Shana & Jared: Weddings and Grief

Earlier this year, we published Shana’s story about losing her baby son, who was born preterm at just over one pound, after just thirty days of having him here. In the middle of his hospital stay, on the fifth day of baby Atticus’s life, she and her partner went to the courthouse and got married. It didn’t matter that they were planning a wedding for that summer, they needed to be a family for Atticus then. After that post went up, and you guys overwhelmed her with love, she told me, “When a baby dies, often people don’t want to hurt the parents feelings or make them cry, so they avoid talking about the baby or avoid saying his name. But all the parents want to do is talk about their babies and say their names over and over. Thank you for giving me the space to talk about my son and to allow me to say his name over and over.” And I wanted to thank each of you for holding Shana & Jared & Atticus in your hearts then. Today, Shana is back, talking about what their wedding this summer felt like, and how they’ve negotiated the darkness in the months since Atticus’s death. I know you’ll hold them in your hearts just as fiercely today.

To say that having a second wedding made sense would be an understatement. We had gotten married earlier in the year in the middle of tumult and we thought we should have a real wedding, surrounded by friends and family. My parents were supportive of this, and my sweet husband wanted the memories of what a wedding would have been like. I thought only of celebrating the joy of being together. I wanted to experience the laughter and love that supports weddings.

We were surrounded by love. One friend made signs and baked our cupcakes. I wore the $100 dress I loved again. Our awesome photographs were provided by one of my roller derby sisters. My wonderful step-father gave the most beautiful speech ever. My relatives and friends decorated our venue. My mother and father-in-law presided (they’re both ministers) over the service and infused it with the kind of sentimental value that comes with thirty years of knowing each other. It was a beautiful community affair that absolutely reflected my husband’s and my personalities.

Which is why it is hard to look at it a couple months later and feel numb.

Which in turn, makes me feel like a jackhole.

We had loads of people working to give us a new start. Desperately working to give us the kind of beginning that is wished upon newlyweds, but it wasn’t a new start. It was a wonderful party, filled with laughter and yummy cupcakes and friends dressed to the nines, showing up to celebrate us… but there are no do-overs after losing your child. There are just days and more days between your present self and the self you were the day he died.

We’ve officially been married for nine months now. Eight months ago, Atticus died.

Since then, our relationship has been strained. Our goals and priorities are the same. Our love is immense. We still laugh and sleep in and cuddle. Getting on the same page has been loads more work. At times, I snap. What I should say is, “I’d really like to take Walnut Avenue back to the house.” But my mouth hisses heat and it comes out like, “Are you freaking kidding me? I TOLD you I wanted to walk down Walnut. Do you EVER listen to me?!” The truth is, my husband very much listens to me. The truth is, sometimes I feel life-lost and it scares me and admitting the truth scares me more. The fear spits out sideways and the one person that knows just how I feel is alienated.

I know this is typical of people who have lost children. We did the grief group thing. We have talked lots about our feelings. We have slowly cycled through the stages of grief. Sometimes, I make clumsy guesses at which stage I am in. It helps when people let me be who I am that day. It is infuriating when people tell me that everything is going to be lovely in the future. It is what it is today. I had a friend explain to me that everyone dies. Whew. Thanks for the life lesson, buddy. Now I get it.

I worked us into an argument recently. It started as an innocent conversation about getting our night time motors revved and turned into tears and my worry that my husband is trying to forget Atticus. I pointed out that he doesn’t mention our son. He shies away from conversations where Atticus is mentioned. All the while, there is this voice in my head, reminding me, “Everyone grieves differently. His love for Atticus burns bright as the sun; it just looks different than yours.” And my mouth still becomes a toilet, flushing out every rage I’ve had for months.

My husband responded by pulling out his computer and showing me a letter he had written to Atticus. In it, he detailed our struggle to bear the weight of losing him. He shared with Atticus that while pregnant, we had been building a (metaphoric) home for him and that since he’d passed, we’d become prisoners inside this home. We’d had so much love and time imbedded into that house. We were invested. What do you do with a monument like that after someone dies? How do you move out? Move on? How do you start building a new home? New memories? How do we find one another again?

Seven months and four days after losing our son, we took my most favorite, precious cat into the emergency vet at 9pm because I was worried he was developing a urinary tract infection. At 3:30am, we put him to sleep after discovering he had cancer (yet another long story). If you’ve had a pet that has trained you well, you know that there are pets and there are furry monsters who are extensions of your heart. Teyson was the latter. Oddly, it has been Jared’s letter and our cat’s death that has brought us back to some of the sane interactions we had before Atticus died.

My body has been exhausted by grief. I’ve been carried by friends. I know there are plenty of people that are uncomfortable by the sight of tears. They want me to be okay in a way that reassures them. I know that I am normal, having a very sane reaction to a very terrible situation. I struggle with wanting to be well now, to always treat my husband with respect and to feel the ease in our togetherness the way we were before.

So when I look at our second wedding, there is the sense we all came together to wrap lots of bows and lights around our pain… to pretty it up. But really, we came together again because Jared and I have so much to be grateful for, because we have so much love in our hearts, because each day the community we are in shows us how to grow up and grow closer together.

That second wedding, we vowed the following:

I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask of you no more than you can give.

I promise to accept you the way you are.

I fell in love with you for the qualities, abilities, and outlook on life that you have, and won’t try to reshape you in a different image.

I promise to respect you as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs, and to realize that those are sometimes different, but no less important than my own.

I promise to keep myself open to you, to let you see through the window of my personal world into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.

I promise to grow along with you, to be willing to face change as we both change in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting.

And finally, I promise to love you in good times and in bad, with all I have to give and all I feel inside in the only way I know how… completely and forever.

There is a saying about how we don’t tend to trip on boulders, but pebbles give us a hell of a time… I think it applies to marriages also. We got through the hospital stay and the funeral and swallowed “the big picture” whole. It’s been the fallout post-funeral… pebbles in comparison and we’re tripping all over ourselves. Fumbling as we may be, we are living our vows. We are partners. We keep reaching for one another and while that sounds sort of duh, I’m reminded constantly of my previous marriage in which that wasn’t the case. Jared and I might be falling, but we are falling together. As we look towards the future, we are building together.

So much of marriage is simply a negotiation of each other’s baggage. Sometimes it is messy and we peer warily at it around corners, one eye squeezed shut. Sometimes it strikes out like Medusa and turns those we love into stone. Our baggage has marched loudly across our bed this first year; a cacophony of timpanis pounding, horns cascading, flutes parading and our only recourse is living honestly and the willingness to keep reaching for one another.

Photos by The Format Photography

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  • Thank you, again, for sharing your experiences. I am so sorry for your loss of both Atticus and Teyson. Reading this is an inspiration to find our ways back to our partners. Sorry my words aren’t quite right… simply, thank you for writing this, and for letting us all read it.

    • No, I think “finding our way back to our partners” is just right. We can all only hope that we can do it in little ways rather than the earth shaking ways but that commitment to finding them, every day, is the whole deal.

  • Marguerite

    Such a beautiful, moving and important essay. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  • Gigi

    I was not able to read your first post about Atticus; it opened up the grief of losing my parents that I’m still struggling (2 years later) to get into some sort of ‘handleable’ perspective. I just couldn’t go there…

    Thank you for writing such an honest essay about loss and grief. So much of what you are feeling and experiencing resonated with me – the seemingly baseless anger and frustration along with the huge sadness; the relearning how to live with the people you love in the absence of the one you lost. The numbness you feel after your joyful wedding – exactly what I’m feeling. Like it should have helped heal something and it didn’t.

    I also understand how you feel when people don’t want to talk about Atticus. After 2 years, only a couple of people have spoken to me about my parents. We need to talk about the loved ones we’ve lost because it does help.

    Thank you again. I wish you peace and healing and much happiness in your marriage (which sounds like it was fabulous, BTW!).

  • This was heartbreaking and beautiful and immense. Thank you so much for sharing, and I wish both of you the absolute best.

  • Moz

    That thing where people say it gets better in time? Oh dear God it hurts and makes you angry.

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories again. All the best to you both.

  • Laura Mc

    Thank you for sharing. You and your husband are wonderful, strong, and beautiful people.

  • Meg

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I was heartbroken to read about your loss of Atticus and am inspired that you have the courage to come back and tell us how the story has continued. Thanks for sharing your vows, too. I’m currently planning my wedding and the promises you made to each other ring a big giant bell in my soul. All the best to you and your husband!

  • Mmmmm…. “Life-lost.” Great description.

    Wishing you the best. Thanks for sharing.

  • I don’t have a lot of supportive words to give but I want you to know that I cried with you this morning. This special nearness is the strongest kind of prayer I can muster. I wish you the very best and even more than luck. I wish you hope and love.

  • Mary Jane

    :( my heart just breaks for y’all when I imagine the insane pain you’re in. Your last post really stuck with me, and what struck me the most about it was not just the strength of your love for your husband, but the strength of your friendship. And here again, your respect and gratitude for him are beaming through your words, even as you’re telling us how hard it’s been and how, in your pain, you’ve sometimes inadvertently hurt him. It sounds like he can handle it though. I have a feeling that for every time you snap at him, you hold him safe and tight in your love at least three times!

    I know I’m a stranger whom you’ll likely never meet, but from the bottom of my heart I’m sending loving thoughts to your family today.

    Also, you’re an amazingly adept writer. I really hope you’re writing somewhere else on a regular basis!

  • mimi

    You both look so happy in your lovely wedding photos. I hope that soon your good days will outnumber your bad ones. Thank you for sharing this part of your story. And congratulations – you looked beautiful! :)

    • a simple exactly is not enough here.

      I, too, hope that your good days come to outnumber the bad ones.

      You will never forget the ones you have lost. But you can continue to build a life that fulfils the promise you had planned for yourselves.

  • msditz

    I know it has been said, but thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing the life of your son Atticus (what an awesome name to repeat!)
    I have to say that hearing someone that has been through the trauma that you and your husband have say that you have “so much to be grateful for” is really a reminder to everyone to count their blessings in life. Thank you for that reminder this morning.

  • SBS

    Oh, Shana, my heart breaks for you. Your beautiful words brought me to tears. The way you spoke to your husband in your head, the idea that underneath your rage is that understanding, that is so hopeful to me. I hope you guys can get through this together, and that your days get better.

  • Thank you for coming back and sharing your journey with us. My heart is split in two for you both. You are so strong and full of love. Your story is powerful. I hope everything good for you.

  • Thank you Shana – I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am so grateful to hear from you again and know that you and Jared did have your second wedding, and are doing okay. Your writing is beautiful, and moving, and your story such a powerful one. I’m sending you both so many good thoughts.

  • Contessa

    I’m so glad you shared your story and found an outlet to work through the pain. I’m sorry that you had to endure well-intentioned but dumb advice though, that almost makes things worse. I’ll be keeping your thoughts about baggage in mind as I plan my own marriage this year…many thanks and much love to your family.

  • carrie

    The post about Atticus earlier this year moved me in ways I can’t even describe, and “be the love” was my mantra through the wedding planning process and just because it’s wonderful. I just wanted to say thanks again for sharing with us.

  • I just want to give the both of you a thousand hugs.


    Shana, thanks so much for sharing again. Both your posts made me cry. I am glad you were able to have a day surrounded by love and family and friends.
    Today my heart hurt so badly for you hearing how you struggle with lashing out in your pain. It is usually those we feel safest and most loved by that it is easiest to show our rawest emotions and fears to. I pray that you are both able to comfort each other.
    My sister and brother-in-law lost their baby girl 17 months ago, 9 months before our wedding. Everyone in the family has struggled with how to let them discuss her when they wanted to, and how to keep her memory alive, but also to let them grieve in peace. I know that what you said to Meg is true for her – she wants to talk about her little girl. However, her husband does not bring up her name if possible. I believe he is experiencing a grief that is just as deep as his wife’s, but that most men deal with their emotions in a wholly different way that it is so alien to us that it is very difficult for a woman to understand. I am so happy that Jared was able to write to Atticus and share it with you. This: “We’d become prisoners inside this home. We’d had so much love and time imbedded into that house. We were invested…” rings so true to me about how my in-laws must feel, and was an amazing way of expressing himself.
    Thank you again for opening up and sharing, please know that we are thinking of your family and sending love and prayers.

    • Murdock

      Jared’s letter about the house made me burst into tears. What depth your husband has… are a lucky, beautiful woman to be blessed with such a loving soul as a partner. Thank you for opening your heart to APW and the rest of the web. It was a good reminder to take life ONE DAY AT A TIME and hug each other a lot. Lots of love from SF to you both!

  • bec

    I, too, am crying with you this morning. I believe, the more you talk about the trauma you’ve been through, the more you are able to grieve and process and heal. Kudos to you for being brave enough to talk about it with all of us, and for understanding your own process of healing. Hang in there, cry, and grieve. But keep on living, too.

  • Oh my god. Everything in this post was so eloquent and gracious and beautiful. I think every human being needs to read this. It took my breath away.

    You are an amazing writer. I wish you both all the love and happiness in the universe.

  • I’m so glad that you’re able to see that you and Jared are in this together, that at least you’re “falling together.” I hope that you continue to find your way through your struggles together, however that needs to work for the two of you.

    There are so many wishes for happiness to come to you guys today, from me and all the rest of us, however that materializes.

  • Oh. The letter made me tear up. but the vows made me… sure… for you two. They’re a touchstone, a base, that you can keep coming back to as you work through marriage and life together, because they’re real, and true.

  • Your little man Atticus may not have been able to stay with you for very long but he has touched many, many hearts. (((HUGS)))

  • I have thought of Shana often. You are all three held in my heart.

  • Yesterday I was talking to my best lady Abby and she said she knew this guy from law school whose wife wrote a piece for APW- I immediately remembered Shana and Jared’s piece and thought it was pretty crazy weird that their grad post was on APW today! So weird! Abby kept telling me how amazingly kind Jared is. This grad post is beautiful and elegant. Thank you for sharing, again, Shana.

    • Thank you, Genevieve! I agree with Abby that Jared is an incredibly kind man. Aware of his actions and the possible implications they may cause others. He is the kind of man that teaches others how to be gentle men (whilst equally stylish and ruggedly handy).
      Also, love your focus on wedding officiating. Amazing job to have!

  • ElfPuddle

    Thank you for letting us grieve with you.

  • Lovely and poignant and sad. I’m struck most by the contrast between the way you write about how you feel about the second wedding (numb, like it was bows and prettiness wrapped around your pain) and the way you look in the photos and the strength of love and character in your vows.

    I don’t know exactly how to explain what I mean but I guess it’s just that I appreciate the both-and here. The way you two seem to be allowing yourselves to own everything. Nothing here seems false — the joy seems real, the love, the strength, the pain, the sorrow, the frustration, the anger — and I love that.

  • I am blown away by your strength. Thank you for sharing some of that with us today. I hope you and Jared find peace.

  • What an incredibly moving story about love, life, family and human perseverance.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • riverdragon

    Your story makes me cry every time I read it. It strikes close to home for me.

    My big sis, who struggled with difficulties getting pregnant in the first place, finally became pregnant for the second time – with twins. But extremely early in the pregnancy, she went into labor. She rushed herself to the hospital, and they were able to halt the labor. For a while. But not quite in time – one of her sons was born before his lungs had developed, and she had to make a choice between trying to save him despite the near certainty of severe brain damage (and probably other problems, too), and letting him go. She held him while he died. He could fit in one hand.

    The other twin was born a week later. He had a rough first few months, but now he is a bouncing two year old. Those first few months were terrible for my sister. She was simultaneously grieving for the loss of one child and struggling to keep the other safe and alive.

    Like you say, it’s no good to be told “everything will be just fine and sunny, just wait a few years.” My sister will always carry that pain in her heart, right next to the love she has for the surviving twin.

    My heart goes out to you. I am sending you internet hugs. Even though my sister went through something resembling your story, I still don’t know that I have anything profound to say. Hang in there, and hold tight to Jared. May you both find peace.

  • Class of 1980

    SHANA WROTE: “… our only recourse is living honestly and the willingness to keep reaching for one another.”

    All you can do is live moment-by-moment. Let’s face it without sugar-coating; what happened to you is the worst thing that can happen. I’m sorry most of your friends won’t let you cry when you feel like it. The whole false “it’s time to move on” is very defeating and completely unhelpful.

    I don’t think you ever get over it. I think you just eventually find more and more times of happiness mixed in with the grief. Or the grief stays, but gets softer.

    As far as impacting relationships … that is one of the trickiest things about life … feeling our own grief or issues and still not neglecting those we love. It’s hard.

    And I hear you on the furry monster pets. I have two cats. One is the usual beloved pet and the other is a once-in-a-lifetime soul mate cat.

  • You are a truly eloquent writer, Shana. Having read your first wedding post, I am so pleased to hear that you are now getting back to a place of understanding within your relationship, though sad to hear that it took a second loss to bring it about.

    This post about the grief and agony of losing a child made me think of a quote in Rabbithole that I found particularly touching, between a mom and her daughter – both of whom had lost children.

    Becca: Does it ever go away?
    Nat: No, I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t – has gone on for eleven years. But it changes though.
    Becca: How?
    Nat: I don’t know… the weight of it, I guess. At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and – there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be awful – not all the time. It’s kinda…
    [deep breath]
    Nat: not that you’d like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So, you carry it around. And uh… it doesn’t go away. Which is…
    Becca: Which is what?
    Nat: Fine, actually.

    Best wishes for happiness as you continue reaching for each other. And thank you for sharing your story.

  • I feel ridiculously proud of you, even though I have no right to. But to go through what you’ve been through and still be struggling to keep your relationship strong is hard. You are doing it. More than that, you are sharing it. That’s brave.

    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  • This is so, so hard. All of it. The grief, and the trying to get on with life. It’s just so incredibly painful. My son almost died when he was 14 months old. He (thankfully) survived, but the experience destroyed what was left of my previous marriage. Years later, my daughter, his older sister, freaks out whenever he needs to go see a doctor. Even she remembers what he looked like in the hospital. I can only imagine what would have happened if he had not survived.

    During the darkest parts of my divorce, my former boss and mentor told me about his experiences with his wife as they went threw grief counseling after their baby had died — the guilt they each felt, the way they lashed out at one another and shut down. They kept going to counseling, kept at it for years even. My mentor’s wife is not the same bubbly woman he knew and loved before their child died — can one ever be the *same* person after losing a child? I doubt it — but they found their way back to one another, and have been married for nearly 40 years. Some years were happier than others. During one conversation, my mentor told me that after all of the work they have done together to protect their relationship, they have reachedc a point where they are perfectly happy puttering around their house, just the two of them. Whenever I see them together, I see a level of patience and tenderness between them that few couples exhibit.

    I am so sorry for your losses and the hardship you have experienced during your first year of marriage. I wish for you both that you can find each other again. I wish for you the sort of understanding and tenderness that I saw in my boss’s marriage.

  • Laura

    Shana, This is a really smart post. I admire you and Jared and I appreciate your thoughtfulness here very much. It’s my experience that there is a lot of truth in what you said and it helped me today to read your thoughts and reflections. Wishing you both a lifetime of love.

  • Mary

    Sending so MUCH love and many, many hugs your way. To be able to share those details and the raw emotions is so incredibly brave and strong.

  • sassy

    I have never lost a child, but I must say I can identify with your grief at least a little. {I lost my best friend (aka sister) to cancer in April. It was unexpected and she was my only friend growing up. It feels as part of me died that day.}
    Especially snapping at your partner and feeling “life-lost” (why i hadn’t thought of that phrase idk, but it helped me identify that feeling, so thank you). But honestly, you guys have made it this far, and you’re such an inspiration! Let that be your light in dark moments. Continue the love, which you are so great at already!
    Most of all, thank you for SHARING YOUR STORY so that people like me can identify and know that everyone suffers grief. And everyone can celebrate the love they still have in the face of sadness.
    May your love for each other warm your hearts always, and be a shining example of how love really can conquer anything. Even the loss of a life just begun. Atticus will be your angel always, never forget that.
    Many warm thoughts, love and blessings sent your way!

    PS>You guys are an adorable couple! :)

  • Bex

    Thank you for telling the raw truth of your story, for holding on tight to your marriage despite heartache, and for providing a forum for me to cry some of my own tears today. You are a lovely writer. Atticus was blessed with wonderful parents and a strong name.

  • Cassandra

    The loss of children is always such a private grief – you’re right that people want you to grieve in a way that doesn’t make them uncomfortable, with no names and no tears and a lot of “it’ll all be okay” (or the most appalling – ‘you can always try again’.) It takes a lot of strength to grieve, and even more to do so publicly, and with so much openness and honesty. I appreciate your sharing your story, particularly because I think it’s important that people learn how to acknowledge this kind of grief and to hear about it without shying away.

    I’m so glad that you and Jared are able to keep working at living out your vows, even in the darkest hours. Strength like that helps to carry you over the hardest parts.

  • JT

    My heart aches for you and Jared. I am amazed by your strength and the support you are able to find in each other. I hope that with time (and practice), the weight of your loss, thought it won’t be diminished, will become easier to bear. You, Jared, and Atticus are in my heart.

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  • Thank you for sharing this with us. The saying about tripping on pebbles is spot on. Know that we all wish we could take you out to coffee so you could talk about your losses and your grief.

  • You are a beautiful writer, thank you so much for sharing this-I want to say more than that but I have written and backspaced and written again twice now trying to find a way to comment but I just can’t seem to. And the tripping on pebbles line? Yes, that’s it. Wishing you both so much goodness.

  • Sarahkay

    I’ve struggled with wether to comment on this post for some time now, but I wanted to say that I’m sorry Shana and Jared are going though this. I married my first husband one month to the day after we lost our baby daughter. She was born at just under a pound and didn’t survive long after birth. We went ahead with our wedding, which was planned far ahead of her conception, and it was a beautiful wedding. But it wasn’t the joyful celebration of life that we’d hoped for. Mostly I felt very very numb. I had geniune smiles that day, ut the memory of that day has always been tinged with grief. I’m sorry that someone else had to lose a child.
    My husband and I lost each other, not just because of our separate grief, but many other reasons as well, but I feel the loss of our child took the biggest toll. We both turned inward, instead of reaching out to each other and holding on.
    I’m not great at talking about this, but I remember 6 years ago it would have meant a lot to me to know someone else had been there, to the particular painful place I was in. I just want to say you’ll be okay if you hold each other close and cry together, and one day you’ll get to a place where it will be more smiles than tears.

  • First of all, I want to tell you how sorry I am about your truly terrible loss. I lost my mom three months ago and got engaged three weeks ago. I appreciate you sharing. Your pictures are fantastic.

    I’ve started a website that I wanted to share with you. It is It is my reflections on love, life, loss and wedding planning.

    This year has been the happiest and saddest of my life. Within three months, I lost my Mom suddenly and the love of my life asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. These two life-altering events are two that most all people will experience at some point. Mine happened at once.

    I am sharing my story as I plan the happiest day of my life while coping with the death of my Mom. It is a new project and largely a cathartic practice for myself. But my hope is that my small perspective on grief and love will inspire anyone dealing with a loss or planning a wedding–with or without the help of a mother.

    This is a blog about the joys and details of planning a wedding as well as insights I’ve discovered in losing my Mom.

    Anyway, I hope you take a look and let me know your thoughts