Unrealistic Expectations in Grief

I was on a mission to heal my grieving heart. I believed that if I could heal myself, I could help other grieving hearts heal too. I felt strong and happy, and thought the worst days were behind me.

Then, on the 5th Anniversary of my daughter’s death, grief came crashing down around me, except I had no idea what hit me. Grief was in front of me, but I failed to recognize it.

Life threw me a few unexpected hits earlier this year, and a few devastating incidents later, I wasn’t coping very well.

Then, we celebrated the grand opening of Bella’s Splash Pad less than a week before her 5th Angelversary. I hadn’t expected the celebration to be an emotional one. It was, however, much more than that. It felt as though I was reliving the day of her funeral all over again. Raw grief tore open a healing scab and I began to bleed once more. I’ve spent the last 3 months putting band-aids on this fresh wound hoping it would go away.

But I know better than this.

Grief doesn’t heal on its own. The only way to heal a grieving heart is through the pain. You can’t hide from grief. It lingers until you look it straight in the face and succumb to it.

I had expectations of my own grief. I thought that because I was feeling healed, it meant that I was healed. But I misinterpreted what I was feeling and ended up lying to myself.

The law of gravity states that what goes up must come down. Roller coasters have their twists and turns, and it’s a ride you can’t predict.

The only thing predictable about grief is that it’s unpredictable.

Child-loss is a lifelong journey. My child died, and with her went a piece of myself. I can never be whole again, nor do I want to be! She left this empty space that is now filled with love, but that space still belongs to her and emptiness will always remain where Bella should be!

Rainbows and Bella’s signs from heaven are a great way to feel her presence, but nothing can replace the feeling of holding your child in your arms.

I am forever changed because of my daughter. And if that means I will break every once in a while, then I choose to embrace that.

Grief has it’s own life. Enjoy the good days, and experience the bad days for what they are. Feel them; be with them.

Hold yourself through them.

Find peace in them. Somehow. Because experiencing them is the price of the love that will always remain.

Grief is a reminder that a piece of you resides in heaven.

It’s been a journey of learning to be okay with not being okay.

Just for a little while.

Because the pain will recede once it’s been expressed, and the scab will begin healing again.

And better days will come.

Much love and #StayStrong❤️

Never Ready to Say Goodbye

She was 88 years old and still independent. final 26It’s the only way she knew how to be. She woke up that morning and drank her coffee like any other day. She washed her laundry as she did every Saturday, then had her shower and folded her laundry.

While she followed her daily routine, my mother, sister and I went to a celebration of life in honour of our dear friend’s father who suffered a massive heart attack while he was singing in church. We decided to make the most of the trip and stopped for supper. Shining across my plate was a delicate rainbow, a reflection from my water glass, a gentle reminder that our loved ones are always with us.

final 19Moments after we arrived home, a loud urgent knocking at the door startled my mother and sent her running to me in a panic. “Nonna collapsed in church and my car won’t start!” Before I could even think, I grabbed my phone, purse and car keys and we were gone.

Just like every Saturday night, Nonna went to church. It was more than her place of worship; it was her sanctuary. We were told she was out of breath when she walked in, sat in her regular seat, then gently closed her eyes. The priest intuitively knew something was amiss and when he asked a kind man to check on her, she was already gone.

Nonna was in the ambulance when we arrived and as I witnessed the paramedic performing CPR on her, I refused to believe what I knew in my heart to be true. Nonna joined Bella that night. We were told it was a massive heart attack. It felt like a replay of what happened to my friend’s father the week before.

final 23Nonna was more than a grandmother to me. She was an important part of my immediate family and was included in everything we did. She attended every celebration and gathering at our home. She loved coming to visit and was so grateful when we would surprise her with a visit too.

She and Bella had a very special bond which developed before Bella was born. I really wanted Nonna to be at Bella’s birth, and although she didn’t make it in time, she did accompany me to my last ultrasound. Nonna had never witnessed an obstetric ultrasound before and it was an honour to share that sacred moment with her.

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After Bella was born, Nonna was my saving grace. She would drive down to my home, park in the driveway and my kids would get excited as soon as they saw her walk up to the house. Nonna was Bella’s favourite person. She called her “Bis” and  would fetch Nonna’s slippers from the closet and greet her at the door ready to place them on her feet. Nonna would entertain the kids while I cleaned up after supper and washed dishes. We would visit and play, then she would rock Bella while I put Hudson to sleep. I would take over from Nonna once Hudson was settled and she would see herself out. This was our routine for many months, until the tragic day we lost Bella.

final 20I will never forget Nonna’s reaction that day, the shock and horror. I will never forget how she begged God to take her instead. The memory brings tears to my eyes and is something that terrified me as I was deathly afraid of losing someone else I loved. That fear is what forced me to be strong as I believed my family would get through the tragedy as long as they knew I would be okay. Except Nonna was never the same after that day. A piece of her died along with my daughter. She lost her spark, her love of life, and hope for the future.

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I have seen that spark return for brief moments, but her essence has never been the same. I know she is now where she’s wanted to be for the last 4.5 years.

My best friend, who is a medium, began communicating with Bella shortly after she passed. The following is from a letter she wrote to me where Bella described Nonna’s transition to heaven:

 

“She shows me Nonna Bis leaving this world but not in the immediate future. She shows me a man’s shadow calling Bella’s name and saying ‘okay it is time.’ Bella is playing and she is shadowed too. She grabs the man’s hand that I get is your Nonno’s presence. They walk toward a bright light. They are holding hands and they just wait. Then Nonna Bis slowly comes into sight in an illuminating white light and smiles. img_8621 2I see her approach the man and Bella and the first words she says are “What took you so long?” The man kind of chuckles giving of a sense of ‘well it’s not up to me when you get here’ so to speak. Nonna takes Bella’s other hand and they walk into the light.”

You will never be ready to say goodbye to someone you love, but this image brings great comfort.

Nonno was 88 years old when he passed, the same age as Nonna; they both passed on the 12th day of the month. I’m not sure what it means but I don’t believe in coincidences.

Now I grieve once more as I mourn the loss of my Grandmother, Nonna Bis.

Rest in Pease Nonna Bis. Please take care of my baby girl.

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Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven Sweet Angel

I woke up this morning and it wasn’t just an ordinary day. Your sister has a cough, which always makes me anxious. She woke up coughing and I looked over at her in your old bed and told her to come cuddle with mommy. “Okay,” she said, then threw her stuffed baby shark, her choocho (soother), and rainbow blanket on the bed, then waited for me to gently pull her up. I hugged her tight and said: “Today is a special day. It’s Bella’s Birthday. Can you say Happy Birthday Bella!?” She whispered softly: “Happy Birthday Bella!” Then she pointed the painting of Bella on the wall. “Oh no. Mommy, what happened? What happened??”

Your baby sister has said a few strange things about you lately. She used to say that the pictures of you were her, but recently she started calling you “Poossa.” This is our nickname for Aria, but he strange thing is when she refers to herself, she calls herself Aria. When I ask her where Bella is, she will point to one of the 2 canvases of you on the wall, but will say Poossa, as if she’s correcting me. “There Poossa!” Of course, we have never referred to you as Poossa.

About a week ago, she started saying “Oh No!” when she points to your photos. Yesterday, when I picked her up from Daycare I asked if we would go home and see Daddy and she said “yes. See Maui?” I replied “yes, we will see Maui too.” Aria then looked at me and said “and Poossa? Go see Poossa?” I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I asked if she meant Bella and she excitedly said, “Okay!”

Aria has always been bright for her age. But I can’t wrap my head around how a 2.5 year old understands that you were a real person and something happened to you. More than that, I have no idea how to respond to her when she asks me what happened to you! How do you explain “death” to a 2 year old? I was honest and told her you are in Heaven, but of course she has no idea what that means.

You would have been 6 years old today, but you will remain 19 months old forever in my heart. As time passes, these difficult days get easier as my grief transforms. When a difficult day is approaching, something minor and completely unrelated to you will break me and I’ll cry so hard that I can’t breathe. This is my way of releasing my human emotions, which is inevitable, and makes these difficult days easier to get through. It’s also my way of letting go, as I no longer want sadness to dominate and leave me unable to cope through these milestones I am forced to get through without you.

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“…And then there was you!” – November 14, 2012

For every year that passes between your birth and the present moment, I let go a little bit more.

In letting go, I choose acceptance.

In letting go, I choose to keep putting one foot in front of the other with my head held high so I can see the beauty before me.

In letting go, I choose this life I was meant to live and decide to make the most of every day.

In letting go, I choose not to let your absence drown me in sorrow, but instead keep looking for your presence everywhere I look.

I’m sad and I miss you, but I am no longer grieving for you. Thank you for the blessings and the lessons. Thank you for always being at my side. And thank you for helping me let go.

Today, I ask for your guidance in how to respond to your baby sister. Someday she will be old enough to tell her all about you. Maybe she’s ready for that now, but what if I’m not!? I feel you in her. Maybe that’s why I don’t miss you as much as I once did. But Aria isn’t you and will never replace you, and you will always hold a special place in our family.

Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven my sweet Angel. I love you more than life!

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#StayStrong❤

A Trip To Finding My SELF!

It’s my last morning in Florida and I’m awake before the sun sets. I’m sitting outside taking in as much of the salty air as possible. I love everything about this place: the sights, the sunsets, the white sand, the smell of the breeze. Most importantly, I am a different person here, completely calm and focused on my soul work. I am the true me.

I registered for the Grief Recovery Specialist training in Tampa, as my soul work is to help people cope with grief. I cancelled my trip after a family emergency, but later found out I wasn’t able to cancel my flight. My husband encouraged me to come to Clearwater for a few days as he felt there was a purpose for this trip; I needed to come.

I became focused on searching for a purpose for this trip because I felt guilty for being away from my family. When things don’t work out, it’s for a reason, and I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had alone.

What I found in Clearwater was magical. I was focused and productive. I accomplished more than I expected possible and worked very hard on writing my book proposal. I found clarity and purpose. And most importantly, I found my true self!

I’ve met a few amazing women during my visit here, and when I’m with my soul tribe, by true self comes through. I am understanding how I am not this same person when I’m at home. I’m so busy with work and everyday life that my true self gets tucked away. When I speak about Bella and my experiences communicating with her, the connection I have to her in Spirit, a beautiful part of me emerges and allowing this light to shine brings me peace.

I’m not sure why I keep this side of me hidden. Part of me feels it’s simply preoccupation with “life” and ignoring it, but another part feels there is a deeper reason I keep this tucked away. What I know for sure is by allowing this part of me to be seen, be truly being ME, I let go of all my doubt and insecurities and am able to SIMPLY BE!

We Made History This Week!!!

I was recently approached by the editor of the Canadian Medical Journal of Sonography who asked to include my story, The Ultrasound Miracle in the journal. This is the first time in the history of the journal that they included a story from a patient. So here it is, my miracle, on the cover of the journal! And here is my story, officially in print in a medical journal which will be read by sonographers all over the country! It was a pretty incredible feeling to see my sonogram photo (or as I see it, a photo of my two daughters) on the cover of a medical journal. It’s pretty amazing that my story will reach the medical community in this way. I hope my story touches many more people and opens them up to a new reality where love never dies.

Journal cover and article © 2018 Canadian Journal of Medical Sonography

Bella’s 5th Birthday in Heaven

It’s morning and I wake up to the sound of my alarm. I fight through sleep and open my eyes and my first thought is you. It’s your birthday today; you would be 5 years old. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like if you were still here. I see myself jump out of bed and run into your bedroom excited to wake you up. I sing as I enter your room. “Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday sweet Bella…Happy Birthday to you.”

Tears fill my eyes and as I open them, the tears run down my check as reality slams me down and steals the wind from my lungs. I’m paralyzed and struggle to breathe. My mother’s words fill my ears: “This cant be happening!” Yes, it happened and this is real life.

I close my eyes again and return to my safe place where death isn’t real and You are fully alive. Your vibrancy fills my lungs with air as a smile sweeps across my face.

Your dirty-blond hair falls mid-back, is straight and full of body. Your eyes are the same, old and wise. Your face hasn’t changed much, just a few years older. You dance as I sing to you, twirling round and round. You giggle and grin and are so happy, so alive! You are so excited that it’s your birthday and thrive on the extra love I give you on this special day. I want to make sure you know just how special this day is to me, how very much you mean to me.

The alarm sounds again and you vanish as I cling to the memory of what I just witnessed. I’m instantly reminded that I won’t be singing to you again this year.

My chest is heavy and I refuse to get out of bed. Today is one of those days that I allow myself to not be okay.

I look at the photos of your birth and try to relive the moments captured. I desperately want to return to that day, to give birth to you once more. The pain of your 9 lbs 3.5oz body passing through me is nothing compared to this pain of having to live in a world without you. I would relive the day of your birth over and over again until the end of time just to have one more moment with you.

*****

I decided I needed to get out of bed tonight day because our puppy needed the go to the vet. A special friend showed up and spent the day with me; it was nice not to be alone. The day ended with cake, balloons, and a small gathering in our living room. Signs surrounded me today reminding me that she is never far away.

The best part of the day was hearing my family sing “Happy Birthday” Bella! Having only celebrated one birthday on earth, we have only sang it to her once before… until tonight. I’ve been reading about how other parents get through their child’s birthday after loss and was surprised at how many of them actually sign to their child in heaven. My friend brought a candle for Bella’s cake, so we sang. And it felt wonderful! I hope Bella was dancing in heaven today, with the angels, under the rainbows.

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#StayStrong❤️

 

19 Months and Two Weeks

Losing Bella was the moment my life was forever changed. My life is now split in two; there is my life before loss and life after Bella. This mark she’s left on my life often shows up in other places and triggers my grief, but the reminders also fill me with love. It’s bittersweet.

19 months and two weeks. That’s how long I had with Bella. And now it’s also how long I’ve had with Aria.

As much as Bella and Aria are two separate people… As much as it’s unfair to compare them to one another… As hard as I try to not think about these things, I can’t help but be reminded of Bella through Aria.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been able to compare Aria with her sister at the same age. I don’t do it to rate them, but it’s interesting to see how each child is unique.

At 19 and a half months old, Bella was my little firecracker. She liked to play with cars and loved to wear her tutu. She didn’t like to sleep and spent nights in my bed with me. She loved her brother and her puppy so much. She was persistent and strong-willed. Bella only spoke a few words but her gross motor skills were very advanced for her age. She was a happy, healthy, active little girl who loved to climb and get into anything she could.

Aria is very much like her sister. She is plays with cars and loves her tutu too. She doesn’t like to sleep and spends most nights in bed with her father and I. She’s such a happy little girl, more laid back than her sister was. Her speech is very advanced and she is incredibly smart. She knows the alphabet and the sound each letter makes, can count to 10, animal sounds, shapes, numbers, etc. She blows me away every day with how fast she’s learning and just how much she knows.

Aria has been reminding me of Bella a lot lately. It’s not so much that she looks like her, although there is definitely some resemblance. It’s her mannerisms. It’s the facial expressions she makes. The sound of her laugh. Or cry. The way she walks. The way she moves her head. I often get a glimpse of Bella when I look at her. Sometimes I have a hard time telling them apart in photos. I love seeing Bella in her baby sister.

But now I fear this will disappear as time passes and Aria ages. I’m scared to lose that glimpse of my angel that I see in her rainbow sister.

These reminders always fill me with love. These glimpses are like magic to my day. It’s like Bella is saying hello.

I couldn’t help but think about Bella yesterday morning. As Aria put her arms around me and said “Hi!” I couldn’t help but think back to 19 months and 2 weeks with Bella and where we were.

On the kitchen floor doing CPR.

In the ambulance.

In the hospital.

Saying goodbye.

Leaving the hospital without her.

Shattered and numb.

This morning, as Aria hugged me, I inhaled her sweet scent and whispered to her. “I love you baby. I’m so happy you’re here.”

And in that moment, I realized that things have changed once again. She has now been alive longer than her sister. She will continue to grow and learn and will reach many milestones that her sister never had the chance to. And with every milestone achieved, I will now always wonder what it would have been like for Bella. Because this is what loss-parents do… We wonder. Constantly!

This breaks my heart.

It shatters me once again and brings back the grief, fresh and raw.

I will always wonder… and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to feel sad and heartbroken. It’s okay to miss her.

Nothing can change what happened to Bella. But life continues after loss. We continue to grow, experience, and evolve. A part of me will always be missing.

And I have to be okay with that.

#StayStrong❤️