If you’ve followed me since my Teamotions days, you probably know why I’m so dedicated to helping others find support and healing after really hard things, especially loss.
Each of us faces different hard things in our lives. My really hard thing was the deaths of my twin baby daughters in 2008.
Once upon a time, I was a young mom with a two-year-old little boy in my arms and twin girls growing in my belly.
Married to a Marine and living in San Diego, my days were full of all the normal mom-life things until June 24th, 2008 when I went into premature labor for unknown reasons. My sweet girls were born too soon and too tiny.
We did everything we could for them, but they both died anyway. Ellie lived for 7 days and Aubrey lived for 13 days.
It’s hard to describe what it felt like to never bring Aubrey and Ellie home from the hospital. I’ve heard grief described as being caught in a snowstorm or living in slow motion, but to me it felt like being lost at sea. I had no idea how to get my bearings.
I felt hopelessly adrift.
What heaped more pain on my already broken heart was the complete lack of support, resources, and helpful information available to me.
As if having empty arms wasn’t devastating enough, I also felt empty-handed, wandering the landscape of life after loss, ill-equipped and ill-advised.
I wanted to heal, I just didn’t know how.
So I read every book, attended every support group, and reached out to anyone I knew who had been in my shoes. I practically begged for direction and insight on how to climb my Mount Everest-sized grief.
I learned very quickly others didn’t know how to heal either and were bogged down by the cliches, platitudes, and misinformation. I’m believe others meant well, but people can’t teach what they’ve never learned. They can’t guide you where they’ve never walked.
These were all the grief lies I was told (see if any of these sound familiar to you):
- To just have faith.
- That everything happens for a reason.
- To be thankful I already had a child.
- To have another baby and replace the loss.
- God would never give me more than I could handle.
- God only chooses the ones he knows are strong enough to endure these kinds of things.
- God is testing my faith.
- Time heals all wounds.
- What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger
- It was for the best.
- A mother never gets over the loss of a child.
- Grief is forever.
- Grief isn’t cured, just carried.
- ‘Fake it till you make it’ even if it means for the rest of my life.
- Stay positive and don’t dwell.
- Keep gratitude journal to remind me of how much I don’t have to be sad about.
- It could be worse.
It was obvious few knew what to say to a grieving mother.
The myths and misunderstandings were frustrating, but the lack of support hurt the worst. Grief is so lonely.
After about six weeks of calls, cards, and meal deliveries, people stopped checking in. Even though my head understood my friends and family had to go on with their lives, my heart didn’t.
The reality was no one was going to magically show up and show me the way. It was up to me to figure out how to put the pieces of my heart back together.
Determined to find (or make) a better way, I set out to learn everything I could about grief, healing, emotional health, well-being, perseverance, and resilience.
I refused to accept the short-sighted advice, confusing methods, and current cultural norms. Even the church wasn’t sure how to walk alongside a grieving mother.
I held on to my belief that just because no one seemed to know how to heal didn’t mean it was impossible. There had to be a way and I wasn’t giving up until I figured it out.
I relentlessly studied, asked questions, reached out, and observed. I was diligent to put what I learned into practice using myself as the test subject. Like most people, was not taught loss-skills and didn’t realize how unequipped I was until I experienced a life-altering tragedy.
I had to develop new eyes, new ears, and a new passion for healing and the skills it requires.
I also discovered some of my beliefs about grief and loss were wildly incorrect so I had to recalibrate with the new information, new perspective, and first-hand experience I was gaining.
Little by little, it started to happen. I was healing.
It didn’t happen overnight nor all at once, and it wasn’t a perfectly linear progression, but it was happening. My progress was undeniable.
I grew in ways I never imagined and found strength I didn’t know I had. I discovered, and in some cases created, new and important strategies, resources, and tools. I asked for help and built a support system. I kept a journal of my experience. And I gave myself lots of grace. If I had a setback, I didn’t beat myself up.
My heart was coming alive again it felt so good.
Ten years ago choosing healing over hurting set in motion opportunities I could have never imagined. In the last decade I …
- Had another baby in 2010.
- Co-founded Teamotions in 2011 to comfort others one cup of tea at a time.
- Partnered with Tea for Humanity to do Hurricane Sandy Relief in NYC in 2012.
- Appeared on national news and radio in 2013.
- Founded Retreat HOPE in 2014 to help grieving moms heal. It was a smashing success.
- Created The Infant Loss Plan for BIRTHFIT and presented it at the BIRTHFIT conference to their Regional Directors in 2018.
- Traveled all over the US and Canada speaking and teaching about healing.
- Was a guest on numerous podcasts including ehealth radio, Moms with Dreams, the BIRTHFIT Podcast, ToughTalk Radio, JenningsWire, and Your Biz Rules.
- Been published on-line and in print including The Huffington Post, Military Spouse Magazine, Blue Magazine, and Everyday Power.
- Contributed to three published books about healing after loss; Our Only Time by Amie Lands, Hope for a Broken Heart by Linda Stirling, and Grieving Parents, Surviving Loss as a Couple by Nathalie Himmelrich.
- Got to meet and collaborate with amazing people also helping others heal with their experience, wisdom, creativity, and compassion.
It’s time that everything I’ve learned about healing after loss and other really hard things is accessible to YOU.
Healing was the best choice I ever made.
I have learned not just how to carry my pain, but actually transform it. This is a true miracle, but it doesn’t just happen. We must usher in the transformation of our pain with a participatory process. It doesn’t ‘happen’ to us, we cultivate it. And we often need help along the way.
I smile often, laugh hard, love deeply, and dream big all because I believed healing was possible and I refused to give up on my heart. My healing journey transformed me and my life and I want that for everyone who has faced – or is facing – the worst life has to offer.
I don’t believe loss, pain, and suffering have an inevitable benefit or are somehow good in disguise. They do, however, present an opportunity for us to either choose to transform our pain or transmit it.
Only you can decide what you are going to do with your pain and it’s the most important question you’ll ever face.
We could easily choose to give up on life, hope, healing, or a meaningful future of any kind after loss. Many people do. They cope and survive, but never thrive again.
Or we can choose to make our pain count, choose not to waste our suffering, and choose to be transformed.
Healing is my lifestyle now, not my destination. I operate from healing to continue healing. I’m able to steer my heart in the direction I want it to go.
I want you to be able to steer your heart in the direction you want it to go too.
Before I wrap up, I want to clarify something. Losing my girls was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, but it isn’t the only hard thing I’ve experienced.
I’ve lost other family members. I got divorced three years ago and it shook me to the core. I blew out my knee five years ago and it drastically changed my lifestyle. I’ve also had professional disappointments, personal failures, and physical health challenges since my girls died. Unfortunately, there is no quota on hardship, grief, and loss.
The healing skills and first-hand experience I have developed after Aubrey and Ellie died are the same skills and experience that carried me through the other difficult times of my life.
Healing skills truly are life skills and we all deserve to have them when we need them, no matter what type of loss (or losses) we are facing.
My choice to heal was, is, and will always be, about love – love for Aubrey and Ellie, love for myself, and love for others.
Aubrey and Ellie are more honored in my healing than in my hurting and the depth of my pain is not the only way to reflect the depth of my love for them.
I have nothing to prove by hurting for the rest of my life. I wake up every morning with the honor of leaving a legacy worthy of my girls’ lives instead of acquiescing to a life shaped only by their deaths. Healing has empowered me to create a meaningful life, not just an existence. I want the same for you.
Thank you for spending some time getting to know me. I’d love to get to know you too. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you have or to share your story.
Email me at Rachel@hungryforhealing.org.
Do you need more healing tools? Download my FREE Grief Guide and start healing now!
Healing is possible! I’ll show you how.