19 Months and Two Weeks

Losing Bella was the moment my life was forever changed. My life is now split in two; there is my life before loss and life after Bella. This mark she’s left on my life often shows up in other places and triggers my grief, but the reminders also fill me with love. It’s bittersweet.

19 months and two weeks. That’s how long I had with Bella. And now it’s also how long I’ve had with Aria.

As much as Bella and Aria are two separate people… As much as it’s unfair to compare them to one another… As hard as I try to not think about these things, I can’t help but be reminded of Bella through Aria.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been able to compare Aria with her sister at the same age. I don’t do it to rate them, but it’s interesting to see how each child is unique.

At 19 and a half months old, Bella was my little firecracker. She liked to play with cars and loved to wear her tutu. She didn’t like to sleep and spent nights in my bed with me. She loved her brother and her puppy so much. She was persistent and strong-willed. Bella only spoke a few words but her gross motor skills were very advanced for her age. She was a happy, healthy, active little girl who loved to climb and get into anything she could.

Aria is very much like her sister. She is plays with cars and loves her tutu too. She doesn’t like to sleep and spends most nights in bed with her father and I. She’s such a happy little girl, more laid back than her sister was. Her speech is very advanced and she is incredibly smart. She knows the alphabet and the sound each letter makes, can count to 10, animal sounds, shapes, numbers, etc. She blows me away every day with how fast she’s learning and just how much she knows.

Aria has been reminding me of Bella a lot lately. It’s not so much that she looks like her, although there is definitely some resemblance. It’s her mannerisms. It’s the facial expressions she makes. The sound of her laugh. Or cry. The way she walks. The way she moves her head. I often get a glimpse of Bella when I look at her. Sometimes I have a hard time telling them apart in photos. I love seeing Bella in her baby sister.

But now I fear this will disappear as time passes and Aria ages. I’m scared to lose that glimpse of my angel that I see in her rainbow sister.

These reminders always fill me with love. These glimpses are like magic to my day. It’s like Bella is saying hello.

I couldn’t help but think about Bella yesterday morning. As Aria put her arms around me and said “Hi!” I couldn’t help but think back to 19 months and 2 weeks with Bella and where we were.

On the kitchen floor doing CPR.

In the ambulance.

In the hospital.

Saying goodbye.

Leaving the hospital without her.

Shattered and numb.

This morning, as Aria hugged me, I inhaled her sweet scent and whispered to her. “I love you baby. I’m so happy you’re here.”

And in that moment, I realized that things have changed once again. She has now been alive longer than her sister. She will continue to grow and learn and will reach many milestones that her sister never had the chance to. And with every milestone achieved, I will now always wonder what it would have been like for Bella. Because this is what loss-parents do… We wonder. Constantly!

This breaks my heart.

It shatters me once again and brings back the grief, fresh and raw.

I will always wonder… and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to feel sad and heartbroken. It’s okay to miss her.

Nothing can change what happened to Bella. But life continues after loss. We continue to grow, experience, and evolve. A part of me will always be missing.

And I have to be okay with that.

#StayStrong❤️

From Flashbacks to Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom From The Past

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

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

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

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June 25, 2014 – 3 days before saying goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Pain of Mother’s Day for a Bereaved Mom

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

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

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

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

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

The best we can do is survive.

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

I do not celebrate today, I simply breathe.

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

#StayStrong❤️

 

One Good Deed is All It Takes

Like a boomerang, you know it’s going to come back eventually. I can no longer predict when it will return; I feel like I’m throwing blindly. On my way to work this morning, I had a brief visit from grief. The lady in front of me in the drive through couldn’t have possibly known that I was fighting to hold it together. Two tears managed to escape. I took a deep breath and tried to ground myself. Work is not a place to bring grief. I got to the window and the cashier told me my coffee was paid for by the woman ahead of me. I didn’t know what to say; it caught me off guard. I did what I always hope others will do in a situation like this and handed the woman $2 and a Bella Angel card. “Please, pay it forward!”

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Please pay it forward❤️

That one small random act of kindness was enough to shift my morning. When I arrived at work, sadness lingered but it didn’t remain. I’m in the process of transitioning back to work full-time after a year on maternity leave and it has not been an easy process. I’m struggling with being away from my daughter. I miss her, deeply. This intense longing for her is not a feeling I am familiar with as I didn’t experience this in the past.

The last few weeks have also been a learning curve. Trauma affects the brain and my memory is not the same as it was post-loss. I changed careers when I was 2 months pregnant with Aria. I worked at my new job for 6 short months before taking a leave of absence in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I am now trying to remember all the details required of me at this new job I barely had a chance to learn. To say it’s been stressful is an understatement. I can say that I love what I do and am surrounded by wonderful people which makes the process much easier. For this, I am grateful!

Since my return to work, I have been more mindful about the energy I put into the Universe, whether it’s through random deeds, increased patience, or simply a shift in attitude. I have been making a conscious effort to make a minimum of one positive exchange with the Universe every day. I call it my “one good deed.” What I have noticed is interesting and quite beautiful.

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Bella Angel Card

When my day starts off on a lower vibe, these exchanges have completely shifted the course of my day. Some “deeds” have taken a lot of energy from me. Some of these “deeds” have simply been “being in the right place at the right time.” Other “deeds” have lifted me up and brightened my day (hopefully along with brightening someone else’s day too). I have also made “selfish” acts of kindness, where I do something nice for someone else to prevent negativity from finding me, and to my surprise, it actually worked!!!! After 3 rough days at work, I bought the person behind me in the drive-through their coffee. This was “selfish” because it was effortless and I did it to feel good. I had an amazing day, so it worked!!! I hope I made someone else’s morning that day too.

These “deeds” have also come back to me. This week, I checked Bella’s email account and there was an email from the Calgary Food Bank. A friend had made a generous donation in memory of Bella’s and although this took place in December, I just found it now. My son received a Bella Angel card in the mail this week along with a $20 donation towards his karate Board Breaking challenge.

I truly believe that everything eventually comes full circle. It’s only a matter of time before what you put out comes back to you. The good, the bad, the love and kindness, but also the darkness. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you’re exporting.

Thank you to the mystery woman from this morning. I appreciate your gesture. I went back through that same drive-through to get a snack later today. The woman who gave me my food told me the card was passed on, and the recipient began crying when she was given the Angel Card. I don’t know who this person is or why she cried, but I hope this made their day a little bit brighter.

The Moments That Changed Everything

My journey through grief has been anything but ordinary. My blog begins documenting this incredible journey only 3 days after the sudden loss of my daughter Bella. There are many stories that I haven’t yet shared, but all of it will be included in my upcoming book Rainbows From Heaven. I have always believed that my story is powerful and needs to be shared. As I work on my own book, I will continue sharing stories on my blog and in a few very special collaborative book projects in hopes that my words reach the people who need to read them.

The latest book I’m a part of was released last week and is an international bestseller! If you enjoy true-life stories that uplift, inspire, and amaze, you’ll love this brand-new book: 365 Life Shifts: Pivotal Moments That Changed Everything. It contains 365 inspiring personal stories from over 250 beautiful souls all around the world, including me!

The stories within this book cover a wide range of topics – including finding the strength to go down a new path, to say yes or no to a relationship, to bravely live authentically, to receive from beyond, and everyday moments that were infused with extraordinary soulfulness that shifted the author’s life. All of the stories are intended to uplift, inspire, and remind you of just how magical and far reaching a life shift can truly be.

I have experienced many significant shifts since Bella passed and decided to write about a few of these moments in 365 Life Shifts. In my piece “Awakened by the Light,” I describe my near death experience and explain how it brought me closer to Bella. It was this experience that opened me up to the spirit world and has enabled Bella to continue to be very present in my life. In my second piece “Maui Healing,” I share about my life-changing trip and describe some of the most incredible healing moments that took place on this journey.

If you want to read these pieces – and 363 others – you’ll have to check out this wonderful book. It makes a great gift for friends, family, and anyone else who loves to be inspired and amazed…including yourself!

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To learn more about the book and purchase your copy, please click HERE. If you order now, you’ll receive lots of soulful bonus gifts – all created by the contributing authors – including guided meditations, ebooks, ecourses, and much more! To claim your free gifts, click HERE and enter your Amazon order number.

In addition to inspiring readers to connect with their own powerful shifts, this book will also help many animals since 5% of all profits from book sales will go to the Jane Goodall Institute! How awesome is that?

I’m so excited to share this book with you. So much love has gone into it, and I can’t wait for you to take all of that love into your heart!

Wedding Dreams Shattered by Grief

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In time, grief always resurfaces. Just as waves will always crash onto the shore, the pain of child loss always comes crashing into a bereaved parent. My ocean of grief has been more calm lately, but this does not diminish the difficulties I will continue to experience, especially during important moments of my life.

 

Prince Charming and I have finally begun planning our wedding. Ever since I was forced to say goodbye to Bella, I have minimized the importance of this day: my wedding day.

 

There are many sides to child-loss no one thinks about. One of the many difficult things I had to do in preparation to say a final goodbye to my baby was pick out a dress. We were planning a princess party to celebrate the life of my angel-princess. In my mind, the dress needed to be perfect and it didn’t matter how much it cost. My mantra helped me through the process, which I repeated again and again: “the day I say goodbye to my baby girl is the most important day of my life, even more important than my wedding day.” I found the perfect dress as I learned that people can have an enormous amount of compassion when dealing with a grief stricken mother.

 

My mantra that day was never forgotten and has lead me to hold back on my vision of my wedding day. As I looked in the mirror and stared at myself in the most beautiful white gown I have ever seen, I felt like a princess! Suddenly, grief lodged its way into my throat. “I can’t justify buying this dress; it’s too expensive and I have already purchased the most important dress I will ever wear.” I choked on my grief as I closed the door on my perfect dress that I had envisioned since my childhood.

 

I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring out of my soul. I felt robbed of the most important day of my life. The excitement I felt about our wedding quickly turned into deep sorrow.

 

After Bella’s transition, my view of weddings changed; I decided they weren’t important and was very uncomfortable attending weddings. I am now understanding that this is part of my grief. Weddings are important and my wedding day is no exception, but after losing a child, no day is viewed quite the same as it was pre-loss. The reality of this cut through my veins as grief drained from my pores.

 

Now that I’m planning my wedding, I feel my beliefs that held me up through the hardest days of my life are pulling me under the ocean and I’m drowning. I am now grieving the wedding day I had once imagined.

 

I close my eyes and see Prince Charming, my gorgeous groom. I see our family before us. I see our loving parents and my dear grandmother. I see our siblings and all of our nieces and nephews. I see our handsome sons and our beautiful daughter. But no I matter how hard I look, I can’t see my angel, Bella. She’s with us and we can both feel her, but my human eyes can’t see her. My heart aches as a single tear rolls down my cheek.

 

Child-loss changes everything! Sometimes we cope by making things out to be less important than they really are. Now that the planning has begun, I am finally able to admit how important this day is to me. I will only get married once and I vow to make it a day I will never forget.

 

I may have already found the most important dress I will ever wear for the most important goodbye, but I am now giving myself permission to find an equally important dress for the most important hello of my life.

 

As I kiss my new husband and am introduced as his Mrs., it won’t matter to him if I’m wearing a beautiful white gown or if I’m dressed in rags. What will matter is that we have each other until the end of time. He will think I am beautiful no matter what, but my grieving heart needs to FEEL beautiful. The dress isn’t for him; it’s for ME! And once I find that perfect dress, I will put all my love for Bella inside of it. I will fill it with joy so that on our wedding day when I can’t see Bella in the crowd, I can look down at my dress and be reminded that she is with us.

 

For grieving parents, the most important days of our life that should be filled with nothing but happiness are the most difficult to get through. It’s important to look for ways to make those days a little easier.

 

The search is on.

 

#StayStrong❤️