This is a follow-up story to Shannon’s ongoing grief journey. To read the full back story please click here.
“I love being a mom. In fact, I can remember when I was a little girl, the two things I wanted to be when I grew up was a mom and a teacher. I also wanted 11 kids at one point in my childhood. I know it is crazy, and who knew I would end up almost halfway there? We are a flawlessly blended family. I am a bonus mom to two amazing girls Ava (10) and Rylan (7), my firstborn, Emmry, who is almost 12, Kinsley Reese who is in heaven, and the baby of the bunch and only boy, Ford.
Being a mom is so rewarding and exhausting all at the same time. My husband thinks I am crazy and sometimes I do stress myself out making sure everything is perfect for them but one thing I know is one day, they will be grown or not here to do those things for anymore. I will never be able to do those fun things with Kinsley again. No special holiday crafts or special birthdays. She is missing all the fun activities we are doing during this quarantine. I do these things for and with my kids so they will have memories they can remember for their entire lives. Prior to losing Kinsley, I did not realize the impact or importance of those things. Now the fun things I do with the kids, the memories, the pictures all have a different meaning and make the stress and exhaustion completely worth it.
The one thing I know is when I think back and remember the times I had with Kinsley, I have no regrets. I made sure she lived her best life all the time. She enjoyed those days and fun events the most. I would turn the smallest things into something so exciting for her. It could just be something as simple as Football Sunday. I got her dressed in her cutest Steelers outfit and made her excited to pick where we were going to watch the game and eat wings. We just celebrated Rylan’s birthday and remembered how excited Kinsley was for birthdays, not just hers, and how special she made ‘the birthday girl or boy’ feel. She would make them all kinds of stuff and she would fight over sitting next to them for cake and presents. Emmry said, ‘Birthdays aren’t the same without Kinsley because she always made you feel special.’ Kinsley’s zest for life, and maybe a touch of ADHD, made everything a little more exciting and chaotic.
As Mother’s Day is coming up, I have spent a lot of time thinking about being a mom and what that means. Being a mom brings lots of joy, but I would have never thought I would say being a mom also brings a lot of pain and emptiness. Prior to Kinsley, Mother’s Day was just a day of appreciation. It was a day I felt special, as I went to brunch with everyone, got a ton of homemade cards, flowers, some of my favorite things, and celebrated being a mom. Almost 12 years of being a mother and celebrating Mother’s Day, I have never felt more like a mom than I do now after losing Kinsley.
When children are born, we have this immediate unconditional love for our babies. It’s a love you can’t describe to anyone until they experience becoming a mom themselves. It’s an indescribable feeling. You immediately know this small tiny person you are holding in your arms for the first time has your whole heart forever and nothing can or will change that, not even death. All moms say they will die for their kids never actually expecting to be put in that situation, but you just know if it were to come down to it, you would. Nothing is truer than this statement. As I was watching my daughter die, all I wanted was to trade places with her. I wanted to take the pain away and I prayed tirelessly for him to take me instead. Watching her lie there dying was something I never wanted or expected to experience as a mother.
Selfless is a word I like to use to describe being a mom. I always put my kids first. This situation with Kinsley was no different. My prayers, while she was in the hospital, started as ‘please heal her, help her push through this, I need her.’ February 13th, we sat in a room of doctors, nurses, social workers around a table and the first thing I heard was, ‘If she survives, she’s losing all of her limbs.’ Then they proceeded to say she had a stroke and would struggle with the entire left side of her body, her kidneys were failing and if she survived, she would have to be on dialysis. That all sounded like a pretty sh*tty existence, right? As her mom, in that very instance, I let her go. My prayers as her mother shifted to ‘please take her and take good care of her, make sure when she goes, she is comfortable and not scared, make sure she knows we all love her.’ I think that is the true definition of selflessness. I would rather live a lifetime of pain from losing her than have her here selfishly but miserable because she is not really living like Kinsley. So, I let her go.
A good friend sent me a quote by Jamie Anderson as I was writing this, it said, ‘Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.’ I’ve got so much love for that child and an entire lifetime of loving her was taken from me. I suppose that’s why I have so much grief from losing her.
One thing I’ve learned is being a mother means experiencing every emotion to its fullest, joy, selflessness, excitement, love, exhaustion, tiredness, fear, and for me, extreme sadness and pain. I wouldn’t change being a mom for anything in this world, not even if I knew I would have to live a lifetime of pain from losing Kinsley. Having Kinsley, raising Kinsley, loving Kinsley, and losing Kinsley has taught me so much about myself and life. I am eternally grateful for her, for the memories I have of her, for her love, and being able to love her, each and every day. God chose me to be her mom and that is something truly remarkable. ”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Sandvik. Follow her journey on her website here and Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from Shannon here:
‘Her eyes looked up at me in panic. ‘Mommy, it’s blood.’ We were just in the ER and everything said she was fine. My stomach about hit the floor.’: Family says goodbye to their ‘forever Valentine’ after battle with flu
‘She constantly pissed us off. Lord, did she stir up drama. Now, I’m pissed there will always be an empty seat. The family dynamic has been rocked.’: Mom continues to make memories after daughter’s passing, ‘We are going to find something to smile about’
‘Be grateful all of them are in one house alive and healthy, because mine aren’t. The fighting used to annoy me. Now, I’m glad they’re even here to fight.’: Mom says ‘they will remember what you do during this quarantine’
‘We won’t get to take fireball shots together when she turns 21. She’ll never get to drive the red jeep with no doors that she wanted. We were robbed.’: After losing daughter to flu, mom is reminded that ‘love is permanent’
‘Ms. Kinsley, we’re gonna get you cleaned up now.’ It was time to turn off her machine. My husband leaned in to hug them, tears streaming down his face.’ Woman thanks nurses and doctors for their ‘selflessness’ during daughter’s final moments
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