thanksgiving

I am forever thankful for you KAL.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine the rest of my life without you. But I suppose I don’t have to imagine it… I just have to live it”

-Ranata Suzuki

Yet again, I don’t want to write. But I need to, because I know it helps me. It’s just hard, because it always makes me cry. And I’m so sick of crying.

Oh well, here we go, tears and all.

2 teenage girls, 15 and 18, died in a car accident this past week. They were from a town about 30 miles from Aberdeen. I instantly felt for their parents, family, and friends. It made me think of my nephew Timmy and the horrific car accident that took his life at 15.

The devastating loss of these 2 young ladies isn’t what I want to talk about though, it’s the ignorant comment I read on the news story about the accident.

“Poor family, during the holidays.”

How in the world is a tragic loss that happens on a random day any easier to deal with than one that happens over the holidays? Do people REALLY think that? Please tell me they don’t.

If you think that losing Kellan on July 4th made it harder, that is FALSE. Every single day is hard. If he died on August 4th, it would not have been any easier.

Please people, let’s not say ignorant things like this. Losing a loved one during the holidays is not any more difficult than losing a loved one on a random day. It all sucks horribly bad. It’s not about the day, it’s about the loss.

Moving on…

The South Dakota snow decided to ruin yet another trip. Casey, her dad, and Olivia were supposed to spend Thanksgiving in Aberdeen. We had so many plans. Casey is a planner. We already had every meal planned, activities organized, and even a best friend photoshoot scheduled.

Nebraska, Iowa, & South Dakota had other plans: 8-11 inches of snow and blizzard like conditions. While I adore her for being willing to try, the weather just wasn’t going to cooperate. There’s no way I wanted her to risk the drive – it just wouldn’t be worth it. But it just sucked.

This is going to sound horrible, but it’s the truth: I am starting to just expect to be let down. For some reason, I’ve been let down a lot the last 5 months. If I prepare myself for it mentally, it seems easier to handle. It is what it is.

I promise I’m not ungrateful. I have watched so much love get spread in the name of my son, and I am forever thankful for it. But it just feels like when I really let myself look forward to something, or trust in someone, they tend to let me down. Maybe it’s always been like this, and I’m just more aware now?

My parent’s 35th wedding anniversary was on Monday. 35 years. It’s hard to believe. In February of 2020, they are finally getting to go on the honeymoon they never took and I am so happy for them. I’m also terrified for them to leave me for a week.

Thanksgiving was uneventful – which was nice. My mom made the meats and desserts, and I made the sides. We enjoyed each other like always – because my parents are the best.

If I’m being honest though, I just don’t want to celebrate anything right now. Who cares about the holidays? Not me. Kellan’s death doesn’t make holidays hard, it just makes life in general hard. My life is just hard.

I’ve never really been a holiday person. I think I’ve always disliked Christmas. I love giving presents year round, and randomly. I’m not really a fan of a holiday when you’re expected to give things to people. I’m a real Grinch….but I still always give gifts. Go figure.

Last weekend at the hockey game, I was laughing with a friend about something. I then randomly looked around at all of the people around me…and I wondered, do they think I’m done grieving because I am laughing?

I read an article the other day that I thought was spot on about this. It talked about the myth that if someone who is grieving seems happy, they must be finished grieving.

I will stop grieving Kellan’s death when I stop loving him, which is never.

My grief will never stop.

Just because someone seems happy in a moment, does not mean they are better. Please remember this.

And if you know someone who is grieving, even a death that was years ago, check in with them. See how they’re doing. Let them know you’re thinking of them. They will appreciate it.

The more we talk about grief, the more we acknowledge the pain, the more we hopefully move forward. Not move on, but forward.

At that same hockey game, a young lady I know through hockey approached me. She shared a story with tears in her eyes about how she was having a hard time at school. She decided to try what I was doing, and do Random Acts of Kindness with #KellanKares cards, to help her through her hard time. She wanted to share with me how much better it made her feel, and the impact it had in not just her life, but the lives of the people she did the acts of kindness for.

And I stood at the game and cried with her. I’m so thankful she shared her story with me. How special that my son gets to impact people in such a strong way. He is truly an angel.

I am forever thankful for you KAL.

i’m trying

I can only hope.

”We need to grieve the ones we have loved and lost in this lifetime — not to sustain our connection to suffering, but to sustain our connection to love.”

-J.W.

I wish I could write how wonderful life is, and how much better things are. But I promised to be honest. At least I’m still writing. If I’m being honest, I don’t want to write. But I need to.

I have been a part of some truly wonderful events in the last week, and I am beyond thankful for them. The most important of them all – my dear friends Audra & Zach’s wedding.

Audra is a sister to me. She has been a huge support system in my life. The love and care she has given me after Kellan died has been indescribable. She has been truly selfless. To be able to not only attend, but officiate her wedding was such an honor to me. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I couldn’t be happier for these two remarkable souls.

I’ve also had some pretty tough things happen lately. Sophie had some medical issues, and I was terrified it was something serious that would take her from me. After a few vet visits, a procedure, and some serious meds – she’s doing better. But seriously…I cannot lose Sophie right now.

My days continue to be up and down. Each day I hear comments that just kill me inside. There hasn’t been one day without a comment. I know the majority of people who say them don’t even know what’s going on in my life, but it still hurts the same.

I think about what I may have said in the past to someone like me. I’m so sorry for the pain I may have caused. I just didn’t know.

I wonder if I will ever have a day without the pain.

I hate feeling bitter. I really do. I walk around this life and see people who get to have multiple children, and I can’t help but struggle with understanding why my son had to die. I don’t want to feel this way, so it sucks even worse. I feel frustrated with myself. I never know when I will feel this way, or why, it just happens. Sometimes I’m bitter, sometimes I’m ok. It just hits me.

I hope I’m not bitter forever.

I have been thinking about a lot of things in the last few weeks. About what makes me happy, what hurts my heart, the people in my life I miss…and those I don’t. How I can try to create happiness in this world while living in my sadness.

I’ve come to realize a few things.

First, we use the term friend much too lightly. I am going to work on this. Just because people are in our lives, and have a similar social circle, does not mean they are our friends. In fact, more than likely, they are not.

I found that when you identify your friends, who understand you and get you through good times & bad, keep them as close as you possibly can. I can feel the love from my friends near and far, and I am so grateful.

I’ve realized my parents and husband are my lifelines. I am unsure how I would survive without them. This is also terrifying – I am scared to lose them constantly.

I have been a more honest and open person, and I’m proud of myself for it. While I know people aren’t always ready for it, if I’m asked how I feel or think, I am honest. I’m not sure others love this, but it feels very freeing.

And lastly, spreading happiness. I will continue to do Random Acts of Kindness, and spread love whenever possible. And when I’m at my lowest, I am going to try my best to hold up my head, and do something to make another person happy. Here are the updated year round #KellanKares cards, for those who would like to join me:

I wish I had more inspiring or uplifting words. Just know, I’m trying. My goal for this week is to put together a list of things I’d like to accomplish by the end of the year. I like goals.

For now, I just watch the world around me continue to move, while mine stands still. Maybe one of these days my world will move at the same speed again.

I can only hope.

things i’ve learned

I will love you for eternity KAL 💙

“Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.” 

Paulo Coelho

The moment after Kellan died, I had so much regret. I had wasted so much energy and thoughts on things that truly did not matter in my life. So I started writing.

I wrote these words from the day Kellan died, until the day we had his private memorial service. I read them at his service.

The other day, I was having a crazy work day, and was emotional. I opened a notebook randomly and found a paper folded in half, placed carefully in the back of the notebook. It was the words I had written & read. What a wonderful reminder of what my son has taught me about life.

I think Kellan knew I needed a reminder of the things I have learned from him. I am going to read this weekly, so I continue to remember. And so I share it with you, in hope that it helps you when you’re having a difficult day.

Things I have learned from my son, Kellan Albert Langer:

Everything does not happen for a reason. 

People are not placed in your life by accident. Every person you cross paths with, even briefly, has a purpose.

Stop wasting energy on things that don’t actually matter.

The issues or annoyances that seem like such a big deal in the moment, aren’t. 

Being angry about things that occur in your life that you cannot control, and letting them control your day to day activities is a complete waste.

Stop being in such a hurry. Enjoy the little things.

On what feels like your worst day, you are still so incredibly lucky to live the life you live. 

You can love someone with your entire soul and physical being without even realizing it.

No matter how much you feel your heart has shattered, it will still continue to beat.

As you walk through this world, you truly never know how much pain a person you pass by is in.

You are so much stronger then you will ever know.

I will love you for eternity KAL 💙

4 months later

Stay Tuned.

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”

― Cassandra Clare

Well, I’m still alive. Sometimes I’m unsure how, but I am. I am still living, breathing, and going through the motions. It’s honestly hard to believe it’s been 4 months. I don’t know how I’ve survived this pain so far, but I’m doing it.

In the last 4 months I have lost more than just a son. I lost a few friends I thought would be in my life forever, I lost my tolerance of ignorance, and I also lost the majority of social media (which has surprisingly been lovely). I’ve learned to live with just being okay, and I’ve learned to live with a shattered heart. I would give the world to have Kellan back with me.

I told my counselor on Friday that I think it was easier when I was sad and numb all of the time. At least I knew how I was going to feel. Now I still think of Kellan nonstop, but there are more moments I can handle it. And then there are moments that I am so pained I can’t breathe. I never know when the pain will strike me. It sucks.

I think about my birthing experience every single day. It’s mentally exhausting sometimes. It haunts me. One of these days I will share my experience. Not today.

In the last week and a half a lot has happened.

The Mothers of Angels walk was on the 26th. Before it started, some wonderful girlfriends of mine from Kansas City sent me the sweetest video. They got together and did a walk for Kellan that morning. I can’t explain how much this meant to me. They took the time to organize and put this together, just for my son. How special. So many pictures were sent to me from my friends in Kansas City, Topeka, and honestly all over the country of kindness and love that was spread over the month. Even from hundreds of miles away, the support I have is so strong.

The walk event was truly incredible, but also very overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting it to be like that. As Scott and I stood there with my parents shortly before the walk started, something very special happened; the Wings staff and players, and even a few of the player’s parents started walking in. We were absolutely blown away and so surprised. Instead of leading the walk with just the 4 of us, we were followed by our huge hockey family.

I will never forget the feeling seeing them walk in to support us.

I ended my month at work with some of the most successful numbers I’ve had in a while. It felt great, especially considering how scared I was to return to work.

On one of the last days of the month, I decided to go to a favorite business of mine to visit. I was a little nervous to see the owner for the first time. You see, her daughter had been pregnant at the same time as me, and had a very difficult pregnancy. I knew she would have a grandchild to talk to me about, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I also knew I was going to have to tell her about Kellan. But I wanted to see her, because she’s a wonderful person that I always enjoy visiting with. I decided I was going.

So as we talked and caught up on all we’d been up to, surprisingly to me, her grandchild and Kellan didn’t come up. I wasn’t going to bring either up, I had learned better. And then she shared with me, her granddaughter had passed away 4 months after being born prematurely. My heart sank. I told her about Kellan, and we shared stories.

I was blown away. I realized that day, yet again, I am not alone. You really have no clue what is happening in someone’s life.

Halloween was way worse than I had anticipated. I was really looking forward to Kellan’s first Halloween. I’ve always loved Halloween, and I would have loved dressing him up. I wanted to make him a hockey player in a penalty box. Or maybe a sloth. Maybe he would have been both and had a costume change mid-day, because let’s be real, my son would have been a little extra.

Scott left town for work, and my parents had to leave town as well. So there I was all alone, on this day I had looked forward to for so many months while pregnant. I knew it was going to suck horribly, but I also knew I could get through it.

I started the day with Random Acts of Kindness. I then did all of the things I would have done on Halloween normally. I got each of our new neighbor kids, and Scott’s co-worker’s kids custom Halloween bags with special treats for them. I then bought lots of Halloween treats for the kids who would visit our new home. I put the treats in a basket with a note that said “Happy Halloween, help yourself” and set it outside.

I have always loved Halloween, and I wasn’t going to not participate because I was sad. I just did what I could. I then sat inside, cooked myself dinner, and tried to avoid the baby pictures on my Snapchat. I cried when I had to.

Life is hard. But I got through it, and I’m proud of myself for that.

I want to end this post with a happy story though, because through my sadness, there is still love. There is still kindness.

Scott and I have been together for about 10 years now, and I’ve been in Marketing the entire time. I always tell him, you haven’t made it until you’re on the front page of the paper – above the fold. So I honestly always joke about it, because in the Marketing/PR world, this was ingrained in my brain.

When Erin from Aberdeen American News approached me about doing a story on #KellanKares, I was so honored. I had lunch with a friend that week, and had told her it would probably be somewhere random in the paper, but I could care less. I was just thrilled they were going to talk about my sweet little boy and his legacy.

When I woke up the Friday before the walk, to my surprise I had an alert on my phone from the newspaper app with the story about Kellan! I opened my app more excited than ever, to find the Kellan story on THE FRONT PAGE ABOVE THE FOLD. My amazing, remarkable, life-changing little boy had made it. In a little over 3 months, he had made such a strong mark in this world, he was front page, above the fold. And I feel beyond blessed that I get to be his mom.

My favorite thing about this story, is how real and true Erin wrote it. She could have easily made it all about the happy parts of #KellanKares, but she shared my reality. I can never thank her enough for telling our truth. Here’s the link to the article – you do have to be a subscriber, but it’s for sure worth the 99 cents for a 24-hour subscription: https://www.aberdeennews.com/news/local/langer-uses-loss-of-her-baby-to-raise-awareness-remembrance/article_1568a511-00cb-5664-a614-298a75e3cdd4.html

And as promised, I created a very special video to showcase the #KellanKares movement. Oh, and to introduce the newest piece to his legacy….(it’s at the end)….

So get ready world, Kellan Albert Langer still has a large mark to make. The Kellan Kares Foundation is coming soon. Stay Tuned.

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.