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Stretch Marks and Stones All in A Box

I buried my son in a 36 inch long coffin.

Shalebug was 37 inches tall.

I buried my son in a coffin one inch too short.

I am haunted by this.

I know, heck I knew at the time, it made no difference. Bug's feet were twisted and curled and even in life he preferred to have his little legs curled up instead of stretched out, but I can't stop fretting over the fact I crammed my son into a box one inch too small for his wee body.

What kind of mother does that?

Grief is a funny thing. It's a palpable emotion that will consume every ounce of joy and happiness if you let it. It's the monster that lives in your closet, a parasite feeding off your love and memories and always looking for your soft underbelly of pain, the chink in your armour.

This week, through a series of events I have had no control over, the monster rattled at my closet door and managed to find a way to slip through a crack to rip my shirt up and expose my garishly pale underbelly.

With it's plaque covered pointy teeth, this monster leaned over me during my emotional weakness and ripped through my defenses so that I am once more bleeding tears of pain and sadness and loss.

There is no bandaid for this oozing wound, as all the joy I have managed to harvest since my son passed seemed to quickly seep out of my soul and into the monster's foul, gaping mouth.

Which leaves me struggling with the knowledge once more that I crammed my little boy into a box too short for his small body.

Today I feel broken and hollow as the monster once more recedes into the darkness of the closet I wrestle to keep locked.

Today I exam the past and savour the what-if's as they roll around my brain.

Today, I try to remember that at the time, it seemed like the right choice. We didn't have the money to have a coffin custom sized for our boy, and there were only two options available to us. A three foot coffin or the next size up, at five feet.

The thought of my son lying in an adult sized box for all of eternity seemed ludicrous to me. What did he need all that space for? So I chose the smaller version, thinking I would find comfort in knowing he was snug as a bug as he lay beneath the soil.

I can't for the life of me shake the image of that tiny oak box covered in white daisies being lowered into the ground.

I suppose I would be haunted by this vision still, even if I did choose the larger coffin.

I buried my son in a box because I couldn't handle the idea of cremating him and the flames surrounding him.

The truth is, today, I can't handle the knowledge I ran out of tomorrows with my son.

I'm grieving the fact he never had the chance to grow taller, get smarter, become more.

I'm struggling with the fact the only tangible evidence he once existed are the stretchmarks on my body and the stone marker on the ground.

The monster won last night as he terrorized my hard fought peace and bound me tight in the cloak of sadness once more.

Today I grieve; for tomorrow I will have no time to as I once more set out to find joy that is not lost, but eclipsed by this eternal darkness that rolled in like the fog on a gloomy day.

But today, today is for knowing I buried my boy in a box too small.

IMGP2918Stretch marks and stones, reminders of how I miss you so, Shalebug.

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Reader Comments (222)

Big hugs to you

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah (@scunning)

Oh, my God. I am so sorry you have to face this in your mind. You absolutely did the right thing, snug as a bug. None of that matters. No matter what your choices, that wouldn't have any reflection on you as a Mother. You were doing all you knew, out of love and grief, and for that, for you, you did the right thing.

I wish peace in your heart and thoughts today.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdventures In Babywearing

Oh, honey.

Just, ((((HUGS))))

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVDog

Oh Tanis.
How I wish I could hug you.
I'm just sitting here in tears and I have no words that can do anything for you.
You touch the deepest reaches of my soul and have such a place in my heart. You were there just through your words and upon meeting you, that's all it took. You are forever there, my friend.
I wish I could give you peace, or that I had the words that could assure you that Bug is at peace, that you did right by him.. but, I don't have them.
All I have is this: Prayers, love and hugs from far away.
Thank you for having the strength to write this.
Love you.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrachel-asouthernfairytale

I would have done the same thing. Snug as a bug. You were a fantastic mother to this little boy. You deserve much peace.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDesignHER Momma

Oh Tanis. My heart breaks for you. Just breaks.

My love to your family.

I wish I could do something, anything, to soothe your heartache.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Bug is at peace.. My words came out all wrong... you know that's not what I meant. Upon re-reading. that came out wrong.
SHIT! I'm sorry, Tanis.

You did right by him, you are an amazing mother and you were given him because you were the perfect mother for him.

You know where my heart is, even if my words screw it up.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrachel-asouthernfairytale

This is where I say I wish I could take some of this heaviness from you. I do.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

I have nothing to say but I wish I could give you a hug.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

oh tanis.... i weep with you and for you.... and i wish you peace.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternic @mybottlesup

I don't quite know what to say, except that we love you. I'm so sorry. I hope you get through this particular chapter of your nightmare without too many additional scars.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMommyGeekology

You have always been a good mother.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

I'm so, so very sorry for your loss. There are no words I can say to you that will take away your pain... only that I can't imagine what you are going through... or what you have been through. You are so very strong, stronger then you know. The hurt will always be real and I'm sorry. I'm sorry. There is nothing more heartbreaking on earth than losing a child. No one should have to go through this. No one should have to bury their child. Keep his memory alive always with you. He is a part of you forever. In your heart. Again, I'm truly sorry. Hugs.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

Oh man. I'm so sad for you. This is the saddest. I want to give you a hug and tell you that it's OK, but of course it isn't. I'll hug you anyway, from far away. And I do think you made the right choice: a kid would ALWAYS choose a box too small than one really big. Kids would. They just would. Not too small at all.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Some grief is more than one should have to bear. Wishing tomorrow here very quickly on your behalf.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaurie

This is yet another time when I find myself completely at a loss for words. I'm so sorry. (((hugs)))

I've always heard grief was easier as time passed. And in my case, generally that has been true. But even after almost 25 years, I have moments where the missing and aching are like a tidal wave. Pounding me down, forcing me under the dark cold waters, denying me the light.

Wishing I could do something to clear away the fog and bring you light; knowing that nothing anyone does can. Sending love and hugs and hoping you know how very much we all care.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie in Memphis

I didn't pull up my son's(6 yo at time of death) favorite blanket up around him before we closed the casket. I ALWAYS tucked that blanket around him...for 4 YEARS I tucked that blanket around him, but I forgot to do it on the last day that I ever could have done it?? A duh momment in my life and I beat myself up for it every once in a while. Like you, our guy had legs that didn't work right and they couldn't straigtened them in the casket so we covered half his legs with that blanket. I wish like the dickens that I didn't know what you feel like, but I do....the "dead child club" pretty much sucks. Sorry that you are having a bad day!! Hugs!!

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Sending hugs and wishing there were words that would help make it better.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Just... ((((HUGS))))

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

I'm so so sorry. I hope someday that it hurts just a little less.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAurelia

It was so brave of you to publish this post and share the thoughts that haunt you. Thank you for your authenticity and candor.

As the mother of a 20-year-old son, I can't even fathom the depths of your pain. Your tragic experience is what my nightmares are made of. I am so very sorry for your loss.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Fix

Wishing I had something useful to add to the comments above.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie on the PA Tpk

I am so sorry for all that you and your family have been through. I wish I knew what more to say...but I'm sending hugs and good thoughts your way.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen

This breaks my heart for you!

Sending hugs your way and prayers for peace.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter~kris~

Love you Tanis. Be gentle with yourself, you deserve it. ~Susan

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwoo222

I am so sorry for your pain. I can't even begin to imagine that.
Big huggs to you.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

This is tough to read, let alone live through. Like so many others, I wish you hugs & love & comfort.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

This is terrible and beautiful. You love your boy, and that's all that matters. Thinking of you.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

It seems to us that you've always done right by your little boy, and there is no exception here.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Mom

Tanis, I'm so sorry. Sending lots of good thoughts and hugs your way.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

((hugs)) to you. It's not fair you have to struggle with thoughts such as these. I cannot imagine being in your shoes, but I believe I would have done the same thing. Snug as a bug.

Oh Tanis, you're such an amazing mother. And you did the right thing, wrapping him up snuggly tight. How I wish I could lift some of this load for you.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Banshee

You made me cry. : (
I'm so sorry Tanis - there are no words to express it.
Sending big hugs your way!

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

Whether it's through grief or some other circumstance, we all have things we wish we could have done differently. What is important now is not how Bug was buried, because that's not him... that was his broken little body, but his spirit and his soul are whole and free now. Not residing in that box, but soaring without the limitations of his body. He is with you and loving you still, and that is the important thing to remember.

Much love and prayers for your peace.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndi

I'm so sorry, Tanis.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSciFi Dad


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWill

Absolutely heart wrenching. I wish you peace in your heart and mind.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeni ~ MommyBloopers

I'm so sorry, Tanis. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes just thinking about it... You did what you knew, though, and what was right for him. *hugs* I wish I could say more, or help... So sorry.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaden


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

I understand why that haunts you and why reasoning doesn't rid you of the guilt- but at the same time I want to tell you to not let it. You love your son, always have and always will. You gave him your very best while he was here so he could live a happy life with a family he adored and was adored by. Our bodies are only our physical shells and when we die we shed them and our soul lives on in memories of others. it's like the poem i carry your heart (i carry it in mine) by e.e. cummings. Put that vision of that box out of your head and see his heart in yours instead. This stranger loves you and wishes she could give you a hug to help ease your pain. Stay strong.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Although I cannot possibly understand and offer any meaningful tips, I send hugs and prayers to you and your family in hopes it makes you feel even a tinge better today.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHockeyman

So you don't have to go elsewhere to find it:
i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Awwww, muffin. I'm so sorry that grief is rearing its ugly, asshole head today. I think Shale would have liked being in a little-weeny-bit-too short coffin, cuz then he would feel like he was being cuddled by his mommy and daddy.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I wish I could help. Hugs to you!
Perhaps I'll share our regret, because it's sad and also funny as hell.
My brother was in a car accident 9 years and passed away. And we buried him. And my mother and I feel bad about this, because my brother wanted to be cremated and his ashes "Sprinkled on whoever it would piss off the most." We all laughed at this remark, said during a random conversation... But six weeks later we remembered this as we were trying to decide what should be done. And because we didn't think we could actually fulfill his wish to piss people off, we went with what the other people wanted.
Its been 9 years, and I miss him, and I love him, and not a day goes by when something he did or said doesn't make me laugh. And if I know my brother, he's up there making everyone else laugh, just like he did down here.
He was such a gift.
Just like your little man.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

Much love to you, especially while you are hurting. <3

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

There is no greater pain than a mother outliving her child. I am so sorry that you had to go through this. I am a new reader and I don't know you too well but can I give you a big hug anyways?


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwinkie

although I know it doesn't matter, I think you made the best decision you could at the time- and no matter what you'd decided, you'd be second guessing it today. grief is there, knocking at your door, and he exposes all of the questions that we wish we had answers for.

today, I wish you strength and peace as you fight to get the monster back into the closet. we all know that you will fight the good fight.

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersashalyn

I am so very sorry.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterred pen mama

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