“What Doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is bullshit

So i am sure you all heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “this was G-D’s plan”. Well let me tell you something. I do not feel stronger, in fact quite the opposite. I am 49 years old and when i look in the mirror I feel as if I am looking at a stranger, not so much physically, but emotionally, I used to be somewhat fearless, now I am afraid all the time. Afraid I won’t get through the day, afraid of losing one of my other kids, afraid of disappointing others because I have not gotten “over” losing my daughter less than three years ago. I can not help feeling as if i am being punished. I can’t really identify too many things I gained, but I can tell you A lot I lost, to start with, future experiences with my daughter, most of all my “friends”, the fierce drive I once had and worse thing ever, myself. So just because i get up every morning and face the day, I am weaker, not stronger. What use to be effortless, takes so much effort. Sometimes i wish it did kill me so i don’t have to endure the eternal pain i feel daily, I think maybe it would be easier. Now do not misunderstand me, I do not want to kill myself, but when you lose a child, you lose so much more than people can even imagine. I have published two books with my daughters writings, set up scholarships in her name as well as a foundation, so people assume I am strong, but the loss of my Rachie coupled with feeling like i Have leprosy due to the avoidance of others, enhances feelings of loneliness and heartache. I used to be the “go to” friend, but now that i can not offer the support and guidance I once was able to, I am more like the Goodbye friend. People are so afraid to confront death so instead they add to the sadness by pretending or avoiding. I thankfully have a wonderful family and great friends i can talk to, but they do not live in my area. I guess in some way I was always everyones rock, the dependable, caring, whatever you need friend, now i sit alone. So this has not made me stronger, but i hear how strong I am from others, but I think it is to make them feel better, validating to themselves that I do not need them relieving them of the guilt they feel for not moving out of their own comfort zone to embrace my sadness and pain.

Grief often feels like You Are Bipolar

Have you had those days where your emotions are all over the place? Going from content, to utterly sad to hopeful to hopeless all in a 24 hour time period? I have experienced days like these on countless occasions since my Rachel passed away suddenly in September 3, 2016.

I find myself experiencing major ups and downs, without warning, making it difficult at times to get through the day. The thing about being Bipolar is that there is medication to help with these emotional roller coaster rides, but there is no medication to help monitor the grief we feel and this never ending state of constant emotional upheaval.

I find those times I get the opportunity to speak of Rachel, I get a weird sense of happiness, which shortly is overshadowed by the intense pain and reality that she is gone and all I have are my memories of the past, mourning the absence of memories of the present and future.

The definition of grief is a keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss, sharp sorrow and painful regret. Although this simply defines the meaning of grief, speaking first hand its so much more than this. Grief does come to visit, it moves in and becomes part of you. We as humans are adaptable , We can learn to live without a limb we once had, learn to live with an illness that incapacitates us and grief is no different. We do not get “over it” or “move on”, we just learn to live with it and realize sometimes Grief is a renter and other times the landlord.

Fighting the grief we feel, only makes it more powerful. As painful as it is, I have learned going through it and being kind to yourself allowing you to stop and feel the immense void that plaques us daily, is the best way to co-exist with grief.

Sometimes I feel Like Cybil

One of the best compliments I ever received was from one of my childhood friends who met one of my friends I met later in life. After talking to one another while I stepped away to go to the restroom, they said to me when I returned to the table

“It’s amazing, you’re exactly the same person you were as a kid as you are now. You       have always been genuine, honest, kind and spoke your mind. You have always known    who you are and nothing has changed you, its pretty incredible”

Well I must say things have changed, yes I still know who I am, although at times I wish I can change that because I often feel an internal conflict with the real me and the me I want to be since Rachel passed. I want to be bitter, angry and resentful, but that is just not how I am wired. I want the people who are responsible for her death to feel the pain I feel, I want some kind of Justice, which I realize is impossible because nothing aside from holding her and hugging her again will ever be acceptable to me.

I often feel like Sybil, you remember her? I often feel like I have to wear a different mask these days, depending on where I am going and who I will See. Even when I feel like curling up in my bed and crying myself to sleep because of the ongoing pain of missing my Rachie, I need to in a way dissocociate from what I feel and pretend I am OK. I must say it is utterly exhausting and at times very frustrating.

So why do I do this? Well simply because most people cannot handle the grief I am saturated with and because I am a healer by nature, the thought of making others uncomfortable, makes me uncomfortable.  But more Honestly, it is because in this country Grief is not tolerated or if it is, it seems that people put a time line on how long it is acceptable to be sad and distraught over the loss you endured.

Part of me wants to say “Fuck them all”, and challenge them to even imagine living a day in my shoes, but the other part of me tries to realize that no one can really understand the pain and suffering and the subtle and not so subtle triggers that can bring you to your knees.

I have certainly cut ties with people who I expected more from and realized that with the loss of my daughter came the loss of many friendships I thought were more solid and genuine than they were.  On the other hand, I have been pleasantly surprised by the love and support from people I never ever imagined I would receive such love, support, patience and kindness from.

I find the most comfort with other parents who have endured the pain of losing their child, the unnatural state of nature, nature backwards if you will. It is with this group of people anything goes, you can say anything and rather than being judged or feeling like a burden, you receive nods and absolute understanding.

I urge anyone who knows someone who has lost a child, to be understanding of the ongoing and never ending pain that just will not go away. I urge you to recognize that the uncomfortable feelings you have about the death of their child is minimal compared to the feelings they struggle with every single day. Be the friend you would want to have if G-D forbid you were the one who had to endure life without one of your kids. Be strong, don’t run and hide, but push pass your own comfort level and be the person they need. Death does not discriminate, anyone can be in this situation and one thing I can promise you is that I would be there for you.

Say Her Name

When you lose a child all you can do is try and keep their memory alive.

It seems to be the popular consensus by those who never experienced such a loss that talking about or mentioning their name will make us sad or remind us that our child has died. We never forget our child has died, however when you talk about them and share stories, you are reminding us that you remembered that they lived , which is probably the greatest gift you can give a bereaved parent.

All we have left is our memories and nothing is more soothing to hear their name and even better to hear how they may have impacted your life. The holidays are extremely hard because no matter how much joy and love we have in our lives, the void of our missing child is felt tremendously.

 I talk about her everyday and will continue to do so as long as I am breathing. Yes sometimes the memories bring tears to my eyes and other times I can’t help but smile remembering how funny and quirky she was. So say her name, remember her spirit and embrace the feelings of loss and more importantly the love for her as well as the love received by her.

Happy Thanksgiving Rachie

The holidays are extremely hard. I find myself feeling as if i am looking for something all the time, i realized it’s you. It’s amazing how much you can miss a person, it hurts like nothing i could ever imagine. Having the family together is a constant reminder of your absence. I love you so much. I miss you so much. I cry for you often and laugh as well when i see your pictures or watch videos of  you. But one thing i do very often is smile when I think of you and all our memories. Happy Thanksgiving Rachel.

Living in the shadow

One thing I realized and am starting to come to term with is that when you lose a child, you will forever live in the shadow of grief. No matter how much light and positive I have in my life, they are forever shadowed with this sense of darkness. I often feel guilty about not being able to allow the positive bright lights to overshadow the darkness because it keeps me from being fully present, engaging at attentive at times to the ones I love and are the lights of my life.

Since Rachel died in September 2016, it has been life changing and aside from losing my daughter, I had to define, rather define myself. Although it has been a brutal time, I have to say I have had happiness, which was a relief that I can feel this again, but still, I always have the heaviness and shadow lurking in the background.

The goods things are worth mentioning, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge both the positive and negative things in your life, to assist with keeping some kind of homeostasis. Since Rachel passed, I met, who I consider to be the love of my life. I must say that I truly felt my  daughter, Rachel sent this man to me. The intense love I feel for him is a constant reminder that I am still very much alive, even if part of me died on that day. My kids are doing better, they still miss her tremendously, but being kids they are more resilient and can adjust to even the worse of things. Another thing I am so grateful for is my family. I have an amazing family, without them I don’t know where I would be today.

I spent 46 years living my life, gradually growing and gaining things such as my independence, education, my own family, a sense of self etc… and now I am forced to live with losing something/someone that I created, loved and cherished. I was forced to live incomplete, part of me is missing and nothing will or can replace it. One thing that gives me a sense of peace is that my daughter and I were very much connected here on earth and I feel we are still very much connected in a beautiful manner.

This letter is a must read for any bereaved parent. It has taken some time, but today I believe it to be so very true.

To my Parent/Parents from your Child in Heaven,

I wanted to send you a letter from Heaven because I see how difficult your days and nights have become for you and the family since I passed. I hear you asking why it is that I had to go to Heaven before you. You say, “How can it be possible for my child to pass before me!!??” I see the anger, the pain, the guilt, the frustration. I see the tears that you cry on your cheeks and in your soul every day since I Passed to Heaven. I have heard you ask God to take you as well so that you can be at my side in Heaven because you miss me so much. I see the struggle you have to get out of bed every morning. I know that when your feet hit the floor each day, I am the first thought that enters your mind. I also know that as you lie in bed at night, I am the last thought you have before you go to sleep. I see you find it almost impossible to simply be a part of the family now that you feel a piece of that family is “Missing”. I hear you scream at the top of your lungs when no one else is around to hear your cries. I know that your body physically aches with no explaination of where that pain comes from and since no one else can see that pain, they simply can’t understand it. I see the people in your life begin to get back to their routines and you wonder how that is even possible, how on Earth does the world not stop to let you catch your breath? The reason I am sending this letter from Heaven is because, I Love You, and today I want to help you to build a relationship with my soul.
The first thing you should know when it comes to me, is I’m Perfect in Every Way. There is no pain in Heaven. There are no negative thoughts, feelings, or emotions here in Heaven either. If you take the most perfect that you could ever imagine me to be and multiply that by infinity, then you may come close to knowing how perfect I am. I want you to take a “Step back to spirit” for a minute. I have learned so much since the moment that I passed and I want to share that knowledge with you because the more you know, the less you will fear in life. You and I knew eachother in Heaven for an Eternity before we lived this life together. You wrote your life long before you came here. Within your life’s path, you wrote obstacles so that your soul could learn and grow through your journey. You wrote within your life for me to be your child. You and I actually wrote this part together, you see because I also wrote you into my life to be my parent, best choice I ever made by the way…. I wanted you as my parent because you could give me all the love and support that my soul needed in life to reach it’s growth that I intended. We were going to share this journey together you and I and it was a pact we made long before we came here. Each and everyone of us lives to grow our soul. That growth comes from our struggles and obstacles in life and this is the part of my letter that is going to be most important for you to understand. “I never died that day…….. “ . The day that I passed to Heaven, my soul wasn’t touched by my passing. I am still just as alive as I was before I came to share my life with you. You see, my soul had reached the growth that I had intended for myself. I set that goal of growth for my soul long before I came to live this life and that day, when I reached the goal I had intended for my soul, I simply “Graduated To Heaven” before you. My Soul was so perfect in that Moment, that nothing in this Universe could have changed my Graduation that day. It was such an amazing day for me, although I know it was the Hardest Day you have ever Lived in life. The day that I Graduated to Heaven, I Blessed you on your Journey…. I know, it didn’t feel like a Blessing but, I want to explain. I Blessed you with more Strength and Love than you ever knew you could carry in this world. I Blessed your Soul with Growth that it never would have achieved without my Graduation that day. This is the moment in my letter where I want you to be proud. I want you to be proud of your strength, because spirits with your strength can move mountains with their baby finger. Only the strongest of spirits write the most difficult paths and you have written one of the most difficult paths ever to be lived…. A path that you continue while I am in Heaven…… I know, this is the moment that you wonder why on Earth you would plan to have a child pass? Why in the world would a parent plan this? How could I plan for this pain?? I have to remind you that without our struggles, we don’t find strength and YOU are one of the strongest souls I know…… I’m so proud to call you my parent. 
I know you are probably thinking there is No possible way that I planned my own Graduation to happen when I was so young and if I had, then “Why did I pass that way??!!!” I want to explain that to you as well. On a Human level where you are, my passing is devastating. The thought of my passing, how I passed, was there pain, did I suffer, runs through your mind each and every day. For me, it became part of my Amazing Story and Legacy from the moment that I passed. See, spirits here have all kinds of stories to tell of how they arrived to Heaven. Each Graduation is so different. Some of these spirits had Cancer. Some of them passed in accidents. Some of them have had their lives taken by others. Some had Alzheimers. Some lived a long long long life and simply Graduated because of their age. Some spirts here passed before they were born and they were blessings of love and growth for parents that never had an opportunity to meet them in the physical world. Each and every spirit here has a story to tell of how they graduated, just like Me. My story is my favorite of course, well, because it is mine. Not everyone has a story the same as mine and not everyone has you included in their story and you are really important in my story. Plus, my spirit, was Completely untouched by my graduation. I know my body is the part of me that you feel so connected to, but I want you to know that my soul is more connected to you than you could ever dream. Although my body doesn’t carry on since my Graduation, my soul is still very much alive. Remember when I said that your soul knew my soul before we came there to live together. Well, your soul still knows my soul even though I am in Heaven and your soul will know my soul just the same some day when you return to Heaven too. Oh yes, we will be together again. Nothing in the Universe could keep us apart from one another. Your life that you continue to live is but a blink of an eye for us in Heaven. Heaven doesn’t have any sense of Time because it is an Eternally Beautiful Place and so, although it seems like forever for you while you miss me, just know that for me here in Heaven, it is different. 
I see you from Heaven every single day that you live. I want you to understand where I am, so right now, please look down at the floor….. Now, go up 3 feet from your floor and stop right there!!!! That is where Heaven’s floor is!!! Yes, Heaven is only 3 feet off of your floor!!! I am all around you. I am in the space to your side and in front of you and behind you. It is the reason that I can see and hear you every moment while still enjoying the beautiful perfection of Heaven with God at the same time. I know you wonder if I can hear you and not only can I hear your words, but I also hear your thoughts too! Thoughts are made with your soul and here in Heaven we speak with our souls, so it is really simple for us to receive every thought you think to us. I hear you think of me in the morning and I hear you think of me at night too. I know you say that you want me back, but what I am trying to tell you is that I never left you. I am still right at your side cheering you on with every step you take in life. I stand at your side and lend you comfort in your difficult times too. I also think it is important that you know that I am not alone in Heaven. Every loved one in our family that passed is at my side. There are even loved ones here that you don’t remember in life but the moment that I got here, my soul knew them and we all love you so much!
Oh and the signs I send!!!! Yeah, we are limitless when it comes to sending you signs from Heaven. So, any time that you see something that catches your eye and reminds you of me, please know it is my way of letting you know I am there at your side from Heaven. Let go of your self doubt when you see my signs because it is really easy for your self doubt to tell you it wasn’t from me, but I promise it was. I know, sometimes your grief is so so so so deep that you don’t see my signs that I am sending you and that is okay. Grief clouds your ability to see the beauty in this world and that is really normal, so, don’t you worry, because I will just keep sending signs from Heaven until you can see them. If there is a break between my signs, it doesn’t mean that I am not there, it just means that I am giving you a little space to spread your wings as you grow through your grief, but I promise I haven’t left you. 
I am the sun upon your face, I am the wind within your hair, I am the wings of birds in flight, and I will always be right there. You gave me the foundation I needed in life to succeed even if you didn’t realize it. You are such an amazing part of my Legacy and I am such an amazing part of your legacy. Some day, all of this will make sense. I know it hurts right now, but, I want you to know that you and I have a soul’s bond that is unbreakable. When you sit in silence and feel you are pretending what I would say in your thoughts, please know that is really me. When you sleep at night and you see me in your dreams, it is my soul spending time with your soul as your body gets the rest it needs, yes, that is really me with you. If you don’t remember seeing me in your dreams, that is okay, I will keep coming so don’t you worry. That is just your grief clouding your ability to enjoy beauty again and it is really normal. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are grieving wrong because you are living and living isn’t an easy thing to do and there is no wrong way of grieving.
You still have life to live and I want you to know that within every day that you live, I will be there. You are growing through every day that you walk in your path and I am so proud of your growth. I know that sometimes you feel like the world is passing you by, but even on those days, you really are doing your very best and I think you are pretty amazing. I want nothing in this world from you, but for you to find your smile and do all that makes you happy. Chase your dreams and know that as you do, I am right here at your side. Live your life in honor of me because I live my life through your eyes every day that you live. 
I know you love me and please know how much I love you too. I couldn’t ask for a better parent to share my life with. 

All of my Love,
Your Precious Child In Heaven

LOSING MYSELF

The hardest thing that I ever had to hear was that my child died. The hardest thing I have had to do is continue to live every day since that moment. On that fateful day, I not only lost my daughter, but I lost myself; I was no longer the same person. I was not only mourning the loss of my daughter, but the loss of who I was.

I felt powerless, desperate, hopeless and completely heartbroken. I am by nature a doer, a fixer; if a problem arises, I find a solution, and nothing ever seemed unattainable. Although I faced many challenges that were at times hard to foresee the light at the end of the tunnel, I always persevered and knew resolution was imminent.  I never lost hope because it was always present. I knew that Rachel’s death was something I would not be able to fix and that was the most agonizing feeling.

What was even more difficult was that I never had a real belief or thought much about what happens when we die. Sure, I had those fleeting thoughts about heaven and hell. I always felt that if there was truly a G-D he would recognize the good people and if Heaven existed he would graciously bring us to be with him. I am not at all religious and must say I was not very spiritual either, but I live my life honestly and treat everyone kindly. I am a humanitarian and am genuinely concerned for and about the wellbeing of others. My life has been about helping others and it has been tremendously rewarding. I can recall a few patients I saw in my practice who came to therapy after losing a child. I found myself feeling envious of those who believed their child was in the most beautiful place and felt peace and comfort in knowing that they were with the great almighty G-D. The struggles they were having were not accepting the death of their child, but rather learning to live on this Earth without them. I remember thinking how amazing it must be to have such a strong faith and rather than being angry and bitter, they felt at peace because their child was chosen by G-D to live in eternal bliss.

It was not until Rachel died that I realized the importance of believing in something. After she died, I spent days and nights wondering if she was ok, was she in pain, was she scared, was she sad. The thoughts were debilitating. I am the person who is supposed to protect her and I had no idea where she was. I felt “lost” and panicked. I can honestly say I never really understood the feeling of desperation and heartbreak until Rachel’s death. I began reading books, met with my Rabbi, spoke with psychics and would find myself pleading with Rachel to please let me know she was all right. I found myself sending her messages on her Facebook, posting to her on her page, and even sent her a few emails. Of course I knew that this was extreme, but I desperately needed to connect to her and I just did not know how.

I will always be her mother and never for a moment stop worrying about her.  A mother instinctively protects her child and now, as a grieving mother, all I can do is protect her memories, talk about her to anyone who will listen and simply keep her spirit alive. I never imagined that I would have to live another day on this earth without her since the day she was born. I of course feared it, like most parents do, but it was not something I spent my days worrying about. Ironically, Rachel always worried about me dying. Since she was a young girl, she had a tremendous fear that I was going to die and even at the age of 17, she would call me up just to make sure I was ok. I used to get angry with her, but she would say, “I could not continue to live without you; I need you.”

I still do not have the answers I crave and will never have resolution, but I do have those memories and have come to a place where I am thankful for the 17 years I had with her and feel so lucky to have been chosen to be her mom. I have been keeping myself busy writing this book, setting up a scholarship in her name and establishing Rachel’s Writers, a non-profit foundation encouraging teens to tap into their creativeness, improve their self-esteem and build leadership skills. This foundation will encourage youngsters to dig deep within themselves and gain self-insight through the wonderful gift of writing. (www.Rachelswriters.com)

Rachel’s writings were her therapy and helped her express her feelings and gain insight on what she wanted out of life. She found writing to be a safe and effective tool to express her inner feelings in a manner that allowed her to grow and release her thoughts and feelings.

It is so easy to consume oneself with the grief and sadness, but I do still have two children who need me. I realize they not only lost their sister, but in a sense they lost their mom. I do not laugh as much as I used to, and I cry often, which is something they rarely ever saw me do before. I believe they always viewed me as a “superwoman” and it’s hard for them to see the rawness and pain I am in every day.

So yes, I am not the same, but neither is my life. I will admit that I have learned a lot since Rachel died. I am still not a “religious” person, but I do believe in the afterlife and even reincarnation. I will never feel at peace with her death, but I do believe she is at peace and doing great things, far more important than she could have done here. I am not bitter or angry, just sad. I am changed, yes, but I will not allow this to change my values, morals or ethics. I will still continue to treat people kindly and help anyone I can, because this is who I am, what makes me happy and more importantly, these are qualities Rachel always admired within me. I believe that there is nothing worse than losing your child and in my mind living on Earth without them is the worst kind of HELL I could ever imagine.

How are you Doing?

How are you doing or how do you feel? A question I get asked daily and although I know it is well intended, in all reality it’s kind of a silly question, rite? The truth is I am doing “Shitty’. I cry every day and struggle daily with the constant pain that tugs at my heart, I miss the life I have known for the past 17 years and the mere sight of my daughter doing the simplest of things, such as leaving her dirty dish on the kitchen counter or making her lunch. I have lost part of me, it’s gone and I say lost because I do not really know exactly where it is, except that its with her. I spend my days reflecting a lot and even with all this pain and suffering I acknowledge and am so very thankful that I have my other kids and realize that she took part of them with her as well. Life often challenges us in many ways such as having your first child. Yes of course there are trillions of books to help the “new parent” learn what to do, but like most things in life we learn and do things differently than others because what works for one person, will not work for another. The experience is fun, scary, exciting and exhausting, but the rewards are endless as we learn from our tiny little child how to become a parent and step in the role of mom and dad. Well losing a child, is the worse thing ever and like everything else, there are books on the stages of grieving, what to expect, validating that it’s ok to feel a certain way Blah, Blah, Blah. No one knows your child like you do, the relationship that you had with them, the things they would do that always made you smile or on the other hand those thing that would drive you nuts. This is a tragedy of the worst kind, one I sincerely hope no one has to ever go through. I had someone say to me “I have no words, I cannot begin to even imagine what your days are like and I am so thankful that this is not my life” So It sounds harsh to some maybe, but this person said what everyone else feels and that’s ok. It is Ok to feel relieved and thankful that this is not your life, i am thankful that this is not your life as well. I hate that it’s mine, but it is. 
So I have been keeping busy doing what I call “The Rachel Projects”, I have published one book of her original quotes and am getting ready to publish the second book with her writings and how they impacted and helped me begin to heal. I have two scholarships in her name, benches in her honor around town and other things to help me keep her alive as I possibly can.

My point of all this is that even though she is no longer here, I continue to learn from her and she continues to teach me how to be a good mom, encourages me to keep the strength she always said she admired about me and to realize that even in a shit storm where you are feeling powerless and hopeless, there are moments that are not as intense or scary or emotionally debilitating and it’s okay to embrace those moments when you can. My new norm sucks, I will no longer have my three kids together ever again or be able to hug or kiss her again or see her graduate, go to college… This has changed me, I do not laugh as much as I normally do, I am not bitter, but there is a darkness that was not there before and I am sad and feel as if I am being physically weighted down at times. All of this sucks and I hate it, but this my new norm. So as i said I continue to learn from her and as I was looking at some of her writings and came across this one, I in a way felt as if she was saying, yup this totally sucks and i know your sad and feel lost, but not ALL the time, so during those times choose to embrace them. That it’s ok to smile or laugh, that I have a choice to always stay in the darkness or when the darkness is lifted momentarily to embrace it and smile wide trying to recall her presence and the beautiful essence of her, rather than only focusing on the absence of her. She is still my daughter who I love just as much as I always have and I hope to continue to learn from her through her gift of writing as I continue to go through them. Its hard to feel anything other than Pride when it comes to how I feel about my daughter, she was exceptional in so many ways, some that are just being revealed now. 

Here is the Poem I was talking about:

“Each Morning we are awake, We are faced with a choice
To either make the day beautiful or Bad, To smile wide and forget the bitter, putting what’s negative aside or just choosing to be a quitter. You see each day brings new chances to learn and grow and be a better you, something I think we all forget to do. So just remember the choice is yours and no one or nothing can take that choice away” -Rachel Rosoff