Bravery ???

I have been thinking a lot about how we view bravery, how often the word is used and how sometimes it can be detrimental rather than encouraging. How people mean to encourage yet in truth can do the opposite. 

I can only write from experience but there are times in my life when I have felt the complete opposite to brave yet have found myself surrounded by people telling me I am.

When Livvy’s was diagnoses and I found myself facing life with a child with a complex disability so many said,  “you are so brave” “ I don’t know how you cope” all statements were being said to encourage and celebrate me. Yet I was far from brave, I so wanted to run out of my life, to pick up Livvy and live in a world where disability could not enter. A world where Rett Syndrome was banished. I wasn’t brave, I was surviving the only way I knew how, encouraged by the bravery of my beautiful girl.

“I don’t know how you have gone on” this was a statement that haunted me when Livvy died. I was caught in a whirlwind of emotions. It felt like a two pronged comment, my mind actually spiralled for such a long time due to this statement. I mean how have I gone on? Do I not love my daughter enough that I haven’t just given up on life without her, what kind of mother am I? Did I fail her by not giving up? 

Nearly ten years on and I still have no answer on to the question “how I have gone on?” Seriously it has been through God’s grace and the love I have for her sisters and also the innate knowledge that she expected nothing less of me but to live this life fully and that she would certainly kick my butt if I didn’t. I was not brave, I was surviving. 

I still wish people would think before admiring another’s bravery because those words offered in love often becomes a noose around someone’s neck, pulling tighter holding those who so need to admit to being scared, to being vulnerable no safe place to unload. 

Instead please, ask them how they are doing? 

Tell them its ok to be afraid? 

Tell them them they are doing well but don’t ask them how they have got through it, because truly if you are waiting for me to get through my grief for Olivia you may be waiting a long time. 

Be a safe place for people to unload, cast no judgement about where they are at. Just listen, really listen and if you cannot find the words to support just hug them tight. I know there is no answers to the pain, no reason’s to the why but sometimes its just nice to be held. It’s not ok and it may never will be, but I am not alone. That means more than words. 

“Allowing others the space to be vulnerable may be the bravest thing we can do.”

 

 

 

She should have been 19.

I’m not sure how to explain today, how to find the words.

It seems wrong to say that my daughter is 19 today, when in reality she will be forever 9.

I want to celebrate what should be her special day.

I want to eat cake and sing happy birthday, but my heart is just so broken.

How can you celebrate when you cannot hug the birthday girl tight?

How can you smile when forever seems so far away?

Gosh I miss my beautiful girl, that feels like such an understatement. Every breathe I take aches for her, my arms crave to hold her again, my heart beats with a missing piece.

I torture myself wondering what she would be like now, I wonder would she still love her football players, her gothic clothes and Tinkerbell. Yet how can I really know, she has been gone nearly ten years, her sisters have changed so much, so would she?

I have no idea; do you know how hard that is to comprehend? No idea at all. I should know my daughter, I should have been given the chance to.

My heart feels on a roller coaster right now, my faith doesn’t feel like the liberation it should be. Yes, I believe I will see my daughter again but forever is still out of my reach.

Is it wrong of me to wish her back here, back into a body that struggled so much, a body that betrayed her in so many ways?

Is it selfish of me to just want one more day?

Nineteen, it would have been the last of her teenage years, yet the truth is she never got to the beginning.

Nine and a half years, a minute moment in time, not enough, never enough.

I know Livvy would be cross at me today, I know she would be giving me her evil eye and her stern look.

“Mom you know better. You know not to waste a moment, celebrate me and do it with joy. Remind my sisters how much I love them, tease my new brother who you should know I got to meet first. He may have got lost on his way, but I got him to you eventually.

Get out there Mom and enjoy the sunshine, sing at the top of your lungs and hug my Dad tight.

No sadness, no sorrow, no more”

I can actually see her in my mind conveying all this, her eyes alight with mischief.

I can actually feel her soft hand, her long fingers entwined in mine.

I can feel her, but my goodness I miss her.

I can try my darling girl,

I promise I will try,

My heart wants to fall into a million pieces,

My soul just cries out in missing.

I don’t know what or how I will be today, maybe there will be moments of joy wrapped in the ribbon of sorrow.

I can try but I’m sorry Livvy I cannot promise, I just miss you too much.

Happy heavenly 19th Olivia,

Happy birthday Livvy xxxxx

Eight years 

I wasn’t sure I was going to write this year, I was thinking, wondering if I should let the day go past without remembrance. Yet I knew it would be a lie, a falsehood because pretending that this anniversary doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so. In fact the pretence builds its power giving it more control.

Eight years, eight long years of missing my beautiful daughter. 

Eight years since I held her last in my arms.

Eight years since I heard her sweet giggle.


Grief, it’s a horrific road, it often plays unfair. Sometimes it even allows you to feel like you are winning, only to sweep your feet from underneath you, cold and swift. 

Yet the truth is that grief and love, they walk hand in hand. Without one you would not get the other.

So I’ve decided today that I’m not going to hide away.

I’m going to immerse myself in all that was Olivia, 

That is Olivia.


I’m going to give myself permission to walk through the valley of pain in hope to find a place of peace.

I’m going to remember her sweet little ways, her cheeky character, her strength of spirit.

And I’m going to give thanks 

Thanks that even now in the midst of grief, I am so thankful that I got love.

I am one incredibly blessed woman that I was lucky enough to have this child call me mom. 


That I would walk a lifetime in pain for the privilege of being Olivia mom. 

That whilst nine years will never be enough they were such a gift. 

My beautiful girl I wonder if you really knew how you changed my life. How you opened my eyes into a world of innocence and honesty. How living one day with you would often seem like a lifetime. You taught me so much, you challenged me, to embrace each moment, to celebrate each breathe. 

Many can travel this life without really knowing their destination, their purpose. You young lady gave me mine, you made it crystal clear what was expected from me, I’m still hearing your instructions from heaven. 

Be kind for kindness sake
Be thankful for all things 
Stand up for what matters 
Be the voice of the voiceless 
And never ever be afraid to say yes to love. 

We are not all promised forever but knowing you are loved is a lifetime gift. 
Thank you for being one of my greatest gifts.

My beautiful daughter
My inspiring Livvy.

Until I get to hold you again, love you girlie xxx

The unwanted visitor 

The thing about grief that drives my heartache is that it doesn’t care. 

Its has no discrimination, it will visit the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick.

It’s not worried if today is a good day or if the moment is wrong, it has its own timing, it sings to it’s own tune.

It fact it is rather rude and has no boundaries at all and no matter how much I try it will not go and sit in the corner for a little while. 

The notes are its own and its music we just have to play, often on repeat, over and over. We fall asleep to its unique symphony, we wake to its morning chorus. 

Someone once told me I was broken, I don’t think they meant it in the way I understood it but I totally agree. 

I am completely broken. 

Grief leaves you with a brokenness that you can work through but from which you can never fully heal.

You cannot go back to who you were before your unwelcome visitor came to stay.

Yet in the brokenness you will see light, a gentle flame that holds out refusing to give in to the darkness. 

My realisation thanks to my new best friend called grief is that it wouldn’t hurt so deeply if it didn’t matter.

The pain that is tearing at my heart, it’s ok because it’s a testimony 

A testimony to love.

You see just like grief, love is another than pops up and won’t leave you alone.

It tangles your heart in web of moments and memories, wonderful heart fluttering emotions. 

So grief may be the hardest of emotions that leaves you gasping for breathe, but fight back reminding it that it’s is also one of great celebration, 

We loved, we laughed, we lived.

We created those moments that we will cherish for all time. 

To live we love. 

To love we have to grieve. 

So whilst there are times where grief and I will fall out, grief is the friend I will welcome again because my grief is my testimony to my love. 

Happy 17th Livvy xxx

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Today my daughter celebrates her 17th birthday, a birthday of pending adulthood the beginning of life on the road. Yet there will be no licence applied for or birthday hugs for me. Because my daughter is celebrating in heaven.

My heart is heavy today, the weight of missing drags upon it. 

I’m reminded of what is missed and what never got to be.

I’m trying so hard to focus on what we did and the memories we made, but 9 years will simply never be enough. 

I wonder what celebrations are like in heaven, do they have birthdays or is time and years past an earthly constraint? 

I wonder if someone has made her a cake, chocolate of course and are they singing her happy birthday again and again just to see the smile that lights up her face. Lights up your heart.

I wonder a lot, what does she look like, would her hair still curl around my finger? Does her blue eyes still sparkle with mischief? 

Sometimes I cannot breathe for missing my beautiful girl. My arms ache just to hold her again.

I often get lost in the anger, just so angry that I was robbed of my amazing girl. Bitter at the emptiness. 

But then I remember her, I remember my Livvy and her desire to live life to the max. Sometimes I wonder if she knew that she didn’t have forever because she packed so much in her days.

She loved people wholeheartedly, from her teachers to her sisters to us her parents. She has this way of making you feel like you were the only one in the room, as if you were so special to her. She made sure you knew she loved you. She didn’t need words her eyes were the windows to her soul, she looked deep inside of you, filling you with love. 

I am so grateful I got to be Livvy’s mom, I wouldn’t trade a moment, a minute. Even today in the minute of this extreme pain i know I would do it all again in a heartbeat. 

Yet today I’m allowing myself to be sad, allowing the waves of grief to wash over me. Allowing the missing to be.

But tomorrow I will move on, I will do what she wants me to do. Continuing her legacy of love. I will love on her sisters and the brothers she has sent to us to love. I will plan the Livvy’s smile events, our forthcoming tea party and those yet to be planned. I will continue on, being brave just as she was. Hoping and praying I’m making her proud.

Happy birthday my beautiful girl, how I wish you were here to celebrate with me. How I wish we could eat chocolate cake until we were both sick. How I wish, how I wish….

  
Happy 17th Livvy, may heaven be singing for you today. I love you my precious girl xxxxx

  

Simply worth it.

How do you do it?

How do you move forward?

How do you breathe again?

These are only a few of the questions I get asked often regarding grief. When people are lost in the pain, in the missing they need anything to hang on to. I know I did and at times I still do. 

Grief is a unique journey, no two people can face it the same way. Your heart is individual so your pain will be too. 

Some have to scream and rage and allow the anger to be free. Whilst others bury the heartbreak deep, hiding under layer of layer of pretence.

I don’t think there is a right way to grieve it’s about survival and that’s to be found in each of us differently.

At times I have raged against the world, screamed at God and actually hated others for surviving. While other times I have pretended, hid myself under a camouflage of “I’m ok”.

I think one of the worse grief moments I have faced was when I was told by another mum that “she wouldn’t have survived losing her child” as if the fact that I’m still here now is a disrespect to my beautiful girl. That I failed to love her enough. 

This makes me so angry as I would have only failed my beautiful daughter if I had given up. If after watching her face battle after battle to live, I chose not to. 

Grief is unique no one can understand the journey unless they are walking it. It’s like explaining a space walk whilst on the ground. You cannot fathom it, you cannot come close. 

It’s a personal journey that people have to walk on their own but hopefully not alone. 
It has its own timetable for each and everyone of us. Sometimes it’s five steps forward seven back. 

The only advice I would offer is to be kind to yourself and to be true. Don’t hide how it hurts because if you don’t allow it out it will twist up inside of you. Speak to others, share your pain with those who are walking alongside you. 

Remember those you have lost as they were. Laugh at the antics they used to pull, smile at their characters. 

I truly believe they never leave you. So talk to them, let them know what you are up to, how much you miss them. I chat to Livvy daily, remarking on what are sisters are up to or how I may strangle her dad. 

I was struggling to find the words to end this post. How do I explain my relationship with grief? How to convey how I would face this pain a million times over for Olivia. That although it hurts like crazy it is so worth it, because I got to be mom to this beautiful, brave girl. 

  

  

Then I read a post from the beautiful Ann Voskamp and this just simply says it all. 

  

I would pay the price again and again because simply she was worth it. 

Countdown to 40

40

 

I realised last night that in under a month I turn 40. This is a major milestone in my life but one I am so excited for.

Growing up I remember thinking 40 was really old, I mean it seemed that my mom was 32 forever so I was sure I would stay this way. Yet time has moved on and I have been slowly creeping towards this age.

I remember when I turned 30 I was really freaked by it all, I didn’t feel ready to be 30 years old I was uncomfortable and not happy in my own skin. Life wasn’t easy and I had just started to show signs of the illness that changed my life. I look back to those days when I was chasing after 4 children under 10 and teaching dance. I remember just not feeling complete as if I wasn’t living life to the full.

Fast forward the last ten years and my goodness a crazy amount has happened. I have walked through some of the darkest moments of my life. My heart has been broken, tore up into millions of pieces and then trodden on. I never imagined at 30 that I would have to bury a child let alone two. I would have never been able to comprehend surviving the loss of my daughter and my foster son. Never in a million years. Yet somehow I have survived, my heart may never be complete but it is learning to love on, learning to beat strongly again and I am learning to live life to the full again.

I know deep down that 40 isn’t really a special age. I mean I preach often about celebrating every day we have here, but still I am rather excited for the day.

This may sound big headed but I like who I see in the mirror now. I may not be a dance teacher or able to fit my bum into a size 12 but I truly love my body and I’m so grateful to it. It has given me four amazing girls, completely different, independent ,inspirational girls. It allows me to foster two truly awesome boys, each a blessing in their own special way. My body may be a little battle worn but it’s not been beaten and I am so thankful for this.

I look back to the person I was 10 years ago and I know I have been on a journey. I use the term “self discovery” loosely  as is the only way to get close to describing  the transformation I feel I have faced.

I love who I am (yes I may have said that before) but I seriously do. I love my emotional side, no more will I apologise for my random tears or unexpected hugs. I’m empathic and I care and this is something I am proud of now. No more calling myself soppy and pathetic, I actually rock.

I love my courage, I am more willing to put myself out into the danger zone, being vulnerable, feeling scared but still moving forward.

I love my brain, it’s ok that I am a little geeky at times, that sometimes the idea of a good book wins against a movie or a night out. That I appreciate my own company and yes at times I get lost in my own mind.

I love myself and I love my life.

As I head towards this birthday milestone I do so with so much gratitude.

Over the last years I have had people walk into my life that have blessed me in so many ways. Friends that love me for me, deep true friendships that can pick up after a time apart just where we left off. Friends I can laugh with, friends I have cried on. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

I am so thankful for my family, my daughters and my sons each so unique and so beautiful. Getting to watch them grow and learn and experience life is such a wonder, such a gift. My Dad, my Step Mom, my inlaws, my aunts, uncles, cousins, relantionships that I truly value and people I truly love.

My husband, I am completely in love with this crazy man, after nearly 20 years of marriage I still get that flutter in my heart when he walks into a room. He makes me laugh, he drives me insane, but he truly is my soul mate.

I am so thankful that I miss my Livvy, because missing someone is the recognition of an amazing love, a truly unbroken bond. My girl and I will be together again one day, but until then I am going to try and live as she did, fully and with all my heart.

So the count down to 40 begins and I’m so excited. I’m so ready to celebrate the 40 years I have been here with all my family and friends. An evening full of laughter, music and hopefully a gorgeous outfit.

Yet 40 is only the really the beginning, the start of a new stage in life, one I hope will be full of love and laughter and the people that really make my life truly amazing, my family and friends, because with them and because of them I actually love myself more at 40 then I ever did.

 

40 looking good

Perfect sense

I was restless last night as I sat and tried to catch up with my weekly television programmes. I just couldn’t relax and I didn’t know why. 

I checked the oven, the doors and my diary but I just couldn’t work out what I was missing.

Then it hit me. 

I was listening out for Livvy, somehow I had stepped back in time to seven years ago. The Friday night ritual of Alan going out for the evening and me staying in caring for Livvy.

My mind was listening out for her noises. Her gentle snores or crazy giggles.

I was even waiting to eat with my sister and have one our much missed Friday night chats.

For those few moments I was in my before time. 

Before my heart broke.

Still I wasn’t allowed to stay for long.

Only seconds later the pain overwhelmed me. 

Like shadows slowly consuming the light.

My heart was beating so swiftly, my brain pounding against my skull.

Raw open wounds.

I don’t know why our brains do this to us? 

Flashbacks to moments we cannot hold on to.

Memories so real you can almost touch them.

I cried last night, gut wrenching sobs of missing.

Time really doesn’t ease your pain. 

I was so angry, the frustration of being able to do nothing dominated my mind.

Why,

Why,

Why?

Finally I could cry no more, my soul was empty, my tears exhausted.

I know I cannot go back, 

so many ways and so much time. 

But for that brief moment then I wasn’t broken.

For those few minutes life made sense.

Perfect sense 

First Aid Waves

The last two days have knocked the crap out of me. What I thought was just going to be a normal run of the mill First Aid course has actually be a major trigger for my grief.

Sitting there in the conference room when asked if anyone has ever used CPR my heart started to pound within my chest. 

My mind left the conference room right then, I was there back in the moment, the moment I have tried so often to forget. 

I breathe deep, drink a little water and try to bring myself back to the here and now.

Seizures “anyone saw a child seizure”, what ?? 

Yes too many.

Choking, Yes

Severe vomiting, Yes

Sometimes I don’t realise how much in life I have seen. Raising a disabled child opens you up to a world of medical practices, symptoms, treatments that many others will never face. 

Losing a child tragically, well let’s not go there. 

Too much 

and it just blooming hurts.

I’ve had to bury my head the last couple of days. 

Allowing the waves of grief to flow over me. 

Trying to change the horrid memories for good ones.

Burying them I guess.

Yet they won’t ever leave me.   

But life has to go on, 

I have to get my first aid certificate and will need to get it again in three years.

This is a requirement of the job I love.

So I ride the waves, 

Holding on tight to the good memories and learning to swim harder through the bad.

  

A body wobble 

This weekend I modelled at an amazing plus size fashion event Style XL. Whilst I had an amazing time I have come to realise that I’m not as far down the body confidence road that I wished I was.

For those that don’t know my journey I will briefly recap. 

I cannot say I’ve ever been a confident woman even back in the days when I was a size 8 dancer I would hide under layers of shapeless clothes. So when my illness left me carrying extra weight the clothes just got bigger and I just hid away more.

I would hide from the camera constantly. Always wanting to be the photographer never the photographed. 

Then Olivia died, and I found myself searching through all my photo albums for photos of myself and my beautiful girl. In the whole of her short nine years I had only taken three photos of us together, 3.

This realisation alone should have shocked me into taking more photos with my girls but it didn’t. In fact I couldn’t, you see I didn’t recognise myself anymore. The loss of Olivia left me struggling with who I was.

 I was lost in the grief.

Then about 4 years ago I came across the plus size community. Beautiful woman celebrating who they are. Loving their bodies as they were, not how society deems they should be. It was this amazing community and these inspiring woman who slowly started to allow me to piece my confidence together. 

I started taking family photos, making sure I was part of the memories.

Started taking little steps forward, dropping the layers after layers of shapeless clothes.

Skinny jeans, camisoles and even the occasional dress.

This journey wasn’t easy, I can promise you I deleted more photos than I shared. Yet slowly I began to like the woman I saw in the mirror. 

I began to recognise that she wasn’t all bad.

This time last year I walked on my first catwalk at Style XL and yes whilst I did shake on every step and barely spoke more than a few words it was a major personal achievement.

This year I was asked back again and this weekend I walked for 5 brands, how amazing is this. 

Yet like any journey in life sometimes we do lose our way a little and for me today I got lost. 

Somewhere I took a road back into the darkness. 

In fact I have completed fallen apart. 

Looking at the photos of the weekend event I couldn’t see how far I have come, just the woman I have self loathed for a long time.

Now I’m exhausted and I know that tiredness is one evil enemy , I mean how can one love themselves when they can barely lift their head off a pillow.

I’m in pain too and this always opens the door for the past self hate to walk right in.

So yes I’m struggling.

But as I shared this within the Plus size community I have been lifted.

Woman reminding me of all I have achieved this weekend.

Brands thanking me for wearing their clothes.

So in my darkness the light has began to shine a little again.

I’m starting to realise beyond the modelling I achieved a great deal this weekend. I may have not reached the place of body confidence I so desire but I have found myself a lot more.

I spent a wonderful weekend with woman I actually spoke to. I introduced myself more and gave out the hugs I’ve wanted to to give out for such a long time. For me this is massive and it’s something I need to see for the achievement it is.

Whilst it may take me longer to feel happy with my body I am finally happy with who I am inside.

This weekend I have laughed until I’ve cried.

I’ve chatted, met new people and caught up with the old.

But mostly I’ve been inspired.

Inspired to continue back down the road of body confidence. To accept that sometimes even the greatest journeys have setbacks but moving forward is the only thing I can do. I cannot go back to the lost woman I was, in fact I’m quite sure the amazing woman I get to call my friends wouldn’t allow me.

So now I’m just going to spent the next few days resting and hopefully as the tiredness and the pain eases I will finally be able to see all that I achieved this weekend. 

But before I do head back under the duvet I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you to the amazing brands that allowed me to wear their clothes this weekend and thank you to the beautiful woman of the plus size community, I don’t think you realise how much you all mean to me.