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.

Grief is toxic 

I have travelled many roads in life but none has been or ever will be as long as grief.

Grief is a journey of twists and turns with gradients that rise and fall in a blink of an eye.

Sometimes the road is straight and the driving is smooth, then others are bumpy and hard to travel.

I honestly have no directions on this journey, I am beyond lost.

There are no guidelines or signs to help me through.

I’m just stumbling in the wilderness.

My heart is broken by loss, its torn apart by separation.

It crumbles a little more each time I see my children cry.

When they miss their sister.

When they ache to hold her. 

Grief is toxic.

It has no constraints, like a force beyond nature it invades the souls of many.

It cares not about age, about understanding.

From the young to the old it destroys.

I often wonder how to survive grief?

How to fight against an enemy so strong?

What weapons do I have?

Yet my heart is the victim and also the aggressor.

As it is torn apart by grief it still grows in love.

Love is an arrow that shoots into the very heart of grief.

The only defence.

The only attack. 

For once loved, one can love again.

For once loved one can hold on.

Though memories that curl around our hearts armour against destruction.

Grief may win many battles.

But it will not win the war.

Our Love will always conquer.

Because I was and always will be Livvy’s mom.

I knew her love.

I have her love.

In honour of Livvy

Saturday was an amazing day, we held a Livvy’s Smile Donkey Tea Party.

The sun shone for us, the donkeys behaved and memories were made.

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I had a truly wonderful time.

I got to catch up with old friends and make some new.

I got to listen to laughter as it filled the air.

I got to watch children cover themselves with chocolate and cream as they ate their cakes.

Donkey rides, cart rides and so much more.

Seriously it was awesome.

Yet as I sat at home editing the photos from the day my tears began to fall.

My heart just ached for the missing piece of my puzzle.

Whilst I was blessed with some amazing hugs from some truly incredible children my heart yearned for my little Tinkerbell.

Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary holds a special place in my heart.

Each corner is filled with the echo of my Olivia.

Those first steps she took defying the Drs.

The giggles as she rode her favourite donkey.

alvis livvy

The dirty looks she gave Amber when told to sit up straight.

So many moments, so many memories.

 

I was asked why we started Livvy’s Smile and why I hold events that bring me pain?

It is simple really we started Livvy’s Smile because we are so grateful.

So thankful for the wonderful memories we have stored from Livvy.

Memories that truly get us through the darkness and we just want to give that light to other families.

On Saturday we created those special memories full of chocolate eclairs and cool moms.

Memories that will give us hope through the hard times.

Why do I it when it causes me pain? 

Because I can and because I have to.

I was blessed to be Livvy’s mom, to get to call this amazing girlie my daughter.

Livvy changed my life. 

The realisation that we didn’t have forever taught me to live in the here and now.

To live a life full of laughter and love.

 

So yes hosting these events will always be bittersweet.

I’m sure I will always return home and cry for the missing piece of my heart.

But I will never stop working hard to create memories because each moment, each memory is in honour of my beautiful daughter.

Every smile I see brings her closer.

 

Yes, I know my heart will always ache,

Grief is relentless.

Like a snake it slowly twists around your heart until you cannot breathe.

Your body craves for one more breathe, one more moment.

So as the tears fall I know they do so in honour.

Each teardrop is formed in everlasting love.

Livvy is part of who I am and who I always will be.

Livvy’s Smile is testimony to eternal love. 

IMG_0004livvy2