Where I Am

It’s been almost 15 months since Everett died and every morning I wake up thinking about him and every night I go to sleep thinking about him.  This week I hugged one kiddo while they cried through the sadness of missing him and watched as another one came close and wrapped their arms around the both of us.  With another child I had to have an in-depth conversation about what exactly being “brain dead” means.  I fielded questions about heaven and what heaven may be like for Everett.  I also held a kiddo in my arms as they absolutely sobbed for Everett and their birthparents.

All seven of our children have experienced loss and trauma.  We battle not only grief from losing our son and brother, but also the grief and loss surrounding birth families and beginnings Josh Kelley and I were not present for.  The questions and unknowns are big and hard and I’d give anything to be the answers they need, but I’m not.  So we cry together and we promise them we’re doing the best we can and we talk through all the things and we give lots of hugs and kisses and usually the only time I pray is right there in those desperate moments.  I fling prayers out and tell God I sure hope He’s real because I have no clue what we’re doing or how we’re going to make it.  It’s going to have to be Him.

I miss Everett something fierce.  I cannot even begin to give words to it.  There are none which would accurately encompass or describe the depth of how we miss him and long for him back.  Just today I found myself talking out loud to myself about him as I walked around the house gathering laundry to wash.  I reminded myself of funny things he did and said, I reminded myself Josh Kelley and I made the best decision with the information we had, I reminded myself of the letter from his surgeon explaining the complexity of his case and the urgency and I reminded myself of what a gift 143 days with Everett was and that 6 other beautiful, resilent children are still here.  I’m beginning to undestand that saying Josh and I are the luckiest is actually an understatement.  Our kids make us better and stronger and braver.  They push us forward and we’re so undeserving of them.  They are my greatest honor.

Right now I feel like I’m stuck.  Not only did the world plow forward after Everett died, but it continues to do so when I feel like I’m not going anywhere.  I feel like everyone outside our home is moving forward and we are being left behind.  Grief isolates and makes you feel lonely.  I’ve noticed I’m not as good at conversing with others anymore.  I’ve noticed I care less and less about certain things.  I’ve noticed I’m more okay with staying home and being accepting of the isolation.  I’ve noticed when bridges start to burn I just turn around and walk  away instead of grabbing a bucket of water.  I’m too exhausted…physically, emotionally, mentally and I don’t even know if I can say spiritually, but I’ll throw it in for good measure.  I feel like every day just moving through our day has to be good enough.

We have children with special needs and right now that is taking up so much mental, emotional and physical space.  My head is filled to the brim and anxiety can easily sink in between any of the tiny cracks of space.  We’ve got meetings at school and doctor’s appointments scheduled like crazy.  I’m seeing how grief has taken a major toll on my own body the past 15 months and never in my life have I tried so many over the counter, prescription, alternative healing, hippie voodoo medications in my life.  I just need a medical professional to look me in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry your son died.  This sucks and your body has been put through hell this last year.  It will get better.”

I spend far too much time combing over medical bills and hashing things out with our health insurance and all the billing departments.  I keep thinking how I need to work…how I want to work and create again…and then I wonder when I would actually do so.  Our days are filled and I’m not sure the time or space is actually there, but what I know is that I will never stop advocating and fighting for what our kids need.  It is my privilege to fight on their behalf and to make sure they are receiving all the help and assistance they may need.  They deserve the best…all kiddos do.

Leo has finally started really sleeping through the night again and I am so hesitant to even type those words for fear of jinxing it.  You should hear Josh Kelley and myself try and talk about it without really talking about it.

JK:  Did you sleep okay last night?

Me: Yeah.  Did You?

JK: Yeah.  (Slight shift in his eyes)

Me:  (Semi smirk smile)

The End.

Neither one of us dares not utter many more words than those because we do not want to take that risk and become sleep deprived zombies once again.  Sleeping is nice.

Everyday I try and figure out Everett’s death and always end up sorely disappointed in the fact that I cannot figure it out…yet again.  I just don’t get it.  And I want to.  I want to see the reasons and the whys and then maybe my mind would quit running.  Maybe it would lend more to my healing and yet I know I will likely never know.  And when I think about sending Leo in for surgery it feels absolutely debilitating.  I cannot let my mind sit there longer than a second before I feel my chest tighten, my stomach feel all vomitty and my blood pressure start to sky rocket.  I try and avoid all conversations about it because tears are inevitable.

I guess I just needed to write out some feelings tonight.  It hasn’t been an easy week and grief is never tidy and I really try and be an honest person.  15 months might seem like a long time to some, but for those in the thick, darkness of grief it’s so brief…a blink of the eyes.  It feels like Everett’s death wrecked so much and we’re still trying to figure out how to piece it all back together the best way we can.  Everyday we get up and move forward.  Every day we take it one step at a time trying to simply do the next right thing.  Every day we remind each other of all the goodness in our lives and the brave, strong love our family is full of.  Every day we choose to live in a way that honors sweet Everett’s life and keep his little memory alive.  Everyday we choose hope.  Again and again and again. And that is good enough.


  1. I wish I could hug you, make you dinner, take your kids to the park and send you for a pedi…..I wish I could heal your broken heart. Sending you so much love

  2. I am just so very sorry. This all sucks. There are no other words today.

  3. BarB cole says:

    You ARE THE BEST for your children. I too want to fix thing for you but can’t. Hugs and thoughts of your family often.

  4. Thank you for brutal honesty in the midst of the pain. Cheering for you and your precious family. ❤️

  5. Please know that you are so loved by so many. You matter. You are important. We love you big.

  6. ❤️

  7. Tara shipp says:

    I lost my best friend when I was 6. She died in a car accident. I still grieve. I am 58. No one ever wanted to talk about her. One day, her mom caught me looking at her picture. I was so upset she had seen me. But she was so happy to hear my memories. Many people can’t handle death. I hate death and would rather not handle it either…but we live the lives we are given, don’t we? When I was 16, my Daddy died, very suddenly, following back surgery. Again, no one wanted to see my grief. It is hard. My close family will talk of Daddy, but it obviously makes others uncomfortable. Now that i am ‘older’ and I mention I was 16 when he died, people act like, “Oh. That was so long ago, you must be over it by now.” I will tell you, it is just something you don’t ‘get over’. I have felt those feelings you talk about. I have felt those questions about God. I have seen Him in other parts of my life, though, so I know He is real. Can I understand the whys? No. I still question “Why?” But it is good to rest in the fact that even though I don’t understand, God has this. Find something, even something small, that you believe about God and claim it. Once you feel you can really claim it, ask Him to reveal something else about Himself. Small steps toward God. It won’t take away all the pain, but He will help you carry it when you just don’t feel like you can anymore. I pray for you often. I will try and be more deliberate about that. With God, you can carry this burden He as chosen to give you. You will probably never understand why He has asked you to carry it, but just even accepting that is good. Those first few years are tough. They drag and yet they fly. I lost my friend 52 years ago. I still cry sometimes because I miss her. My Daddy has been gone 42 years now. I think of him all the time and how I miss him. Don’t give up. It is hard. It is a tough way to live your life. But you are a better person for having Everett in your life. Your children are better people because of him, too. And I have written a book here. I apologize. Just felt prompted.to pour out some of my heart. Praying for you, Josh, and your children.

  8. Debra Cope says:

    I read your blog religiously. You are an incredible family — the photos of your children “just being” tell the story of love and connection. Everett’s story is just shattering and it will never be OK but you may eventually be able to go through life without feeling like you are pushing your way through jello.

    I’ve never lost a child so I can’t begin to think I understand the depth of your aching loss. I can’t imagine partly because no one even wants to imagine. The minute you let your mind go there, it is too scary to contemplate, and you pull back. You and your family, however, do not have that choice. It happened, you lived it, and you are stuck with facing it.

    The closest thing I’ve had to this kind of deep, aching loss was my brother’s death from cancer when he was 33 and I was a couple years younger. I was still crying unprovoked at the oddest Times more than a year later. I know now that that is completely normal. But at the time, dealing with other people’s bafflement was very hard. Friends regularly commented on how close to the surface my feelings were whenever we talked about John, how quickly I moved to tears. This DID NOT HELP. I half wished people could understand the depth of my grief but I also didn’t want to wish that on anyone. It’s a very lonely place to be.

    I don’t really have any words of wisdom. I just wanted to say that I am deeply moved by witnessing your process of working through the grief, and to acknowledge how recognizable it is to me.

  9. Jennifer Scott says:

    Love is love is love.

  10. Shelly Clark says:

    Tara Shipps words really hit close to the heart for me. My brother died of cancer when he was only 16, and I can remember being so hurt that God allowed that to happen. I questioned my faith, I mean come on, how could God let my brother die when my brother had so much faith and never complained about being sick. I questioned why I could believe that there was even a God. I may never understand why sad things happen, i may never fully understand the workings of God, but the one thing I know for sure, no matter what, is that I know, that someday I will see my brother Jason again, and if that is the only reason why I believe in God, that is enough for me. I miss him everyday. Some days it’s happy memories, and some days it’s sad memories, but it’s memories nevertheless. I think of your family often, even before I met you. Your new friend Shelly is sending you a hug with a tight squeeze.

  11. I wore my ‘but if not’ shirt yesterday and thought of Everett and all of you. He is not forgotten and neither are you. ‘I will not forget. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me,’ God.

  12. I’m so sorry that loss is so hard ☹️
    Have you considered grief Counselling? I’ve found myself there these last few months and I am starting to find my ‘happy again’ Being able to share ‘anything’ with a neutral person has been so incredibly liberating. My nervous system is recovering and facing every day is becoming easier.

  13. You and your family are so loved! Keep on talking about your sweet Everett. He will not be forgotten. Death really stinks and feels so unjust. P.S. The photo of Leo sleeping on Winter’s lap is so dang cute and also Josh doing Winter’s hair … and all of them actually.

  14. Everett’s death is so stupid and senseless. I’m sorry. It sucks. I hope you can feel how loved Everett and the entire Kelley family is. Sending love from Wisconsin.

  15. Laura, you are so brave. ♥️ Your life is a reflection of the love, sacrifice and surrender in your heart … and we all see God shining through you. I am sending a big hug and praying for God’s peace that passes all understanding for you. Much love to you and your super sweet family. ♥️

  16. Laura, thank you for sharing your heart with us, your readers. Because of you I am a better person and am better prepared to grieve with those who are grieving. I’m so sorry your beautiful baby boy had to die. You will remember him forever, just like he remembers you, and will remember you forever. Someday death will be swallowed up in victory… Hallelujah!!

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