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

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❤️

Code Blue: The Trauma of Watching My Husband Die (Part 2)

Note: To read Part 1 of this post, please click HERE.

It was a quick ride from the airport to the hospital. I shook my head to rid the thought that this was my 4th ambulance ride. It’s no wonder sirens always take my breath away. Tom was stable, and that was the only thing that mattered.

We arrived at the hospital and I waited alone in a small room while they settled Tom and ran some tests. About an hour later, they brought me to his new room.

I felt cold all over and couldn’t stop shaking; my anxiety was extreme. Tom was still his happy-go-lucky self and his positive attitude helped prevent more anxiety build. That false sense of hope I had earlier reminded me that anything can happen at any time and just because he seemed okay in that moment didn’t mean a thing.

The nurse informed us that the cardiologist would be doing an angiogram that morning, but we weren’t given a time. I sat beside Tom and we waited in silence listening to the beating of his heart through the monitor.

I couldn’t take my eyes off my husband who looked like a human pin cushion. He was hooked up to 6 IVs and was still having a heart attack. I paid careful attention to his heart monitor and he would often hear an extra beat. Every time his heart beat extra, mine would skip a few and I’d hold my breath. I’d ask him if he was okay and he would reassure me that he was fine. My stomach was in knots and I needed constant reassurance that he was okay.

Suddenly, his heart monitor sang; 2 cardiologists and 2 nurses rushed into his room with a defibrillator. They were very concerned, and I panicked once more. Tom’s heart had skipped a bunch of beats, but he was awake and the monitor settled. They decided to leave the defibrillator “just in case.”

It was his parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and they were out of town celebrating. Tom asked me to wait until after his angiogram, once we knew what was happening, before calling his parents. I agreed to call them once we knew something, and dreaded ruining their big day.

They finally wheeled Tom into surgery at 11:30 am. They told me they would be gone for an hour, but not to panic if they weren’t back in an hour as sometimes it takes longer. I kissed my husband goodbye and told him I’d be with him, and pointed to my heart. “I love you so much!!!”

The wait was agonizing and I watched every minute pass on the clock on the hospital room wall. I was still freezing and couldn’t stop shivering. I texted with my mom to try to distract and pass time. An hour passed and he still hadn’t returned. He finally returned 15 minutes later.

They found a blockage in the part of his heart that is responsible for the rhythm of the heart, which is why his heart was skipping beats and why he felt flutters in his chest before the heart attack. The blockage was between 90-100%; like a flap, it would block (Tom would be in pain) then the blockage would open allowing blood to rush through. We were told this intermittency may have saved his heart a lot of damage. They removed the blockage and put a stent in, but Tom wasn’t out of the woods just yet. He continued to have flutters in his chest.

I stayed by Tom’s side for the rest of the day and felt a strong need to touch him. I lay the opposite side of his bed and held his hand. I got him water and ice and anything else I could do for him. I just wanted to be helpful and make sure he knew how much I love him.

I was fearful of leaving his side. I didn’t even want to go downstairs for food, but eventually I had to force myself.

I left home with the clothes on my back, my wallet, phone and a charger. I needed food, my allergies were bad, and I was still battling severe anxiety. I tried to eat a sandwich but the food went right through me. My friend Claudia came that evening with some food, drinks, deodorant, toothbrush and a magazine. It was so nice to see a familiar face. She offered me a place to sleep but I wasn’t ready to leave Tom’s side.

The night nurse told us that overnight guests aren’t allowed but she brought in a chair that reclines so I would have a place to sleep. I wrapped myself in blankets and shivered all night. My allergies weren’t subsiding and I couldn’t sleep. I listened to Tom’s heart monitor as I lay awake, thoughts swirling in my head. He would snore a bit but would wake startled a few moments later. His heart would occasionally have a few extra beats. I would look over and make sure he was okay every single time.

I was so scared to lose him.

In the morning, he explained to me that he was afraid to close his eyes. He didn’t want to die again. The feeling he had before coding was wanting to fall asleep and he was at peace, but he wasn’t ready to stop living this life. He was afraid that if he closed his eyes, he would never open them again.

They moved Tom to another room and I wasn’t able to stay the night. Claudia picked me up and I really struggled to leave Tom’s side. The separation anxiety was strong and I felt as though I was leaving a piece of myself behind. I held tears back and focused on my breath as we drove away from the hospital, away from my husband.

While we drove, I called home to check on my kids. When we got to Claudia’s apartment, I struggled to say a word. I felt like I was drowning in sorrow. I was finally in a place where I could feel these negative emotions as I didn’t have to hide them from Tom. I couldn’t hold it back anymore and sobbed.

“I almost lost my husband. We got married 3 weeks ago and my husband almost died. He DID die and he came back! I am so scared!!!!”

My friend tried to comfort me. “I don’t know what to say.” I told her: “Don’t say anything, just be here!”

I slept beside her on the couch that night, terrified to be alone. My anxiety as so strong that was shaking; I literally shook the couch.

The next morning, Claudia found some clothes for me to wear and drove me to the hospital.

Tom was able to leave the hospital floor so we sat outside to get some fresh air. The hospital was blocking the solar eclipse that was occurring on the other side. The warm air nourished our battered souls.

We were hopeful to be heading home but due to the flutters and how severe the heart attack was, the cardiologist wanted to keep him again for observation. Claudia picked me up and I stayed with her again. She washed my clothes for me so I’d have something clean to go home in. I slept in her bed alone that night.

Tom was discharged the next day. The cardiologist came to see us and explained that Tom’s heart was stunned and would be functioning at a 3 or 4, but expected his heart to be at an 8, 9 or 10 at his follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. He explained that this type of heart attack typically doesn’t have symptoms and happens in your sleep. Known as a “widow-maker,” it’s the kind of heart attack that you go to sleep and don’t wake up from. The blockage was located at the top of the heart, which cut off blood to the rest of the heart and typically causes irreversible damage. Tom was not showing signs of heart failure and he was hopeful that damage would be minimal. We wouldn’t know for sure until his follow-up in 6 weeks.

Tom read as much as he could about his condition, the type of heart attack he had, and cardiac arrest. I struggled to read or talk about it as it would upset my stomach. I was suffering from severe anxiety and remained off work for weeks as I adjusted to a new normal, once more. I would wake up frequently in a panic and would have to make sure Tom was breathing. The effects of stress were obvious; I was sleep deprived and was shedding pounds quickly.

Six weeks later, we attended his follow-up appointment. We were informed that there was no permanent damage to Tom’s heart. It was a miracle!

We struggled together and separately through the aftermath of what happened. We were both experiencing the after-affects of trauma, but from different perspectives. It was challenging for him to understand how deeply I was affected by his near-death, but I needed to process what happened and allow myself to experience the feelings that came along with it. I worked through this independently to protect my husband from unnecessary guilt. His health may have been the cause of suffering for us both, but we stood together in the aftermath and held each other up as we both healed.

Although it took us months to recover from this, I am thankful that we were able to come together in our experience and fears and are now stronger as a result. Love truly has the power to conquer all. I will never take this man for granted and am grateful for every day we have together.

#LoveHeals

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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Code Blue: The Trauma of Watching My Husband Die (Part 1)

Our wedding day was magical, like a scene from a fairy tale. How could I possibly know that 3 short weeks later, I would stand on the sidelines as I watched my husband die right before my eyes.

After our wedding, we went away for 3 days, just the two of us. It was a great trip, but something didn’t feel right to me. I began to experience anxiety about my husband’s health. There was nothing to trigger it; he was perfectly fine. We both thought I was just paranoid.

It all began a week after we got home. I was at work when I received a text from him saying: “Don’t panic, but I’m on my way to the hospital.” Anxiety had been building inside me for a week and as I read those words, I felt it erupt. I could no longer see clearly and wasn’t able to read the rest of the message. I stood in the middle of the street unable to find my car keys when my boss offered to have someone drive me to the hospital.

There he was, laying in the same room my daughter laid when the medical staff tried so hard to bring her back to life. I pushed the flashback aside and saw that Tom looked absolutely fine, but something was going on with his heart and we wouldn’t know what was wrong until he could get an appointment with his cardiologist. We waiting on pins and needles as I treated him delicately, as though he were made glass. His symptoms would come and go. I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep because I was absolutely terrified that something would happen to him.

And then it did.

A week later, it was just before midnight and we were settling into bed when he got up to use the washroom. I couldn’t shake the heavy feeling that came over me. Then he rushed back in and said: “We need to go to the the hospital. NOW!!!” I jumped up and threw clothes on as quickly as I could while my legs struggled to support my weight. I grabbed my purse, my phone, and a phone charger thinking it may come in handy. My mother was 6 hours away so I told my father he needed to come NOW and stay with our kids because we needed to leave. “I think Tom is having a heart attack!”

Tom was brought in by ambulance and I followed behind. We were back in that same hospital room. He was in a lot of pain and nothing was helping. His blood pressure dropped and they needed to stabilize him. He seemed calm for a moment and we were alone when he suddenly sat up and said he could feel a wave of pain coming. “Go get someone!!!” His heart monitor began to go wild and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

When you have experienced a trauma and sudden loss, you understand that bad things can happen at any time and know that people die. “I can’t lose him too… It can’t end like this… The Universe can’t be this cruel. I CAN’T LOSE HIM TOO!!!!”

I backed myself into the corner and was petrified. My heart and brain were fighting; my heart told me to be at his side so he knew he wasn’t alone, but my head screamed at me to stay out of the way! I knew the scene I was witnessing was traumatizing me and I tried to stare at the floor. There was a flashing blue light behind me and the words “code blue” were relating over and over on the speaker. I felt as though I were outside of my body as I watched helplessly as my husband died.

My legs were too weak and I couldn’t stand up. I was on my hands and knees and couldn’t breathe. So many nurses piled into the room, all standing around my husband as they pumped air into his lungs and tried to get his heart beating again.

A nurse brought me to another room, the same room I sat in when I was told Bella was gone. Tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with the nurse: “I can’t lose him too…” I was in shock and my fingers were frozen stiff. The nurse called my niece to come so I wasn’t alone.

Tom’s heart stopped for 2 minutes, but it felt like an eternity passed by. I lived in a world without my husband for 2 whole minutes. Even though he came back to his body, Tom was in serious condition and time was not on our side.

He needed to get to another hospital where they could perform an angiogram to locate the blockage in his heart. Thankfully the medical team were able to stabilize him so he could make the trip. I was relieved that I was able to fly with him and our first plane ride together was by air ambulance. I was a 3.5 hour drive from home with nothing but the clothes on my back, my purse, cell phone and charger, and most importantly, my husband! I was not going to leave his side.

(To be continued…)

To read Part 2, please click HERE.

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