A Soulful Message: Healing Grief

This year has been especially challenging for me as I process that 5 years have passed since I last saw my daughter. We just celebrated the 7th anniversary of Bella’s birth last week. I try to imagine what she would look like, but I just can’t picture it. I can’t visualize what my life would be like today had Bella survived. This is a harsh reality to accept.

5 years is a milestone, and it was one that broke me. 2 months after what seemed like walking down a winding road blindfolded, I wasn’t feeling any better and had no idea why I wasn’t improving. Knowing writing is my best therapy, I still wasn’t able to focus enough to formulate a sentence, which was frustrating because I knew this is what I needed to do to develop understanding of what I was experiencing.

That’s when I decided to share what I was going through in the last of the #1 Bestselling 635 Series, 365 Soulful Messages: The Right Guidance At The Right Time. The title of the book spoke to me, and I asked Bella to bring me clarity as I wrote about the next phase of my journey through grief.

 

Love Never Dies

I began living every parent’s worst nightmare on the morning of June 28, 2014. Bella was a happy, healthy toddler; her death was sudden and unexpected. Instinctively, I held on to every piece of my child that I possibly could in fear that I would forget her. Once a parent loses a child, their worst fear becomes that their child will be forgotten.

I was terrified that I would forget the little things about Bella: the smell of her hair, the sound of her voice, the touch of her skin. I deeply feared she would lose importance to me as time passed. I knew that my memories would eventually fade, and this shattered my broken heart.

Every year on the anniversary of Bella’s death, I honor her short life in some way. I expected this day would become easier with each passing year, but this year I spent the day hiding, refusing to acknowledge that my daughter has been gone for five years. My heart ached as I realized my worst fear was coming true: I was beginning to forget. I cried harder that night than I had in years. I was grieving, this time for the memory of my daughter.

I wasn’t coping well and took some time off work to focus on self-healing. When I struggle, I look within for answers. This was when the message was loud and clear. I began to see the unfair expectations I had been placing on myself. I expected to never forget a thing about my daughter. I was also placing unrealistic expectations on my grief, but grief is unpredictable and has its own agenda.

The intricate details of my daughter’s life may fade away, as it’s humanly impossible to remember every single detail, but I will continue to remember what was important. Regardless of how much time passes, I can never forget Bella because she is a part of me. Nothing can change what she means to me, not even her death. Although memories will fade with time, my love for her will never die!

 

Grief is a never-ending journey and once we can begin to accept that the process never fully completes, we can begin a new level of healing. This new understanding has helped me accept my scars. They aren’t going anywhere. For the most part, they blend well with this new life I am creating, but sometimes they become irritated and demand my attention. And I am learning to be okay with that.

It is an honour to be a contributing author in 365 Soulful Messages, a book filled with personal stories that contain uplifting signs and messages – from here on Earth and beyond – that helped each author change their life in a positive way. This soulful collection contains one inspiring story for each day of the year from over 200 authors, and I’m so happy to be part of it! You can check it out HERE.

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Order now for LOTS of free gifts. After purchasing, go to  www.365soulfulmessages.com to claim your free gifts. 🙂

#365soulfulmessages

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❤️

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

From Flashbacks to Breakdown

I went on a trip last night, back in time to 3 years ago. It wasn’t something I was expecting and took me by surprise. The flashbacks were intense and flooded me with panic. Watching the band play, dancing and having fun, how could I be so carefree hours before my entire world was about to shatter? I was clueless as to what was about to come.

The panic was suffocating me. Tears streamed my face; I couldn’t see and my legs were seizing. I needed to get out of the building but couldn’t see or walk. Tom took me by the hand and led me to the exit where I was finally able to open my eyes and breathe. I regained my composure and went back inside but instead of enjoying the concert, I tried to focus on anything other than the flashbacks that wouldn’t stop. Is Aria ok? Is something bad going to happen again? I shouldn’t have come! I fought back tears until the last song was over.  

My best friend was was so excited when she found out her favourite band was coming to our hometown. I attended the homecoming concert the night before Bella died. It had been my first night out in months. Last night, I felt like I was living that night all over again with a different awareness, knowing something terrible would happen. 

The arena was set up the same way and many of the same people were there. I have been more focused on the date of Bella’s anniversary than the events leading up to her passing and didn’t give it much thought, but while driving to town last night I realized that it may be difficult to be at this concert. If it wasn’t for my friends’ excitement about seeing Walk Off The Earth, the band that helped her through her grief after losing Bella, I wouldn’t have stayed but felt this was something I needed to do… for both of us. 

After the last song, the lights came on and as soon as I spotted my friend, I ran up to her and said “I did it! I got through it!” She hugged me then held me as I fell apart. The tears wouldn’t stop; the pain felt fresh and raw. I wanted to scream and run away. Memories were flashing before me, worries flooding my mind. Panic, regret, and pain. It was as though no time separated Bella’s death from the present moment 3 years later.

This is grief. It returns when you least expect it. Sometimes it will make its appearance when you’re in public, but this is beyond anyones’ control. Last night, I decided to stay and try to take control of my grief, but I lost the battle. I had a breakdown in public. I re-experienced trauma and released my pain in front of people who know me and many more who do not. 

It took a lot of strength and courage to get through last night. After the concert, I met one of the nurses who tried to save Bella. We talked for a long time and I am so deeply grateful for the words we exchanged. I am so thankful for all the people who tried to save my baby girl. Meeting her made it all worthwhile!

Grief isn’t linear. It ebbs and flows like the ocean. It’s unpredictable and sometimes has a life of its own. I felt like a failure last night but as I’m processing it, I’m seeing it in a different light. I miss Bella so much. I can’t erase what happened. I can’t go back in time. I can’t change a damn thing about any of it! But I can experience every aspect of this loss and grow from it. All I can do is try my best to #StayStrong❤️

Wisdom From The Past

The purpose of life is to experience. It is not our experiences that shape who we are but the choices we make from these experiences; what we choose to perceive, how we choose to react, and what we choose to take away from it all. We all go through good times and bad and the bad times allow us to appreciate the good. I’ve been through a lot recently and I may have scars, but I wear them with pride as I have learned a lot from them and I am a better person because of them. I choose strength and self-love, and choose to share this love with the world in hopes to inspire others and change lives. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️ – Angie Carter (June 21, 2014 – One week before Bella passed away)

Sometimes when we look back, we surprise ourselves. I often feel amazed when I look back at my written words. Did I write that? I don’t remember. Where did it come from? I’m in awe of how my own words helped me through the darkest days of my life. How could I have known what I would need to hear just one short week later? I had no way of knowing what was coming, but I have strong sense that something (a force?) was preparing me for what was to come. It was inevitable. When I look back at the last 6 months of Bella’s life, I was undergoing an enormous shift. I was waking up, accepting life as it was. I was finally adjusting to life as a single mom and made a point to celebrate life with my kids every single day. I was happy and felt fulfilled.

A few days after this inspiration hit me, I had the words “Stay Strong” tattooed on my arm. When I woke up in the Emergency Room the day after I lost my daughter, the doctor and nurses were in disbelief at the fresh tattoo on my arm. It’s as though I had the words I would need most permanently etched in the place where my eyes couldn’t miss seeing them. Reading these words helped remind me to live when I would forget to breathe.

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June 25, 2014 – 3 days before saying goodbye.

In 7 days, it will be 3 years since I’ve held my baby girl. Today, I stand by these words that escaped my fingertips and am grateful they crossed my screen today. I am reminded of my life purpose. The next week will be an emotional ride, and once again I will visit the past. I will look at photos and remember the final days I had with Bella, relive the last memories we made together. Remembering her brings me so much joy, but memories bring deep pain as the two are intertwined. Grief is the price of love and memories are the prize. No one can ever take these priceless moments away from me.

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June 21, 2014 – Blowing bubbles with her brother Hudson. She loved her puppy backpack.

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June 22, 2014 – The day the power went out and we spent the whole day outside. It was the best day we ever had!

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June 22, 2014 – Sleeping peacefully in the same outfit she’s still wearing today…

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June 25, 2014 – The day I got my tattoo and Zia Lori picked Bella up from daycare, but forgot her diaper bag. HA!

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June 26 – Bella’s new favourite snack. I still have this bag of edamame in our freezer.

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June 27, 2014 – The last photo I have of Bella… also the last day I would ever know what “normal” feels like.

My hears hurts tonight, but once again I must choose how I react to this pain. She’s still here with me, holding me, guiding me. What matters is what I choose to do with this pain and instead of letting it eat away inside me, I am choosing to share it with the world. Letting it out can be painful, but every tear that falls helps my soul heal a little bit more. Instead of keeping these beautiful memories inside, I am sharing them with the world because this is now the only way to keep Bella alive. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️

 

 

 

The Pain of Mother’s Day for a Bereaved Mom

Looking at her photo breaks me all over again. 3 years have passed since this moment was captured, yet time has stood still for us. That dress, that smile… she’s still that same sweet little girl 3 years later.

As I write this, tears stream down my face and I choke as tension fills my throat. This isn’t how looking at photos of your child is supposed to make you feel. Memories fill my mind and take me back to a time when my heart was whole, full of love and laughter.

Realization sets in. His photo has changed 3 times since hers was put in that frame. He’s growing up before my eyes; meanwhile, her memory remains unchanged. It hurts, I can’t breathe. Being a mom isn’t supposed to feel this way!

IMG_3262Looking back is bittersweet. Memories are all I have left of her and going back to a time before pain of this magnitude ever existed feels incredible… until the moment passes and reality knocks me off my feet. Days like Mother’s Day have a way of bringing these beautiful memories to the forefront, but these cherished memories are accompanied by the painful reminder that all we once had is gone. Life will never be the same again.

Mother’s Day is painful for bereaved parents. Today, there is no escaping the reminders that a piece of us is forever gone.

The best we can do is survive.

It’s easy for others to forget as time passes. For us, forgetting is impossible. So here I am, in survival mode once again. I place a band-aid over my broken heart and force myself to get through the day one moment at a time.

I do not celebrate today, I simply breathe.

Today I am holding space for all the grieving parents. Please take a moment to remember our children who are no longer with us. Speak their name and help us remember that they are not forgotten.

#StayStrong❤️