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❤️

Waiting on Grief at Christmas

Christmas is over, the new year is here, and I’m still waiting for grief to make her appearance. I have learned to embrace grief because she reminds me how important Bella was to me. In her absence, the reminder of love is replaced with guilt. I don’t understand why grief has remained absent this holiday season.

I knew it would be a different kind of Christmas this year, quieter than usual. Our focus was on our little family as it was our first Christmas that we were all together. It was Aria’s first Christmas and it was also our first Christmas with my youngest step-son. It was a beautiful love-filled day and seeing the excitement on the kids faces along with witnessing the love they have for one another was magical.

Christmas Day was also the anniversary of our engagement. Last year, Tom changed the meaning of Christmas for me by asking me to marry him. Christmas is now a day we celebrate us, our love, and the beautiful life we are creating together.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I surprised myself by founding joy in the little things. I enjoyed buying gifts for the kids every time I went into a store and I actually enjoyed wrapping gifts this year, something I used to find great pleasure in but haven’t enjoyed at all since Bella left.

Maybe this is a sign of healing. I am no longer certain that I can predict my grief, and even with this guilt that I feel, it’s much easier to deal with than a broken heart.

In the midst of grief, it may seem as though you will never find joy again. Christmas is an especially difficult time for anyone grieving as it is a time we focus on our family and when someone important is missing, it’s impossible to let it go! It’s a sad time for many…

But I’m here to offer hope. The holidays don’t have to be difficult forever!

For me, it was about finding a different focus at Christmas. Yes, Bella is missing in the physical sense, but her presence remains strong. She was playing with her sisters toys often throughout the holidays and we were often awoken in the middle of the night with a song coming from the toys in the living room. One night, the toys were rotating and as one song would end, another toy would begin playing a different song. This went on for quite some time. These occurrences remind us that Bella is still here.

For loss-parents (or anyone grieving) some days will be about survival and the focus will be getting through one moment at a time. But not every day will always be difficult. Not every Christmas will be difficult either. I’m thankful I have found another focus at Christmas and I hope that anyone who had a difficult holiday season this year can find a new focus next year.

As for my guilt, I understand that my lack of sadness cannot diminish the love I feel for Bella. It also doesn’t take away from how much I miss her and wish she was here. By accepting my reality and choosing to live a life of happiness, I am making myself and my family a priority. I’m sure grief will visit soon enough, but rather than try to understand her absence, I choose to accept and embrace this joy I feel. I’m certain that Bella doesn’t want me to feel sadness. She reminds me that “love heals,” and I am so blessed to be surrounded by love.

A Stranger Can Help Mend a Shattered Heart

After Bella passed, my brother-in-law asked me if I would like to have molds made of Bella’s hand and foot. It would be a small piece of her I could keep forever. I was in a fog and don’t remember the details, but I know the funeral home went above and beyond to meet my request and make the impressions. I will forever be grateful for this gift.

When the impressions were brought to me, I was staying with my parents and that’s where they remained for well over a year. I came across someone online who casted beautiful keepsakes (including hand/foot impressions) and I asked her if she could make something for me out of the impressions I had of Bella. She wasn’t sure what she could do but asked me to take photos of the impressions I had.

The molds of Bella’s hand and foot finally made it home! I recognized the black bag Bella’s urn came in, but when I looked inside, I assumed I was mistaken as my son’s drawings were inside. I put the bag on a chair in my kitchen and it somehow ended up on the floor. When I picked the bag up, I reached inside to see what else was inside. I knew the instant I felt clay that the bag was in fact from Bella’s urn. I realized the molds of her hand and foot were in there. I removed the first piece of clay; I was in disbelief as I looked at the broken piece of my daughter’s foot in my hand. Shock set in and grief shattered me all over again as I struggled to breathe. One of the last pieces I have of Bella was broken. I felt as though I was experiencing her death all over again. I wrote about the experience HERE.

Shortly after posting the story on my blog, my dentist contacted me and wanted to see the mold as she knew someone who may be able to help fix it. Months went by and I finally made the trip to meet with the man from the dental lab. He wasn’t able to help me, but told me about a local woman who does casting and purchases supplies from the lab. He also told me about a new chiropractor clinic down the street who casts feet for orthotics.

I felt as though I was on a wild goose chase for someone to help me. The man at the chiropractor/orthotic clinic didn’t know if he could help but offered to do research for me. I’m sure it was a little shocking to have a complete stranger stop by with her deceased child’s broken foot in a box desperately hoping for someone to fix it. I appreciate the kindness and respect shown to me but began feeling my situation was hopeless.

My next stop was to deliver a book to a dear friend. The visit was short but this woman’s energy always uplifts me. I told her about the impression of Bella’s foot and she immediately suggested I contact “Lynne.” I’m not sure how I knew who she meant but I instinctively knew she was right! “Lynne is the person the man at the lab told me about!” I immediately realized that “Lynne” was also the person I asked to make me a precious keepsake out of the molds in the first place. I never did get back to her.

I found Lynne’s business page, To Have & To Hold Belly Casting & More, on Facebook and immediately sent her a message. She got back to me within minutes and an hour later I was standing in her kitchen with Bella’s foot on her counter.

Love and compassion radiated from Lynne and I could tell she really wanted to help me; however, she didn’t have any experience fixing molds. I was asking her to step out of her comfort zone; Bella’s foot was irreplaceable and there was no room for error. We didn’t even know what type of clay the impression was made from. I felt Bella’s presence surround us and I felt complete trust in her. I left the molds with Lynne and knew she was capable of fixing this shattered mess. I trusted the process and put all my faith into the universe expecting a miracle!

Lynne kept me updated throughout the process. The first obstacle was determining the type of clay the impressions were made from. I contacted the director of the funeral home and asked her what type of clay she used; she wasn’t sure but said it was from Dollarama. I suddenly remembered a package of clay I had in my closet. I had an urge to buy it when I was at Dollarama one day. I have no idea why I bought it but figured I’d need it. (Thankfully, I always trust my intuition!) I snapped a photo of the package of clay and sent it to the funeral home director. She recognized the package. Unfortunately, this type of clay is very fragile and would eventually disintegrate over time.

Lynne consulted with many experts around the world and knew she would have to glue the pieces together, but finding a glue that would hold without damaging the clay wouldn’t be easy. The pieces needed to be strong enough to withstand the pressure to take an impression. Her first attempt failed and the glue didn’t hold, but the second type of glue held, but would it be strong enough?

I left the rest of to Lynne. She managed to make an impression of the glued mold, then made an impression of the impression. The process was long and stressful, but it was a success! I trusted that she would make something beautiful for me. She explained that the material she uses is as hard as stone and wouldn’t break.

After 3 months, I finally got to see the results! I picked up the gorgeous pieces and they were even more beautiful than I had imagined! Lynne created two shadowboxes, one with the imprint and one with the outprint. She even made a Christmas ornament for me so I would be able to touch Bella’s hand any time I want.

This incredible woman managed to give a piece of my daughter back to me. No one can bring Bella back, but she was able to bring her foot back, and that’s as good as it will get for me. This gift from a stranger, this random act of kindness, helped mend a few cracks in my grieving heart. A piece of Bella came home and is now on my wall for me to look at every single day, all thanks to one woman. She put countless hours into researching and even more hours completing the process. I know this was a complicated procedure, but I also know she had a little assistance from Bella.

Thank you, Lynne, from the bottom of my heart, for restoring something that is irreplaceable. Thank you for all your time and effort. You are a beautiful soul and I am so grateful for you and the work that you do!❤️

If you are in the Timmins area and know someone who experiences the loss of a child, please let them know about Lynne at To Have & To Hold Belly Casting & More and give them the option to have a precious keepsake created of their child. It’s a gift that is everlasting!