There’s always a choice.

Lately life has been good. Each member of my family is happy, as a family unit we are happy and healthy, I’m enjoying my job, and all in all things are looking up. It wasn’t always that way of course and I (we) didn’t get here overnight. It won’t always stay this way but that’s life. You can’t expect it to always be good. But when it’s good you’ve got to enjoy it. I remember being in a pit, a deep dark pit I didn’t know how I was going to find my way out of. I knew I would. That was never a question. Not for me. The question was when and how.

The When

No particular moment. It just happened over time. It happened as time passed and I learned how to cope with the pain. I learned how to help others cope with the pain. I learned how to find the light and joy as Reagan did. The good hasn’t been consistent, it ebbs and flows. Lately though I’ve felt something more permanent about the current phase of my life. I’ve found a way to honor Reagan in everything I do even if no one knows I’m doing it. She is with me every step of the way. I have also found a way to focus on the parts of my life that bring me joy. My husband, kids, family, friends, and career. It will forever be a work in progress for me but it finally feels like the good is settling in and here to stay.

The How

Oh, the how. This has been the biggest lesson of my life. Honestly I kind of already approached my life this way. Reagan’s death has just amplified it for me. Made it even more clear that in everything you have a choice. You don’t control others but you sure as heck control you. You decide how you will respond. You decide what your next steps will be. You decide to make it good or bad. There is always a choice. It’s not always easy but it’s always there. Looking back I think I started making the choice to find the good in everything about two months after Reagan died. Now don’t get me wrong I am not smiling and laughing all the time. I still get angry and upset. I still find things that make me sad. But even in those times I am making a choice. A choice to allow myself to be okay with being angry or sad. Allowing myself to process those emotions too. But then making the choice to pull out of it. Not to stay in that space for too long. Make the choice to let go of the anger and sadness.

I made the choice not to let it consume me. I am making the choice every day. So make the choice to feel the good, the bad, and the ugly. Without it you can’t appreciate the light. Just remember to make the choice to come out the other side sooner rather than later.

Until next time,

Maggie

#whatsyourchoice

#youaremyfightsong

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My Stand Up Moment

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Bernie Smith. In a dreadful moment he laid the foundation upon which I could find the strength to stand up and move forward. A simple, honest moment and wise words from the heart of one grieving parent to another truly left a lasting impact. So thank you for your wisdom Bernie. Thank you. 💖

Third Grade Dropout<<

before you read my blog post click the link above and watch. Watch and listen. Really listen to what he is saying to you. Once you have done that then you can proceed with reading my blog post.<

My STAND UP moment happened on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 around 11am. It had been less than 24 hours since our Reagan took her last breath. It was a quiet morning. People were moving in and out of the house. Only ever staying for a brief moment. I barely noticed any of them. My thoughts were consumed with worry about how we were going to move on without her. I was lost.

I didn’t really sleep the night before. I hadn’t really slept in days if I’m honest. Hadn’t really eaten either. I was just floating through the moments. Each day seemed to get longer than the one before. When I got out of bed on that quiet morning I wasn’t sure what to do. As I sat there just staring I picked up my phone and got on Facebook. It was around 8:30am at the time and as I started to scroll through my news feed I saw multiple posts about the death of my daughter. I saw posts from people that knew me and from those that didn’t. I panicked. In that moment by myself on the porch I panicked. She was gone. It was Facebook official. She wasn’t coming back and everyone knew it. Well, not everyone.

My mind quickly shifted as I realized that several of our close friends and family didn’t even know that Reagan had been hospitalized. They had no idea. Facebook could NOT be the way they found out. They deserved more than that. Reagan deserved more than that. So I moved to the back porch and closed the door. I sat there and made phone call after phone call to tell our loved ones of Reagan’s passing. They all offered their deepest sympathies. They cried with me on the phone. One of my friends responded with, “Oh Marg, I have no words except I love you.” That was the most perfect response in that moment. And we cried. Then we hung up and both proceeded to make more phone calls. You see, for some of them I asked for their help. I asked them to help me make phone calls because I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get to them all in time. They kindly obliged. Between each call I took a few minutes to gather my composure and work up the nerve to be able to speak the words again to someone else. To let the words, “Reagan is gone. She died yesterday,” pass through my lips. It took me a little over an hour to make the calls and at the end I was exhausted. For the first time since it started I felt the exhaustion but not in a tired I need to sleep kind of way. Exhausted in a way that cuts much deeper than that. My heart was exhausted. My head was exhausted. My body was exhausted. My souls was exhausted. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t go forward. There was no way.

I’m not sure how long I sat there by myself staring at the trees and creek out back but eventually my father-in-law walked out. He didn’t say anything at first. I didn’t say anything. We both just stared out the back window looking at the trees and creek. Me sitting on the bench and him standing to my left. Then he said to me, neither of us breaking our gaze, “somehow you will find a way.” He said, “You will never get over this. It will always be with you but somehow you will find a way. Time will help a little but it will always be with you. She will be with you.”

I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. You see my father-in-law knows my pain. He too has a daughter that passed away at a young age. So I knew he got it. He knew a little bit about where I was in that moment. What he doesn’t know and what I didn’t know until much later was how much those words would stick with me. How much him telling me that this will always be with me but that I will find a way would help me stand up and keep going.

Trust me, when tragedy strikes EVERYONE has words of wisdom or advice for you. Most are well-meaning but most tend to slightly irritate you or just piss you off altogether. If anyone else had spoken those words to me it would have angered me. Coming from him it gave me peace. In that moment I felt peace within me. Felt peace around me. The exhaustion subsided for just a few moments. It didn’t last but it was there. A glimmer of hope that I would find a way. That we would all find a way.

799 days after those words of wisdom we are still finding our way but we are standing. Each day I choose to stand up. I stand for Reagan. I stand for Aidan and Ryan. I stand for Alex. I stand for myself. Some days I stumble but I keep going. It’s not a perfect journey and certainly not an easy one but I am finding my way. I think we are all finding our way through. Together we are doing it. With Reagan soaring above us and beside us we are doing it.

As we move into a new year a lot of people will be making resolutions. Most of the resolutions will be about ones self. Goals to lose weight, eat healthier, run a marathon, etc. I challenge each of us to not only make a resolution about yourself but also a resolution to make an impact. Make a resolution to make each day greater than the last. To be kind and to approach each other from a place of grace and understanding. In 2018 I hope we all strive to be better for ourselves and for others. The last 800 days since Reagan passed have been hell on earth but each day I choose to stand. Stand with me. Standing together we can make quite the impact. How will you live in 2018?

Cheers to 2018!

~M

#juststand #bekind #howareyouliving

#seekoutwisdom

#youaremyfightsong #hugsandfistbumps

What the frick?

Of course it would happen to me. Why wouldn’t it? Bell’s Palsy. Ugh.

To be clear this is NOT a pity post. Shitty things happen in life and you have to find your way through them. But this one is seriously just pissing me off. I️ don’t have the time nor do I️ deserve to have to deal with a half frozen face! Ok so maybe it is a bit of a pity party. Maybe. Just a small one. Indulge me for just a minute.

So seriously not much gets to me. Like really, there isn’t a whole lot in life that bothers me or really impacts my life in a meaningful way that actually slows me down. This has done just that. I am impacted in ways I have never been impacted before. The paralysis of half of my face has effected every part of my life. My speech, my eating, drinking, socialization, confidence, personal hygiene, sight, hearing, productivity, etc. You name it, I feel the impact. In all honesty this is the first medical issue I have faced that has truly impacted all areas of my life.

In all honesty this Bell’s palsy has been brutal. I have for the first time in my career felt inferior and less than confident in myself. Mostly due to the physical appearance that has resulted from my medical condition. I am self-conscious of my face when I speak … wondering whether or not the paralysis in my face is as noticeable to others as it feels to me. The mental and social insecurities from this medical diagnosis has had a rippling effect on my life.

I have had to make adjustments in the way I eat and drink. My sight is different out of each eye. My hearing is different out of each ear. My taste is all but gone. My smile is one-sided. When I laugh only half of my face reacts which then inhibits my laughter out of social insecurities. My left eye is constantly “crying” which leads to red eyes and dry skin. In all it is a miserable diagnosis that impacts all areas of my life and causes me to find different ways to adjust. It all it sucks. It’s not fair. I don’t deserve it.

In my 32 years of life I have faced heart surgery, chronic migraines, asthma, the death of a child, and colitis yet none of those things have impacted me in such a deep way as this facial paralysis has. In a way it has made me reflect on myself and what is important to me. It has made me think about why I have struggled so hard with this paralysis. All of those other ailments I had previously, from the migraine to the colitis to the death, I could hide all of those. So even when I was having a bad day I could bury them beneath a smile and just push through. With the paralysis that is not an option. My issues are front and center for all to see whether I like it or not. That’s tough. I have no control. I just have to deal and find a way through it. I have to find a way to manage the medical and social aspect of my diagnosis. I have to learn to live with the suck. Because this sucks. Ain’t no other way around it but straight through it…this sucks.

That being said I had one night where I allowed myself about 20 minutes to wallow in my suck. I vented to my husband about why it wasn’t fair that it had to be me that got Bell’s palsy. Even went so far as to tell him that it was crap that I got it and not him. Like it would make it any better if it were him but that was my truth in that moment. In that moment it wasn’t fair that it was ME that got Bell’s palsy. It that moment it wasn’t fair that I had to deal with yet another life challenge. In that moment I was having a pity party. I think that might have been my first pity party EVER. And probably my last. Hopefully my last. Because pity party’s are no fun but sometimes they are necessary. Sometimes you have to embrace the suck so you can stand up and march on. You have to acknowledge the shit that is being thrown your way and then have the fortitude to say “I am stronger than this day. I will overcome this hurdle. I will fight. I am a warrior.” It’s not always easy and sometimes, I guess, a pity party is needed. A pity party is needed so you have the strength to push through. You know what my husbands response to my self-wallowing was? He rubbed my back and said “babe, it could have been worse. You could have had a stroke.” He was right. It could have been worse. Much, much worse. Pity party over.

Someone said to me recently, “I admire the optimism you and your husband have.” No lie, that is a direct quote. Someone actually admires the optimism Alex and I have. 😂😂 That is a remarkable thing. That simple observation astounds me because Alex and I are not naturally optimistic people. We are realistic and work hard but by no means are we optimists. But then again maybe we are. I don’t know. I think maybe people see us as optimistic because they know our story. Or part of our story anyway. They know that we had a child that died and so anything after that is perceived as optimism. On the other hand maybe we are optimists. I don’t know. What I do know is that no matter what we all get one life on this earth. Just one…that’s it…one life to make the most of. One life to make a difference. One life to make an impact. One life to leave a legacy. I think about my life. What have I done that makes an impact? What have I don’t to better this world for my children? My answers to those questions right now is not enough. I haven’t done enough. So Bell’s palsy or not I’ve got to up my game. It’s time to make an impact. Time to leave a legacy. Time to make a difference. How I don’t know but it will come to me. I have faith. It will come. In the meantime I will persevere. I will be the example for my children. I will show them that no matter what challenges are thrown your way you find a way through. You stand up and march on.

#embracethesuck

#standup

#bethechange

#marchon

My Grief Journey

How do you survive without your daughter? Another grieving mother asked me that question and honestly I don’t have an answer.  Not a simple answer anyway. As the 2 year anniversary of Reagan’s death approaches I find myself questioning how I have been able to move through these last two years without her. The only thing I know for sure is that I have to do it day by day. I can’t focus on the weeks, months, or years. Focus on one day at a time. Try to make the day one that Reagan would be proud of. Find joy in each day just as she did. Some days though just suck. There’s no other way around it. Lately the days suck because I feel guilty for never really being “depressed” (I use that term loosely). Let me explain more what I mean by that.

Everyone reacts differently to challenges and grief in their life. Before Reagan died I heard that multiple times. When Reagan died a couple of people told us we all would grieve in different ways. I get it now. I mean I really get it. It’s difficult to deal with though. I have grieved by trying to find the joy each day. I went back to work full time 3 weeks after Reagan died and haven’t stopped since. I keep myself focused and busy. Lately I’ve been questioning myself because i wonder how is it possible that I have been able to do that for almost 2 years and not have a breakdown. How have I been able to get up each day and keep going? There must be something wrong with me.

I know in my head that nothing’s wrong with me (at least I hope not 😉) but sometimes I feel like there must be something missing if I haven’t had days that I couldn’t get out of bed. Surely that means something is amiss. I don’t know. Maybe there is something wrong.

I shared in a post a long while ago about a story that was shared with me shortly after Reagan’s passing. Another mother who had also lost her child several years ago shared that she kept going for four years. FOUR YEARS! And then she couldn’t go anymore. She broke down. She fell apart. To this day I remember that moment that I heard that story so vividly. I remember because I could see myself in that mother. I remember it because it scared me shitless. In that moment and to this day I am terrified that I am going to have the same experience. I’m going to keep going and then one day, poof! Everything will stop. I won’t be able to go anymore.

The crazy thing is that part of me hopes I never get to that point. The other part wonders if that would make me feel better about the way I am grieving. Like for some reason if I can’t go anymore that would make my grief more valid. I’m telling you grief this deep will make a person crazy. It just tortures you in ways you never imagined possible. Because seriously whether or not I break down or not does not make my grief any less or any more real. My grief process is my grief process. Learning how to accept that for myself is a challenge I am currently working through. As I am writing this I am coming to the realization that this is it. I need to focus on accepting my grief journey as it is. I have been so focused on others and trying to make sure I accept the way they grieve that I haven’t allowed for acceptance of my own journey.

So to the grieving mother that asked me how I keep going I don’t know. What I would say to you is to ensure that you accept your own grief process. Find a way to make each day better than the last. The journey is long and difficult but you can do it. You have the strength of an angel with you. Don’t compare your journey or grief process to mine or anyone else. We all share a common thread but our paths are different. That is ok.

*PS I don’t share this with y’all because I want sympathy or need reassurance that my process is okay. I write and share because it is helpful to me and hopefully helpful for someone else. I try to be as honest as possible when I write but please know I am not looking for you to feel sorry for me.

#hugsandfistbumps

#mostlyfistbumps

Until next time.

M

Fly with Me

I'm just going to leave this right here for you. Take a few minutes and just listen. Go to a quiet space, close your eyes, and just listen.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4QoSxuaTCvQ

What do you think about when you hear this song? What do you feel? Sometimes music doesn't need words to make you feel something.

For me, this song makes me think about Reagan flying high above us, flying beside us, flying all around us. It comforts me. Makes me feel like it will all be okay. For me this song lifts me up. Lifts me high in the sky. Lifts me up so I can fly with Reagan.

I hope you enjoyed it.

#flywithus
#musicispowerful
#hugsandfistbumps
#youaremyfightsong

Until next time.

Maggie

Dear Reagan

Reagan,

I miss you so much. I look at your little sister and wish so deeply to see the two of you interact. I yearn for it. When you were born I thought you might be our last child. I wasn't sure but I thought we might be done. One of the things that saddened me was that you would not have a sister. You see, I have two sisters, so I know the special bond that sisters share and I wanted you to have that. As you grew and I watched you and Aidan together I quickly realized that I was wrong to feel that way. It didn't matter that you didn't have a sister because you had Aidan, your big brubbers, as you called him. The bond you two have is incredible. Even tonight Aidan told us that the only girls he cares about are his sisters, Reagan and Ryan. I know you would love her and snuggle on her. It pains me that she won't get to meet you. I wonder what it will be like to raise a child that doesn't know or feel the deep grief like your dad, brother, and I do. Because inevitably it will be different for Ryan. Of course she will know all about you. We will look at photos of you, watch your crazy videos, and share stories but for her it will be different. I pray that I find the right words to express to her what a fun spirit you had and instill that in her. Ryan's personality is starting to emerge as she grows and she reminds me of you at times. She sometimes looks at you with her little nose wrinkled up just like you did. She has absolutely no patience and wants what she wants when she wants it. Sound familiar? Haha 😂 You would get such a kick out of her! I hope she has some of your fiery little independent spirit!

I know that a piece of you is deeply imbedded into the souls of your dad, brother, and me. Hopefully we can share some of that with your little sister. You truly were a remarkable human being Reagan Grace. You truly had just the right balance of love in your heart, fire in your spirit, and a feisty little attitude. I have truly never met another individual like you. The world is better for having had you in it. I just wish we had more time with you. Thank you for being our sunshine.

Love you deeply,
Mom