My Daughter Helps Me Cope With Having an Angel for a Son

ben's footprintMarch 1, 2011

I often talk to Benjamin. Out loud. When I think no one is watching.

I talk to him from a place of abundance and joy with my neck craned back, my eyes dazzled by the millions of stars floating over the darkened ocean. I talk to him from a place of peace as I gaze out at waves and sunshine and laughter. I talk to him from a place of fear, when my body is tight, my heart pounding, my trust momentarily shot.

I tell him I love him. I ask him to watch over his big sister. And because I believe that wherever he is, his vision is greater than mine, I ask him to help me remember to put one foot in front of the other and trust that the ground will be there.

At times it’s reassuring to have an angel for a son.


March 7, 2011

I spilled the salt today. It wasn’t a big deal. I was working on another batch of kale chips and hadn’t made enough room on the counter. The salad spinner was drying on top of a bowl. It shifted and knocked the bag of Celtic sea salt to the ground, the partially submerged tablespoon a perfect slide for escaping crystals. I can’t remember what I said -- shoot or ahhhhhhh or darn. (I work hard to be kid-friendly. I used to swear like a sailor.)

Ada ran downstairs, tripped over her feet, and landed in the kitchen with, "I’m okay. Mama, why are you frustrated?" I laughed and told her I’d spilled the salt but it wasn’t a problem and I’d sweep it up when I was done. "Okay," she said and turned to go. Talking to herself I heard, "Mama is always frustrated or tired or sad or not happy or not feeling good." I froze, listening. As she started up the stairs, she repeated herself. "Mama is always frustrated or tired or sad or not happy or not feeling good."

Alana Sheeran's daughterMy stomach hit the floor and tears welled as her reality, the reality of her life in our household for the last year and a half, sucker punched me and dropped me to my knees.

I know she feels loved. We play. We laugh together. We draw and do puzzles and cuddle. And yet ... and yet. Here is my bright light, the little being I’m doing my best to pull myself together for, holding up a mirror I don’t want to look into.

Since January 2010 I’ve been pregnant, miscarrying, hobbled by a broken leg, pregnant, bleeding, nauseated, tired, scared, bed ridden, hospitalized, grieving, healing, sick. There have been months where I couldn’t pick her up, couldn’t walk, couldn’t cook, couldn’t stand, couldn’t play. We sat on the couch and watched Mary Poppins and My Neighbor Totoro, we painted rocks and built sandcastles, but for far too long, I couldn’t take her to the park, push her on a swing, chase her on the beach. She’s heard me cry countless times. She already knows death in too intimate a way. As much as I talk about the gifts of the experience -- and there are many -- it has been brutally hard on all of us.

It’s time for a change.

Today my daughter gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I’ve been wallowing lately, allowing the story of being tired and frustrated to take over. I am a master at getting in my own way, at wanting things to be a teensy-weensy bit different than they are, at resisting joy. I’ve been working on it. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s time to stop working and play at life. Play with life.

It’s time for a new story. And until that new story feels solid, I’ll be the one throwing the dance party with my 3 1/2-year-old.

March 13, 2011

Mama, I decided to wish for a little brother.

Oh really?

Yes, I want to wish for a little brother.

What do you think it would be like, to have a little brother?

It would be fun. And it would make you happy.

March 19, 2011

I went to a special Kundalini yoga class tonight in honor of the full moon and vernal equinox. I came home flying high and was disappointed to find that Ada was already asleep. I asked Steve how she did with me not being home since I’d told her I would be. This was his answer:

Picture Ada, lying in bed, falling asleep but eyes still open.

Daddy: What are you thinking about?

Ada: Mama’s heart.

Daddy: What about Mama’s heart?

Ada: Inside.

Daddy: What about the inside?

Ada: How much love there is.

And she closed her eyes.

November 25, 2011 (the first anniversary of his due date)

One morning last week, Ada woke up with her characteristically bright eyes and sweet smile, and I immediately asked her for a hug. She threw herself at me and I held her tight, reveling in the feel of her small, warm body in my arms. She asked me for a hug (who am I to argue with that logic?), then her daddy.

Her next step was to exchange a round of kisses and she moved my hair out of the way to press her lips into my cheek. Laying down and sighing contentedly, she thought for a moment. Then with the look on her face that tells us something is coming -- something she’s quite proud of and we might or might not find appealing -- she announced that she had a “great idea.”

Let’s kiss baby Benjamin.

Oh, I responded, not quite knowing what else to say.

She sat up, leaned forward, and kissed my chest, right over my heart. Then her daddy’s. Then it was our turn to kiss hers.

Sixteen months after his death, Benjamin’s big sister gave him his first kiss. And broke open my still-healing heart.

Did you or someone you know go through a loss of a child? How have your other kids helped you cope?


About the Author: Alana Sheeren blogs at, formerly known as Life After Benjamin. She is the mother of one beautiful little girl, and her little boy, Benjamin, was stillborn at 23 weeks gestation. She has a Master's Degree in clinical and community psychology and is a grief specialist, energy healer, and life unstuckifier. In a former life, she was a professional dancer and actress, Pilates instructor to the rich and famous, and she taught healthy attachment workshops to new and expecting parents. You can follow her on Twitter, @AlanaSheeren.


Images via Alana Sheeren

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