friend Mya made for him. Inside, it had his first library card.

It’s these moments that can bring you to your knees multiple times in one day.

It’s when you are faced with the reality that your child will never use his wallet again.

He will never go to the library again.

In those moments, all of the memories come flooding back. I think back to all of the times that we went to the library together. We would visit the library weekly so there are a lot of memories attached to something so simple.

Then I think about his friend Mya, who made the wallet for him. She also had cancer but she beat it. We met her at Little Gym, while she was fighting cancer and I told her mom about St. Baldrick’s because she didn’t know about the organization. I shaved in honor of Mya the year after we met her. And her family started to do fundraisers for St. Baldrick’s. And Jackson shaved his head at their event raising $1200 in one night. This was 4 months before cancer took him from us.

It’s crazy how something so small can de-rail you.

As a bereaved parent, it takes so much to get through one day without your beloved child. It’s almost unbelievable how your mind can think about them every single second of the day. It’s like I have a movie playing in my head all day. It is nothing short of a miracle that I can accomplish anything with as busy as my mind can be. And add parenting a busy, demanding 4 year old all the while, it reminds me why I don’t have much to give when the day is done.

Some may see this as a sign and maybe it is. These signs are a mixed bag for me. I love to think about Jackson saying hello to me but I want him here and I can’t have that. I’m hopeful that when the grief is not so raw that I will be able to see these loose boards as signs but for now, it causes me so much pain.

I’ve Had The Rug Pulled Out From Underneath Me

I was cruising along, having good days and bad, and then…….


I found some things that were helping me get through my days and then forced isolation changed everything.

I could no longer do the things that were helping me. I was forced to deal with the feelings that I hadn’t completely delved into. I had forgotten to tend to my grief while I was just trying to get through my days and it came back to bite me.

I’ve said this more than once, no one in their right mind would willingly sit in this kind of pain. I have had days that I literally feel like I could crawl out of my skin. It hurts way too much. Everywhere I look, I see reminders of Jackson. This social isolation has made his absence a million times more obvious.

Ivan has no one to play with.

“Ivan has no one, but us.”

And trust me, I guarantee they would be arguing, but at least they would have each other. Except now, Ivan has no one, but us. Thankfully, he has been okay with being at home and hasn’t been asking to play with anyone. But he does want us to entertain him all day. I couldn’t do that before Jackson died and I certainly can’t do it now that my grief is at an all-time high and the world is in chaos.

Quarantining from the COVID-19 has brought me back to the first month of my grief. I did not leave the house for an entire month. I didn’t have to but I couldn’t either. People were bringing me food, doing my laundry, helping us take care of basic life tasks. I felt safe in my home because it was familiar and predictable. Now I’m being forced not to leave the house and I am back in total shock and denial about Jackson’s death.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I went through a major trauma, which was completely out of my control. Now, our world, is going through a major trauma and I have been triggered.

I am working on ways to deal with my newfound anxiety and some days are better than others. Right now, I’m taking the days as they come. Some days, I may feel energetic and ready to tackle anything. On others, I just want to lay on the couch.

My family will do anything we can to get through our days.

What other option do we have?

On one distressing day, we pulled up our carpet, painted the living room walls, and put down laminate wood flooring. We needed the change.

I’m trying to learn to be more self-reliant because I depended on my community to do all of the things that I was unable to do. Well now, my community has their own life issues to deal with so they aren’t as readily available. I don’t believe they have completely abandoned me but I realize they have their own battles to fight.

Avoiding Pain

While I am so thankful for my community and their willingness to always step in while I’m struggling, the pain of losing a child can not be fixed. I have been extremely busy since Jackson died (some by my choice and some not.) Having a very active 4 year old has forced me to get out of bed every day and tend to his needs, which are many, he was needy to begin with. Holding events where I have asked my community to lock arms with me has done wonders for my heart, but none of it change the fact that my 7 year old son is gone. It has been a bit of a distraction and I will always acknowledge that it has been purposeful. I haven’t really wanted to face the truth.

He was the boy who made me a mom.

I had 12 hours from the time I was told that there was nothing more the doctors could do until he took his last breath. We never have enough time with our children but trust me, 12 hours is not enough time to say goodbye. Everything has been going 100 miles an hour since he left this earth. I have not allowed myself much time to slow down and tend to my grief.

What I have learned over and over again is that grief is like an angry monster and if you don’t tend to that angry monster, he will come and slap you down. Well I’ve been slapped down. Being forced to not do the things that are good for my heart and soul and having zero control over it, puts me into a bad place.

I spoke to another mother who lost her son suddenly and it put me back into the place when I was thinking about Jackson’s brief but tumultous hospital stay. I could not fully process everything that was happening because it was happening at the speed of light. I could barely sit down before another doctor needed to come and talk to me. And on top of that, we were making arrangements for Ivan to be cared for. Oh and I had just given birth too so I was dealing with postpartum issues. I have literally had no time to process. And now I have all the time in the world and I am terrified. I don’t want to face it.

I will never hear my son’s voice again.

I will never get a 30 second hugger from my boy again.

I need a 30 second hugger from my boy more than anything right now.

I will never go to another school event for Jackson and I have never felt more pride then when I saw him in his element. My son did not get to go to 2nd grade, he didn’t get to turn 8, he didn’t get to lose a tooth. He will never kiss a girl, have a broken heart, get married or give me grandchildren. I have chosen not to focus on those things but don’t think for one second that I don’t realize it.

Today it’s hard for me to focus on the gifts, even though they are many. Today, I am being forced, against my will, to face what I haven’t wanted to face. My 7 year old son is dead. He died. I will never see him again. And I hate everything about it.

I will get back to doing the things to feed my soul and help me to feel better. But today, no one can fix the pain I’m in. I just have to face it. Jackson Julius Schmitt, I will never be the same without you because loving you and raising you for the 7 years I was given, were the greatest 7 years of my life. I need strength and prayers to get through the years of giving your brother the life that he deserves. He didn’t deserve to lose you but I will do my best to give him what he needs. Mommy’s heart is shattered. I cried myself to sleep last night. This hurts worse than anything I could have ever fathomed having to endure. There are things you can do to help with physical pain but nothing helps with the pain of losing the apple of my eye, my pride and joy, my precious baby boy. You have been and will always be my baby and I was the only woman you ever loved and that is such an honor.

To all of the women who have lost children, my heart breaks for you. This is not how it’s supposed to be. I hope you have a good support system who can love you through this pain. If you haven’t lost a child, consider yourself fortunate. You could never fathom this kind of pain. Think about how much you love your child and multiply it times a zillion, then you have one iota of an idea how much this hurts.