Updated: May 20
On this day, four years ago.
I held my son Braedon’s hand as his last breath escaped through his lips and dissolved into the air ever so gently talking all that was him in one fell swoop.
One thousand, four hundred and sixty one days.
That’s how long it’s been since his heart stopped beating and mine kept going. Despite that continuum of time and vast space that separates heaven and earth & him and I, loving him is so intricately woven into every fiber of my being it feels like I’ve loved him for a thousand lifetimes or more. And even though he is no longer here with us I cannot feel my heart beat without also feeling his too.
With his final exhale that day I knew my life would never be the same. Becoming his mom changed me in the most beautiful ways so inevitably saying goodbye forever would change me in profound ways too.
It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do but I live my life in honour of him now and in doing so I've learned and grown so much. Some people say we should to stop trying to grow through loss, that there is too much pressure to transform our pain and that it takes away from the natural process of grieving.
There's nothing natural about losing and mourning your child though. Nothing. The intense grief rips right through you and guts you from the inside out. It strips you naked, tares away pieces of your heart and soul and steels away everything you were and everything you thought your life would be in the wink of an eye. Personally, I don't see how anyone could move through that heart wrenching & earth shattering pain & put their life and heart back together piece by piece without also growing. I didn't try to grow I just did.
My transformation, the growth, & the commitment to honour Braedon with my life has been my saving grace though. It's given me hope on my darkest days and It's been the foundation of my healing...here’s what I want to share four years after the hardest goodbye.
One: Our Family Looks Different Now But…
Our family looks different now but we’re the same too.
There's a Mother and a Step-Dad.
There's an adorable, wild, & crazy dog named Macaroni.
There's a son too, our precious Braedon who lives in heaven now.
Even though he's not here; he's very much still a part of our lives, our world, & part of us. Love does that; it transforms space & time & bridges our hearts with his all the way in heaven.
He is still ours; he is still part of us and we still carry him with us everywhere we go. Every day. Every hour. Every Minute.
Two: I’m Still a Mother:
Our family may look different with our son living in heaven but I’m still and forever will be a mother; his mother. Braedon's Mom.
I still love him just as much as you love your child
I still strive to make him proud every day
I still love talking about him just as much as you like talking about your children
I still love hearing his name
I still love celebrating him
Three: We’re ALL Capable of Healing
In my pursuit to live brave like Braedon I’ve learned we’re all infinitely more powerful, more courageous and more resilient than we can even imagine. We are miracles in nature. We can move mountains, defy logic, survive against all odds and through heart wrenching trauma and yes even heal from impossible loss.
Healing doesn’t mean we’re over it though. It doesn't mean we move on or that we’ll ever be done with our grief either. Despite what some people say we actually never get over the loss of a child or any other close personal bond because we never stop losing them or loving them.
There’s an empty chair at:
every family dinner,
every special occasion
every celebration & adventure.
That chair remains empty and you carry the weight of it for a lifetime. Sometimes you can carry it with ease, sometimes it knocks you over and slows you to a crawl. And sometimes it feels like the weight of it will crush you but it doesn’t and you go on.
So often since losing Braedon people say to me, you’re so strong. I’ve heard it again and again & here's the thing. I don’t have superhuman strength; I cry real tears and feel real pain just like you. The same strength that others so easily recognize in me is within you too; it’s in all of us.
Our power lies in our ability to choose healing. Every single one of us is capable of it but we must show up with a willingness to heal. We must remember that healing isn't passive either. It takes work. We have to practice healing and there is no finish line either. Like grief, healing is a lifelong journey but one we can choose at any time.
Four: You have to Choose to Continue Living
Braedon woke up on a Friday morning in December 2017 with his whole life ahead of him. He went to school that day, worked his part time job at McDonald’s the next and ended up in the Paediatric ICU that Sunday.
Five months later on a Wednesday in May surrounded by some of his favourite people his heart stopped beating and we had to say goodbye forever.
He never woke up after he was wheeled away for surgery that Tuesday and he passed away the next day. As much as it pained me that I never got to talk to him again or tell him all the things I wished I had said, I tried to find solace in the fact that he didn’t know he was dying.
The truth is though we all know we’re dying but still some of us never truly live. Braedon’s absence doesn’t just remind me of the fragile nature of life, it also reminds me that I want to live for the both of us. I refuse to waste what was taking from him and I am after all the keeper of his memories and a vessel for his bright light.
Lots of people say they would die for their child. As a bereaved mom, I don’t doubt that for a second because I know that I would have traded places with Braedon without question. That’s not possible though, I can’t trade my life for his, so now as a grieving mother I do the hardest thing everyday; I live for him. I live for Braedon.
Everyday I'm choosing to continue living on while recognizing the vast difference between living and being alive. Personally, I think the best way to honour those we’ve lost is by honouring our own lives, by choosing to live on even though it’s hard and by living fully alive.
Grief and heartache will always be a part of me but it will never be all of me and it doesn't have to be all of you either.
I’m choosing to honour Braedon with my life. With how I show up in this world and by who I become in the face of my greatest adversity.
I want you to know that you can start picking up those pieces and begin putting your life back together whenever you're ready. You're still here, your life isn't over and it matters. It will never look the same & it won’t be the life you envisioned either.
Grief and loss can coexist with happiness and joy though. You can find or even new meaning, and life can still be beautiful. You’re a miracle after all, capable of anything; even surviving and thriving after impossible loss.
Tiffany Agnew's son Braedon died in 2018 just four months after his 18th birthday and three days after Mother's Day that year. His short life transformed every part of who she is and he continues to guide her from afar. She has found healing through writing, speaking, coaching and the work she does with with The Braedon Foundation which she founded in his memory soon after he passed away.