anxiety

If only I could.

It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.

– Mandy Hale

I’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week now. If I’m being honest, I’ve just been struggling.

Life is hard. I feel like we’re always told that, but I guess I’m just feeling it a little extra. I just really wish I could have Kellan back, and I can’t. I think about it every single day, at least once per hour.

One stage of grief that doesn’t exist in the normal “stages” is anxiety. The amount of anxiety I’m feeling in regards to certain situations has been something I’ve never dealt with before. Anxiety is hard to deal with.

When the snowstorm hit a week and a half ago, the hockey team’s bus Scott was on, had to turn around 30 minutes outside of town. The idea of him going back on the road in bad weather made me physically ill, and I honestly freaked out. I couldn’t let it go, I was inconsolable. I was terrified at the idea of losing him, and so I lost it. Several times.

This was the first time in the 10 years we’ve been together that I’ve done this, and I pray it’s the last. I have a feeling it won’t be, and I feel so bad for him having to deal with me. But I can’t help it. I’m so scared.

I also get terrible anxiety about my parents and the idea of losing them. I worry every single day about it. It’s a horrible feeling and I hate it. But I can’t help it, I am legitimately terrified. Just the idea of having to deal with another tragedy of that magnitude is almost as devastating to me as Kellan’s death. I absolutely cannot do it.

And I feel crazy. I realize I’m being unreasonable. I know I can’t logically control the weather that Scott is traveling through, or protect him and my parents at all times. But I wish I could. It gives me such extreme anxiety. It’s horrible.

I think because I couldn’t control what happened to Kellan, or keep him safe – I am fighting with my own brain over the idea of keeping my loved ones around me safe. When I can’t get a hold of one of them, even if I think I know where they are, I freak out inside and my mind goes wild.

Nobody told me it would be like this. The stages of grief are for sure missing some stages.

I realize that I have to continue to fight through my anxiety and fear, and I will. I also realize that there are things that happen that are out of my control, but I guess that’s what’s scary. And I just have to accept it. But it’s easier said than done.

I’m for sure a work in progress.

I have come to find that we are living in a world of harsh people. We want others to move on and get over things, without understanding that people heal differently. We subconsciously put these time stamps on different life events, and think that because it’s been months or years since an event happened, that people should be over it.

We all have grief over things that happen to us. The death of a child, a loved one, a pet. The loss of a job, the ending of friendship, a breakup, a divorce. We all have to take time to heal, and no one has the right to tell you how long it should take you to heal. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel that you should “get over it or move on”. Most times we don’t move on anyway, we move forward.

It’s been 3 months, 19 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes, 8 seconds since my sweet little boy Kellan Albert Langer died.

111 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 8 seconds.

2674 hours.

160,477 minutes.

9,628,628 seconds.

It still hurts the exact same. I can feel it in my soul, like the pain is forever burned into to.

So the next time you expect yourself, or someone else to “move on or get over” something, just stop. I’ve learned through my healing process – one type of tragedy is not more deserving of healing time than another. We shouldn’t compare ourselves or our situations to others like they’re the same. We each deserve whatever time we need to grieve, however we need it.

Every time I meet someone who has gone through something and they’re grieving, they almost always tell me it’s not as bad as what I’m going through. I always try to stop them, and give them love. While the situations aren’t usually the same, they have every right to grieve too, and I tell them that. We all need love.

We as humans deserve better when it comes to our mental health.

It’s okay to be sad, or mad, or hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to get counseling. It’s okay to take time to heal. Always remember that.

And if someone is being mean to you for grieving when they think “you should be over it”, try removing them from your life for a bit – I bet you won’t miss them. And if you’re frustrated with someone for grieving the way they are, just try to understand that they handle things differently than you – and that’s okay. Try to give them love.

And now to end on something more positive. #KellanKares has been absolutely incredible. I truly believe we are changing lives and making a difference.

The amount of texts, pictures, and love shared with me has been special. It’s remarkable that we can take such a tragic situation and spread love and kindness. It’s what Kellan deserves and I am forever thankful I get to do this for my little boy.

Also in great news: I met Erin Ballard! If you missed my blog post that was motivated by her strength, here’s the link: https://strengthingrief.com/2019/08/02/today-was-a-good-day/

She works for the Aberdeen American News and is writing a story on #KellanKares! I am so very excited to read her words about what we’re doing. Erin is an incredible woman, and I admire her so much. I truly believe she was placed in my life, and I am so thankful to know her. Erin Ballard, you rock.

I will continue to do Random Acts of Kindness for Kellan, especially for the rest of the month. I want to thank everyone who has done them, those of you who inspire others to do them, and those of you who continue to do them. Here’s a video my friend Katie made of all of the acts, and we’ll update it at the end of the month: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOQbDMaNc2I&feature=youtu.be

The impact on the world is huge, and it is so wonderful to know it is inspired by my little boy. While I am forever grateful to be able to make these huge impacts – I would give it up, all of it. I would give up the world and everything I have to bring Kellan back.

So hug your loved ones a little tighter, and remember how fortunate you are to have them with you. I would hold Kellan forever. If only I could.

random acts

Kellan Kares….

And sometimes, against all odds, against all logic, we still hope.” 

– Unknown

Don’t worry….this post has a happy ending. But to say this past week was rough would be an real understatement.

It started out Monday with a call from the hospital billing department. I had asked them for help trying to understand my bill, because it didn’t match with what my insurance had sent me. They told me I would need to sit down at the hospital with a “patient advocate” and go line by line with them so they could explain it to me.

Oh joy, just what I wanted to do….can’t wait for that.

Monday just continued to be one of those days. Gut punch after gut punch. That’s what I call it when something happens that hurts Scott or I. It feels like we get punched in the gut. A comment, a picture we see, or maybe a song. Sometimes it happens several times a day. We never know when it’s coming, but we do know that the best thing we can do after a gut punch is continue to move forward. So we do.

Scott and I live our lives and appear so normal to people, but we struggle. I honestly think that’s one of the hardest parts of the gut punches. We do our best to look and act as though our lives are the way they’ve always been…because what else are we supposed to do? Our new version of a “great day”, is just an “okay day”. And that’s just how it is.

So then Tuesday and Wednesday came, and they were okay days. I got things accomplished. I was really looking forward to the weekend. An event I have awaiting for weeks was taking place, the Mothers of Angels Remembrance Walk, and I was asked to lead the walk. I was so incredibly honored. Scott would be out of town for hockey in Minot, so my friends from KC were coming into town to support and walk with me. I finally let myself be truly excited for something.

Then, South Dakota weather happened. Snow. Ice. Wind.

Every single thing I’d been looking forward to for the weekend was cancelled. My friends had to cancel their trip, the walk was potentially getting cancelled, and my gut was punched real hard. I finally let myself get excited for something, and yet again, it ended up not working out. I cried in Scott’s arms before he had to leave for hockey. The feeling of being let down over and over just really hurt.

Scott’s hockey games in Minot ended up getting cancelled. They got 30 minutes outside of town and turned around. Turns out, the weather in North Dakota was even more crazy than ours. I’ll talk about my newfound anxiety over him traveling in another post later this week….boy was I surprised at that stage of grief they don’t tell you about.

Needless to say, the weekend did not turn out as the amazing, exciting weekend that I had planned. It was nothing like I had imagined for the last few weeks. But as I look back and reflect, some really good things happened, and I should be grateful. I had my husband home safe with me, I got to work in my store that was busy with lots of new customers, and we got to eat dinner with my parents each night. Oh, and the walk didn’t get cancelled, just postponed – to a weekend that Scott will be home for.

I also got two unexpected surprises this weekend. The first was from Casey – a coffee cup to remind me she loves me, and a necklace with Kellan’s handprint & name….on the state of South Dakota…with his birthstone where Aberdeen is. It is incredible. I cried.

My good friends from Topeka, Katie and David, made me cry again (this used to not be an easy thing to do). They created Random Acts of Kindness Cards for Kellan. Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE doing Random Acts of Kindness. To be honest, it could be my most favorite thing to do in my life. For my birthday this year, I did 33 Random Acts of Kindness in memory of Blake Cazier. And right after Kellan died, doing Random Acts of Kindness were one thing that helped me get out of bed each day.

I had planned to do acts on the 15th, as it’s Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. But to have these little cards, with Kellan’s name and a hashtag associated to them so I can follow the different acts, made it so incredible for me.

I decided, why wait until the 15th? It’s a remembrance month as well, so I started today. I did 6 Random Acts of Kindness to spread awareness in remembrance of my little boy. What an unbelievable feeling. I like to think of it as the reverse gut punch.

My 6 RAOK spread throughout Aberdeen!

Will you join me in spreading love, as well as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, with Random Acts of Kindness for Kellan? Below are the cards you can print to give with your Random Act, and then comment on this post with a picture to spread awareness & share with me! You can also post on social media with the hashtag #KellanKares – it will be amazing to see who we reach! The idea that my son will inspire people to do wonderful things for others, inspires me even more.

I can’t even explain what this means to me. If Kellan was here, I would do my best to show him how to give back. And so I know in my heart, this means the world to him too. Kellan Kares….

the baby shower

I’m okay – and that’s okay.

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.

-Kenji Miyazawa

The past week has been a rollercoaster. Actually, every week is a rollercoaster. I think my life will probably always be like that…hopefully just smaller climbs and drops as time moves forward?

I love real rollercoasters – but life rollercoasters are the worst.

Scott left town this weekend for hockey, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get done. It would be a busy weekend at my store, but I also wanted to decorate the house for fall. Scott has been asking me if I was going to. I have always loved decorating my home, and now that we finally have our own home again – I think he was looking forward to it.

But I just haven’t been looking forward to it. I anticipate that the holidays are going to really suck this year. I’m not sure they will suck anymore than a typical bad day though. I’ll let you know, verdicts still out.

There was one other thing I needed to do this weekend, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accomplish the task: go to my friend’s baby shower.

I know, I know – it’s perfectly acceptable for me not to go. No one in their right mind would ever expect me to be there. I sent a gift ahead of time, just in case I couldn’t do it. But ever since I got the invite (I was asked before they sent it, which I genuinely appreciated), I knew that I wanted to try. I needed to try. I wanted to show my love and support for this friend of mine, and equally important, I wanted to conquer this task for myself.

Saturday was a busy day. I had to be up at 5:45 am to help my friend with a wedding, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I then had to be at my store to work at noon. The baby shower was perfectly in the middle at 10 am. I decided that if the wedding event ended early enough, then it would be a sign. I would attempt to go to the shower.

The wedding event ended at 9:45.

I spent the next 20 minutes talking myself in and out of going as I drove to the venue. I cried and cried and cried. I was so conflicted. I was in so much pain thinking of my own baby shower and Kellan, but I was also in pain thinking of not going. If I don’t try something, I dwell on it all day and usually for a few days after. I wonder if I could have done it, regret not trying, and fixate on it. If I try and fail, at least I know I tried and what my limits are. I had to try.

When I got to the venue, I sat in my car and tried to pump myself up. As I walked up to the place I could feel the tears burning in my eyes. I tried, but I couldn’t stop them from rolling down my face. Thank God I was late and no one was around.

I opened the door and had to sit in the lobby. I was trying to compose myself. Trying to change my mindset. This was way more difficult then I had anticipated. It’s a weird feeling to explain. I wasn’t even thinking about my previous baby showers, or that the last one I had been to was for Kellan. I was thinking about how Kellan should be with me at this event.

I realized it wasn’t the baby shower that was the issue – it was the fact that it was an event I was supposed to have my baby at with me. This wasn’t the first time I have experienced this, and it won’t be the last. But I think it was the first time I actually realized why I was feeling the way I was. It’s so painful to feel, but I’m proud of myself for working through the pain and pinpointing what’s causing my emotions.

Thank God for good people surrounding me. I text my friend (who was also at the party) that I needed to sit in the lobby for a minute before I walked down. About a minute later she appeared. I lost it. I cried, and she sat with me. And then I stood up, wiped my eyes and face, and we walked into the party together.

The room was completely full. I held my head high and walked with my friend to her table. If you asked me who was at the party, I couldn’t tell you. I was there for 2 people. The mom-to-be, and myself. I lasted for about 25 minutes. I took a picture with her, wrote a note with it, and chatted with the people at my table. Before they opened gifts, I decided to leave. My heart couldn’t handle that today, and I knew it.

As I walked to my car I couldn’t help but smile. I did it. And I went on to have a great day.

Had I not at least tried to go to that baby shower, my day would have been filled with thoughts of it. And regret. And I would have wondered if I could have done it. And now I know, I could and I did. It wasn’t a little thing – it was a huge thing. It was incredibly hard, but I conquered it.

Later that day, the mom-to-be text me and thanked me for coming. She knew how hard it was for me, and it meant a lot to her that I was there. It meant a lot to me to be there for her. I know my son died and I have every right to not attend things, but if I get the opportunity to spread love to others, even in a little way, I want to.

My last customer on Saturday was a woman who came in to make a quick project. We got to talking and she noticed the KAL sticker I had on my phone. She asked me what it was for, and I explained it to her. We began to talk a little about Kellan, and she shared stories with me as well. I told her, that I was okay and I think that’s all I’ll ever be. I’m not sure I will ever think my life is great again, but it’s okay and I’m okay.

I spent the rest of my weekend decorating and cleaning the house to surprise Scott. As I went to different stores and walked the aisles, I couldn’t help but wonder what my house would look like if Kellan was alive. What decor I would have picked, what outfits he would wear? It hurt my heart, but I did it. The last decor item I found was a little metal tricycle with a basket. I loved it and thought I could use it throughout the year for each season or holiday.

As I got home and put all of my items around the house, I loved how it pulled together. The little trike sat on the floor next to our tv stand, it’s basket filled with fall gourds. I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing but I wasn’t sure what.

Scott loved the decor. As we stood and looked at it, without me saying a word, he randomly grabbed something to add to the trike. Of course my husband found the perfect missing item to finish off what I couldn’t: his Kellan bear.

It was complete. We can’t have our son with us here on this earth, but we can still include him in our lives. I am so thankful for that.

It was a great moment when Scott did that. And as I think back to it, I can’t help but go back to my conversation with the woman at my store. I told her I was okay, and that I think it’s all I’ll ever be. I think I was right, I know I’ll have great moments in my life, happy moments will also occur. But I’ll just be “okay” for the rest of my life.

And after what I’ve been through, and the pain and despair I’ve felt, I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m proud of where I am.

I’m okay – and that’s okay.

a month at work

And I am a warrior.

Grief is exhausting.

-Ciaran Hinds

Well, I survived an entire month back at work. It was challenging. Some days I’d drive all the way to a town and then walk around mindlessly. Other days, I’d absolutely slay the day.

Honestly, it’s been a good balance. Overall, I am proud of myself. I have to make the choice to get up every day, and I am.

I almost quit my job in the first 2 weeks after Kellan died. I was scared to go back and instead of dealing with it, I just wanted to quit. Thank God I didn’t do that.

I often wonder how many people do quit their jobs out of fear.

It is SCARY to go back to work. The fear of crying while working, the exhaustion of trying to stay focused, the pain of seeing unexpected triggers. My heart goes out to those parents who are expected to return to work quickly after losing their child. I was incredibly fortunate, and was allowed to take as much time as I needed.

The first 2 weeks of the month was rough. I had just gotten back from Russia, and I was trying to navigate how to acclimate myself to Aberdeen and work again. Part of my job is visiting with different businesses in my territory. That’s the scary part – people knew I was pregnant. People are going to ask about my baby.

I have to mentally prepare myself each day to answer questions about Kellan. And to tell multiple people each day that my son is dead. I literally save all of my energy for these moments, because it’s physically exhausting. But it’s part of the process and I am doing it. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don’t.

There are some days that I willingly bring up Kellan and want to talk about him. It just depends on the moment honestly.

The last week of the month, I had one of my toughest days. I drove to a town about 110 miles away, and tried my best. I got a few things checked off my list and decided to head to another town 20 miles away. When I arrived, I saw an adorable little boy who was probably 2, playing outside of a business digging a hole. He was precious.

I walked inside and talked with his mom a bit. I made a comment about him digging the hole and how happy he was. She laughed and said something about telling him to go play in the street.

I laughed with her.

But inside I was screaming. Her comment absolutely tore me apart. It was a joke, I knew that. A joking comment, that in the past I would have genuinely laughed at. This time, it ended my work day in an instant. Instead of continuing to work, I got in my car and drove home. I cried on and off for the entire 90 miles.

We really don’t know the impact of our words on others sometimes.

The next day, I had one of the best days of my month. A co-worker came and road along with me for the day. We had an awesome time together. I had some great meetings – the day flew by with lots of laughs and productive fun. I worked from 7am to 7pm that day. It was fabulous and I felt like me.

The reality is – unless you have a lifestyle that allows you to not work again, you’ll have to return. The bills have to be paid, and paid time off runs out eventually. The return will be full of ups and downs, just like everyday life. What blows my mind, is that a lot of jobs don’t offer bereavement leave.

Why? I literally have no clue.

To expect a person can go through a traumatic event and then perform their job immediately after is truly ludicrous. Does it happen? Yes – my husband is a great example. Some people need to go back to work and have their routine back. But others need time to process what happened, and figure out how to navigate back into the world. That was me.

For an employer, I think allowing your employee to ease back into work is crucial. If they’re ready to dive in, let them. If they need to tip toe into the job, that’s ok too. Forcing a return after a certain amount of time is rough. There’s no possible way for a person to force their mind to focus. Be supportive, check-in, ask them where they feel they’re at in the process. Tell them it’s ok to be honest. Let them do what they can, when they can. Be sure they understand their job is not at risk (but only if it’s truly not). Listen to them. Help them.

For co-workers, the best thing you can do is be understanding and step up in your co-workers absence. Let them know you have their back. Offer to help when you can. Make sure they know it’s ok to not be ok. Send positive thoughts and encouragement. Listen to them when they need to talk. Even if they don’t respond when you reach out, it’s ok to reach out and let them know you are there. They are scared.

Those around my job were and continue to be incredible, and for that I can’t thank them enough. I only wish that every person going through a tragic loss could have the same support. It is truly sad to think that many parents don’t get the healing time that they need.

So if you’re an employer and reading this – please remember my words if you are ever faced with this situation. Read back through my journey and try to understand what proper time off can do for someone going through a trauma. You have the ability to make a huge difference in your employee’s healing process & life.

I survived a month back at work. And tomorrow I will start another. I did it, and I will do it again. I may be exhausted, but it’s a part of my healing. It’s part of who I am now. And I am a warrior.

awareness

Let’s do this together – one story at a time.

It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.

– Patti Davis

It still feels so strange living my life without Kellan. I was so unsure of what my life would be like with him, and now I will never know.

Sometimes when I hold my dog Sophie, or talk to her like she’s an actual human, I wonder if this is what it would be like to have Kellan. That’s a lie, I don’t do this sometimes – I do it all the time. I wonder if when people watch me with Sophie, they think of Kellan too.

I still can’t even think about holding a baby. It’s painful to think about. I actually never want to hold another baby again. Thoughts like this make me realize my new normal is very different.

There have been a few people that have asked me how my husband is doing throughout this process (and I’m sure a lot more wondering that haven’t asked). He’s someone who is much more private, but I think it’s important to talk about his journey as well. It goes hand in hand with mine.

The first week for Scott was incredibly hard. I was honestly really scared, because I wasn’t sure how either of us would ever recover. I needed him to feel better just as much as I wanted to feel better. His main hockey camp was the week after Kellan died, and I know people wondered if he would go. But honestly, it was exactly what he needed to help begin moving forward. I went with him, and it was exactly what we both needed. That feels like an eternity ago.

Days were worse for Scott, and nights were worse for me. I was so scared to dream of Kellan. Scott text me every single morning to ask what I was doing for the day. I know he was just making sure that I got out of bed. I’m so thankful for him doing that. He is a huge reason I got out of bed. He still is.

I remember telling our counselor that I was jealous of him at one point, because it felt like he handled it all so much better than me. But the grief process is different for everyone, and that’s alright. We each have our own moments of struggle, our own triggers. I will say though, I think Scott handles all adversity and struggle with grace and remarkable tenacity. I admire him so much.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 11 weeks. One thing I’ve found is there are many people who have gone through the loss of a child. When I was pregnant with Kellan, a girl I knew from college lost her baby when she was around 15 weeks pregnant. She made a post on social media talking about it.

I remember thinking that I would never know how it felt to go through what she went through during pregnancy. I didn’t plan on having more than 1 child, and I realized that I would never understand the grief a woman felt when learning her baby had died inside her. I was so thankful for my healthy baby, and so sad for her.

While reading her words, I thought about each of the people in my life that I knew had lost a child. I thought of the many miscarriages, the infant loss, and the children others have lost. I never wanted anything to ever happen to Kellan, and I remember being scared for after he was born. I did not want to know that pain, and I knew that I was incredibly fortunate to have never felt it.

Little did I know, I was also incredibly naive. I would soon understand this pain.

When I read her post, I thought about how brave and open she was. Not many people talk openly about their experience with loss. They deal with it privately. I am now thankful the death of Kellan was so public. It has helped me to acknowledge what happened and be open. Let’s start talking about this tragic and horrible reality.

After Kellan’s death, many people have opened up and shared their losses with Scott & I both. There have been many stories and I had no clue how many people around me had experienced loss. While the stories are all unique in their own way, they are all relatable. The most eye opening thing I’ve realized looking back, is that we don’t talk about pregnancy and infant loss openly. But why? Because it’s uncomfortable and horrific to think about.

Miscarriage happens. Stillbirth happens. Infant death happens. It happens more than we even realize. And it’s absolutely tragic whether we talk about it or not. So why not talk about it? Why do we not discuss the big elephant in the room? If it happens so much, why is it such a hush hush topic? Let’s talk about it.

I refuse to be ashamed of what happened to me, or to just pretend like all is well. I am okay, because I am choosing to actively be okay. Every single day I make the choice to wake up and live. I ride a rollercoaster of emotions hourly. And that’s okay. That is my okay. My new normal.

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. A month that I didn’t acknowledge or appreciate like I should have before. I ask each of you reading this – can we please talk about it? Can we not be scared and afraid? More importantly, can we not pretend like this doesn’t happen?

I am going to do all I can to bring awareness to this very real and sadly common tragedy. I am going to talk about it, I am going to be open about my struggles, and I am going to be honest. I hope that by doing this, I give others strength to do the same.

So I ask, if you’re reading this and you have been through a loss of your own, or you know someone who has been through a loss – if you can find the courage, will you share your story? Share you story with those who love you; share your story when you feel compelled to those around you; share your story with the world.

If you can’t tell your story, or maybe you’re fortunate enough to not have one – share my story. Or share them both. Share my blog.

Let’s start talking about this. We need to change the stigma around pregnancy and infant loss. And I am going to do all I can to help. Kellan deserves his story to be told. It is a heartbreaking story, but it is real. He was stillborn, but he was still born. And he was perfect.

I want moms and dads to know they are not alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, family & friends to know – you are not alone.

Let’s do this together – one story at a time.

the new normal

And let me tell you, it’s not easy – but I’m doing it.

“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.”

-Keanu Reeves

This time of my life is very strange. I suppose if I had to fit it into one of the stages of grief, you could call it “acceptance”. Except I never felt as though I didn’t accept Kellan’s death. It’s just a very weird feeling.

I guess I am living my “new normal”.

My husband left today for Blaine, Minnesota for the NAHL Showcase Tournament. It’s my favorite tournament, and one I attend every season. This year, I was extra excited about going. About getting to bring Kellan. Starting his tradition of being there every year.

After he died, I didn’t want to go anymore. I wasn’t sure I could face it. But I am going. I can’t stop doing everything I love because the tasks are hard. I can do it. It will be a situation where I wonder who knows and who doesn’t. I will be unsure if people are talking about me, or maybe they’ll have no clue. It will be scary and will take all of my energy to get through the day. But I will do it. I can do it.

Sometimes I can talk about Kellan without missing a beat. It’s almost like he’s alive and I’m just talking about my baby at home. And sometimes I can barely choke his name out. No matter how I am, it’s agonizing either way. But I want to talk about him. He needs to be talked about. He deserves it.

Please, if I talk about my baby with you, listen to me. Feel free to ask me questions and engage with me. If I am talking about him, I feel safe and I want to share him with you. Never think you’re making me feel uncomfortable talking about my son. If I cry, it’s ok. If you cry, it’s ok. If I change the subject or can’t talk about him in that moment, I will tell you. Just roll with it. I’m trying to figure it all out. I still don’t know how to navigate it all. Just know, I can usually talk about Kellan. I need to talk about him, even when it hurts.

I’m a work in progress, that’s for sure. But at least I’m working on it.

My mom asked me tonight how I handle it all throughout the day. How do I do it? I told her sometimes I feel like a robot. I’m just going through the motions and trying to eliminate my sadness to power through what I have to get done. Sometimes I think when I talk to people for the first time about Kellan, they have it harder than I do. I’ve been dealing with this everyday for the last 10.5 weeks, but they have to figure out how to handle me and their emotions in the moment. I’m sure it’s not easy.

I got one of the most remarkable gifts I’ve ever received in my life this past weekend. My co-worker offered to get a Kendal Bear made for me. I wasn’t sure what the bear was about, until the story was shared with me.

The original Kendal Bear was made to honor and remember Kendal Mae Breyfogle. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) was the monster that took her from this world in September of 2017. The bear was made with her favorite things. Her favorite outfits, her lovey, even a piece of the dress she was laid to rest in. She is traveling thru life alongside her twin sister, siblings and parents.

Since then, the creator Rebecca has been asked to create many more Bears. You can learn more about Rebecca and her Kendal Bears by following her blog: https://kendalbear.home.blog/2019/08/22/welcome-to-my-blog/

When I learned exactly how special these bears were, I was so honored to be able to have one. I was unsure how I’d ever narrow down Kellan’s outfits to fit just one bear, and I knew a few other loved ones that may just need a bear for themselves. So I asked Rebecca if I could possibly purchase a few more bears….5 to be exact. And she said yes!

To my surprise, my co-worker and her family ended up purchasing all five bears for me. It was an overwhelming feeling. I am so loved. Kellan is so loved. Introducing my amazing, special, perfect, beautiful Kellan Kendal Bears:

Kellan’s outfits picked with love, sewn together with love, for those who love him.

I can’t explain what these bears mean to me. I have slept with my bear every single night since I have gotten him. What a special and priceless item. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, these bears make the most precious gift. It took me a while to be able to go through his outfits and put them together, but I am forever thankful I did. I just love them all so much.

Thank you Rebecca for what you do, and thank you Carrie for doing this for me. They are priceless. While I would give anything to hold my sweet Kellan again, these bears give me a tiny piece of that back. I will forever cherish them.

So I guess that’s where I’m at. In this weird phase of grief that I don’t really understand. Not like I’ve ever really understood any of it. I feel like I’m kind of at a stand still. I can’t decide if this is just what my new normal will feel like, or if it will get better. Or maybe it could get worse? That’s scary to think about, but I’ve accepted it’s a possibility. I suppose we will see.

For now, I’ll just keep pushing forward. Do my best.

I am very proud of myself for where I am today. I am living my new normal. I am living my truth. And let me tell you, it’s not easy – but I’m doing it.

to my son

P.S. Thank you again for choosing me.

“No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye, you were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.”

– Unknown

Dear Kellan,

The day I lost you, was the worst day of my life. Thinking about it hurts almost as badly as living it. But I have to think about it, because I want to remember you. I will always remember you.

We went into a routine 36 week appointment to see you. I remember thinking I wanted to get a good profile picture of you. It turns out, I was going to see your beautiful face just 24 hours later. I was going to get to hold you. And then I was going to have to say goodbye to you forever.

I had just had a baby shower for you 3 days before. We celebrated you. You were gifted the most beautiful items and books. You were so loved my sweet Kellan. You are still so loved.

I remember hearing my doctor tell me to turn to my side when she was trying to find your heartbeat at the end of the appointment. I knew you were gone. I could tell. It was the worst feeling in the world. I could feel my heart shatter into a million pieces.

I was so sad. Sad for me, sad for your dad, sad for your grandparents. I was so sad for everyone. I am still so sad. I am mostly sad for the life you don’t get to live. The amazing life we had all dreamed for you. Kellan, you were going to have the best life. I know you have an amazing life in Heaven now. The best life. But I selfishly want you here. I can’t help it.

I remember hearing the doctor go over the steps we would be taking next, and getting a purple folder that talked about bereavement. The worst part was calling your grandparents. I hated that part so much Kellan. I can still hear their voices. My heart still breaks thinking of their hearts breaking.

I remember thinking as it was all happening that I wanted to stop it all. I wanted to freeze time so I could just think and try to understand. I just needed time. To try and stop it. I remember also wishing time would speed up so it would all be over with. I was so lost Kellan. I still feel lost some days.

There were so many moments I remember wishing I could go back 24 hours. Maybe there was some kind of sign I could have looked for, some kind of warning. I wanted so badly Kellan to give you life again. To feel you move. I just love you so much. If only love was enough.

I truly did not embrace my pregnancy with you like I should have. I was annoyed that I couldn’t eat certain things, and frustrated about the Gestational Diabetes. I missed wine, and I was embarrassed by how my clothes fit. I missed my favorite leather pants. And then I lost it all so suddenly, and I hated myself for ever feeling that way.

Kellan, I hated myself so much. I hated my body for failing me. For failing you. I am getting better at forgiving myself. But I still have my days. I just want you so badly still. It hurts so much missing you the way I do.

The day I lost you I woke up late. I had to rush around to get to the doctor in time. I had no idea that you were gone. I had no idea that I would hold you so soon. You were so perfect. I hope you know how perfect you are.

I wish I could hold you again.

The day I lost you will forever be engraved in my mind. Every single moment, every single aspect, every single feeling. I will never forget, I promise you. I wrote every detail down, so that even someday when I am gone, the story is written. Your story.

I heard something a few weeks ago that made me so happy. A friend told me that you chose me to be your mom. You chose me. And now as your mom, I get to make you proud. I love thinking about you choosing me to be your mom. Thank you for choosing me.

I have created a lot of things in this world. Things I am incredibly proud of. But you, my sweet Kellan, are the greatest thing I have ever created. I am so proud to be your mommy.

The day I lost you changed my entire world. It changed the way I look at the world, the way I handle situations, and even the people I have in my life. The day I lost you started the first day of having to live the rest of my life without you. A life I never knew was possible. A life I never wanted to know.

I thought I would forever hate the day I lost you, but I won’t. I refuse to hate anything associated with you Kellan. I will celebrate you, I will remember you, and I will spread love for you. You chose me as your mom to make your mark in this world, and I promise you I will.

I will never understand why I lost you. I will forever love you.

Love, Your Mom

P.S. Thank you again for choosing me.

anger

I am different now. I am a survivor.

“Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. ” 

― Stephen Kendrick

The 5 stages of grief is so interesting. It’s also so very misunderstood.

I just recently purchased a book called “The Grief Recovery Handbook”. It’s a program that was suggested to me, and I’m looking forward to starting it. I plan on writing about it in the future, but for those wanting to see it now, here’s the link to it: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061686077/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Before I start the program, I thought I’d reflect back on a stage of grief it feels like I keep going back to: anger.

When you hear about the anger phase, you immediately assume the anger is going to be about the situation at hand. The death of Kellan. The fact that I carried my son for 36 weeks and had a lifetime of hopes and dreams for him that will never happen. But I’m not angry that Kellan died. I’m sad. I’m devastated. I’m heartbroken. I recognize that.

While I’m not angry about Kellan’s death, I am still angry. I’m angry at the selfish and thoughtless people around me. That’s who I’m angry at. The people who I thought cared and loved me, who then showed their cards in the worst moments of my life. When they say you find out who you friends are, they aren’t lying.

And it makes me angry. And then I get angry with myself that I waste energy on people who don’t deserve it. I just didn’t realize that I would feel this way. So betrayed. So disappointed in others. So confused and lost that I didn’t realize I meant so little to those who meant so much to me.

The selfishness others display is mind-boggling. Maybe they don’t realize they are being selfish? Maybe they don’t care. I suppose in some crazy world maybe one could think that 9 weeks is enough time for me to have moved forward and to be ok. Every single thing that is said to me SHOULD be done with thought, love, and care. But it’s not.

I have to try and remember, people are selfish. They will do what is best for them when it comes down to it. It still makes me angry.

The most insane part to me, is when those who know they hurt or harm me, play the victim. Then they move forward with their lives like everything is completely normal and they did nothing wrong. Like our friendship never existed; I’m just another person existing in the world. It disgusts me.

Sometimes it feels like things are intentionally said or done by others to purposely hurt me. I truly hope I’m wrong about this, and it’s just my head lying to me. I feel like I’ve already been hurt enough to last a lifetime.

It’s a tough lesson in life when you lose a child. Probably the toughest lesson in any lifetime. A lesson in how precious life is. A lesson about who you are. A lesson about who others are. These things I never knew I’d have to learn the hard way. It sucks. It’s my reality.

I’ve always thought of myself as a person who can read people and circumstances really well. My gut is rarely wrong. This can be rough on me, because I know right away my gut feeling on a situation or person. But your gut doesn’t take into account when a trauma occurs, how others might be. My gut didn’t warn me. I didn’t see any of this coming.

I don’t write about this anger to be a victim or to get pity from others. I am not a victim. I got handed several horrible situations in a very short time, and I am dealing with them and navigating them the best I can. I’ll leave the victim status to the selfish ones. I’m in fact a survivor.

I’m a survivor of loss. I’m a survivor of pain. I’m a survivor of selfish actions. I will survive.

I truly hope this post helps you if you are reading it, and you know someone going through a loss of any kind. I hope it helps you to understand what that person may be feeling. I hope it helps you understand to approach the person with care, with love, and with selflessness when possible. Your actions and words matter – both good and bad. Even if they aren’t your best friend or you aren’t overly close to them. You can be a painful person in their life, or you can be a hero. The choice is yours. Help them survive.

The anger phase is very real, but it isn’t how it appears. Anger can appear in many different ways, and it’s hard to process. The most enlightening aspect of anger? It’s mostly pain, disappointment, and a broken heart, that is being masked with anger.

I’ve talked about this before: I’m not sure I’m actually angry. I am devastated. I am heartbroken. And it’s so much easier to be angry than to feel those emotions. So much easier to be angry than to admit that others have caused me such pain. Maybe that’s what the anger phase is actually all about?

My son died 9 weeks ago, and it truly feels like other parts of my life continue to die. But I am going to force myself to look at the bigger picture. To embrace the endings. I am strong and I will create beauty out of this horrible mess. I will make a difference in other’s lives. I will continue to be a good friend, and do for others whenever I can. I will love with all that is left of my broken heart.

Most importantly: I will do my best to let go of my anger. It is not worth the energy, and it does not help or benefit me in any way. I know this.

I am different now. I am a survivor.

back from the ussr

I will forever miss you Kellan.

“Just because someone carries it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.”

-Unknown

I survived 8 whole days in Russia. Oh, and 47 hours of travel…that I did alone. It was such an incredible experience, and I’m beyond grateful I was able to go. So thankful I could support my husband on his first international coaching gig.

I had planned to write while I was there, but once I arrived, I decided to disconnect and just live.

When I landed in Moscow, the customs line was insane. There were at least 500 people waiting to go through, and I had a little over an hour to get through, find my bag, get it re-checked, get back through security, and make my flight. My solution? I went to the empty Diplomat line…asked for help, and called myself a Stupid American for messing up. It worked – go me.

I mean I was technically the official coach’s wife for the United States team? I consider that a Diplomat.

I proceeded to walk through the very confusing airport like a lost toddler looking for their family. It was then I discovered the language barrier might be more difficult than I anticipated. After getting lost several times, leaving my credit cards behind at the ticket counter, and taking the very long tram (twice)….I missed my flight. Good news, they rebooked me on one an hour later and I was finally on my way!

On my first full day I decided to explore Sochi. I walked over 7 miles just trying to figure out where everything was. I quickly discovered that the language barrier would absolutely be tough to manage. My nifty translator apps that I downloaded didn’t work so hot with the dial-up like internet I had access to on my phone.

I immediately started to question if I made a good choice coming on this trip. It was insanely humid, the food was strange, I felt like a complete idiot when trying to communicate, and people were not all that friendly. I was truly worried.

Day 2 is when my outlook changed. I realized that I needed to change my perception and embrace the differences. So I did. I got back up and took another long walk to explore. Over the next few days I rented a moped (and kind of wrecked it – slightly), discovered how to get inside the Olympic area and saw the torch, and walked over the Formula 1 track several times.

I traveled to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I purchased tons of food and tried it all. I learned how to tell the difference between the sparkling water and still water (this sounds strange, but was hard!) I also figured out how to understand the value of their money.

During one of my walks, I came across the live Russian version of American Idol – New Wave. I explored the USSR museum, and walked the Coca-Cola shopping area. I figured out how to travel to McDonald’s via taxi and ordered all the strange food we don’t have on our menu here. I ordered Papa Johns, went to a mall, and stepped into a casino. I walked on the rocky beach and put my feet in the Black Sea.

Sochi was beautiful. Russia was incredible.

I looked past the lack of smiles, and appreciated that people would nod as a way to acknowledge me. I embraced the hot tea and weird food in the morning. I learned to talk slower, and in badly broken English. I also learned how to say thank you in Russian – Spasibo (spa-see-bah). I loved when I said thank you in English, that they would almost always reply with “please”.

The best part? The majority of these things I conquered and did all by myself. I went to a foreign country, where I couldn’t speak or read any of the language, and I lived my life as full as I could. I worked to grow my confidence and refused to be nervous and weak. I am so proud of myself. And I know that I had Kellan with me the entire time.

I looked at his pictures in Russia. Just a few of them that I have on my phone. I felt strong and powerful and decided now was the time. It was incredibly painful and tore me to pieces. I cried so hard it shook my body. But I did it.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to look at them again. I hope others realize how fortunate they are to be able to do something as simple as look at photos of their child with joy and happiness. I wish I could do it so easily.

My travel back to the United States was long, almost 30 hours between flights and layovers. I had a great plan to reduce jet lag, and it worked well. While I was prepared for the potential physical struggles of coming back, I wasn’t quite prepared for how it would feel mentally. It was overwhelming.

After being away for so long and in a world of unknown, I had to face reality again. It’s funny, so many people ask me if I felt safe in Russia. I have never felt safer. I was in a world where no one knew me, and I could conquer a whole new set of challenges. For 8 days I was free. Being home is so much scarier.

I never know who I’m safe with or where I’m safe here.

Before I left, I envisioned this idea of returning from Russia stronger and better than ever. Refreshed and ready to get back at it. I wish I could say I was right, but I was wrong.

I returned and realized that hockey had already started, it was time to get back to work, and my business needed attention as well. Oh, and my son was still dead. I instantly became mentally exhausted and realized this week would need to be spent re-grouping. Re-learning how to live in this world. Re-creating my new normal again.

The Wings had a scrimmage less than 24 hours after we got back. I was incredibly nervous to go, but knew it was something I had to face. It took a lot of energy to be there, but I did it.

As I was about to leave, a little 5 year old girl I know came up to talk to me with her sister. She said innocently as she looked at my stomach, “So, your baby died.” I looked at her sweet face and replied, “Yes, he did.” The subject quickly changed to her starting Kindergarten.

A few moments later, she looked at me with loving eyes and told me, “I’m sad your baby died.” I looked back at her and said, “Me too.” Her innocence and genuine love behind what she told me was so special. She said what I’m sure so many feel. She was sad and wanted me to know. We were both sad.

Kids are so precious. They don’t know how to do and say things perfectly, they just express what they’re feeling however they can. They don’t know “etiquette”, and they don’t have filters. I could absolutely feel her love, and I’m so thankful she told me.

I hope I’m able to face all people in the future who bring up Kellan in a non-filtered way, or ask me questions about having kids, or if I want a baby, like I did this little girl – with love and understanding. Sometimes even adults just don’t know better, even when they should. And instead of letting it hurt me, I pray I can handle it with strength and grace.

Every single day when I wake up, I have to make a choice to get out of bed. I tell myself to get up, get dressed, and accomplish tasks. It takes a ton of energy to get through the day, but I do it.

Every. Single. Day.

I may look like I’m normal, but I am far from it. I may be strong, and some days may get easier to live, but it doesn’t mean that what I’m carrying isn’t still incredibly heavy. As I go on with my life, I realize that. I want those around me to understand it too. Those you love that are going through trauma are still dealing with it daily, even when they appear to be normal. It takes an incredible amount of energy.

It’s been 9 weeks, 12 hours, 47 minutes since Kellan died.

64 days, 12 hours, 47 minutes.

1,548 hours.

92,927 minutes.

5,575,632 seconds.

No matter how I type it, it still kills me inside the same. I don’t believe it will ever feel any different when I think of his death.

I can travel the world, and conquer my fears. I can live my life to the fullest. And I will. I will live every single day for my son. But I will also forever long for him.

I will forever miss you Kellan.

24 hour rollercoaster

My son is incredibly powerful.

“Think of your child then, not as dead, but as living; not as a flower that has withered, but as one that is transplanted, and touched by a Divine hand is blooming in richer colors and sweeter shades than those of earth.”

– Richard Hooker

Time for another one of those raw & real posts. It’s hard to write about, but it’s the truth, and it’s mine. Bear with me.

Last night, after a very rough evening, I made the decision that God was not real. I told myself that God is something that people make up in their head in order to make themselves feel better about the terrible things that happen in life. To give us peace in our time of sorrow, and to find comfort thinking of those we love in a fictional Heaven.

My day started off good yesterday. I got up and talked with Scott, enjoyed another day back at work, and met my mom for a post-surgery doctor’s appointment that went well. I decided to finish the last part of my day making work calls at home. And then the storm rolled in.

I stepped in a huge pile of my dog’s puke.

It was all over my beautiful rug, all over another pair of shoes sitting on the rug, and all over the current shoes on my feet. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw things. I wanted to cause pain to anyone else in this world. Why does every single task have to be so damn difficult?

I just didn’t have time for this. I’m doing everything I can to just simply work and create my new normal, and there’s always something. I did my best to clean the mess, and went back to work. I stayed focused, motivated, and accomplished tasks. Then a frustrating text about one of my businesses came in, and it threw another wrench in my day. It never fails, as I get my head above water, life knocks me back under.

I was done. Mentally and emotionally spent. I went to my store to work, and felt absolutely empty. For the first time in my entire life, I truly questioned my faith in God. There is no possible way that He could allow all of this pain and heartbreak. I decided in that moment for certain, being a good person does not pay off. God is not real.

I wanted to say such hurtful things to ease my anger. I wanted to text and email painful words to others that made them hurt as badly as I hurt. I needed to cause them the same amount of pain that they were causing me. I typed my angry and mean words out in my phone’s notes. I could feel the hateful words pouring out of me. I wished I could cause in others, the soul crushing pain I felt. But I just couldn’t.

I felt so bad when Scott woke up in Russia, and I had to tell him how my day ended horribly after he went to sleep. I wanted to hide it because I knew he’d feel helpless an ocean away from me. But I also knew that wouldn’t help either of us. So I was honest, and he was heartbroken for me.

Today, I woke up feeling okay. I went to my first work appointment and then to counseling. I was going to cancel the appointment because I didn’t want to be there. But I went.

It was there that I had one of the biggest realizations of the last 6 weeks. I was sharing my anger and frustration, and the horrible pain I wanted to inflict onto others the night before. My counselor then told me she wasn’t going to let me mask my true feelings with anger.

And that’s exactly what I was doing. I broke down and cried. I couldn’t stop the tears. All of the things I was “angry” about, weren’t really feelings of anger. I am hurt, I am betrayed, and I am heartbroken. And when I finally allowed myself to feel the pain that I was shielding with anger, I finally started to begin my journey through it.

It’s remarkable how it feels to become more self-aware. To truly take time to identify why you feel the way you feel. Saying those mean and horrible things wouldn’t have made me feel any better. In fact, I would have felt worse. I wasn’t actually dealing with my emotions, I was masking the pain with anger. It’s so much easier to do that, yet completely useless in my healing. I need to feel and process the pain. I see that now.

I told God as I denounced Him last night, that if He wanted me to believe, I needed a sign. And I needed a big one, one that I would recognize. I knew it wouldn’t happen, because God was not real.

I went about my day, and decided to walk into a business that had recently moved. There I saw an unexpected familiar face. We discussed the approaching hockey season, and my upcoming trip to Russia. She then asked me a question about Kellan that I had never been asked before. How did we decide on his name?

What a thoughtful and special question. The story of his name is in fact one of my favorites. A story that I only learned after his death. So I shared it with her.

Scott and I had been trying to come up with a name, and of course my husband likes to take time to process. Unbeknownst to me, he apparently decided to go through all of the MLB rosters, and there he found a baseball player with the name Kellen. After doing further research, he found it had an Irish background. It meant brave, independent, determined, courageous. He sent the name to me and I loved it as well. We made a small tweak, and spelled in Kellan.

After Kellan’s death, I learned how much thought and care my husband put into finding the name. I loved it even more. We knew Kellan would have the middle name Albert after my dad. What I never told anyone, not even today as I told the story, was that after we won the Robertson Cup, I joked with Scott about naming him Kellan Albert “Robby” Langer.

I went about my day and stayed busy. And then I got a random text from the woman I told the story to earlier. It was a wikipedia page about Kellen, the MLB baseball player. Kellen Robert Kulbacki. I stared in shock at the middle name Robert. I couldn’t believe that was the baseball player’s middle name. No one in this world knew I had joked with Scott about that middle name.

What are the chances I ran into her today? And that she’d ask me that specific question? Or that she’d send me that wikipedia page?

My heart needed that question today. My heart needed to tell that story. My heart needed her to care enough to look up and send me that link. My heart needed that sign.

It was my sign. Kellan is with me and God is real.

The rollercoaster I’ve been on over the last 24 hours has taught me so much. I can’t promise that I won’t have bad days or moments again, and I can’t promise that I won’t question why. I know this process of grief is long, confusing, and ever-changing, but it is mine and I’m doing my best to navigate it.

I have every right to ride a rollercoaster of emotions. My child died and I will deal with this grief forever. But no matter how painful and brutal it all may be, I know now for a fact that I am never alone. And that is incredibly powerful.

My son is incredibly powerful.