Child Loss

Having a Project

I think its SUPER important to have a project when you lose a child. After my last post I was flooded with messages and love from so many people, and I just want you all to know how much it means to hear from you. I also was asked how I’m healing through home decorating, and I realized that I should probably explain. When Juliet died I was an Esthetician. Some people can go back to their jobs after a great loss, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want anyone to ask me how I was doing, and I didn’t want to have to look anyone in the eye because I knew I would burst into tears.

Instead of going back to work I just laid in bed and cried. FOR MONTHS. In my mind moving into this house was going to be the answer to EVERYTHING.

 

    1. I was going to keep my mind busy by working on the house.
    2. I would finally be away from the house that Juliet shot herself in.
    3. It would give me a reason to be on Pinterest which made me happy.

WRONG!

We moved in and it kept me busy painting, but my daughter was still gone, and I was more depressed than ever. I thought the house would solve a lot for me, but the realization that it hadn’t made me even more depressed than before. Here’s the thing- While I believe strongly in having a project, you can’t actually start to heal until you get your mind right. I learned that the hard way. By hard way I mean that I let myself get so low that one night I drank several glasses of wine, swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills, and ended up in the hospital. TALK ABOUT A WAKE UP CALL.

Depression is a really scary thing. It can be deadly. It was for my daughter, and it almost was for me. But I had a family. While I was so depressed from my grief all I could think about was how they would be better off without me. I wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t smile anymore. I didn’t get out of bed anymore. Who wants to be around someone like that? All I wanted was to be with Juliet because I missed her soooo much.

I realized while in the hospital what a huge toll my depression was taking on my family, and that I needed to figure it out or I would lose them. So I started taking an antidepressant that also helped with anxiety. I know that medication is not for everyone, but for me it changed my life. I was getting out of bed, showering, and even starting to smile for the first time in a really long time.

Back to having a project. Like I said before in order to heal you must first get your mind right and in order to do that, you have to be able to get out of bed. So step 1… check. I think it’s important to have a positive outlet. You have all these thoughts and feelings inside, and they can consume you like they did me. Its a scary place to be. By having a project you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. You have something productive and positive to focus all that energy on. You also have something to concentrate on other than death, which isn’t exactly the best thing to focus on.

For me, my positive outlet is designing and decorating my house. Its something I absolutely love to do. It brings me joy, happiness, and a sense of pride… It also gives me something to talk about other than losing my child. For my friend Dan who recently lost his daughter to suicide, it’s a boat. He got a run down boat for next to nothing, and him and his other children are working on it together. When it is all done they are going to name it Elaina, after his daughter. Both of Juliet’s grandmothers started purple flower gardens because purple was her favorite color. My point is- find something you love and do it. A house, a boat, a camper, a car, a garden…. WHATEVER! In life you get back what you put into it. If you chose to lay in bed rather that helping yourself like I did then don’t expect life to get any better. Because it doesn’t. If you build, grow, create, or fix something then that positive energy will come back to you. Maybe not over night, but it will.

What has helped you get through tough times? Please leave a message in the comments section!

 

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Child Loss

Juliet

juliet

Juliet was a bright light to all who knew her. She was just as beautiful inside as she was on the outside. When she walked into a room all eyes were on her. She was smart. No common sense at all, but she was very intelligent, and was set to graduate a year early. She always made people laugh. Whether she was making pterodactyl noises, crawling around like the grudge, dramatically falling everywhere, or just making jokes in general, she was the type of girl that everyone loved and wanted to be around. But she didn’t love herself.

Juliet lost her dad to cancer. They didn’t have a very good relationship, and even though my mom and I encouraged her to make amends with him, she was very strong willed and refused to do so before his death. I don’t know if she had regrets, or how his death even effected her. She definitely wasn’t the type to open up about her feelings, but I do know that she had a huge heart, so it had to weigh on her. If I had to guess I’d say it bothered her a lot.

About a year after her dad died Juliet tried to commit suicide. I was at work when I got a phone call from Mike saying that Maddy, Juliets sister, had called him in a panic to tell him that Juliet posted a picture online of a bunch of pills saying that she was gonna end it all. I left immediately.

I got home from work and ran to the house. Juliet was sitting at the table pale and confused. I started yelling at her to go pack a bag and I helped her up the stairs to get ready. I just stared at her in shock, a million questions going through my head. I grabbed her bag and Mike and I helped her to the car. I took her straight to the emergency room, and we slept there until they could find a bed in a psych unit for her to be transferred to.

She stayed in the psych unit for about a week. It was the week of Mothers Day. Spending Mothers Day in a psych unit with your child isn’t exactly what any mother dreams of. I cried and begged her not to ever do it again. She promised me she wouldn’t. It was a promise she wouldn’t keep.

It was bike week in Ocean City Maryland. Mike and I were on our way back, having taken a much needed weekend break. My mom had stayed at our house with Justice and Juliet. We got back, unpacked, and picked up some Chinese takeout. Juliet was grounded at the time and not allowed out of her room until she apologized. I’m the type of mom who cant stay mad long. I love on my kids even when they are in trouble, and I like to keep the peace. Mike always told me that I gave in too soon and I needed to learn how to stick to my guns. Justice wanted to get Juliet for dinner, but Mike said “No”. I was trying really hard to “stick to my guns”, so I just kept quiet, even though I really wanted her to eat with us. We finished dinner and I put Juliet’s in the fridge in case she got hungry later.

I put Justice to bed around 8:30 and went downstairs to watch TV with Mike. About 20 minutes had past when I got an alert on my phone that Juliet was on Twitter. Juliet wasn’t allowed on social media because of a bad choice she had made with it back in May. That bad choice was what lead to her attempting suicide the week of Mothers Day, and going on Twitter was the reason she was currently grounded. She wasn’t even supposed to have a phone, we had taken hers from her two weeks ago when we grounded her.

Mike and I went upstairs to her room. I was so upset. I just wanted her to be happy, healthy, and make good choices, and most of all I wanted her to not be grounded anymore so I could spend time with her and hear her laugh. I busted through her door asked her where the phone was. She looked at me with a look in her eyes I had never seen before. Juliet had big, bright blue eyes, but when she looked at me they were black and empty, and her face was pale. It scared me. Later I asked Mike about it, and he said he saw the same thing. She told me she didn’t have a phone, and I yelled at her for lying to me. She handed me the phone and I told her I was gonna have her liscense suspended. What else could I do? She was already grounded.

I stomped downstairs heartbroken that she let me down, even more that she let herself down. The phone had a passcode and Mike and I sat there for a minute trying to figure it out. We were just about to give up and go ask her what it was when we heard a “POP”. There was an old TV in the hallway, and I thought maybe Juliet had kicked it, or that she was upstairs breaking things because she was mad. I sent Mike upstairs to see what was going on.

“Rach call 911. She shot herself”

I sat there for a minute not understanding what was going on. I dialed 911 and ran up the stairs. By the time I got to Juliet’s room I was talking to the 911 operator. I could smell gun powder and saw the gun on Juliet’s dresser. I handed the phone to Mike and ran to were Juliet was sitting on her bed.

In my mind her and Mike were playing a joke on me. She was sitting up, leaning on her headboard, hands in her lap, and the gun was across the room. How could she have shot herself if the gun was across the room? I held her hand. I didn’t see any blood. I heard a gurgling in her throat and she moaned. That’s when it hit me.

The next half an hour was a series if me running down the stairs to the kitchen screaming, calling my mom screaming, calling my dad screaming, and running back upstairs to look at her, or hold her hand. Mikes mom lived in the other half of our house, and I must have woken her and her boyfriend up because they came over and she was sitting with Juliet, talking to her and holding her hand while I ran around screaming and acting like a crazy person.

The police got there first. They questioned Mike and I and ask if one of us had done it. I found out that the gun was on the dresser because Mike took it out of her hand so she wouldn’t shoot herself again. The EMT’s arrived and as they carried her down the stairs to the ambulance I saw it. The giant whole in my beautiful little girls temple. I’ll never get that picture out of my head for the rest of my life. I wasn’t allowed to ride with her in the ambulance, because the police had more questions. After about half an hour of questioning I began to panic. “I need to go to the hospital, my daughter is dying!” The police kept telling me no but finally I told them I was going and I didn’t care what they said. One very nice officer offered to drive me.

On the ride there I calmed down a little. The officer told me that his nephew had shot himself too. I asked him if he lived, he told me no, he didn’t. I asked if he thought my daughter would be ok, he told me I should probably prepare myself. I remember the finality of what he said, and how it made me realize that I was probably going to have to say goodbye. I got to the hospital and was met by my mom and her husband. They took me back to Juliet’s room where she was hooked up to a ventilator. Her head was bandaged, and her eye was swollen with blood. Every time she took a breath her teeth made a tapping sound on the ventilator tube in her mouth. The doctor came in. I asked him if she was going to be ok and he told me I needed to decide if I wanted to stop life support.

The bullet went into her temple and out the other side. They gave her blood transfusions, but they couldn’t give her anymore and eventually her heart would just stop pumping. Mike was still at the house being questioned by the police when I called him. “I need you to come to the hospital now, I’m going to pull the plug.”  “What do you mean you’re going to pull the plug? She’s not gonna be ok?” he was crying, and I was still in shock. When something like this happens you just believe that everything is gonna be ok. You tell yourself it is, because reality is too hard to face. Your brain shuts down and you do everything on auto pilot, so having to understand that your child is gonna die is not exactly something your brain is ready to comprehend.

Mike got to the hospital around the same time as Juliet’s paternal grandparents, stepmom, sister, and her sisters mom, and the 9 of us stood around her bed as the nurse cut off her life support. “how long does it usually take after cutting life support for someone to die?” I asked the nurse “It varies from patient to patient but usually anywhere up to 2 hours.” Two hours is a long time to watch and wait for your child to die. Seven hours is even longer. That’s how long I was at the hospital waiting. Seven hours. It would be the longest seven hours of my life. The nurse said the reason it took so long was because she was strong and healthy and young. I thought maybe it was because she changed her mind. Mike said it was because she was a fighter.

Juliet told me once that she had no friends. I would rattle off names of people and she would shake her head and tell me that no one ever wanted to hang out with her. The day of her funeral around seven hundred people showed up. People got up and told stories of how Juliet was there for them, how she stuck up for them against bullies, how she befriended them when no one else would. They told me how she changed their life and helped them to believe in themselves, and how she was someone they could always talk to and get advice from. We released purple balloons after her service, and they all went up in different ways and then came together in the shape of a heart. Her last “I love you”. I’m glad that we all got to witness that because it let us know that wherever she is, she’s ok.

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makeup-room-office-overhaul

This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission when something is purchased. For our full disclosure policy please click here. When we first found our house it was only a few months after my daughters death. I had my mind set on decorating the third bedroom for her. Yes you read that right, I was gonna design a bedroom for someone who would never get to see it. I was actually very excited about it.

The thing about losing a child is that you literally LOSE YOUR MIND. Imagine a beautiful glass vase filled with water. The vase represents a parent and the water inside represents all the parents emotions, sanity, self worth, and reasoning. When you lose a child its like taking a sledge hammer to the glass vase. All the stuff that was  nice and neat and tidy inside is flung in every different direction because the glass is shattered. As a mother I was broken in a million pieces, desperately trying to put myself back together. The rational part of me had splattered all over the place, along with any sort of reason. It’s been two and a half years, and I’m still picking up the pieces.

It took lots of arguing, explaining, and frustration, but Mike was finally able to get me to understand why decorating a room for my daughter was not the best use of the space.

It began as a guest bedroom, which turned into Mikes office, which turned into my office. Here is a before picture of the room (from the listing)

This is the only picture I have from before but you get the picture….it was boring. White walls, beige carpet, and builders grade lighting. So I got to work! First I painted…. here’s that exact same spot only with paint, and a picture I scored from Home Goods

Next I applied  these gold dots that I bought from amazon to the wall at random. 

I put them on opposite corners of the side walls. I love the way they turned out, randomly beautiful! After I was finished painting and sticking my little dots to the wall I unpacked my new vanity that I pieced together from Ikea. I bought 2 sets of Alex drawers and a Linnmon table top. In case you are wondering “Why does she have a makeup vanity in her office?” it’s because my full time job is as a freelance makeup artist, but that’s a whole other post in itself.

Next I set up 2 Ikea Lack shelves on either side to put all my little nick nacks on. Last but not least I set up my lighted make up mirror that I bought off Etsy, and the mister hung a new light fixture for me that I bought at Home Goods for about $30! Here’s the final product, what do you think?

 

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the-dog-that-saved-us

Mikes dream dog was a male blue pitbull. He literally talked about it ALL THE TIME. I also literally said “no” ALL THE TIME. We already had 2 dogs and 2 cats. I fed the dogs, took them out, fed the cats, cleaned their litter box, and the LAST thing I wanted was another animal to take care of! He harassed me for years and every time it was a big fat “NO”.  No way in hell.

The summer that Juliet died she won Justice a big stuffed dog at the beach on one of those games where you shoot a water gun at a bulls-eye and race to the top. He hasn’t put the dog down since. He sleeps with it every night, takes it to friends houses, and it sits on the sofa with him when he watches TV.

Around the one year mark of Juliet’s death I was on Facebook scrolling through my news feed when I saw a picture of the CUTEST puppy I have EVER seen. I immediately clicked on the picture to get a closer look. The puppy belonged to one of Juliet’s friends and his name was Mason.

Here’s the first picture I ever saw of him. Seriously, look at that face!

I began obsessing over Mason, checking Kaitlyn’s Facebook daily hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I woke Mike up one night to show him a picture she had just posted. “Isn’t he the cutest puppy!?!” I asked him, to which he responded “Yes, but you said we cant get another dog”. Did I mention that Mason was a blue pitbull puppy? What was wrong with me? Why was I obsessing over this dog? What was it about him that drew me in over and over. I don’t even want another dog.

It was the week of Juliet’s 18th birthday. Mike was out of town on business, and I was bored out of my mind when my phone dinged with a message. I opened the message to find that it was from my friend Rebecca who helps run a group called Help Find Sophie. HFS is a local Facebook group that helps find missing dogs by sharing their picture on Facebook. They also foster and rehome dogs, and Rebecca and her family fostered one of my dogs for us when Juliet died.

Rebecca messaged me and proceeded to tell me about a girl by the name of Kaitlyn’s whose boyfriend had broken up with her and kicked her and her dog out. Kaitlyn couldn’t keep the dog where she was staying and she had to surrender it to HFS. She was very upset, and Rebecca saw that we were mutual Facebook friends so could I please message Kaitlyn to reassure her that Mason was in good hands, and that HSF would find a good home for him. I SERIOUSLY could not believe what I was reading. I immediately called Rebecca.

“I’LL TAKE MASON!” The words were out of my mouth before I could even process what I was saying. “Maybe you should talk it over with Mike first?” Rebecca suggested. At least one of us was thinking straight. “Ok, your right, I’ll talk to Mike.” Rebecca thought it would be a good for us to take Mason because Kaitlyn knew who I was and that he would be in a good home. I just needed to convince Mike. No problem, right? I text Mike a picture of Mason that said “isn’t this puppy so cute?” to which his response was “Awww he’s adorable” to which I replied “Good because I’m adopting him.” As soon as my finger hit send my phone rang. It was Mike. Haha.

I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. I am an optimist, I’m spiritual, I look for answers from the universe, and I look for signs from my daughter.

  1. My son was obsessed with a stuffed dog my daughter won him
  2. Mike had been asking for a male blue pitbull for years
  3. Justice was really struggling with his sisters death
  4. We all were
  5. I for some strange reason was fixated with Mason
  6. It was the week of Juliet’s birthday
  7. Rebecca called me about Mason (she had no idea I was obsessing over him)

Based on all the things that happened the way they did I came to the conclusion that Mason was Juliet’s birthday gift to Justice. This was my argument when Mike called. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy, but when I laid it all out for him he agreed to talk about it when he got home from his trip. That was as good as a “yes” to me.

 

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”

Orhan Pamuk

The rest as they say was history. He came into our lives and brought nothing but love and snuggles. He licks Justices tears away, makes me laugh when I’m sad, and plays tug-o-war with Mike. He is a gentle giant, wrestling with Justice, playing endlessly with our yorkie, the cat even loves him. Whenever I am sad Mason always cheers me up. He licks, snuggles, smiles, and loves like no dog I have ever known. He has filled places in all of our hearts that were empty from grief. He became a best friend to my son, and a family member to us all. I can’t imagine our lives with out him, and I’m positive that he was sent to us by Juliet. He came into a family that was broken and lost, and he made us whole again. I have never loved an animal as much as i love this dog. None of us have.

  

Do you have a pet that has changed you life? If so I would love to hear about it!

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christmas-is-bittersweet

        Are you ready for Christmas? Is anyone ever really done? Every time I think I’m done I find myself brake checking the car behind me and whipping it into some store for a last minute gift. NEVER FAILS. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, giving gifts. Juliet’s last Christmas I worked my butt off bar tending for extra present money. I picked up extra shifts whenever they were available, and I told all my bar guests that I was trying to make that Christmas the BEST EVER for my family. There had never been so many presents under the tree as there were that year. I’m not sure why that Christmas was so important to me, or why I felt the need to make it the BEST EVER, but I just had a nagging feeling that I needed to make it special… make it unforgettable. That year was also Juliet’s first Christmas since her dad passed away, so I created a Facebook event called “A Christmas Card Shower for Juliet”. I invited all my friends and family and the idea behind it was to have everyone send Juliet a Christmas card to help ease the pain of not having her dad. Our local news station even interviewed us and we got to explain what we were doing!

Juliet got over 200 cards from across the United States and around the world. People we didn’t know and people we did know. People who had lost a parent and wrote her heartfelt messages of encouragement. An entire class wrote her as a school project and drew her pictures. It was absolutely AMAZING! She ran home from the bus stop everyday to check the mail and we would sit down and read the cards together. I really miss that Christmas.

Christmas is bittersweet when you’ve lost a child. Juliet used to always wake my son up early Christmas morning and they would creep into our room at the crack of dawn with such excitement that you couldn’t help but be excited with them. I wake Justice up now. I try to get excited, and I sneak into his room and wake him up at the crack of dawn. Its not the same though. NOTHINGS THE SAME. I still love Christmas, but not like I used to. I smile and watch my son open his gifts. I help him put together his Lego set, or play his new video game with him, but when I’m alone I cry. I wonder what I would have gotten her this year, or if she would have liked it. I wonder what college she would be home from and if she would have brought a boy home with her. Its only been 2.5 years since she died, so maybe it gets easier. I don’t know, but that’s what I’m praying for. Did you lose a child? Do you do anything special in their memory for Christmas? If so I would love to hear about it!

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amazing-dining-room-transformation

 The dining room is LITERALLY the only room of the house that is finished… but lets be SERIOUS, is any room ever REALLY done? I painted, redid the floors, and changed out the lighting. Some day I would LOVE to add wainscoting and crown moulding, as well as get a pretty area rug, and a new dining table. The table we have now is just too wide, and you have to shimmy past it. Now I’m not one to complain (I love watching Mike do the shimmy), but its just not practical.

Here is the dining room before (this pic is from the listing)

LOOK at that WOOD! Its everywhere! It looks like a forest threw up in my dining room! They even bought the matching curtains! Just looking at it makes me shake my head. While this ensemble may work for some people, it DEFINATELY wasn’t working for me!  The wall to the right is a tan accent wall, you can read more about my love (insert sarcasm) for accent walls here.

To start I painted the walls Mindful Grey by Sherwin Williams. I think its a perfect grey, not to warm, not too cool

 Goodbye accent wall! One down 5,697,846 to go! Next I changed out the lighting, because lets be honest, that builders grade light is NOT doing anything for the space! I searched and searched, and I finally found the most amazing light…. The kind of light dreams are made of. You know in the movies when the heavens open up and the angels all sing in chorus? When I found this light that’s what happened. The best part was that it was UNDER $100!!!

 

Look at it GLOW!

It took about an hour to install and assemble. I love the way the light shines through the crystals. I get SOOOO many compliments on it, and when we first put it in I had to have it on at all times. Mike put it on a dimmer switch which I absolutely love! This chandelier looks like a spent A TON of money on it (but I didn’t). You can buy yours here.

Lastly it was time to do the floors (which is a whole other post in itself). After a long hard battle (that included tears), we finally agreed on floors from PERGO. The color we chose was Riverbend Oak. I am obsessed with these floors! They are a wide plank laminate that looks just like barn wood! I love the look of grey floors, but its a trend, and just like all trends it wont look good forever. I love these floors because they are a warm color with grey veining. They are GORGEOUS! Anyway I will go into all the details about it in a later post. Here is a pic of the final product..

What do you think of my dining room transformation? Are you considering a transformation of your own? If so I’d love to hear about it!

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