Letting Go

The water covers me on all sides. It is warm and clear in the afternoon sunlight. I am somewhere between the surface and the floor of the sea. Above me, I can see the soft tossing of waves, the sun poking and prodding around every crest. The sand below is perfectly white, and the sea floor takes on shapes and patterns among the rises and dips of the sand, on the rocks scattered about. The vastness and purity of it makes me feel like the sand must keep traveling farther down into the center of the earth, as if there were nothing else.

The hair on my arms sways in unison under the gentle currents. I am motionless underneath the surface, arms and legs floating listlessly. My eyes are open, staring out through the clear water without actually looking at anything at all. I am completely alone. There are no fish or creatures or reefs with life springing from them. It is beautiful, and desolate.

This is where I go to meet my lost daughter, the one who didn’t make it. This is where I go to sit with my sadness, where I allow the anguish and longing to settle on me, without judgement or care or distraction or hope. It’s here where everything is quiet, where all of the noise dissipates into the nurturing sounds of being submerged. I’m present down here, under the waves, in a way I can’t be above the surface. I feel half dead and relieved.

It’s here in this state of floating that I find her.

She appears before me just as I am, floating with her arms and legs outstretched in the clear warm water. The dark hair that covers her head waves from side to side. I stare at her perfect little eight pound body, the rolls in her thighs, the way her Momma’s cheeks swallow up her Daddy’s nose. I marvel at the size of her hands and peek around every nook and cranny of her body that I failed to look at it in the fourteen hours that I had her in my arms.

She is still dead before me, but she is here.

After three years of wrestling with the tragedy that took her life, there it very little in the way between us now. The anger is gone. The missing has eased. The preoccupation with my own fragile state no longer rules my waking hours. The fucked up ness of how she died has been analyzed and regretted with enough energy that I no longer have any left for it. I have thoroughly changed from losing her, slowly and completely, but even the changing seems to have run its course.  It is just us now.

I grab her naked body and pull her into my chest. With my hands and elbows and arms I pull as much of her flesh into contact with mine. Her head rests against the beating of my heart, her toes and feet push against my stomach. Her hands are clasped together under my chin and I kiss them.

I used to tell her in this moment that I loved her. That I missed her. I would sing her songs. I would say a thousand times over that I was sorry. But there are no words anymore, nothing left that needs to be said.

The two of us float together, embraced, a father and his daughter, under the surface of the vast sea, drifting aimlessly.


For three years now, I have sat with my anguish. I have allowed grief to consume me in the way that grief requires us, without agenda or timeline or a set of rules. I have shaken my fists and thrown myself at the world and I have knelt down on my knees in brokenness and defeat. I have felt brave and wickedly vulnerable, the two feelings coming and going as easily as the wind. I have learned to live with that strange duality of feeling happy and sad in the exact same moment. I have felt the crushing blow of missing my daughter who can never return, how it makes you physically sick and short of breath. In the slow, arduous task of healing, my emotional, mental and spiritual state have taken on new forms and new meaning. I am not who I used to be.

I can feel the grip of grief letting go of me, like slowly pulling away from someone you may never see again. It comes with a certain level of fear and trembling, knowing how much my grief has tethered me to my missing daughter. In all these years of wishing the pain away, the irony now is realizing how much I will miss the pain.

I can feel the joy returning. There is a space in my brain again for new dreams and pursuits and adventures. There is a steadfastness in the present, a contentment that I never thought would be possible to feel again. I, too, am letting go.


The sound of music tugs at me to come up for air. Our sacred moment is coming to an end and I close my eyes and hold on to her for as long as I can stay under.

It’s easier to stay with her, to forget about the future, to leave the world behind. There is fear up there, and chaos, and worse yet, the possibility of more tragedy. And yet.

I loosen my hold on her until she is before me again. I kiss her forehead. And then I let go and swim up to the sounds coming from above.

Life, awaits.



If you're in a similar place, how have you coped with letting go? Or perhaps this idea isn't even something to be considered? Is there a space where you go to meet your missing children?

In this being my last post for Glow, I want to thank you for abiding with me over the past three years, first as a place of refuge and now as a place of community. Peace and gentleness to all of you, wherever you find yourself these days.


quietly forward

I don't want to share her anymore.

Initials traced on sidewalks, birth date carved into wood.

MARGOT WAS HERE, inked on my forehead.

Dropping her name like rain, sprinkled over the city, in grocery stores and preschool and dinners with acquaintances.

Neighbors. Bartender. Old friends.

I have another daughter, I'd lament, with downward eyes, searching for a remedy.

It was like this in the beginning. Shouting, screaming, knees in the mud, heart on my sleeve, anything to feel some sort of connection to her.

For months and a year and more months, I wore her story around me like a cloak, heavy and tattered from the daily grind, dark material, drenched in sadness and anxiety. I didn't care how messy it all appeared. There was no choice to put on the cloak, or to share her, to sprinkle her around the city. Grief doesn't give you a choice. I woke up to life without her every day and that reality felt like all there was.

Somewhere along the ticker I’ve gone quiet. The pulse of my sorrow still beats, steadily, methodically, but sharing her so freely feels uncomfortable now, like it’s a violation of our intimacy.  

Shhhhhhh Daddy, I imagine her whispering, they don't need to know.

Suddenly I’m overcome with this urge for privacy, for things left unsaid, for the cloak to whither and fall, for the sidewalks to wash away, for the wood to rot. I want her all to myself. I want the ways she has changed me to be something that I alone know the extent of. I want my thoughts about her kept only for us, sacred secrets between a father and daughter. I want her ashes, the rocks from her river, the remnants from her brief existence to be tucked away, hidden from bystanders, hallowed ground reserved only for a few.

It’s now in the quiet where I find closeness with her, in the whisper of her name, in the privacy of my own thoughts, in the ways in which she has changed me.



Do you ever feel quiet? Do you feel like not sharing your children so much? If so, what brought that on for you? I wonder if some of you might feel somewhat off by the idea of being quiet, of not sharing your chlldren so freely?



Her Ashes Will Ride In My Glove Compartment

My second daughter died on our sidewalk. Just a few steps from our front door.

Everything was fine and then it was over.

I walk over that patch of land nearly every single time I leave the house. My firstborn daughter rides her scooter over the spot, back and forth, screaming and hollering as she glides down the path. Our bedroom is in the front of the house, as close to the scene as you can get without being outside. A street lamp shines through our curtains in the darkness, like a beacon, as if it shines to remind me. Crickets hop between grass and concrete and I can hear them chirp, chirp, chirping away, into the evening and throughout the night.

The slab of concrete where she died just sits there idly still, two feet by two feet, day after day, gray and lifeless.

I thought my home would be ruined for me after she died. I thought it would be impossible to spend every day and night in the exact same place where her life abruptly ended. I wondered how I could avoid walking on that stretch of cement, how I could ever step foot on it without wanting to weep, or build a monument, or take a sledgehammer to it.

I wondered if this city would be ruined for me too.

I'm realizing now, after twenty-one months without her, that these places are all I have.

This was the last place she was alive. It was the last place our living bodies came into contact as I hugged her Mother, my belly against her body, a few minutes before it was over.

It's here in my home, here in this city where I've bonded with her through support group and countless conversations with my wife, through experiencing her with our friends and grieving with my living daughter, by watching my subsequent son being born in the exact place his sister died. We may not have brought a living daughter home from the hospital, but we have spent month after month parenting her, connecting with her, here in this place, even in her absence.


In two weeks time, we will be packing up our meager possessions and moving from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, some two thousand miles to the East.

Los Angeles is where she was conceived, on a blistering July night, bedroom windows open. Los Angeles is where she miraculously grew and where we first saw her and where we felt her kick and where we set up her nursery. And Los Angeles is where she died on an overcast Thursday afternoon. It’s where we last held her and where we said goodbye. It’s the place we faced our greatest darkness, the place our friends whispered her name and lavished us with understanding and kindness. It’s where we spread her ashes, where we have spent night after night talking and crying over our lost baby girl. And we’re leaving it all behind.

The sidewalk isn’t coming with us. Neither is the river where we spread her ashes or the home where we mourned her. Our friends, the ones who selflessly trudged with us through the pain, the ones who know as much as you can really know, they aren’t coming either. The street lamp will continue burning brightly and the crickets will keep chirping and we will be long gone from the only place on earth that I really knew her.

And it scares the hell out of me.

How will we make friends with people who don’t know this part of our story? How will we handle a place that shows no sign of her? How will we feel connected to her in a place she’s never been?


The packing list for what we will take in our car includes three things so far:

travel pack n’ play
leo mattress

The only thing I know to do, as I leave my home, is to take her with me. In whatever ways I can, in whatever form, however possible it may be. Her ashes will ride in my glove compartment. The rocks from her river will be in a glass jar on the floor near my feet. Her necklace and ornament and the framed picture of water will be carefully packed, safe and sound in the back seat.

And truth is, there ain’t nothing a move can change about the girl who resides in my fractured heart, the girl who has left me for better and for worse. She is there regardless of geography. Regardless of happiness or a subsequent child or death or moving or Christmas presents. I'm the one who carries her memory.

Perhaps that will be enough.


Have you moved away from the place where your children lived and died? What was it like? Did it change the way you grieved, the way you thought about them? Can you imagine moving from the place you experienced your loss?

She's In California Somewhere

I was supposed to call him back months ago. He had left a simple message:

Hi, this is Eric from One Legacy. I’m calling in regard to a question you had. Again, this is Eric at One Legacy. Thank you so much.

It was a message we had spent a year waiting for. And it was there for the taking, for calling back, and I sat idle on it, pressing mute, or pause, or whatever it took to buy myself some emotional strength.

They had made it clear from the beginning of the donation process: after one year we could find out if our daughter’s heart valves could be used to help another baby.

One year. I remember wishing the time away, as if knowing what happened to her valves was all that mattered, as if I could skip facing grief and living in sorrow and missing the most important year of my life.

And then the moment was suddenly upon me.

I yearned for good news. I begged for science and circumstances to align in such perfect harmony for there be some life that was made easier, or saved, by the freak accident that took my darling Margot. I desperately wanted there to be a child crawling around somewhere with a part of Margot inside of them. The constant thought of this miracle materializing, of her valves fusing together with ventricles and atriums of another human being, seemed like concrete evidence that something beautiful came from her.

I have taken gifts from her absence, things I have deemed beautiful only because I don’t seem to have a choice to think about them any other way. I have taken the experience and carved out lessons and wisdom from it, become more fully human, more content, more thoughtful. But even all of the gifts in the world seem so trivial in comparison to what Margot got out of the deal, the one who didn’t even get a breath.

But these heart valves. This felt like something real. A gift directly from her to another, not a gift that was painfully extracted by her parents, but entirely, physically, from her.


The nurse told us that if we wanted to donate, we only had a few hours left with her. They needed to keep her cold, she said. They needed to take her in for open heart surgery.

I opened her delicate eyelids and unwrapped the swaddle around her body. I studied every solitary fragment of her flesh, memorizing the shape of her elbow and the curl of her lip, tracing the outline of her sizable hands. I helplessly pleaded with her to miraculously wake up, even though I knew it to be in vain, and then pleaded and begged none the less. Rain cascaded down the window of our third floor ICU room, and I watched the dark ominous sky hovering over Los Angeles, as if nature and the state of my brokenness were in some mysterious union.

When it was time to say goodbye, we were sleeping together on a fold out bed, my arm wrapped around her chest, my nose pressed up against her hair. I placed her body in a clear plastic basin and watched her disappear around the corner.

Almost all of her returned to me a few days later in the form of ashes. Everything but those valves.


Fear has me in a noose. What if there isn’t good news? What if her valves weren’t right? What if they sat idle for too long and were terminated somewhere, thrown into a bin, or saved in a jar.

I’m locked in my bedroom, phone in hand.

Hi, Eric. My name is Josh Jackson and I’m calling you back in regards to my daughter Margot. She died in March of last year and we donated her heart valves and I wondered if you had any information on those valves.

The words come out like one continuous sentence, sputtered out shaky and broken. I feel exposed, laid bare by a year of grief that has slowly eroded the confidence and security and strength that once filled my being.

Yes, hello Josh. I am so sorry for your loss. Let me see what I can find out for you.

There is a kindness in his voice that makes me want to weep.

Thanks for waiting. It seems that we haven’t yet found a match for them, but her valves have recently passed a follow up test that allows them to still be used. Usually our donations get used within the first year, so I would expect them to go to someone soon.

I don’t know what to ask next, even though the questions are streaming through my mind like flashcards.  How do they test usability? What happens if they find a match? Can we find out the name of the recipient if there is a match? Should I call back later?


Where are her valves right now? The one question I hadn’t thought of, the one question that matters.


They are somewhere in California.

Suddenly I’m thrust into this primal act of fatherhood, still looking for my missing child, as if I somehow forgot that her valves, still workable and life giving, were my daughter.


I want to shout and scream, but the words never make it out of my mind. It’s all I can do to hold myself together, to keep myself from running out the door and into the drivers seat and to every lab and hospital in California, in search of what is left of her.

I thank him for his time and effort and grace and vow to call back in a few months, as if I’ll somehow forget.

Eighteen months later and I’m still searching.


How far out from your loss are you? In what ways are you still tangibly confronted with your child’s death?

What It Feels Like To Almost Have A Child After Losing A Child

Two weeks from today, on May 7, around 12:30pm in Los Angeles, we are scheduled to meet our third child, a boy, who if anything like his older sisters, will be long and thick and blue eyed and full of hair.

We have a name picked out for him. We have a few things ready for his arrival; an old car seat, some hand me down articles of clothing, an aqua colored swaddle blanket and a scattering of other necessities, like baby soap and a sealed bottle of whiskey. Barring any unforeseen calamity or early entrance, he will come into the world after spending thirty-eight and a half weeks inside his Mother, the same amount of time his sister spent in utero before dying.

Seventy-five weeks of pregnancy has come down to this.


We are dancing more and more these days. My three year old and I run around the house singing wildly off key to the vibrations of Florence + The Machine, cranking the volume during the “loud parts,” as Stella refers to them, and pumping our fists and spinning in circles and group dancing with Momma, which involves an awkward three person and one belly swaying hug.

We have been doing this sort of tribal dance ever since Margot died. It was always a brief respite from the agonizing grief, a tangible way for us to contrast the sadness surrounding Stella’s life with some joy. But something feels different now. As the song ends and we throw ourselves onto the couch in exhaustion, the sadness that once lingered after the dancing is now replaced with anticipation, the light at the end of another long pregnancy tunnel, the hopeful gift of a son, out of the ashes of his sister.


I have been growing a beard since we entered the third trimester because I don’t know what else to do for my son in utero, because it’s the only outward sign of hope I can think of, because the simple act of not shaving feels like something I have control over. It is thick and black and surprisingly vigorous after two months. And it’s mostly awful looking, something my partner says “doesn’t look bad or good.” But it’s there, growing simultaneously with my son, exuding love and hope every time I pick food out of my mustache or my daughter yanks at it in laughter or I itch it at work or gently pull at it while I’m thinking or reading.


Thirteen months and one day ago, as my partner bled and bled with no clots in sight, we were twenty minutes away from a hysterectomy.

Thirty-six and a half weeks ago we got lucky, damn lucky, that the cells of a tiny egg and a tiny sperm entered into a union that has, up to this point, stayed the course. There is gratefulness in abundance.

Mostly though, there is this inescapable feeling like our lives are hanging in the balance, like we’re standing on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a rugged coastline, waiting to be pulled back or kicked off the ledge.

I don’t know how we could go through this again.

I really, really, don’t know how we could go through this again.  

It’s damn near impossible to keep myself from looking over the cliff, from imagining the free fall should this little boy not make it. The fear, which introduced itself early on in the pregnancy, as if on cue, has successfully set up iron gates around my hopeful heart, holding me in a perpetual state of doubt, my gaze nearly fixed on the rocky coastline below. The emergency run to labor and delivery at thirty weeks didn’t help. Nor have the poor non-stress numbers, the abnormal blood work, or the two dozen times we had to get the doppler out to see if he was still alive. The only relief from the fear and worry is that it’s persistence has become commonplace.

And then there is the hope. Hope that this baby will live, and keep living. Hope that I will hold him in my arms and look into his eyes and tell him that he is my favorite boy in all the world. Hope that I will get to introduce my three year old to her live sibling, to see the two of them together, a dream of such vivid beauty I can hardly even think about it.

Hope that in two weeks time, we will pick up what’s left of ourselves, step back from the cliff, turn around and walk back towards home.


If you have had a subsequent pregnancy, what was your experience like? If you haven’t had a subsequent pregnancy, how does it feel to read about other members of the baby loss community who are pregnant? Is it hopeful? Diffiicult?

Pale Blue Dot

See the faint dot between the white lines? That's planet earth. And it makes me wonder about my dead baby.

Just before Voyager 1 ended it's primary mission and blasted off towards the outer reaches of the Solar System, it spun around and snapped a photo of earth, some three and a half billion miles away. This photo was taken in 1990 (and the Voyager, incredulously, is still going).

On the one hand, of course, the sheer insignificance of the earth, and our lives, in the grand scheme of the solar system is sobering. There appears to be a bigger story being written, cosmic and infinite in size, and one that will be downright impossible to ever understand. The notion that any of us, with such finite minds and limited understanding, could have anything figured out seems almost foolish. As astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out, “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.”

From this vantage point of earth, everything about our significance is lost. The pain and joy and suffering and pleasures of our earthly human existence are all invisible. From out here looking in, our spinning earth boils down to life and death. The collective species lives and dies and enters the earth. End of story.

Insert my Margot into this picture of earth and you can barely discern any difference between her and the rest of the species. She lived, she died. She suffered the same fate as everyone else, and from this far away, the difference between her life and her great, great grandmother’s life is a mere blip in time, the same beginning, the same end. There is no tragedy from this vantage point, no suffering, no feeling of loss.

I am insignificant. She is insignificant. But at least we are together, tiny specks on a tiny speck with no Horton looking out for us. And there is some peace in this reality, some science comfort.

The other side of this image, however, reveals what a crazy, far-fetched, inconceivable fucking miracle it is that we even exist at all. The notion that the universe aligned in just the precise way for the species to make their grand entrance on planet earth, and for the species to continue to evolve over the millennia, and to evolve in such a way that our brains allow us the ability to think and feel and experience this little speck on which we live, is damn well breathtaking.

It’s here where I feel the tragedy of Margot June more deeply than ever. Her own miraculous story was cut short, without ever getting to experience this cosmic mystery of life on earth.  

I used to feel so sorry for my family, for our collective broken hearts, for the life we didn’t ask for, for the loneliness of losing a child. For her mother, whose waisted milk came in and dripped aimlessly down her flesh, who carried her for thirty-nine long weeks, who felt this more than anyone; for her sister, who kissed her in utero and spoke of her constantly, who always got this euphoric look in her eye when we described what being a sister meant for her; for myself and the broken dream of raising two girls, holding them both in my arms as we navigated life together.

Now days I mostly just feel sorry for her.

For in this image, I’m reminded of the revelation that she was, and all that was waiting for her on the other side of the womb. I’m heartbroken she missed out on the complexities of life on earth, no matter how insignificant or miraculous our pale blue dot is.


How does this image of planet earth make you feel in regards to your missing children? Does it bring peace or despair or a mix of both? Does science play a role in your grief? As the time has dragged on without your children, have you felt more or less sorry for yourselves?