Monday, November 21, 2016

My Secret Healthy Life Hack

I'm finally sharing my secret to losing & maintaining weight, living a consistent healthy lifestyle and remaining mentally strong through emotional times.  The answer is simple. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.

I have read many self help books in the last 4 years and the one thing I've read over and over again is that you MUST do the small things every day in order to get "BIG" results. Each time I came across this topic I would have this moment where 10 light bulbs would go off in my head.  I would be jumping out of my skin with excitement because before I read these books I had been doing everything they said to do.  It was like someone was spying on my life and then wrote a book about it.  I was documenting everything I did.  At the time, I thought I was neurotic and crazy but apparently, these books were all the confirmation I needed to change that negative self-talk.  I now feel empowered to help others find success in their own lives. I am confident that what I am sharing with you will transform your life day by day but you have to be CONSISTENT and PATIENT!

In my darkest times I would write everything down. My thoughts, workouts, daily highlights, meals, special moments, etc.  I was slowly digging my way out of that dark hole. I originally started documenting things because 1. it was therapeutic and 2. I always wanted to remember what I was feeling so that if I ever stumbled out of the darkness I would easily be able to recognize the signs/feelings that might bring me back down. If I had the dark feelings documented then I would be able to catch myself slipping and not fall. IT WORKED... to this day I still reread all of my daily journals/logs to keep me focused, motivated and to always remind myself of how far I've come. I get inspiration for future workouts, meal ideas, gift ideas, etc.

Lately I've been trying to find more ways to help people find their own success in life. Whether it's fitness related or not.  So I created this "Daily Grind" Fitness/Healthy Living Log/Journal Worksheet to do just that.(I clearly can't decide on a name for it...haha)  This is exactly what I track on a daily basis.  I can look back to 6 months ago and know exactly what workouts I was doing, who made me smile, what I was fueling my body with and what I was grateful for. It is THE ULTIMATE WAY to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle.

I just posted this "Daily Grind" Printable along with a "To Do List" on to help hundreds of people find success in their own lives.

I hope you will take the plunge and join in on the fun to help me HELP YOU!  You will not regret it. START NOW... life is too short to be miserable, bloated, sad, depressed, sick, tired and just UNHAPPY majority of the time.

Click here and start transforming your life now!

"Think it, Write it, Remember it, Live it!" ~ Shushgirl

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Moving My Body Saved My Life

I cannot believe I did it. Holy moly I never ever ever ever thought I'd ever stand on Venice Beach, in front of a well known LA photographer, take my shirt off and begin posing for a photo shoot.  Living list item #22: Photo shoot with Charlz Chalmers @charlzalexander  on Venice Beach 7-22-16. CHECK!!!!

I am a SURVIVOR!  Moving my body saved my life and these pics represent that.  Grief can take you down some dark roads but just simply moving your body can bring you back to the well lit path. Focusing on the little things like picking up a weight, stepping forward, lunging and then stepping back was EXACTLY what my brain needed.  I needed a break from the negative self talk.  For 45 minutes my thoughts about Micah had dwindled. I had to focus on the simple movements and embrace the physical pain of lifting. That pain was nothing compared to the emotional hurt I was experiencing so it was actually enjoyable. I know... crazy right?!  After one workout I was hooked.  It felt so good to feel something different from what I was used to.  Four years later I still get excited for each and every workout. It's what keeps me sane and feeling empowered.  If I can hold 150lbs on my back, lower it and spring it back up with force then I can handle anything.  I am so incredibly grateful for my arms, legs, back and core because they pushed my mind through some difficult times.
Moving my body saved my life and these photos are not just photos of a fit girl in workout clothes on a beach. They are photos of a girl who woke up one day and decided to KEEP LIVING when most wouldn't. She represents LIFE AFTER LOSS!  It is possible.

Life is full of miracles!  You just have to be open to the enormous amount of possibilities all around us. We are creators.  We are capable of so much more than we think or could even muster up with our imaginations. Go create the life of your dreams NOW and BE A GOOD PERSON!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Solemate is Now Connected"

Something incredible has just happened.  I have spent the last 3 days listening to a book on my audible app.  The book is called "The Light Between Us" by Laura Lynne Jackson.  I find myself OBSESSED with books like this.  The books I'm talking about are books that discuss crossing over to the other side, speaking to loved ones who have passed, receiving signs from them, and just hearing so many different stories about other peoples' tragic loss, along with the incredible love stories that follow.  This specific book is about Laura Lynne who is an English teacher at a high school in New York but she has this secret life as a medium/psychic.  She shares the story of her life and it is FASCINATING.  I clung and anxiously awaited on every. single. word. that would come out of her mouth.  I learned and cried and learned and cried. I felt like a sponge that couldn't get enough water.  I felt like I could absorb an ocean. It only took me 3 days to listen to her 8 hour and 36 minute book. Because of her book I am sitting on my couch right now at 11:08am on Sunday morning on April 10, 2016 in silence listening to my washing machine washing away the saturated sweat covered workout clothes that I wore this morning at the gym.  They might have also been tear covered clothes.

My workout this morning was beyond wonderful.  I walked for 50 minutes at the highest incline at a speed of 3.0mph. The walking wasn't necessarily the best part of my workout, although my butt will for sure thank me later. The part that was so great was that I spent about a total of 30 minutes sobbing as I walked.  The words and stories that I heard in this book were just hitting every part of my emotional grieving self. I connected on so many levels with this author and her stories of helping "the grieving" heal.  I felt like she was healing me just through her book. I wish I could better portray the effect this book has had on me.  I just can't put it into words but what I will share, that might make those little hairs on your arms stand up, is this incredible moment that has just happened to me only 20 minutes ago.

Here we go...

I have goals. They are bold. They are big. They are scary as shit but that is what I love most about my goals.  If they don't scare you to pieces then they aren't big enough.  I am terrified to tell people about them because that little voice in my head will creep in and tell me "you won't ever do that or pshhh... yea right Shush, you're crazy." But what I've found is that the more I open up and share my goals out loud the closer I get to achieving them.

So here they are:
1. I want to be a fitness model.  I know so superficial right?!? But NO, that's not what I mean. I see it differently than just having a shredded body on a cover of a magazine promoting the best ways to get the body of your dreams. I have a different vision.  I have this clear picture in my brain of me being on the cover of something with a strong body and even stronger message.  The words that will surround my body on this cover will be about how I have endured some tough things in life and how eating healthy and being fit has SAVED ME!  It will be a story of survival, growth, LOVE, healthy living, connecting with others to heal and so much more. So that's my first goal.

2. I want to share my story on a huge platform.  I am not sure what this entails but I get excited every time I think about it.  I just know I am supposed to continue sharing Micah's story and spreading this awareness for having compassion for others for we have NO IDEA what their story is.

3. I want to travel the world with my soulmate.  I just want to experience all parts of the world before I leave it. I have a new appreciation for life ever since Micah was born and I am itching HARD to get out and see every inch.

4. I want to be on The Ellen Show, sitting in that white chair next to her. Not sure what I'll be talking about but I just know I will meet her one day and we will hug.  It will be a powerful moment for me because she was one the few people in this world that could make me laugh through my grief.  I am grateful for her.  She made me forget about my sadness for an hour every single day.  I OWE HER ONE!

4. My last goal is something that I didn't necessarily come up with on my own but it's been told to me so many times that I've just started believing that I should do it. When people tell you things over and over again you start to listen and really see what they're talking about. When I started this blog almost 4 years ago I was told for THE FIRST time in my life that I am a talented writer (specifically story telling).  I NEVER EVER thought I was a good writer.  I was horrible with reading comprehension and expressing my thoughts to people. Therefore, I just assumed I was awful at putting my thoughts on paper. It's funny because one of my biggest frustrations in life is when people misunderstand me but when I'm writing I am able to express my thoughts and feelings without any doubt that they might misinterpret. When I write I can revisit my sentences and read them from the perspective of my audience and feel what I am expressing, making it super easy for me to be UNDERSTOOD.  I LOVE IT! So my last goal is to write a book one day about my love story for my daughter.  I have so so so much to tell.  Although because I have so much to tell it is really overwhelming to even start.  

BUT here I am, starting. =)  Yes, that is what I am doing here on this blog, blogging away again. I have been guided to this very seat on my couch, macbook pro on my lap, listening now to the beeping of my finished washing machine, and feeling excited about what's to come. The reason I say I was guided here is because the minute I sat down on this couch I received THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE sign.  (this is the incredible thing that I mentioned in the beginning of this post)

About 4 hours ago I was on the treadmill crying and asking Micah to send me a sign of what to do next.  I have been struggling with the fact that I have these HUGE goals that I set months and months ago and the only action I take every day to reach them is working out.  Getting stronger is just one part of my 4 major goals.  I've been desperately searching for the next steps towards my other goals but nothing was happening.  How the heck was I going to share Micah's story on a bigger platform? How was I going to write a book? When will I meet my soulmate to travel the world with?  It was all so overwhelming. After listening to that book this weekend I have been trying to really open my eyes up for more signs and "pulls" towards the path that I am supposed to be on. I've been going to different places and stepping out of my comfort zone hoping things will pop up or hoping Micah will send me a sign that will spark some inspiration. So as I walked and cried this morning I told Micah that I surrender. I trust that she will lead me to where I am supposed to go and I will no longer try to force things to happen. Can I just tell you how BIG SHE DELIVERED!?!  I was in the shower thinking about my day and what I was going to do. How I have to go to my Rowan field hockey alumni game later today but I didn't want to because it was so flipping cold and I just wanted to stay home and watch the Masters golf tournament on TV.  I was also thinking that I just wanted to sit on the couch and reflect about the book I just finished.  It had made me so emotional that I had to take everything in and maybe write down some of my overwhelming thoughts from the last 3 days. Well, I get out of the shower, put my mascara on because I'm naked without it, threw my favorite PJs on, turned my TV off, sat on my sectional, grabbed a blanket, a pad of paper, a pen and I began writing. I wrote two huge paragraphs one dated 4/9 and one dated 4/10.  By the time I finished the second paragraph my hand hurt(what a wuss) and I remember thinking, "You idiot, just type this shit. You are such a fast typer and you think even faster so your thoughts will flow a whole lot easier." Then I thought, "maybe I'll blog about it?" So I grabbed my laptop from behind me on my desk, unplugged it from the charger, opened it up and immediately went to  I typed in my username for google blogger and before I could tab down to type in my password I heard something from upstairs, "Solemate is now connected."  (I am crying again now as I type this because it was so FREAKING AMAZING.) I had just listened to one of Laura Lynne's stories on my way home from the gym about how our loved ones LOVE to use electricity to communicate with us and if we are not open to it then we might miss those signs.  My bluetooth speaker was on during my entire shower, as I always jam out to music while I get ready and I definitely turned it off before I came downstairs to write.  (side note: my speaker has the same durability as a sneaker sole so it is called "solemate") But as I sat there about to enter my blog and begin writing, there was that voice, clear as day, "Solemate is now connected!" My head popped up immediately, I was in SHOCK. "Did that just turn on by itself? OMG...Laura Lynne's book. They communicate through electricity. Micah!!!!!" All of those thoughts were streaming through my brain. I could not believe it.  If I hadn't turned off the TV I would have never heard it.  I know it was Micah communicating with me. She was telling me "Yes mom! You are supposed to write.  You are a great writer and I want you to tell more people about me and you and how much we love each other. I want you to share how people that pass away are always with us just like this scenario."  I was BLOWN away.  My cry was uncontrollable for at least 3 minutes.  I was also laughing at the fact that I always call Micah my soulmate and I feel like I use that term A LOT.  I think it's so cool that she chose to use my solemate speaker to communicate with me. I just was so THANKFUL and just ... I don't know even know.  I'm still in shock.  That was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  She made that speaker turn on to tell me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. In that moment, I could feel her cheering me on as I began to type.

As I typed and typed things became even clearer.  Then I discovered this...

All of my goals can all be achieved in one simple way... A BOOK!   This is how...
I will write a book.  I will be on the cover(fitness model) of my book expressing my physical and emotional strength through my photo.  I will travel the world sharing my book and my story. I will be on The Ellen Show because she will have heard about my love story. I will have made Micah proud by doing my best to CHANGE THE WORLD with this small but powerful message: "You might be one person in this world but you might be the world to one person!"  Micah is the world to me and I am dedicating my life to her by going out and being the world for other people who may need it. PAYING IT FORWARD.

GOALS COMPLETED! Powerful shit right there!  I am fully aware that my goals could change and my vision could be just a guide to something even bigger.  Who knows?! But today will be a day I never forget. I was able to discover what my next step should be... blogging again.

 I am grateful for my path, my love, my soulmate Micah, my ability to be open to her signs, and Laura Lynne Jackson for sharing her story, helping me heal, and showing me how to open up.

Side note: I got an email at 10:45am saying that my Rowan Alumni game has been canceled.  THANKS MICAH! <3  Now I can keep on writing.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Battle with Food, Depression, and Finding Balance.

I have experienced more life in the past 2 years than I have in my entire 32 years on this earth. I have learned so much about myself and how I want to spend the rest of my life walking this earth.  Below is a short list of things I have learned that are important to me and who I am today and who I want to be in the future.  I am going to take a few things from this list and elaborate on them later in this post but first I want to share these life changing lessons.

1. I am breathing and that is a reason to smile.
2. Pain is bearable and there is nothing to be scared of. Therefore...
3. I am fearless
4. I love so much deeper than the average person because I have no fear
5. My ability to recognize someone else's pain and to nurture them is INCREDIBLE
6. I will never save a space for someone in my life that brings me down. Not even for a second. 
7. Food should be used as fuel for our bodies but it is VERY important to ENJOY what you are fueling your body with. (being able to acknowledge the difference between eating for enjoyment and eating to soothe pain was huge for me) 
8. Giving to others and not expecting anything in return is THEEEEEE most rewarding thing we can do as humans
9. Being vulnerable draws in human connection ( I blogged about this one here)
10. Finding balance between work, play, loving yourself, eating, exercising, and family is #1. Without balance I fall apart, which means I must include all of the above in my every day life...NO EXCEPTIONS. 
11. Being active and sweating each day is a MAJOR part of my happiness ( I will never stop)
12. I believe life will be grand because I trust myself to make it that way. 
13. My faith in everything keeps growing stronger 
For the remainder of this post I want to share my battle with # 7 on my list.  FOOD!!!!  Believe it or not, it is one of the most important tools to help battle grief. I never knew food played such an incredible role in our emotional well being.  It affects our moods, our brains, our activity levels, how we treat others, whether we sleep well, and most importantly our feelings. In the beginning of my 2 year struggle(Jul-Sept '12) I didn't think twice about eating.  I had just had my daughter and soon lost her, so food was the last thing on my mind.  I would go through my days so preoccupied with the sadness that food was only important when my body told me I was hungry.  I wasn't overeating or under eating, I was just surviving and eating intuitively(listening to my body's hunger signals). Prior to that I was always a healthy eater but not one of those organic healthy eaters.  I liked to eat salads and low calorie meals. I would also meal replace with the things I loved, if I was in the mood for them so I wouldn't overeat. (ex: ice cream, cheese curls, gummy candy, etc.) I was also very active and always into sports.  There was never a time when I wasn't sweating my butt off at a field, court, or gym, even throughout my adult years.  When I started working out again post pregnancy/loss(Oct. '12) I got introduced to the primal (paleo) lifestyle.  I read a couple of books about it and I was hooked.  I was ready for a distraction. This way of life intrigued me because it's focus was on how processed foods could lead to depression and how we as Americans are all addicted to sugar. 

Number 1: I was a confessed sugar addict so to read stories about how sugar was poison to our bodies completely freaked me out and made me want to change. 

Number 2:  I had just experienced probably the toughest thing I will ever go through, so why not make it easier on myself and NOT take those slippery steps and risk falling into a depression. (which I had a 99% chance of doing anyway but I was determined not to) 

After seeing Micah pass I just wanted to be as healthy as possible.  I didn't want anymore heartache in my life. I wanted to take every precaution so that I could one day have healthy children and have the family I've always wanted.  Being healthy became my new passion/obsession.  

About 7 months later I had dropped all of my baby/grief weight and then some(about 40lbs). By June 2013 I was the lowest I had ever been in my entire young adult life. I was around 130 lbs and feeling AMAZING.  I was only working out 3-4x/wk and eating just the way my trainers told me to. I was counting my macros in my "lose it" app and I was fueling my body just the way the books said. My skin was clear, I was sleeping so well, I loved how my clothes were fitting, I was waking up every day excited to go to work but the only problem was I wasn't ENJOYING the food. I would eat and feel great but the process of eating lost it's enjoyment.  I didn't feel like I could go out with friends and enjoy life because, what restaurants in NJ had organic meats and vegetables? If I lived in California, that would be a whole different story.  I went there for spring break and I remember driving about 10 miles and not seeing 1 fast food place, instead every corner had an organic juice bar or restaurant.   It was awesome but that wasn't my reality.  I wanted to live and still feel like I had the freedom to eat like everyone else but I was torn because I also loved how I felt.  I wasn't depressed, I woke up every day loving myself, feeling great in my own skin for the first time in my entire life and to accomplish that feeling in one of the worst years of my life was SO REWARDING.  I had come to a cross roads with my new passion.  Did I really want to be THIS healthy and not enjoy life? Was having this perfect body more important than making memories with friends and family? Life is short and I was starting to feel like my priorities were all out of whack. (meanwhile I am still grieving through all of this) I NEEDED TO FIND BALANCE but I didn't know it at the time, my focus was just on feeling good and looking good. I felt like if I looked good and felt good then my reality would go away.  It could be as if I was never pregnant and never experienced losing my baby. I wasn't addressing the real issues. 

Of course, I started questioning all of this right around Micah's 1st  birthday(July 13, 2013). Talk about bad timing, I was on the verge of spiraling out of control. The upcoming emotions I was about to feel along with the pizza, cake, and ice cream I was about to eat was the deadliest combination. I had signed up to do a mud run on Micah's birthday so of course the plan was to devour food afterwards and splurge because it was such a HUGE day filled with so many different emotions. I had been so cool and steady for the past 7 months, that I was bound to break.  I wasn't completely addressing the grief.  I was keeping myself distracted with staying on track with my health and fitness goals.  Once I allowed the sugar and processed foods back into my life all hell broke loose. I finally let go of my goals and the sadness poured itself back into my life. I then became addicted to sugar again and it was worse than ever because my body had been without it for sooooooo long.  I found myself crying every single day.  I had such highs and lows. My goals were SHOT, I was coming to terms with the fact that I DID have a baby and she is no longer here, I am no longer with Bill (my best friend), my body was starting to change, WHAT THE HECK was I supposed to do with all of those feelings during the summer time with NOTHING to distract me?   The food absolutely caused this and made my grief that much worse.  Depression had set in.

My body was freaking out.  My hormones were out of control. I was craving sugar like you wouldn't believe.  I couldn't stop thinking about food. It was uncontrollable.  I eventually lost my menstrual cycle because of my stress levels. I just LOST IT ALL. Everything I had worked for was gone.  I thought I was this strong girl who could overcome anything because of how I handled my first year post loss but I felt so defeated, embarrassed, ashamed, and just DEPRESSED.  Boom!!! There I said it.  My goal was to never be depressed and now I was the epitome of a depressed women who lost her child.  I felt weak.  January '14 rolls around and life just wasn't getting any better.  I had put on 15 lbs, back to my pre-pregnancy weight which was unacceptable, winter had set in and we were having snow day after snow day and I was just feeling like I couldn't do it anymore.  I broke down and decided to get a little help with an anti-depressant.  I was now on the birth control pill(to help get my period back) and an anti-depressant.  Who was I? I have never been someone to take medicine so for me this was a big deal.  I stayed on both meds for about 8 months.  In those 8 months I started to eat better, I started dating someone, I had never stopped working out but I did start to look at working out as a punishment, so that become another mental struggle.  Throughout those 8 months I was determined to find a way to get my PERFECT body back. I was so fixated on how I felt when I was at my lowest back in June '13.  I was so happy but yet I wasn't living.  I then began to search for balance.  I researched as much as I could and tweaked my macros (carbs, fats, and proteins) a million different ways trying to find the best way to lose weight, FEEL GOOD, enjoy the food, and keep it off.   I did drop a few pounds but then I went through another tough break up in Jul '14 which in turn caused another cycle of SUMMER DEPRESSION.  

FYI... I now look forward to winter because I freaking dread my summers.  Again...WHO AM I?  I never thought I'd ever say I dread summer.  Another indicator that I am still in a deep depression. 

Fast forward to October 2014.  I am back to work, I began blogging again, I have sat down and processed everything I've been through. I am dealing with my grief every day,  I am no longer focusing on my body or food because I now see that was a coping mechanism.  My new focus is on finding BALANCE.  Once I stopped the obsession with comparing myself to that body I had a year ago I began living again. I stopped taking all meds this past October and I finally got my menstrual cycle back after not having it for a year and 3 months...Yay for me! I just finished reading a book called "Intuitive Eating" which has SAVED my life.  I highly recommend it for anyone who has ever set a weight loss goal.  It's MIND BLOWING how much that book has completely changed my mindset.  I will never diet again and I will eat whatever I want whenever I want and I already HAVE the body of my dreams.  The size of that body does not matter one bit because I am blessed with a functioning body.  AMEN!!!!! 

How I eat/live now: 
1. I still meal prep because that is what makes me happy
2. If an opportunity arises to go out to eat I jump at the chance unless I am trying to save money
3. I still try and JERF(just eat real food) 3 out of my 5 meals in a day
4. I do NOT count macros or calories
5. I listen to my body's hunger signals
6. I still try to balance my carbs pre and post workout because I know how to fuel my body now
7. I workout to feel good and I only do workouts that I WANT to do
8. I no longer do cheat meals, re feed days, or splurges. If I am craving something I eat it but it doesn't mean I eat TONS of it.  Moderation is key. Even if that means eating processed food every day, I will do it in moderation as long as I still feel okay after eating it. 
9. I pay attention to my feelings and acknowledge them.  I no longer soothe them with distractions.  
10. I am a balancing act and I love it. 

Your food choices affect your EVERY DAY life. You have a choice to feel good.  Life is too short to be miserable every single day.  Appreciate what your body can do instead of making exercise  a punishment to look a certain way. DO NOT eat past satiation just to soothe something that deserves YOUR attention immediately. Address those feelings because you are worthy of happiness.   Fuel your body with REAL FOOD and you will feel good.   I have found BALANCE and I know it will be work for the rest of my life but my happiness is worth it. 

I heart BALANCE!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Love of My Life

I've talked about Micah being the love of my love many times and how I am so lucky to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  It is such a strange concept and some days I feel completely different about it.  One minute the pain is awful and I think, " I hate this and I want it gone" but then the next minute I think about Micah never being here and that's just wrong to think or even say out loud. Every day is SOOO different but the tough days are definitely fewer and far between. Today is one of those tough days. More like a tough few hours.  I try not to let it last all day.  So here is what I'm feeling today...

Feeling that deep internal love for someone that you created is ...well...just....the most powerful thing a human can feel.  On the reverse side of things it is also the most painful thing to feel when we lose that precious miracle.  We dreamt of a future for them, we wanted to give them everything we never had. We lost all of those hopes and dreams for who they might become, we lost the chance to hear them laugh or see them smile, we will never know what they would have been like as a child, a teenager, and an adult.  The pain of that kind of loss can't be measured on a scale of 1 to 10.  It can't even be put into words.  It is a deep cut into your soul and dulls everything around it leaving you lifeless.  The pain I feel RIGHT NOW is unbearable, it makes me not care about anything in my life.  Everything is meaningless, it's hopeless, I'm hopeless, the world just doesn't matter anymore.  How can the pain be so bad if not worse 2 years later?(perfect example of why you should never put a timeline on someone's grieving process-click here to read about that) Who gives a crap about working out, eating healthy, making money, buying clothes, decorating houses, spending time with other people's kids, listening to other people's problems?  Every second of every day I want to be doing something different than what I am actually doing. I want to be hugging and kissing MY baby. I want to be raising her to be the most amazing human ever. There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't think about doing that.  I find myself crying on my couch and wanting desperately to reach for comfort from someone. Maybe text my sisters, or my best friend, or even Bill? But none of that sounds appealing but yet I still just want to be held.  What else can I do?  I can't breathe.  I can't move.  I'm shaking. I'm alone. How do you cope with this? I know what I want and what I need but I can't have it, at least not for a really long time.  I want the love of my life back.  I want to breathe again.  I want Micah.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being Vulnerable = Being Connected

One of the items on my dream board is to always share my story.  I included that because I have come to realize that it is a CRUCIAL piece to my healing process.  For about 6 months, I wanted to forget my story and erase my past.  That was probably one of the deadliest thoughts I could have ever had.  It was the grief talking. I wanted to run away and start all over.  After I came to and realized my story is apart of me and who I am, all kinds of doors opened.  I found myself talking about Micah more and talking about my grief, which in turn made me feel alive. I found that spark inside myself again. By the way, those doors didn't open by themselves either.  I put myself out there, I shared my vulnerability, I shared my anger, and in return I unlocked every door that was keeping me trapped in that dark room I like to call HELL.  The minute I stopped sharing my story I turned that key, locked myself in that room and STOPPED living.  I have no doubt that so many other parents are doing the exact same thing.  I am writing this now in hopes that ONE grieving parent will read this and have the strength to set themselves free.

Our children are our entire lives.  They are why we wake up every morning, they give us strength to get through the tough days, they keep us grounded and make us realize that any insignificant life issues we face will slowly fade away when we walk through that door and see their smiling face running towards us screaming " Mommy" or "Daddy." Those are the moments we live for.  As grieving parents we need to hold onto those moments and keep talking about them. As long as we do that, they will always be here and we are the ones that have to keep their spirit strong. If we don't then who will?

Connection is why we are here on earth.  We are neurobiologically wired to seek connection with other humans.  Connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives.  Shame is the fear of disconnection.  No one wants to talk about it and the more you don't talk about it the more you HAVE IT.  The shame a grieving parent feels is excruciating.  It's not the shame you are thinking of. (ie: an alcoholic might feel shame for the choices they've made in the past). I can't speak for everyone grieving but I feel ashamed of the fact that I am an outcast.  I feel like a freak some days.  I don't feel connected. I feel ashamed of most of my emotions because I'm not sure if they are normal.(whatever normal is anyway)  We feel like if people find out about our shame we won't be worthy of connection. We feel like we are doomed.  The idea of being "seen" is terrifying but in order to reconnect with humans again we have to be SEEN.  Being seen means being vulnerable.

I've learned there is nothing to feel ashamed of.  It is completely normal to be vulnerable and to feel weak because LOOK at all we've lost.  We lost our lives essentially.  We lost that spark that was lit when our children were born. We lost those special moments to look forward to.  We don't have those smiles and hugs to share at the end of every day.  But if we don't open up and expose ourselves then we will never be able to connect with the world again and we will never FEEL again.  We have to break out of that dark room by sharing our story.  We are responsible for keeping our spirits alive along with the spirits of our children.  In doing so, we just might help change the lives of EVERYONE around us and how awesome would that be to know that lives all around us are changing for the better because of OUR son or daughter's legacy.  That right there is called CONNECTING, INSPIRING, EMPOWERING, and most of all LIVING. Let's make our short time here on earth the very best it can be. We can't let the darkness suck us in.

I know for a fact that Micah has changed hundreds of lives.  Last Wednesday(Oct. 15th) was "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day." That will be a day I will never forget.   I stepped out of my way for a moment and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I didn't hide from the world and light my own candle in the sad darkness I had been living in.  I took a risk and invited all of my friends and family(hundreds of people) on social media to join me in the celebration on that special day.  The amount of people that participated in the "wave of light at 7pm" in memory of Micah and many other angels was INCREDIBLE.  My phone was blowing up all night, through the night, and into the morning.  I felt like Micah was alive again.  I felt like I had just given birth to her and everyone was congratulating me.  I was bringing her to life again and it felt so good.  I can't even explain the feelings that flooded my body.  I LET MYSELF BE SEEN!  I wasn't afraid.  I realized in that moment that I am so grateful to be able to experience such deep, passionate connection and LOVE.  Some people walk this earth and never experience this GREAT LOVE.  This is why being vulnerable and sharing your story will change YOUR life and the lives of everyone around you. It is why we are here on this earth.  Don't be scared to feel again.  I know it is a risk but I have told myself over and over again that I would never trade my story for the world. Would you trade yours?  Micah and I are theeeeee most powerful act of love that I will ever experience. I want the world to see it = I want to CHANGE THE WORLD!

Some pics from Oct. 15th

My great friend Alyssa and her husband Dennis were there to light a candle with me along with my mom and my other angel momma friend, Bethann(not pictured). 

These are some posts from my family lighting their candles for Micah! 

My sister Holly's 4 kids:

My brother's daughters: 
Kasey - 10

My brother Dave and his girlfriend Stacy lighting their candle all the way from Arizona while on a work/vacay trip. 

My sister Julie lit her candle along side Micah's handprints <3

I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone that posted, emailed, or texted pics of their beautifully lit candles in memory of Micah.  I am so grateful for all of you taking the time to share your love.  I feel connected with the world again, I feel like I have a purpose and I have my vulnerability to thank for that.  Even if you have never lost a child, you can benefit from exposing yourself to other humans.  The minute we start sharing is the minute we start living.

Happy Sunday =)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tips on How to Talk to a Grieving Parent

"I've been surprised by people's genuine kindness and empathy as much as I've been repeatedly shocked and disappointed by their lack of it."

This is a quote from a recent article that I read, which was written by a mother, Samantha Hayward, who had also lost her child.  She wrote the article in hopes to help educate our society on how to address grieving parents.  The subject is so taboo and there is clearly not enough literature on how to handle the topic or talk to a parent that is suffering the horrific loss of his/her child.  I'm assuming that it is not talked about because others do not want to open that door for fear of what lies behind it.  The pain is something they never ever want to feel or even want to try to think about.  It's as if they FEAR the FEAR.  This article really made me feel like I wasn't alone.  Samantha made me see that there are so many other parents going through exactly what I'm feeling. (annnnnnnnd it makes me so sad to even type that sentence because that just means so many other children have left this earth way too soon...UGHHHH Why? Why do children have to die?  It is not okay.) 

After crying a whole lot and processing that article, I decided to take Samantha’s 10 tips and modify them to fit me and my personal opinions on the topic. She talks a lot about the things people would say or not say and how they both could hurt her feelings and ultimately lead to the end of some relationships.  We all know that NO ONE intends to say the wrong thing to a grieving parent, but sometimes it may be better to say nothing at all.  I understand that knowing when to say something, when not to, and what to say in this situation can be quite confusing.  So, here are a few tips to help you decide whether to bite your lip or when and how to show the perfect amount of affection to a loved one who is grieving the loss of a child. 

My tips: 

1. Please stop with the comments about how lucky I am to even have gotten pregnant in the first place. Of course it was a blessing, believe me I know what kind of miracle it is to conceive, carry, and give birth to a healthy baby, but must you throw it in my face that I "should" be feeling grateful when I just had to make a decision on whether to bury or to cremate my first and only baby?  Also, for parents that have other children, I am sure that it hurts just the same when someone says how lucky you are to have your other children to come home to, as if that makes it easier to deal with such a loss.

2. There are still some times that I just need to take a day off from work and hide from the world, which I just did a couple weeks ago.  Please don't assume that I've thrown in the towel or I've lost my mind because "it's been 2 years now  and I shouldn't be calling out of work” or even WORSE, be so thoughtless to wonder "what's wrong?"  Good LORD I would love to rage at someone when they ask me that!  Like, are you serious?!  My kid is dead, gone, like no longer on this earth and you are wondering why I'm crying or why I can't come to work?   The ignorance blows my mind sometimes.  So please don't assume that because two years have gone by that I should be "better" at dealing with my grief.  I'm anticipating that I will still need some mental health days 5 years down the road and there is nothing wrong with that so please be aware that your loved ones have the freedom to grieve whenever and however they need to. It does not mean they've gone off the deep end.  It's normal. 

3. Grieving for a child lasts a lifetime.  If you are wondering when your friend or loved one who has lost a child will eventually stop grieving, STOP RIGHT THERE.  There is no such time.  It is FOREVER and please recognize that and tell them they are allowed to grieve to the end of time or until they are able to see and hug their child again. (I recently told my hair dresser my story and one of the first things she said to me was that exact line about "grieving until the end of time."  I just had to hug her when she said that because she made me feel incredible. I felt free from judgment as soon as she said that. THANKS AGAIN ELAINE.

4. The loss of a child can destroy a relationship instantly.  Bill and I split 8 months after Micah had passed, and it was so incredibly hard to adjust to that new life.  The thought of not being with the two most important humans in my life, for the rest of my life, was so UNBELIEVABLE.  I felt like someone just took a bulldozer to my perfectly framed home that I had spent months/years building, and not to mention, I was about to decorate the shit out of that house with love, laughter, memories, and so much more.  POOF! GONE! Even though relationships end, it doesn't mean that all ties must be severed.  I mean how could you NOT talk to the ONE person on this earth that went through something so horrific with you. It's kind of like when someone saves your life, and you are forever connected to that person because in that scary moment he/she was by your side in your most vulnerable moments. Same thing happens when two parents lose a child, especially when they both hold their baby as she takes her last breath.  It is a bond so tight that no one, not even God could break.  Bill and I will always be there for each other. PERIOD.  So please stop with the weird looks or the assumptions that Bill and I are getting back together or maybe the thoughts that one of us is leading the other one on. STOP.  We are not getting back together and we CAN text, call, and see each other as much as we would like.  We understand each other’s pain, and we want to grieve together some days.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

5. Acknowledging Micah's birthday or the anniversary of her death the first year she was gone was incredibly heartwarming and touching, but when you don't bother to acknowledge it year after year ( in my case the 2nd year) it is completely gut wrenching.  It makes me feel like I should get used to nobody acknowledging the fact that I did spend 9 months pregnant, I did go through a long inducing process to end up having a c-section, I did have a beautiful daughter, and I did spend hours upon hours at CHOP taking care of my baby. That all HAPPENED and I'll be damned if I don't honor her life every single year.  This is one of those cases that saying something is much better than not!!  Acknowledging and celebrating my child on her birthday is essentially what every parent would hope for.

6. Feeling left out.  I do notice when I don't get invited to certain dinner dates, events, or outings.  Don't think that I haven't noticed the few people that dwindled away and couldn't handle the work it might take to stay along for the bumpy ride with me.  I understand it is WORK to be friends with me now, I am not always a walk in the park, but I also don't deserve to be pushed aside because you are tired of my grief.  Really???  Is your life so hard and busy that you can't make time for me anymore?  Don't try and be friendly in the future because it's obvious what kind of friend you are.  One not worth having.  Good friendships are just as important as a marriage.  For better or worse.  They take work, effort and do not sustain themselves.  If that seems like too much for you, then see you later…

7. Please don't say "I want the old Michelle back."  Believe me, I want the old Michelle back, too, but that will NEVER happen and coming from anyone else, but me, sounds like a complete insult.  It's as if I am currently not cutting it for your high standards, and if the old Michelle isn't coming back, then I guess you won't be hanging around any longer. My entire world got flipped upside down and left in a million pieces.  Therefore, it is going to take me some time to put everything back into NEW SPOTS.  At the same time,  try not to forget that in the midst of all of that, I am grieving TWO losses: my daughter's life and my own, because I no longer recognize who I see in the mirror each day.  

8. Please include me in mommy convos! Do not be afraid to ask me or include me in conversations about my pregnancy, birth story or things Micah did as a baby.  I constantly hear other mothers sharing their stories with their other "mother" friends and for some reason, I am never included in those conversations, even though I am sitting right there. It hurts so much when I am left out of those conversations. It makes me feel like I am NO LONGER A MOM, which is not the case.  Those conversations are definitely triggers for me.  I've learned to barge in and say, "well Micah used to do that too," and I honestly get so many different reactions.  It is not weird to talk about someone who has passed.  You make it weird when you react like a moron and can't keep the convo going. My advice to someone who is in those conversations and is thinking "should I ask? No, maybe she is having a bad day?" You can always say "Do you mind me asking about Micah?" That right there could turn a bad day into the best day of the week for me!

 I hope that I gave you all some helpful tools to take with you so that you can one day pull a grieving friend under your wing and say all of the right things.

Please don't fear us, as we do not bite!  We might bark a bit, but we WON'T if you make an effort to be kind and considerate. We CANNOT do this alone, and we NEED your love and support, whether you believe it or not.  Your words matter, A LOT =)