7th Birthday in Heaven

Child loss is devastating. It is undoubtably the most pain I have ever, and will ever, experience in my life. It’s something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It breaks you. Changes you. Over time, it molds you as you grieve to become someone your old self doesn’t recognize. It’s a continuous cycle of gathering up the pieces of your shattered soul only to have a storm come through and tear the pieces from your arms. Over. And over. And over again.

This is the reality of child loss, although there is hope in the darkness. The space between the storms begins to grow and, for the most part, they weaken in strength. The mess the storm leaves becomes easier to clean up. Your soul remains shattered, but all a grieving parent can do is make an effort to focus on the beauty that is born from the brokenness.

The beauty in grief are the love and the lessons. Looking for positive elements is one of the most helpful factors to healing. My grief has taught me many lessons and I hold on to the these valuable gifts.

This month we celebrated what would have been Bella’s 7th Birthday. Just because she is no longer in a physical body does not mean she is not here. Her presence was felt strongly as we celebrated her essence and I trust she appreciated the cake and all the love sent her way. This year, I spent Bella’s Birthday reflecting on all she has taught me.

My daughter’s death has taught me how to be grateful for the difficult times I endured with her, such as when she had colic and I was struggling to cope. 9+ hours of screaming every day was horrendous, but I am now grateful for those many endless days she spent in my arms. This is also where she slept for the first 15 months of her life. It wasn’t always easy, but it was where she felt safe and I am comforted knowing I was able to provide her this security.

My daughter has taught me the value of a moment and the treasure of a memory. She has shown me that nothing is permanent, and that there is something to be happy about every day! We would look for the happy moments in every day, and on darker days when those moments were less obvious, we would be happy on purpose to create a moment to  be captured in a photograph. I have hundreds of these mementos, all of which are priceless treasures.

Then there are the hard lessons, which I will continue to learn as they resurface from time to time. I have had to learn to accept what happened to my daughter, to forgive myself for being a less than perfect parent, and to let go of what will never be. I’m not certain I will ever fully recover from this, and I am learning to accept this.

I was given the opportunity to create such an incredible life and nurture her every day she lived in her physical body. Every moment I had with her is one I will cherish until the end of time.

Grief changes you. It’s inevitable, but you get to decide HOW it changes you. You do this by choosing where you focus your energy and what you give your attention to.

7 years ago, I gave birth to a little girl who I held in my arms for 19 months and will continue to hold in my heart for the rest of my life. This magnificent soul changed every aspect of me. I continue to learn how to be her mother, just as Hudson and Aria continue to learn how to be her sister. Even if that means blowing out her Birthday candles for her.

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Happy Birthday Bella. We love you more than life. XO

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❤️

 

Wedding Dreams Shattered by Grief

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In time, grief always resurfaces. Just as waves will always crash onto the shore, the pain of child loss always comes crashing into a bereaved parent. My ocean of grief has been more calm lately, but this does not diminish the difficulties I will continue to experience, especially during important moments of my life.

 

Prince Charming and I have finally begun planning our wedding. Ever since I was forced to say goodbye to Bella, I have minimized the importance of this day: my wedding day.

 

There are many sides to child-loss no one thinks about. One of the many difficult things I had to do in preparation to say a final goodbye to my baby was pick out a dress. We were planning a princess party to celebrate the life of my angel-princess. In my mind, the dress needed to be perfect and it didn’t matter how much it cost. My mantra helped me through the process, which I repeated again and again: “the day I say goodbye to my baby girl is the most important day of my life, even more important than my wedding day.” I found the perfect dress as I learned that people can have an enormous amount of compassion when dealing with a grief stricken mother.

 

My mantra that day was never forgotten and has lead me to hold back on my vision of my wedding day. As I looked in the mirror and stared at myself in the most beautiful white gown I have ever seen, I felt like a princess! Suddenly, grief lodged its way into my throat. “I can’t justify buying this dress; it’s too expensive and I have already purchased the most important dress I will ever wear.” I choked on my grief as I closed the door on my perfect dress that I had envisioned since my childhood.

 

I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring out of my soul. I felt robbed of the most important day of my life. The excitement I felt about our wedding quickly turned into deep sorrow.

 

After Bella’s transition, my view of weddings changed; I decided they weren’t important and was very uncomfortable attending weddings. I am now understanding that this is part of my grief. Weddings are important and my wedding day is no exception, but after losing a child, no day is viewed quite the same as it was pre-loss. The reality of this cut through my veins as grief drained from my pores.

 

Now that I’m planning my wedding, I feel my beliefs that held me up through the hardest days of my life are pulling me under the ocean and I’m drowning. I am now grieving the wedding day I had once imagined.

 

I close my eyes and see Prince Charming, my gorgeous groom. I see our family before us. I see our loving parents and my dear grandmother. I see our siblings and all of our nieces and nephews. I see our handsome sons and our beautiful daughter. But no I matter how hard I look, I can’t see my angel, Bella. She’s with us and we can both feel her, but my human eyes can’t see her. My heart aches as a single tear rolls down my cheek.

 

Child-loss changes everything! Sometimes we cope by making things out to be less important than they really are. Now that the planning has begun, I am finally able to admit how important this day is to me. I will only get married once and I vow to make it a day I will never forget.

 

I may have already found the most important dress I will ever wear for the most important goodbye, but I am now giving myself permission to find an equally important dress for the most important hello of my life.

 

As I kiss my new husband and am introduced as his Mrs., it won’t matter to him if I’m wearing a beautiful white gown or if I’m dressed in rags. What will matter is that we have each other until the end of time. He will think I am beautiful no matter what, but my grieving heart needs to FEEL beautiful. The dress isn’t for him; it’s for ME! And once I find that perfect dress, I will put all my love for Bella inside of it. I will fill it with joy so that on our wedding day when I can’t see Bella in the crowd, I can look down at my dress and be reminded that she is with us.

 

For grieving parents, the most important days of our life that should be filled with nothing but happiness are the most difficult to get through. It’s important to look for ways to make those days a little easier.

 

The search is on.

 

#StayStrong❤️

Waiting on Grief at Christmas

Christmas is over, the new year is here, and I’m still waiting for grief to make her appearance. I have learned to embrace grief because she reminds me how important Bella was to me. In her absence, the reminder of love is replaced with guilt. I don’t understand why grief has remained absent this holiday season.

I knew it would be a different kind of Christmas this year, quieter than usual. Our focus was on our little family as it was our first Christmas that we were all together. It was Aria’s first Christmas and it was also our first Christmas with my youngest step-son. It was a beautiful love-filled day and seeing the excitement on the kids faces along with witnessing the love they have for one another was magical.

Christmas Day was also the anniversary of our engagement. Last year, Tom changed the meaning of Christmas for me by asking me to marry him. Christmas is now a day we celebrate us, our love, and the beautiful life we are creating together.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I surprised myself by founding joy in the little things. I enjoyed buying gifts for the kids every time I went into a store and I actually enjoyed wrapping gifts this year, something I used to find great pleasure in but haven’t enjoyed at all since Bella left.

Maybe this is a sign of healing. I am no longer certain that I can predict my grief, and even with this guilt that I feel, it’s much easier to deal with than a broken heart.

In the midst of grief, it may seem as though you will never find joy again. Christmas is an especially difficult time for anyone grieving as it is a time we focus on our family and when someone important is missing, it’s impossible to let it go! It’s a sad time for many…

But I’m here to offer hope. The holidays don’t have to be difficult forever!

For me, it was about finding a different focus at Christmas. Yes, Bella is missing in the physical sense, but her presence remains strong. She was playing with her sisters toys often throughout the holidays and we were often awoken in the middle of the night with a song coming from the toys in the living room. One night, the toys were rotating and as one song would end, another toy would begin playing a different song. This went on for quite some time. These occurrences remind us that Bella is still here.

For loss-parents (or anyone grieving) some days will be about survival and the focus will be getting through one moment at a time. But not every day will always be difficult. Not every Christmas will be difficult either. I’m thankful I have found another focus at Christmas and I hope that anyone who had a difficult holiday season this year can find a new focus next year.

As for my guilt, I understand that my lack of sadness cannot diminish the love I feel for Bella. It also doesn’t take away from how much I miss her and wish she was here. By accepting my reality and choosing to live a life of happiness, I am making myself and my family a priority. I’m sure grief will visit soon enough, but rather than try to understand her absence, I choose to accept and embrace this joy I feel. I’m certain that Bella doesn’t want me to feel sadness. She reminds me that “love heals,” and I am so blessed to be surrounded by love.

A Stranger Can Help Mend a Shattered Heart

After Bella passed, my brother-in-law asked me if I would like to have molds made of Bella’s hand and foot. It would be a small piece of her I could keep forever. I was in a fog and don’t remember the details, but I know the funeral home went above and beyond to meet my request and make the impressions. I will forever be grateful for this gift.

When the impressions were brought to me, I was staying with my parents and that’s where they remained for well over a year. I came across someone online who casted beautiful keepsakes (including hand/foot impressions) and I asked her if she could make something for me out of the impressions I had of Bella. She wasn’t sure what she could do but asked me to take photos of the impressions I had.

The molds of Bella’s hand and foot finally made it home! I recognized the black bag Bella’s urn came in, but when I looked inside, I assumed I was mistaken as my son’s drawings were inside. I put the bag on a chair in my kitchen and it somehow ended up on the floor. When I picked the bag up, I reached inside to see what else was inside. I knew the instant I felt clay that the bag was in fact from Bella’s urn. I realized the molds of her hand and foot were in there. I removed the first piece of clay; I was in disbelief as I looked at the broken piece of my daughter’s foot in my hand. Shock set in and grief shattered me all over again as I struggled to breathe. One of the last pieces I have of Bella was broken. I felt as though I was experiencing her death all over again. I wrote about the experience HERE.

Shortly after posting the story on my blog, my dentist contacted me and wanted to see the mold as she knew someone who may be able to help fix it. Months went by and I finally made the trip to meet with the man from the dental lab. He wasn’t able to help me, but told me about a local woman who does casting and purchases supplies from the lab. He also told me about a new chiropractor clinic down the street who casts feet for orthotics.

I felt as though I was on a wild goose chase for someone to help me. The man at the chiropractor/orthotic clinic didn’t know if he could help but offered to do research for me. I’m sure it was a little shocking to have a complete stranger stop by with her deceased child’s broken foot in a box desperately hoping for someone to fix it. I appreciate the kindness and respect shown to me but began feeling my situation was hopeless.

My next stop was to deliver a book to a dear friend. The visit was short but this woman’s energy always uplifts me. I told her about the impression of Bella’s foot and she immediately suggested I contact “Lynne.” I’m not sure how I knew who she meant but I instinctively knew she was right! “Lynne is the person the man at the lab told me about!” I immediately realized that “Lynne” was also the person I asked to make me a precious keepsake out of the molds in the first place. I never did get back to her.

I found Lynne’s business page, To Have & To Hold Belly Casting & More, on Facebook and immediately sent her a message. She got back to me within minutes and an hour later I was standing in her kitchen with Bella’s foot on her counter.

Love and compassion radiated from Lynne and I could tell she really wanted to help me; however, she didn’t have any experience fixing molds. I was asking her to step out of her comfort zone; Bella’s foot was irreplaceable and there was no room for error. We didn’t even know what type of clay the impression was made from. I felt Bella’s presence surround us and I felt complete trust in her. I left the molds with Lynne and knew she was capable of fixing this shattered mess. I trusted the process and put all my faith into the universe expecting a miracle!

Lynne kept me updated throughout the process. The first obstacle was determining the type of clay the impressions were made from. I contacted the director of the funeral home and asked her what type of clay she used; she wasn’t sure but said it was from Dollarama. I suddenly remembered a package of clay I had in my closet. I had an urge to buy it when I was at Dollarama one day. I have no idea why I bought it but figured I’d need it. (Thankfully, I always trust my intuition!) I snapped a photo of the package of clay and sent it to the funeral home director. She recognized the package. Unfortunately, this type of clay is very fragile and would eventually disintegrate over time.

Lynne consulted with many experts around the world and knew she would have to glue the pieces together, but finding a glue that would hold without damaging the clay wouldn’t be easy. The pieces needed to be strong enough to withstand the pressure to take an impression. Her first attempt failed and the glue didn’t hold, but the second type of glue held, but would it be strong enough?

I left the rest of to Lynne. She managed to make an impression of the glued mold, then made an impression of the impression. The process was long and stressful, but it was a success! I trusted that she would make something beautiful for me. She explained that the material she uses is as hard as stone and wouldn’t break.

After 3 months, I finally got to see the results! I picked up the gorgeous pieces and they were even more beautiful than I had imagined! Lynne created two shadowboxes, one with the imprint and one with the outprint. She even made a Christmas ornament for me so I would be able to touch Bella’s hand any time I want.

This incredible woman managed to give a piece of my daughter back to me. No one can bring Bella back, but she was able to bring her foot back, and that’s as good as it will get for me. This gift from a stranger, this random act of kindness, helped mend a few cracks in my grieving heart. A piece of Bella came home and is now on my wall for me to look at every single day, all thanks to one woman. She put countless hours into researching and even more hours completing the process. I know this was a complicated procedure, but I also know she had a little assistance from Bella.

Thank you, Lynne, from the bottom of my heart, for restoring something that is irreplaceable. Thank you for all your time and effort. You are a beautiful soul and I am so grateful for you and the work that you do!❤️

If you are in the Timmins area and know someone who experiences the loss of a child, please let them know about Lynne at To Have & To Hold Belly Casting & More and give them the option to have a precious keepsake created of their child. It’s a gift that is everlasting!

Growing Up Is A Blessing

The “would have been” milestones have a way of bringing grief back to the forefront. These are the times I dread most. The days don’t stop passing no matter how much I want them to stand still. Time is the growing divider between the present moment and the last time I saw her face.

I have been dreading this week since the day she left me. I have a hard time imagining what life would be like if she were still here, but I am certain she would be excited to be starting school. Instead of watching her get on the school bus, I will be sitting on the sidelines looking at photos and reading posts about other parents seeing their children off to school for the first time.

It’s hard as a loss-parent to read about how sad some parents are about these milestones. It’s hard enough to see these days pass by without her, but when others take these moments for granted, it’s like adding salt to the wound. Don’t be sad it’s happening, be thankful!
I’m not here to tell you not to be sad that your baby is growing up; I’m here to remind you how blessed you are that you get to watch your baby grow up! I’m not going to tell you not to be anxious about your baby being away from you all day for the first time because it’s hard not to know what they are doing or if they’re okay. I will, however, reassure you that your child is okay and well cared for!
Starting school is a major milestone for a child but it’s often one we as parents dread because it means our babies aren’t babies anymore. I am going to remind you that your baby will ALWAYS be your baby, no matter what! Nothing can change that, just like Bella will always be my baby. But Bella will always BE a baby because she didn’t get to grow up. Growing up means your baby is learning and experiencing, and this also means you have the privilege of watching them learn and grow.

So please, be grateful! Be present! And don’t let your thoughts affect your child’s experience (because they can sense our anxiety). Be proud! Be open, because your child is about to blow you away with how quickly they can learn. And most of all, CELEBRATE! We celebrate when our baby says his first words or takes her first steps, so remember to celebrate this milestone too.

This is a big week for many kids. I’ll be thinking of all Bella’s friends this week. Best of luck to you all. I hope you make your mommies and daddies very proud.

Much love,

#StayStrong❤️

Happy 4th Birthday in Heaven

It takes months to build pillars of strength to hold me up, but a moment is all it takes for it to crumble. I’m exhausted and continue to struggle to process this past week. It was Bella’s birthday on Monday. She would have been 4 years old.

For some reason, the day before always seems to be harder for me. I’m not sure if it’s the anticipation or if it’s my way of making the actual day a bit easier. I tend to underestimate how difficult anniversaries are. I expect it to get easier as time passes, but it doesn’t. The reality of child loss is that life gets in the way of your grief and you do begin to live again. But anniversaries bring grief back. Raw grief. With grief comes pain. The type of pain that makes you wish you weren’t alive. It grabs me by the throat and won’t let me breathe. Every. Single. Time.

I can’t imagine what life would be like if Bella were here. So much has changed since she left, many changes were a result of her leaving. The questions don’t stop flowing but there are no answers to these burning thoughts. It’s energy wasted, yet it seems uncontrollable on days like this.

On days like her birthday, I revert to living breath by breath and count down the minutes until the day is over. I’m at a place now that not every day is difficult. I have wonderful days filled with love and laughter. I think and speak about Bella every single day, but on ordinary days, these thoughts and words are not overpowered by pain. On days like her birthday or the anniversary of her passing, not a moment passes that I don’t think of her. I can’t NOT think of her. The day is spent remembering what is missing. On a day such as the anniversary of you child’s birth, how can you think of anything other than the pain of living without them. The thought is inconceivable to any parent…yet this is my reality.

I now understand that twice a year, on June 28th and November 14th, I am allowed to take these days off. I am giving myself permission to be absent from life and allowing myself to step into my grief. I will do whatever I need to do in order to get through these days, regardless of what that looks like (as long as I am not causing anyone else pain). I am learning that on these two days every year, nothing will help me escape the tragedy of losing my baby girl. On these days, I give myself permission to break, crumble, cry, and scream. I allow myself to be angry and sad. I give myself permission to express these feelings. On these days, I am giving myself the gift of the day to myself, to allow grief to run its course.

Every year for Bella’s birthday, I ask my friends and family to help spread love and kindness to honour Bella’s memory with Bella Angel Cards. This year, I raffled off a prize to encourage people to scatter kindness. At first I was disappointed by the lack of involvement, but the few people that participated REALLY understood the meaning. Making people smile feels wonderful and can become addicting. One person had 20 entries and there were 48 entries in total. The winner was drawn randomly although all the storied touched my heart. It was hearing about these random acts of kindness that helped me get through a very difficult day.

After a quiet supper, I invited my parents and Nonna to come over for cake. A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without cake! Hudson spontaneously sang Happy Birthday to Bella as I brought the cake into the living room. It was beautiful and put a huge smile on my face. I am grateful he is growing up remembering his sister. It’s important that he never forget her. It’s important that we all remember Bella. This is how she lives on.❤️👼🏼

#HappyBirthdayinHeaven #Grief #RawGrief #BirthdayGrief #AnniversaryGrief #ChildLoss #StayStrong❤️