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

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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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❤️

 

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 ❤️

 

 

 

Message From The Past

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This popped up on my Facebook newsfeed today and blew me away. I posted this 2 years ago. I don’t remember writing this but I do remember posting this photo. It was a big deal for me to post this because I coped with colic in private. It was (at the time) my worst nightmare. 9+ hours of screaming every single day for 3.5 months was absolute torture, and a baby who only slept in my arms (a reality that never changed).

I still have a difficult time thinking about my early days with Bella because we didn’t have an easy start. I would give anything to have happy memories with my newborn baby girl. Instead I remember a time I don’t even want to think about. I wouldn’t wish colic upon my worst enemy. But instead of holding onto anger and resentment, 2 years ago I chose to let the world know how I felt in hopes that it would reach someone in need.

Bella was my rainbow long before she left this realm. Her life purpose was to teach me, and she continues to do so and will continue to for the rest of my life. I will hold onto every memory we have together, good and bad, and hold them all close to my heart. I am deeply grateful for every second I had with her.

To all the parents complaining about stress, life, and especially parenthood, please take a moment to count your blessings. You can sit there and complain about what life has thrown at you or you can stand up, hold your head high and say Thank You! Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for the opportunities. Thank you for the joyful memories. Those happy moments make all the difficult times worth it a million times over.

More Than Just A Car

Some days are better than others. Today when I got out of bed, I looked at the last photo ever of Bella and I, which was taken 9 months ago, and I was reminded of all that is missing. I was reminded of the last moments I missed out on and the photos I could have taken. There seems to be many reminders this past week of how life must go on.
Last weekend my car was wounded but it turns out that was the last drive we would ever take together. Matilda was more than just a car to me. She was my safe heaven, my refuge, during Bella’s entire life. Her and I spent a lot of time driving because colic is a terrible thing to experience and it was often the only way I could get her to sleep. Some days it was the only ME time I would get. Even after the colic, a drive was still often the only way Bella would nap. So many memories. Daily drives to daycare, how she would take off her shoes and socks and throw them so I would have to search for them every single day. How Hudson taught her to dance in her car seat and I would try to watch them in the rear view mirror as I was driving because I knew that these were precious memories I wanted to hold onto. How I still find “gifts” from her hidden, like her name tag or hair clips. How I still look in the rear view mirror and visualize her sitting in her seat.

I’m not ready to say goodbye to my car. It’s just one more reminder that life continues after loss. One more loss. One more slap in the face. Apparently the Universe doesn’t think I have been through enough yet. 
After the month I’ve had, I’m surprised to still be standing, but I am! Standing stronger than ever because I have survived and continue to fight! How much can one person endure? It all started with Bella’s colic, but I believe that life has unfolded the way it has in order to make me stronger so I could get through the next challenge. I needed this strength in order to survive the unimaginable devastation I’ve been forced to endure, and the losses and cruelty keep coming at me! 
There was a time when my family splitting up was my worst fear. I survived life as a single mother although it was difficult. Every single day was a challenge. Looking back, I didn’t give myself enough credit because the pictures I took show a happy family full of love. We had those happy moments every single day! I believe I still don’t give myself enough credit. I have come a long way. I had a setback last week and my return to work didn’t go very well, but that’s okay because I WILL try again. It’s only considered failing when you give up! And after the month I’ve had, it’s no wonder the transition didn’t go smoothly.
This past month I met with the coroner to review Bella’s report which left me with more questions than answers. Now I have decisions to make with regards to further research and testing, or to let it be and accept that I will never have all the answers. Court and custody issues are draining, but when you are accused of murder in a court of law, that can really affect a person. How could someone ever think I am capable of such a horrible thing? I still can’t believe my name and that word were even uttered in the same sentence. Obviously there are no grounds for the accusation and it was an act of desperation, but that is not something I will ever be able to forget. (* I would like to clarify that the custody issues do not involve my son.) Losing my car, returning to work, being sick, and soooo much more. I am exhausted and in desperate need of a break. I’m not giving up but I need to take a time-out to process it all, reflect, and most importantly, REST! 
“I am not what happens to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung 
Life hasn’t been easy, but I refuse to let what has happened to me define me. I am breaking down but I believe it’s the next logical process. I am a Phoenix and I am on fire. It’s only a matter of time before this fire burns out. When things cool off, I’ll be able to rise from the ashes and I will be different, transformed. It is a process and I’m meant to experience it.
Thank you to all the people who have checked in on me this week. Thank you for the kind words, the love and support. Thank you for helping me #StayStrong❤️
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