Featuring Tara Sandstrom

This week we are honored to feature Tara and her beautiful son Elijah. 
•About Tara and Elijah
Elijah was born January 7, 2011. My sweet angel had to be delivered by emergency c-section at 26 weeks gestation, much earlier than I anticipated, he was so tiny. When pregnant with my first child at eight weeks I was told during my first ultrasound that I have a heart shaped uterus. The doctor was immediately concerned that I wouldn’t even have a living child due to these complications. My oddly shaped uterus didn’t give my three babies much room to grow, basically causing my pregnancies to be extremely high risk, which therefore caused the risk of having my children pre-term. A couple days after Elijah was born, neurologists discovered bilateral grade four hemorrhages after a brain scan was performed. I remember the details of the conversation so vividly when the neurologist informed me of the terrible news. I remember the hard words, “bring your family, it’s time to come and say goodbye”... I hadn’t even gotten to hold Elijah let alone get to know him andraise him and already I’m faced with saying “goodbye”? I contacted my family, telling them the frightening news. We all gathered together with the neurologist and nurse that was caring for Elijah on that shift at the NICU to discuss either stopping all care that was keeping him alive or give him a chance and see how he would do in this life with all the complications he could face with such irreparable brain damage. I went to sleep that night after discussing these options knowing I needed to make a huge decision regarding my sons life. It was all so much and I felt almost out of body knowing I needed to do this, that I had to, he was counting on me and I was his voice. The next morning I went to Elijah’s room, put my hand through the small window of the isolate he laid in, tubes everywhere, needles in his small helpless body, machines making noises, you name it, he was hooked up to everything. I was alone with him, it was so special, I could not ask for a more peaceful moment in time. Thesun warmed my face as it shown it’s light through his rooms window. I was filled with love and joy from this small yet mighty valiant son of God. I spoke to him spirit to spirit (that’s how we always communicated during his short life) and knew he deserved a fighting chance at this life. for almost nine months this warrior of a soul fought till he couldn’t fight anymore. Thelord guided me through his transition back to heaven and as much as the reassurance of god graced us I still struggled, oh did I struggle. I always knew Elijah’s visit and time with me would be short and I always kept it silent, I couldn’t fathom telling my mother that she would someday help me bury her grandson. Elijah’s last week here on earth is so vivid. His way back homewas the most painful yet peaceful, life changing experience I have ever endured. Just typing these words makes me smile such warm tears of comfort knowing that he is in peace with our dear father in heaven. The last time I ever saw his beautiful eyes open was the Sunday night before he died almost a week later. I remember going to visit him that Sunday night at PrimaryChildrens hospital with his older brother, his room was so calm and warm when we arrived, I always felt a sense of comfort and peace in Elijah’s presence.. After we had gotten settled to cuddle in the chair next to his crib and the nurse had left, life changed... it went from just me and my two boys to about twenty of the hospitals care team in the room with us trying to figure out why Elijah was struggling. We went from calm before the storm to all hell breaking loose, literally. I stood at the end of the crib next to a social worker as my son screamed in pain as they tried to find a good vein, my baby was so tired of being stuck and messed with so he just fought this time like I had never seen him do. At this time my mom had come to get Elijah’s brother and had left because it was too much for him. Elijah looked directly at meand spoke so deeply to my soul. He said, “mom, I’m done” and at that moment I remember feeling as though I’d fainted. I remember the social worker helping me, knowing that this was the worst moment for my sweet boy. Elijah was taken to the PICU where he was then sedated to keep him comfortable and then they discovered that the tube draining fluid from his brain just wasn’t working and he had become ever more sick due to the complications of the initial brain damage caused by the bleeds. His tired body had been through so much. Elijah was ready to go home and as much as I wished the suffering could be reversed, I knew it was time. That next morning we pulled the drain tube from his tired head and they sewed him up. I held him through this and of course embraced him as I sobbed and realized I’d be soon saying goodbye to my son who wouldn’t even make it to his first birthday. I remember in that last five days before his passing he was so still and really never moved. It was the most terrible and beautiful thing I’ve ever endured as a mother to have my child go back to his father in heaven. During these five days he would break a fever and I would feel feverish too, we even met in spirit form, like a dream, and spoke of where we’ll meet when it’s my time. He showed me so many amazing things in his last days, some so sacred, I have never shared. Everything he endured, I endured with him. Like most parents I believe would, I couldn’t leave his side for long. I didn’t want him to go through anything alone. As I laid next to him I would ask God to let me go through as much as possiblewith him. He only cried out once in brief quiet pain on his last day with us. Those five days are somewhat blurry, yet so vivid, it’s hard to explain sometimes and like I mentioned before I feel it was like an “out of body experience”. I learned more about Christ and his atonement more than I’d ever known. I even came to realize how mean and frightening the adversary was and how Satan would tempt me by persuading me to keep Elijah on life support, which I was told by his care team he would have no quality of life at that point. I had learned more in those days than in any moments or years of my life. The closeness that God gifted me with in that time in regards to my son Elijah and throughout his life was remarkable. The memories I was given are everlasting and treasurable. Elijah passed peacefully in my arms on Friday September 23, 2011 surrounded by loving familymembers, close friends, and some of his beautiful nurses whom also loved him so dearly. Some of his last breaths before crossing the vail were that of utter bliss, he would exhale so peacefully and sound as if he were so relieved to be leaving his broken yet beautiful perfect little body. I’ll never forget that sound he made. His last breath was torture though for all of us, when he stopped breathing the nurse put her stethoscope to his heart and pronounced him dead at 5:23 P.M. I cried out in sheer pain and agony. All the peace felt as though it had left my entire being and had been swept away the minute his sweet soul left his body. I was immediately broken... I felt so alone, so sad, so traumatized. I wanted my baby back and begged god to give him back in that instance. All the preparing to say goodbye, all the closeness I felt to his warm soul was gone. I felt an immediate numbness throughout my entire being. It is as though the life as I knew it had been sucked entirely from me. I felt robbed of my entirety. Elijah was my window to heaven, he was like no other person I have met, ever- so close to God. I didn’t know before he came into my life that it were that possible to feel the love of Christ that fiercely and have a knowing of truth, light, and love that we are given in this life. Elijah left an impression on all who met him. Elijah still impacts the lives that I share his selfless story of courage and triumph with. I always told anyone who came in his room that I didn’t mind sharing him because he was that special and that you didn’t need to spend more than a minute to know that he was such a masterpiece. Elijah, mommy loves you. Although my heart aches everyday,  I know we’ll be together again, I know I’ll raise you and we’ll prosper and grow in wellness together for eternity. You’ve taught me how to endure, how to wipe off my knees, get back up and keep my heart towards God. Elijah, you’ve taught me to live life to the fullest and not take any moment, no matter how small, for granted. You are an incredible spirit! You have fulfilled life and then some. You continue to work so hard to help others even from the other side. Elijah, I pray often that I’m doing my best and that you know of my constant love for you. Thank you for letting me be your mama bear. I love you sweet angel. Love, mommy.
•What helped Tara the most after her loss. 
Challenge helped me immensely. This hardship I had been faced with helped me more than anything. The grieving process and all the steps that I’ve taken to get to today have paved a path of healing and closeness to the spirit, to finding peace and why life is worth living even after such heartbreak. It may sound crazy to some but I am a better person now than I was before Elijah came into my life. The anger, the guilt, the constant blaming myself throughout the first several years after his passing ultimately helped, the what if’s, all of it etched a way of understanding and how I didn’t have to let Elijah go even in the site of him not being here physically. In the beginning being so lost from myself, from my lord, from reality was enough to see that was not the path I wanted to travel. The ultimate help though through all the agony was of course my father in heaven he spokethrough my children’s hearts which then led me to see how much my oldest son needed me to be his mother, to triumph, to be victorious and not give up! My family here on earth needed me to be as valiant and courageous as our sweet angel Elijahis/was. It was a make it or break it scenario for me. I decided to exceed my expectations even and carry our rainbow baby, which the doctors considered a medical miracle of making it to 36 weeks gestation! Our daughter was born three years after Elijah went to heaven, Elijah lives within her spirit and has brought on a new meaning of inspiration and healing. She as well as her two brothers have saved me. My children are my teachers, my healers, my saving grace.
•What helps Tara to remember Elijah.
Nearly everything helps me remember Elijah, honestly. Butterflies, nature, hiking, laughing, meeting my sweet husband whom I met shortly after his passing, and even meeting other bereaved parents- whether it’s a random talk in a grocery storewhere I discover the stories myself and those parents I meet share, hashtags on Instagram (#mamatoanangel), the network of meeting other parents has been such a blessing! There are millions of magical instances that makes me say “thank you Elijah” because I automatically know he’s there with me in some way. he constantly puts such tender mercies into my life.
•Advice Tara would give to others facing challenges.
Advice is hard to give in this matter. From experience, take your time and never let someone try to take you away from your personal experience in the process of grieving a loved one, it’s a process like no other. Force is not allowed in my opinion and if you feel forced to change your emotions or “move on” or possibly you are being told to “let go” you walk on politely as possible and you hold onto that love you had, especially in child loss. No parent should ever endure burying their child- it is painful, it is debilitating and can paralyze the entire well being of a human. So, like I said, take. Your. Time. We as parents want to keep our children safe and warm, when that safety net is suddenly tore open you no longer have that advantage to protect and nurture. You will be different and it will feel as if everyone is looking at you that knows of your loss. Even those who aren’t aware of your situation, you’ll feel as if you stand outdifferently, what I’m saying is you may feel out of place- I did constantly at first and still do at times. After such loss you’ll feel lost and hopeless but you will have choices, my first choice personally was, like I said, “make it or break it” so, I decided to let God and fight for my life as a bereaved mother and find my new normal. In time you will navigate through this, you will struggle regardless, how could you not? Each day you’ll see a new side of grief and each holiday or special date it will get harder and at times you may feel guilty for celebrating because you feel you’re leaving your lost loved one out. If you believe in growth and perseverance you’ll keep that special spirit that’s in heaven close to you and alive as they ever were. Life is worth celebrating and there is nothing more that our heavenly family wants than to see us rejoice and live!