I was fortunate enough to meet Jeba Pandian through Meredith Masony‘s Hot Mess Express Community. She is a super nice lady and a talented author who wrote about her experience with infant loss. Her co-author is her daughter, Sophia. Jeba Pandian agreed to chat with me about her book and her experience.
Tell me about the process of writing the book. What was that like for your family?
Writing the story actually came qucik and easy and literally took an hour. It was just Sophia and I one evening on the carpet, mapping illustrations and a complete story line. Sophia had been having vivid nightmares and waking up. My friend asked me to have her draw angels to pin up around the room. Three angel drawings in she was like, “You know, I bet you can’t dry angel gowns in the dryer…I bet you have to hang them.” I was probably doing laundry on the side while she was drawing… Two years later on the 10 year angelversary of Isabella’s birth and death we made a family decision to publish. The process itself was intense as there were contracts and deadlines.
What is your vision for this book? What do you hope to achieve?
We initially thought we would bring the book to life to help Sophia, so she could feel connected to her sister, but once the book came together I had finally found tremendous peace and healing. I struggled for 10 years and I finally feel like Isabella has purpose. We hope the books brings a little hope and healing to everyone’s hearts.
Do you have future books you plan to write?
We do plan on doing a series of angel books including pets and I would love to do a devotional.
What got you through your initial time of grief?
My faith, family and friends. My husband became my rock and his faith grew stonger and stronger and brought us through. I do not know how anyone goes through this without faith. I was also able to post on March of Dimes “Share Your Story” website and those women pulled me through. I didn’t feel all alone even though my world crashed.
I remember Day One like it was yesterday. Sitting there glassy eyed and in a daze in our 2 bedroom apartment in the city. My whole family was in this one apartment making arrangemts to fly back home and now to take Isabella with us. It was like I was watching it all happen from the outside….
What advice do you have for parents who have lost a child?
It is the most painful thing one can endure as a parent. Take it slow and seek help. Do not think this is something you can get over on your own. It’s going to be a long journey of seeking and healing on repeat. Only you can set the pace for your own grief journey. Do not compare yourself to others and remember you are not alone.
How do you deal with ongoing grief?
My grief is surprising these days. I can be fine one minute and crying the next. My triggers also change so I never know what’s going to hit and when. I pray a lot. You think I would have this down 10 years later, but I don’t. I learned to cut myself some slack. I learned that I can grieve and still lead a normal, healthy life. I realized I can grieve and still be happy. Its just my new normal. It’s a happy life with a small side of heartache. I am able to revist my place of grief but not dwell in it.
What’s it like raising a child while missing one who passed away?
This question is incredible with even more impactful realizations. My daughter and coauthor Sophia is amazing to say the least. She’s smart beautiful and funny. She makes me look like a good parent. The infertility season of my journey has impacted her more than she lets on. She has a lot on her heart. She sees other kids playing with thier siblings as their mommies shop. I know this breaks her a little bit but it also has made her into to the most compassionate and sensitive child. She can see and understand things a lot of kids her age might overlook. She knows my heart breaks every now and again. She knows I wonder what it would have been like to have had two beautiful daughters. She is the best gift I ever got so we spoil her a little. Fine, we spoil her a lot. If this was my journey to get to her. I’d do it all again.
Sometimes when you know a friend has lost a child, it can be hard to know what is ok to ask, discuss or if it’s okay to say their child’s name. Do you have any advice for navigating that awkwardness when we don’t know how to support our loved ones?
This is hard to know because it unfortunately depends on the person who is grieving. Some want you close and some want space. Some just want to laugh and eat chocolate cake and some just want to cry on your shoulder and be hugged. It’s important to keep lines of communication open because a grieivng person should not isolate themselves totally. And it just takes time. Most people want you to remember their babies. They want to know thier babies have purpose. Sometimes talking to a friend is their only real outlet. You just have to assess the situation and see what feels right for the person and not just you.
How has this experience changed you?
I am completely a different person. I am stronger for having loved and lost so fiercely. I am also softer because I went through an immense amount of pain and I can now understand the pain of women and families who have experienced loss. When I finally decided to give my pain a voice, I felt repurposed. I also felt my loss has a purpose. I felt like my angel baby found her purpose and I feel like Sophia feels closer to her. I would have been oblivious to this particular pain others were feeling had I not felt it myself. Meeting women now in thier grief is actually more heartbreaking becasue you know what they are going through. I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about grief and its effects on your world and surrondings. I do know there is love, healing and hope.
You can get a copy of Jeba Pandian’s book here and follow her on Facebook.