I go through 

It’s been a while, a long while, since my last blog post. Initially it wasn’t intentional that I wasn’t posting anything but I can’t say it stayed that way. After a bit of time passed I made the decision not to write or rather not to post anything. 

At first I didn’t write or post anything just because we were busy. The school year was starting and fall sports season began. We announced we were expecting our third child and time just got away from me. Before I knew it almost a month had passed since my last post. I won’t lie I started several blog posts but couldn’t finish most of them and the ones that I did I couldn’t bring myself to post. After making a few attempts I decided not to write for a while and to stop blogging. It just wasn’t helpful for me at the time. This post is a retrospective look at how I made it through. 

Looking back I realized that as we approached the one year anniversary of Reagan’s death I turned my focus to my family rather than myself. I think I tend to cope with my own feelings by trying to support and help others.  Now don’t get me wrong I truly believe it is my duty and my honor as both Aidan’s mom and Alex’s wife to support them. To try to help them in their time of need, whether they realize they need support or not, is a role I cherish. I did  even before Reagan died. But since she died I find that I tend to shut down everything else around me and within me just to try to make it better.  In a way it is therapeutic for me because it makes me feel like I am doing something positive. Something to ease the pain. 

Okay I have to be blunt. I just wrote that last sentence “something to ease the pain” and as I read it back in my head I thought to myself what a load of bullshit that is. Nothing can ease the pain. So it’s not that. I don’t do it to ease the pain because I can’t. It’s not possible and I know that. I wish I could but I can’t. It is what it is. The pain is constant and never ending. It has morphed over the last 18 months but it has not eased. 

Maybe the more realistic reason I do it is because Alex and Aidan are my circle. They are my tiny little circle. They are the only two people in this world who knew what it was like to have Reagan as part of their family on this earth and who now know what it is like for her not to be on this earth. They are the only two that know what it is like to have her here everyday and then she’s just gone.  No one else can come close to understanding. So I turn in and focus on them because only they can understand the pain I feel. And only I can understand the pain they feel. 

Even that’s not 100% true either though. Because I can’t understand what it is like to suddenly lose a sibling.  All three of my siblings are alive. So I don’t understand that part of Aidan’s pain. I can’t understand what it is like for a father to suddenly lose a daughter.  Just as I can’t fully understand their pain they can’t fully understand my pain.  Only I can truly understand what it is like to be the mother to our beautiful, vibrant Reagan who suddenly passed.  Even with all that we are still our own tiny circle.  Reagan is ours and she is gone. So to get through I turn in to my little circle. 

The last post I wrote was about the 4th quarter. It was a tough one. The three of us each grieved and processed everything in our own ways. For me I had to take it day by day and sometimes hour by hour. It was a brutal few months leading up to October 19th and a brutal few weeks after. The actual day though was not so bad. We stayed home from work and school and spent the day together.  For me the build up to the actual day and the after has been worse for each significant date that came and went during the first year. The only truly challenging date during the first year was her birthday. That was the only one in which the actual date was hard. 

As intense and difficult as the first year was we made it through. I made it through. Along the way I used multiple methods to deal with the grief and process the death of my daughter. It is a process that will never end and I am confident that what works for me now will not always work. 

You know it’s not a choice. This thing happened to me and I have to find a way through it. Reagan died and I’m still here. I have to find a way through. I can’t get around it. It is what it is. So I will find a way through. It will be the greatest challenge of my life but I will get through. 

The song below has been one that I listen to a lot. Crazy enough the music video was published on October 19, 2016. The one year anniversary of Reagan’s death. 

Take a listen: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zcd3BIP-ly0. 

#hugsandfistbumps

#youaremyfightsong

Let It Go

First of all I’m sorry that it’s been a few months since my last post! Honestly the first few weeks of August flew by and I’ve kind of been in a writers block since. I didn’t feel like I had the energy or time to write anything worth reading. My attention and focus was needed elsewhere. 

Sometimes I have thoughts or ideas of what I want to write about and I sit down and write a post in 30 minutes. Sometimes I start writing but don’t feel it’s quite ready so I leave it in draft form and come back later. I have several posts in draft form right now – some have been there for months. This topic came to me a few months ago and I started to write but then felt stuck and unsure of what to say. A few weeks after that I was in a car accident (don’t worry the baby and I are ok 😊👶🏼) and felt it was appropriate to finish and post.  So then I wrote a little more and then couldn’t finish it so it didn’t get posted. That’s how most of these posts I have been trying to write have been going lately. 

What I want to talk about is letting go. Letting go of things beyond your control or beyond your understanding.  Not an easy task but a necessary one.  Especially in my life. 

I have always been a person that seems to take what comes my way and have found a way to push through. In the end “what will be will be” is how I look at life.  I always find a way to make it work and figure it out. I don’t tend to stress about the unknown. This part of me seems to be in contradiction with the rest of my personality as I thrive on things that are black and white, right and wrong, fact vs. fiction, and I definitely prefer to be in control. Don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy to let go but as I get older I seem to find it easier than I did even a few years ago. 

This last year I have really had to learn to let it go.  There are many unknowns about Reagan’s illness and death.  As I strive to find a better understanding or some truth about what happened to Reagan I find myself struggling to let it go. 

When I started this post in September I was really struggling to come to terms with the unknown. There have been some things that have come to light that have created more doubt in my heart and mind about what happened to Reagan. I won’t be sharing details about this piece of my journey yet but can tell you it hasn’t been easy. 

Sometimes it is easy to just let something go. Sometimes you have to be patient with yourself and others as you seek to find peace with what you may never have answers to. For a person that deals in black and white it is so much easier when you have all the facts.  But that can’t always be the case. 

It is now Spring of 2017 and I have had to come terms with the fact that we will never know for certain what caused Reagan to become so ill and ultimately took her life.  After much effort and exploration into Reagan’s illness I haven’t had anyone tell me they are sure what caused her illness or death.   I think the not knowing what caused a child  to get sick, not knowing what virus or bacteria or something entirely different caused such a sudden shift in her health could have one of two effects on a mother.  I could allow my fear of the unknown to consume me and constantly worry and stress over whether or not my other children or family will suffer from the same illness. Or I can let go and understand that I cannot possibly control everything and “what will be, will be.”  I have chosen the latter. I choose to let go of the fear. 

As a mother it is natural to worry about your kids and be concerned when they are sick.  My letting go doesn’t mean that I don’t worry when my kids are sick. It means that I am not paranoid, I am not hyper focused on every sniffle, cough, and headache. I have a rational understanding that sometimes strange and rare things occur that we just may not have answers to. Sometimes things just happen. 

Don’t get me wrong I have my moments.  Shortly after I returned to work in 2015 I got a call at work from the elementary school. It was the nurse. Aidan was in the clinic and was complaining of a headache and nausea. I immediately panicked. I started crying and ran to my car. Literally RAN to my car. You see, I had received a very similar phone call from the school nurse about Reagan with very similar symptoms just a few months before. Turns out Aidan was fine and just needed some rest but I panicked. I know why. I understand why. I choose not to react like that all the time. I choose to let go and understand that my kids will get sick and in all likelihood they will be okay. I can’t live in constant fear and worry of the unknown so I choose to let it go. 

Do I wish I knew exactly what happened to Reagan? Of course I do. I wish I knew for my own piece of mind. I wish I knew so I could do something to prevent it from happening to someone else. I wish I knew so I could give an answer when people ask me what happened to her. I wish I knew so I could reassure Aidan that he and Ryan wont get sick and die like Reagan.  There are so many reasons I wish I knew. But I don’t. We don’t. And we never will. So I choose to let go. 

#letitgo    #whatwillbewillbe

#hugsandfistbumps    #youaremyfightsong

**This blog post was written over a period of several months from September 2016 – April 2017.

Don’t do it! ***

Don’t do it they said! We’ve all heard it before. Don’t make any big or life altering decisions after a tragedy. Don’t make any big changes for at least 1 or 2 years. Don’t do it they said. Well we didn’t listen. We did it. We did it all!

The 1 year anniversary of Reagan’s death has come and gone. As I reflected on our 1st year without her I thought about the advice we received last October from well-meaning people but that we chose to ignore.  In the last 366 days we have sold our cars and bought 2 new ones, purchased a boat, became pregnant with our 3rd child, and bought a house. That’s a lot of big decisions. Some life changing. 

In my opinion the advice “don’t do it” is crap. If you are dealing with unspeakable tragedy or heartbreak you do what is right for you and your loved ones. As long as your decisions aren’t self-destructive or harmful to others go for it! If Reagan’s death has taught me anything it is that life truly is short and sometimes over before it has even begun.  Sounds so cliche but it’s true. 

I’m sure some of you (if not all of you) have thought to yourself over the last year, “What in the hell are the Smith’s doing?” I don’t blame you. Before losing Reagan I would have had the same thoughts if I saw someone I loved making all these big decisions so soon after the death of their child.  All I can say is we know what we are doing and not making any of these decisions lightly. 

There is no magic path that makes everything easy and better.  Sometimes it is difficult to navigate the path and what works for one of us doesn’t work for the other two but we keep going. I say this to say we do our best and try to make decisions on our life that bring happiness to our lives. 

***the above was written in November 2016 approximately 1 month after the anniversary of Reagan’s death.

The 4th Quarter

So it’s been a while since I have written a blog.  I have thought about it multiple times over the last several weeks but really didn’t feel like I had anything new to say.  I know I said I would write a post in response to my sister’s The 30,000 Foot View post (which you should reach if you haven’t yet) but after a few days had passed and I thought about it again I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say.  So that post may come later if I can get my act together!  Today’s post is about this last year and this 4th quarter. Let me explain…

When Reagan died it was a shock to say the least.  We had a happy, healthy, energetic 5 year old and then we didn’t and she was gone.  I cannot possibly explain the depth of pain and torture I experienced last October because unless you have walked down this path as a grieving parent you just can’t understand.  After Reagan’s death it was difficult to get through each hour, let alone each day, or week.  There was this back and forth torture in my heart and mind.  I remember thinking that I just wished it was already one year later.  I wanted to be past this first year without her.  On the flip side I wanted it to stay that day and week forever because the more time that passed only meant that I was further away from her.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, I think to help my mind manage the overwhelming sadness I broke the first year out into quarters. It was easier to think about making it for 3 more months than it was to think about making it a whole year.  I have been focusing on those quarters ever since.

The first quarter included Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  The second quarter included my birthday and our first family vacation without Reagan.  The third quarter included baseball season, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the last day of school, summer vacations, Blue Angels, my sister’s wedding, the Fourth of July, and Alex’s birthday.  Now we are in the 4th quarter.  I’ve almost made it a whole year.  This 4th quarter might be the toughest yet.

This fourth quarter will include the 1st day of school, Camp Mimi, Aidan’s birthday, and my sister-in-law’s wedding. It is almost time to start school again.  Reagan would be in 1st grade this year.  I think back to last year and the anticipation and excitement about when she started Kindergarten.  We will go this weekend to see what class Aidan is in (he is hoping he gets the only male teacher at the school…typical boy😂) and then we will go back to school shopping.  It won’t be any different than any other event the has occurred over the first 3 quarters.  Everything reminds me of her.  I think of her constantly but for some reason I am not looking forward to experiencing this first back to school experience without her here.  This one feels like it is going to be especially excruciating.

Aidan’s birthday will be bitter-sweet.  Reagan was sick on his actual birthday when we celebrated with family and then was recovering from her first ER visit during his laser tag birthday party last year.  I am worried I won’t be able to find a way to separate the memories surrounding the events of Reagan’s illness from Aidan’s birthday.  I am worried that they will be forever inter-twined but I continue to remind myself that this is only the 4th quarter of the 1st year.  I need to be patient with myself and know that as more time passes and we have more birthday’s without her I will find a way.  I am excited to celebrate Aidan’s birthday this year (he turns the big 10!) and hope that his day will be filled with joy and laughter.  He hasn’t decided what he wants to do for his birthday yet but I know it will be fun!  We will probably take him to Disney for the weekend too 😁.

For those that don’t know, Camp Mimi is held every year sometime during the summer.  My mom comes down from Ohio and takes the kids for 3-4 days to a hotel in Destin for a vacation just with her!  They LOVE it!!!  They are spoiled rotten and have boundless fun with her!  Last year we also went out to Destin for 1 day of Camp Mimi and both of my sister’s flew into town.  We played in the pool, almost drowned each other in a competition for dive sticks (I won😉), and played putt-putt.  Reagan was given a pair of mermaid goggles during Camp Mimi and she was so cute with them on her face!  She wore them so tight it made her cheeks and eyes look squished but she was so proud that she could put her face in the water and swim by her self!  We all had a wonderful time and I am thankful for these memories!

Sadly, this 4th quarter will also include October 4th, October 7th, October 9th, October 15th, October 16th, October 17th, October 18th, October 19th, October 21st, and October 23rd.  Those are the dates in October that are significant events in the path of Reagan’s illness, death, and aftermath.  Those are the dates that will challenge me the most.  I don’t know yet but I can’t imagine those days will be easy.  So now I’m in this 4th quarter wishing I was in my second year.  I just want it to be November. This wonderful trick that my mind played by separating the first year into 4 quarters is now back-firing on me.  I cannot believe it has been almost a year already.  I know October 19th is going to be here before I know it and I’m not ready.  I’m just not ready.  Oh gosh how I miss her.  I would do anything to hear her sweet little voice again and see her smile.  I’m not ready for this 4th quarter.

I know each year will be different and I am told as time goes on I will continue to think less and less about the events that led to her death and more about the memories we had with her while she was on this Earth.  I pray that I (we) continue to grow and heal as we move into the 2nd year.  I pray for peace and strength for myself, for Aidan, for Alex, and for all of you.  I pray for it to be November.

Until next time.

Maggie

The 30,000 Foot View ~ by Sarah

Please join me in welcoming my sister, Sarah, as my first guest blogger!!!  Sarah sent me this post today and I have to say I already have so many thoughts and feelings I want to share but I will wait so you all can read what she is sharing with us all about her journey.  I will post a follow-up blog in a few days to share what I have learned from this 30,000 foot view of her journey.  I have more insight and feel more connected after reading her blog today and hope it will help you all in some way as well.  I am not a big sharer but am coming to learn sharing, in many formats, has it’s healing powers and benefits.  Together we will be stronger.  I am stronger for having opened myself up and for listening to Sarah.  I am so honored that Sarah chose to share with me and in turn with all of you.  So, thank you Sarah.  Thank you of sharing with all of us.  #togetherwearestronger 

 

I want to start by saying that these are my own perceptions and experiences and in all of this I know that the sadness, disbelief, sorrow, anger, and heartache of Maggie, Alex and Aidan is immeasurable to anyone else. They spent every day with Reagan, they knew her in ways that I never could and they have to walk a harder path than I do as Reagan is their daughter and Aidan’s sister.

I volunteered to write a post and struggled to find a way to capture my experience, without making this a turn by turn journey into personal details. How do you give a 30,000 foot view of the grief you have experienced since your 5 year old niece died? The only constant from that day that Reagan died is that life is harder and every day is different.

Looking back over that past 9 months it feels like an eternity and split second all at once. The immediate days after Reagan died I carried a lot of physical grief and heartache. Moving through the days, trying to be patient and supportive while still trying to wrap my head around this unfathomable loss. In the first couple of months my body ached with sadness,

  • sadness for myself and the pieces of Reagan that I never knew or will get to know. I didn’t know she loved Oreos, how could I not know that? She just got her first library book?
  • sadness for my family in that I have never been in a place where each one of my immediate family members was so deeply consumed with heartache and anguish, to watch each of my loved ones struggle with Reagan’s loss and the changes it has meant for our extended family.
  • sadness for Aidan, knowing that in some ways his childhood ended the day Reagan’s life ended, how would his sensitive spirit cope with the loss of his biggest admirer (and often his biggest irritant, but hey that is what sisters are for, right Charlie?)
  • sadness for Alex and Maggie, sadness for their immeasurable loss, the unknown of how to “help” them (Should I reach out? What should I say? Am I annoying them?)
  • And eventually the sadness for the changes it brought to my relationship with Maggie as she turned inward to focus on herself and her own family. I understood what was happening and why, but it didn’t change the fact that I missed my sister and the ability to feel like I could just call her after work as I did previously.

As the months have marched on and I have started to move forward I still feel sadness and think of Reagan every single day. To be honest I am terrified for the day that comes where I don’t think of her, one more step removed from her and what she brought to my own life.

I still love to look at pictures and videos of Reagan, her personality captured and re-lived for even a brief moment brings me happiness. I also find Reagan’s spirit in music. She loved to dance and I think of her and her unconquerable spirit through the joy in many different songs, most recently with “Sunshine in my Pocket” by Justin Timberlake. In June I attended the Dixie Chicks concert in Cincinnati. The Dixie Chicks have a long history in my family, so it was only appropriate that we all went to their opening concert with the women I look up to most in my life (I am including Charlie in this group of women). Right before the concert started for a horrible second I thought “Maggie should have brought Reagan.” It was awful because for a moment I forgot, but mostly it was awful because Reagan will never get to go with us. As the evening moved on that awful moment mixed in with the happiness that followed as the evening progressed. Enjoying the time with family, feeling grateful for being together. That night seems to capture perfectly where I am today.

I wish I had a tidier ending for you, something more concrete to offer, a wise observance of all that I have learned through this, but I don’t. I am still moving forward, finding happiness and remembering Reagan for all the joy that she brought to my life, but still grieving a loss that is too much to describe. I carry a piece of her in my every-day life, snippets of her through music, videos and pictures. I carry that and my memories of her to find comfort in the sea of hurt.

With love,

Sarah

IMG_4518

How are YOU doing?

My last post was about people asking me this question. This blog post is about me asking YOU that question. Or rather me not asking YOU that question. I haven’t asked anyone that question. Other than Aidan and Alex I haven’t asked anyone how they are doing. Not one person.  A couple posts back I mentioned I would write more about your grief later. Well it’s later. And really it’s not about your grief because I couldn’t possibly write about your grief. 

Side note:  I have been toying with the idea of having a guest blogger who would be willing and wants to share their thoughts on their grief process since Reagan’s death in a post. If this peaks your interest let me know. I’m not going to ask anyone because I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to do it or share more than they are comfortable with but I think it would be good for someone else to share their perspective.  The post can be anonymous too.  Anyway, think about it. 

Ok back to it. So why haven’t I asked any of you how you are doing?  The simple answer is that I can’t bear the weight of anyone else’s grief. I can’t take on anymore.  Does that make sense? When I sit back and think about why I don’t ask the first thing I think is that I have enough grief and sadness already and if I listen to others I will own some of that sadness too. It will weigh on my heart and mind. So I don’t ask so I don’t have to take it on.  I think probably everyone gets that, at least I hope you do.  I hope you understand.  

It didn’t occur to me until about 3 months after Reagan’s death that I didn’t ask anyone how they were doing. Someone asked me how my mom was doing and I couldn’t answer the question. I paused and said, “you know, I really have no idea. I haven’t asked.” It was then that I realized I hadn’t asked anyone and there are countless people grieving Reagan’s death. There are a lot of you. And I haven’t asked. I can’t ask. 

It bothers me that I can’t ask. It makes me feel weak. I know that’s not rational but I feel weak.  Good people care about others and especially their close friends and family. When they are hurting or going through something you check in and see how they are. That’s what good people do. And I can’t. Not when it comes to Reagan. I can ask how you are doing with anything else but not about Reagan.  

I think that maybe I also can’t ask because I am afraid of how I will feel if I hear the answer. I am afraid it will make me angry or bitter. I am afraid if I listen to other people share their feelings with me I may not be so nice in my response. Because there is only one mother who lost her daughter. Me. Just me. And no one’s grief can compare to mine. I’ve imagined asking people the question before and my imaginary response is less than exemplary.  In this imaginary situation I ask the question and the other person shares their feelings with me. I know they are true and genuine feelings but I can’t help myself. I snap back in an angry tone and explain I can’t comprehend what they’ve just shared with me because their children are all still living, because their lives haven’t been shattered. So I don’t ask the question. I don’t imagine I will ask the question until my imaginary response softens a bit.  

(I’m sure you all really want to share your feelings in a blog post now after reading my imaginary response😕…don’t let it scare you off 😉😕)

So please know I do care about all of you. I know that you are all here for me anytime, day or night.  I know I have a village. I hope you know that I care. I hope you know that I feel a deep connection to you and one day I hope I will be able to ask YOU how YOU are doing. One day. 

Until next time.

Maggie

Baby #3 👶🏼 *

              BABY SMITH #3

           DUE MARCH 8, 2017

We are so thrilled to be adding another beautiful baby to our family!!! I know this was probably a shock to many of you but we couldn’t be happier and hope you share in our joy! 

This is happy news for our family but is also a complex emotional experience for me. So I’m first going to talk about my joy, then my fears, and finally my sadness. 

My Joy:

For 3 years now…yes, 3 years I have gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to have more children. I did not share this desire with many people. In fact as far as most of you knew I was confident that I was done having children since shortly after Reagan was born.  It was a little over a year ago that I was sure I wanted more kids. I have always felt that our family wasn’t yet complete and just knew I wasn’t done. If you know me at all and probably especially for those that knew me before I was a mother my kids and family are my world. Raising my children to be kind and thoughtful human beings will be my greatest and most important achievement.  Showing them a marriage between their parents that is based on love, honor, and respect is also of the utmost importance.  As I’m sure it is for most mothers there is a transformation that occurs within your heart and soul when you have children. Adding another child to this family is something we have given great thought and consideration to and I am so thrilled there is another little one on the way!

My Fear:

I am worried that people will think that we are having another baby to replace the one we lost. To replace Reagan.  On the one hand I really don’t give a shit (pardon my language) if anyone thinks or says that because if they think that they must be crazy.  On the other hand I do care if people think that because…well I don’t really know why I care but I do. I have this nagging feeling like I have to clarify and announce to the world that this baby in no way is a replacement for Reagan. It isn’t possible to replace Reagan. Each child is unique and special. All 3 of my children will be equally loved and cherished. 

My sadness:

It makes me sad to think that I will never have a picture of all 3 of my kids together. It makes me sad to think that I will never have a picture of our family of 5.  It makes me sad that our youngest will not get to know her sister. It makes me sad that Reagan will not get to experience being a big sister.  She so badly wanted to be a big sister. There are a lot of things we won’t get to do together as a family of 5. It just makes me sad. 

*The above post was written in August 2016 but I never felt like I was able to share it until now. I always felt like it was unfinished but I was wrong. It is real and honest. It is what I was feeling at the time and I want to share with you now.