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

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❤

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

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❤️

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.

It Comes… And It Goes… And The Circle Of Grief Continues

All is calm. Happiness fills my heart and gratitude radiates from within. The first few months with our rainbow baby were a bit challenging, but not for the reasons I had anticipated. I expected it to be much more difficult emotionally and was concerned about my ability to bond with Aria. I am relived that my concerns were not validated.

Aria is much like her angel sister and was very fussy when she first entered this world. This was quickly followed by difficulties with sleep, which are ongoing. Bella had severe colic and I was unable to figure out what caused her to scream for 9+ hours every day for the first three and a half months. Her entire life, she was a very restless sleeper, didn’t like to nap, and the only place she would sleep was in my arms. I often feel as though I am reliving life with Bella all over again.

I vowed to enjoy every moment with Aria, even the not-so-pleasant times. It’s very difficult to enjoy the moments of screaming. The expectations I set resulted in too much pressure which left me disappointed in myself. I collapsed with guilt and battled through grief to discover these expectations were suffocating me. I was preventing my own happiness. I had to experience a severe wave of grief in order to understand my emotions, which took a lot of effort and energy. I am thankful that I have the ability to see things for what they are when I take a step back. I am also grateful for my amazing fiancée who remains at my side holding my hand at all times. He has been incredibly supportive and understands me even when I don’t understand myself.

I have accepted that I won’t enjoy every moment with Aria. I now see that you can be grateful for a moment even when you don’t enjoy it. This is where I am today. I am thankful for Aria and appreciate her, but I am not loving this sleep deprived state that has become my norm. I also didn’t enjoy trying to soothe a screaming baby for the majority of the day for the first few weeks of her life. And I accept with how I feel about it because it’s real!

Lessons from Bella continue to positively affect me. I am a better person because of her, and a better mother. I am much more calm and patient with Aria than I was with my other children, which is partly because I am more centred and grounded, but also because of the appreciation I have for Aria. She fills my broken heart with pure love and joy!
Life isn’t always about enjoyment. Sometimes it’s about survival. And that’s okay!
❤️

Grace is Everywhere!

It wasn’t until after the sudden loss of my daughter, Bella, that I was able to see that grace surrounds me. It exists everywhere; you just have to look for it! To me, “grace” is a divine gift that touches your soul; these gifts come in many forms. The most obvious form grace has shown up in my life since Bella’s transition has been signs from heaven. These signs have been a comfort to me as I grieve. They have taught me that my daughter is still with me even if I can’t see or touch her. Bella has brought me many blessings including an incredible man who I look forward to marrying, an amazing trip to Maui, and a beautiful rainbow baby. I share the most incredible sign from Bella in the book 365 Moments of Grace.

The Ultrasound Miracle: Hello, Bella!

My daughter, Bella, was only 19 months old when she passed away unexpectedly. It wasn’t long after her transition to the spirit world that she began sending me signs that she was still with me. 

I began finding rocks in strange places, such as under furniture and inside of toys. Rainbows began appearing frequently, often in places with no explanation. Electronic devices would start up and Bella’s toys would turn on, sometimes when the batteries were dead. Her favourite doll was motion activated and would talk when no one was in the room. This was her way of letting me know she was still with me, and I continue to be comforted by her presence.

Last July, I discovered I was pregnant. I was very anxious about the pregnancy and fearful of how I would react to a new baby. I felt a strong need to know the baby’s gender to help me prepare emotionally. I felt Bella’s presence during our ultrasound and knew she was with us. When the ultrasound technician told us we were having a girl, tears of joy began to flow uncontrollably. 

Shortly after we left the hospital, a rainbow appeared in the sky – confirmation that Bella was with us.

I had posted a few ultrasound photos on Facebook, and a few weeks later, a friend told me to turn one of the photos sideways and look behind the baby’s head. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked and saw there was a face behind the baby. But what I saw was not just any face; it was Bella’s face! I layered a photo of Bella taken a month before she passed and placed it over the ultrasound. It was a match! Bella’s eyes, nose, and lips matched up perfectly. Even wisps of her hair are visible in the ultrasound photo!

I have experienced many miracles since my daughter’s transition, but I have never seen anything so incredible. I know Bella is with her baby sister, and that helps fill my broken heart with love.

❤️

365 Moments of Grace is a book of true-life stories of grace, miracles, and transformations from beautiful souls all around the world. This soulful collection contains one grace-filled story for each day of the year from over 250 authors, including Kristine Carlson, Arielle Ford, Christine Arylo…and me! 🙂 This book is sure to inspire, uplift, and remind you of just how magical our world is and how connected we truly are. It makes a great gift for friends, family, and other loved ones…including yourself! You can learn more about the book HERE. You can also read what my co-author, Karla Joy Huber wrote about the book HERE.

Plus, if you order now, you’ll receive lots of soulful bonus gifts – all created by the contributing authors – including guided meditations, ebooks, ecourses, and much more! Click HERE and enter your order number to get your free gifts (available until August 31).

Tomorrow will mark the second anniversary of Bella’s transition. Part of her message to me was that love heals and I am asking for help tomorrow to help spread LOVE in the form of Random Acts of Kindness in honour of Bella. The free gift I contributed to 365 Moments of Grace are Bella Angel Cards, which can be printed HERE.

Please consider printing and using these cards. I love hearing about how people are using their cards and hope to hear from you. Love heals, and together we can make the world a better place.

#StayStrong❤️
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