Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Can You Scrapbook Through Grief and Losing a Child?

This year will mark eight years since the passing of my sweet, eldest child Joseph. Eight years ago my beautiful son was taken by cancer. Eight years ago we were in the depths of despair and trying to figure out how to survive the loss of him.



To read more about Joey's story, click HERE. There have been several blog posts I have written about Joey over the years, and you can find them by using my blog search tool. It will give you some insight into the incredible young man he was and how much he is missed.

While Joey was ill and we were in and out of hospitals for chemotherapy, and radition, and a variety of surgeries to try and stop the cancer, I didn't record many of my memories except in my personal journal. Sometimes I would take my journal up to the hospital and write while he slept. He slept a lot in those latter days. But most of the time I would read to help occupy my mind rather than focus on the overwhelming helplessness that I felt in trying to help my son recover.

There is a point in my journal that I stopped writing. I also stopped taking photos of him because any outside noises or activity was just too much for him. I've looked back at the journal many times and wondered if I have it in me to finish up his story. It was a journal I had kept for over a year, but it only had about 20 pages left to fill. Joey's story stops at the point he was transported by Lifeflight to the hospital on a night we thought he may not make it. While Joey's story in real life continued for a few additional weeks, I cannot bring myself to write those memories.

Joey was a vibrant child who was also rather private. I am private in many ways myself. I also have never experienced something so difficult, so dark, and so painful as the loss of him. I cannot and will not record those memories. While they are locked forever in my heart and mind, I will not put those final days to paper. I will NOT relieve those moments. I will not dwell on the intense emotion of it. I will not focus on the darkest moment of my experiences with him. I will not defile the memory of him. I will not share those memories publicly. I just can't.

I have given myself permission to not share those last days. Because grief is so individual I would never say for anyone else what is appropriate and needed. I just wouldn't know that. I only know what I needed and what works for me.

We mourned his passing for a very long time. We continue to mourn his loss every single day. But I also want my two younger children and even my husband and I to remember him. He left such a beautiful legacy that I want to make sure he is never forgotten. This is important to me.

So there are many memories that I continue to record about him as they come to me or as I feel the need to write them down. Sometimes it is too difficult, and I cry through the process. If I can work through it, then I keep going. If not, I again give myself permission to not share that specific memory. Other memories are bright and happy and easily shared. A photo of him will make me laugh. A memory will bring a smile to one of my children's faces. Those are the stories most easily retold. Those are the memories that make it into my scrapbook.

While it has been eight years since his passing, Joey has a prominent place in my scrapbook albums. He is STILL my son, and he is still part of our family. I find that when I just allow myself to share when I'm ready then it comes more easily to me. And in many ways it has helped me to heal and to preserve his most amazing story in a way that I hope honors him best.



Today on the Paperclipping Roundtable I discussed this topic of loss and scrapbooking with the hosts Noell and Izzy Hyman, as well as, Stacy Julian and Tracy Banks. You can listen in HERE to see what we discussed and how each of us has dealt with scrapbooking about people we love after we've lost them. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you've shared memories of loved ones who have passed on or the ways you find the strength to share those memories.


34 comments:

  1. I loved hearing you on the podcast Jen - you were wonderful. So honest, so strong: so loveable. xx

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    1. Thank you, Suse. It caught me off guard when I got a little emotional. Sometimes you forget how close those feelings are to the surface.

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  2. In March our granddaughter, Mikaela, would be 5, but we lost her in an accident nearly three years ago. My memory keeping actually INCREASED after her death, because I wanted to remember everything. Scrapbooking is also healing for me, but it's mostly about the memory-keeping and getting those stories in the book. My youngest daughter is only 7 months older than our granddaughter. When I look at her, watch her grow, I can't help but think about Mikaela, too. So I take lots of photos, write the stories down, and keep our memories safe. Thank you for sharing your stories. Hugs to you.

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    1. This just breaks m heart. I am SO glad you are recording your memories of Mikaela. Her mother and your youngest will be grateful.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and story. But I want to give you a BIG HUG for giving me permission to not scrap my Mom who died 3 years ago.... I have been struggling with it but just cannot do it just yet. So glad I followed Lain's link this morning.

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    1. Vanessa, I am so sorry to hear about your Mom. I'm sure that when you're ready, you'll be able to share your memories. Please know I'm thinking about you!

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  4. Jen,

    I rarely scrap about my mother and had felt guilty that those pages that included her were factual and less sentimental, but our relationship was fairly contentious. The pages I've done with my father are still quite difficult, he's been gone for over 4 years and I still want to call and talk with him. Grief certainly changes our hearts in unexpected ways. Lately I've been nudging my boyfriend of three years to get some of his memories down about his wife who died unexpectedly, I want him to know that although I love him, I also love her because of the love that she had for him. Thank you so much , thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing your son with us, it allows us to love him too.

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    1. Katy, you're an incredible person to understand your boyfriend's need to document his wife's memories. I think you're right in that he will appreciate you for helping him with that. Isn't it interesting how each person has a different emotion attached to them when it comes to the ease or difficulty of documenting our memories with them?

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  5. A pain so ... only you my friend, can support, for love.

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    1. Thank you for your love and support!

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  6. Your Joey will never be forgotten. You have made sure of that because of what you've been able to share with us. I've been thinking about him, so it's comforting to read this post.

    It took me four years to scrap about my last moments with my mom. She passed away before Christmas, 2010. Tears flowed throughout the creation, and I felt comfort once I was done. We all need our own time, and even if the memories never make it onto paper, they are tucked safely and lovingly in our heart and mind.

    God bless you!

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    1. I love how you mention that even if we can't get it on paper that it's still in our hearts. That is SO true!

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  7. thank you all for these comments my Dad passed away in September and I haven't felt able to scrap about any of it and maybe I never will. I looked after him for his last few days and it was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Thank you Jen I cannot imagine the pain of losing one of my children huge hugs to you xxx

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your Dad. I'm glad you were with him in his last days, but I'm sure it was also excruciating to say good-bye. Please know I'm so sorry!

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  8. Hi Jen
    I read your Joey's story on his last birthday and I was so touched. I heard your pain but had no idea really of the pain you felt until I lost my dear mom this past November. She was 90 years old with advanced dementia and had become my child.I have never suffered such a loss. I miss her so much. A day does not go by that I do not think of her and I pray to God every day to heal my aching heart. My heavenly father is my source of strength and carries me. I cannot scrap about my mom yet. I used to scrap about her all the time and I took lots of pictures of her every week.. I have a few pictures that I look at daily now but cannot look at any of the others yet .It is just too painful.I was given a journal book by a dear friend to write down my memories of my mom but I have not started it . I do plan to write down my memories because I do not want to forget them. She has been with me all my life and it is so hard not having her with me. I feel sad a lot but I am so thankful that I had her in my life and that I do have my memories. I will carry her with me in my heart for the rest of my life. Jen, Thank you so for sharing your stories and allowing us to share ours. Please continue to share. God bless and keep you.

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    1. Oh, Karen. I am SO sorry. You must feel the loss of her every single day. Please know I'm thinking about you!

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  9. I guess I never thought about scrap booking my lost loved ones. I am miles behind in my regular scrap booking and so I guess I never went beyond what happened last month with my kids. But now that you mentioned it, I think I would like to scrap a few pages of my Grandmother and Aunts and Uncles that have passed. I keep putting my grief off like there is no time for that, but in actuality, it would help me a lot through the process.
    Your memories are your own. If it hurts too much and takes you to a very deep place you never want to revisit, then don't.
    I just want to say that each year when I read about your son on your blog or sometimes more often, I am in awe of your strength and capacity to give and help others going through the same pain. I think you are amazing.

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    1. Holly, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your sweet comments. Grief is hard to work through and knowing when to document those memories can definitely be hard. Hugs!

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  10. I am sincerely sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine the pain of losing your child but I am happy that you have shared your story and inspired everyone who have lost a loved one to scrapbook about it. Therapeutic scrapbooking is dear to my heart and at my local children's hospital, there is a program in place to help the children and parents to scrapbook about their feelings. I have donated lots of items to help this cause. My brother was 38 years old when he passed away 8 years ago and it was very difficult. I didn't feel that I had the right to grieve because I was trying to be there for my parents and my sister-in-law and niece who was 4 and nephew who was 2 at the time. I finally had to grieve and that is why in the last three 3 years I have mostly scrapbooked for therapeutic reasons as it really is a wonderful outlet. My son and daughter-in-law were so excited about having a child and I was excited to be a first time grandma and they lost their baby. That has been difficult too. It is wonderful to meet so many wonderful people through scrapbooking and it's wonderful to share our experiences. Hugs to you Jennifer and all the people who have lost someone. xo

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    1. Lee-Anne, I'm so sorry to hear about your brother, as well as, your grandbaby. You have been through a great deal. I agree that scrapbooking can be very therapeutic. And I love that you donate supplies to the local children's hospital. I know those kinds of programs helped distract us while Joey was there. Thank you for sharing more of your story with me!

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  11. Oh Jen, reading this post left me in tears! I just want to reach through my computer and hug you! I am blessed in that I have never had to know the pain of losing a child. My son is a soldier in the U.S. Army and has done 4 combat tours in 10 years so I've had to embrace the thought but luckily have never had to deal with it. Your Joseph was a beautiful child and I am glad that you and have found a positive way to keep your memories of him alive for you and your family!

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    1. Celeste, prayers for your son and you who have sacrificed so much so my family could enjoy their freedom. Joseph wanted very much to be a solider and had planned on it all his life. In fact, his best friend ended up joining the army after he graduated high school. Thank you!

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  12. I've always wondered how you managed to move forward. The intensity of the grief is completely unfathomable to me. I thank you for sharing this. I haven't lost a child, but losing my dad this past year after caring for him was the deepest grief I've ever felt. Reading your story resonated with me, and I don't why, but it was comforting to read. So, again, thank you.

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    1. Ally, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. I'm sure it's been a difficult year for you!

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  13. Jen, I read your other posts about Joey. I am so sorry for you and your family's loss. I hope you always grieve in whatever manner and degree of privacy that allows you the comfort you need. Hugs to you and your family.

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  14. Hi Jen, thank you for sharing your thoughts and processes about scrapbooking through grief. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I am currently stuck with my scrapping as I'm about to journal on some photos of my niece the last time we saw her. She died in a tragic accident at 15 months old. It's still so raw and I am not sure how to address these photos or if I can. The journal spaces are just empty. This happened 5 years ago. Hugs to you.

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    1. That would be so difficult, and I'm so sorry. I'm sure even looking at her photos brings up a lot of feelings. :(

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  15. I am amazed by your strength and courage. Thanks for being so open about something so very difficult. I truly believe it gives others increased strength to bear their own burdens. Hugs to you...

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  16. My father died 9 years ago on February 20th. I have yet to scrap or at least put my thoughts on a layout. It was a 6-year ordeal from the time he first got sick until he passed. For those six years I stopped scrapbooking. I looked back and I hardly took any pictures. I have been a nurse for 25 years. The last 16 years I have worked in the ICU. As an ICU nurse I am around death and dying almost every time I work. All that experience did not prepare me for my father’s death. (gee whiz I'm tearing up just writing this) I have a few mementos from my father in a box. I don’t know if I will ever scrap it. Sure I was angry and extremely upset after he died. After nine years I see the experience around my fathers last years as a gift. It completely changed my practice as a nurse. So thanks Dad for that gift.

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  17. Jen, we lost our eldest son 11 years ago. I tried but I am still not able to scrap his pictures nor tell his story and I need to because he left a 6 month old daughter who needs those stories about her Daddy. Maybe now is the time.. After seeing how you can I hope I can. Take strength from it and pull out those pictures. Thank you for telling Joeys story. I need to go tell Harley-David's story. But I also need to be a me to say I am Mum to 3...

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  18. Jen, we lost our eldest son 11 years ago. I tried but I am still not able to scrap his pictures nor tell his story and I need to because he left a 6 month old daughter who needs those stories about her Daddy. Maybe now is the time.. After seeing how you can I hope I can. Take strength from it and pull out those pictures. Thank you for telling Joeys story. I need to go tell Harley-David's story. But I also need to be a me to say I am Mum to 3...

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story. Grief is a strange something. After my dad died in january 2012 i scrapped a lit. When he died it was after a period of pain ans sickness and it was a reluwf for him. But when my mom died only 10 months later totally unexpected, i couldn't scrap for years.. I just syartwd scrapping again last december and after reading your story I feel i can scrap about my mom and dad now. Even when the tears are falling doing that. Thank you! Wishing you strenght. Hug!

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