Today marks 13 years that you’ve been gone. So much has changed and yet so much hasn’t. Yesterday I found myself thinking about the day before I knew you in person and the horrible feeling I had knowing that you were not going to stay. That sick feeling, I had that this little miracle everyone talks about, that “little blessing” that was supposed to be greeted with open arms and smiles was not going to be happening.
Each year that goes by and you are gone just a little bit longer creates a slightly larger space that worries me. I worry that I will somehow forget that feeling and it will be like it never happened which means it would be like you never happened. But as your one day on earth approaches each year I am reminded how that is just not the case. That sick feeling is easily remembered how your life was not meant to be. The sick joke that was played on your Papa and me just months into our marriage-the happiest time in our lives together was robbed along with the happy experience of our first newborn baby being brought into our lives.
You forever changed me, Faith. You forever made my life even more different than everyone else’s. And what I wouldn’t give to get you back for just five more minutes. I hope you knew it was us who were holding you that day, I hope you knew we didn’t choose this for you, and although we were in shock when we first found out you were coming, that shock was not warranting an outcome like the one that happened.
You changed me Faith, that hollowed out feeling the night I went home from the hospital, empty and alone. And those weeks after you were gone I cried so much I eventually became numb, I thought I’d never feel again. You changed me Faith, you changed me.
Since you’ve been gone we’ve brought in three amazing children into this world, and because of you I can’t imagine my life without them, but that still doesn’t take the place of missing you. Just writing those words I am choking down my tears and my vision is blurred by welling tear ducts. You changed me, Faith.
I thought surviving a life-sucking eating disorder was the worst I’d ever endure. And I have to be honest, I was wrong. Your short life was a rip-off, a cruel joke on two young soulmates who would have loved you and given you nothing short of a backyard campfire, dirty feet, self-exploration, be your own personal childhood experience. You would have loved us as parents. It was a rip-off.
Still, to this day I watch others race to have babies, act like pregnancy is crappy, and moan about getting rid of their pregnancy body to “get back to normal”, and to those people I say, “you are missing the point.” Don’t chance fate and take for granted a healthy baby, the amazing miracle of bringing a baby into this world, and the privilege you get to become a parent to then raise those children. Your Papa and I will never know the joys of having a first born baby, and to be honest, it took until having your sister Meredith to get rid of the numbness and until Ivan to actually not relive in my mind the experience of having you.
But you changed me, Faith, because of you I am now stronger than before. I was able to prove to myself and others that I could forge into recovery fully and you gave me a reason to take even better care of my body and cherish my life and every life I bring into this world.
You changed me Faith, I now connect with yet another group of people, I get them, I know what they are feeling and I can help yet another group of people.
You changed me Faith, because of you I see life differently, I see sunrises, rainbows, and butterflies differently. Harper, Meredith, and Ivan look forward to your presence when they see a butterfly circling us-they jump for joy and yell to the trees that Faith is here. You changed me Faith, you changed your entire family that we see life and creation in a way only those that have held their baby in their arms and watched that little life leave earth can know.
You changed me Faith, each year on your “life day” I am reminded that I am a strong ass woman, that you gave up your life so I could have one, a debt that I will forever on this earth be repaying. A debt that I will die trying to repay. I don’t know if I can or will ever be able to be as selfless as you, as giving as you, as humble as you.
Many days I feel like life just isn’t’ getting me, that God just isn’t hearing my prayers, my dreams, my goals. There are so many days that I feel like people still just don’t get me, that they just don’t understand. And today as I write this letter to you I have come to realize that many never will. And I will waste much of my precious time trying to get them to. I know you get me, I know that you know my heart, my dreams, that you hear my prayers.
Today I am crying for you, not because you are gone, but because you gave me life.
I know that you’re here, and just last week we saw you for the first time in the back yard. Meredith squealed with joy as you danced with her in the grass.
You changed me Faith, I’m not a mother of three, but a mother of four. And although I never got to see you take your first steps, say your first words, ride a bike or one day, drive a car, graduate, get married and maybe even have a baby one day. All those things aren’t necessary to have made you real, to prove you existed. I grew you in my belly, I was your only life line, I felt your little heart beat to its last beat.
To everyone reading this today, please know I need no sympathy. To those reading this today that have lost a child, that have watched an innocent child leave this earth-it does get better. Some wounds never heal and I think some just aren’t meant to, but you can choose to use your child’s life to bring more life to others. I choose to believe that my daughter chose this life, she chose this path and me too. Today if this message touches even just one person then that is one less person that has to be stuck in grieving longer than necessary. One less person that feels like they can’t move on.
I still remember the first time I told a family member that I am trying to “move on”. They didn’t get me or what had happened from my perspective and told me “well you don’t’ just forget about her”. I still remember yelling at her in my head, like “are you kidding me!?!!?!… How could I?” So to all those out there trying to be a support to someone experiencing loss, just be a shoulder, let them know you are there, they most likely don’t want to hear about your passing Grandma or your lost dog. They don’t want to be told it will get better, or how sorry you are. They just want to have support, they want to have a shoulder without a mouth, and when they are ready they will talk, they will reach out, and when they do you’ll be there.
We received dozens of cards those first few weeks, and of the dozens, I kept only a few, and of those were two unexpected cards from two people who briefly shared their loss of their child. I re-read those cards several times, reading those helped me feel like I wasn’t alone, reading those cards helped me feel that someone out there did understand exactly what I was going through. So to those reading this, I get it, I’ve felt the heartache, I’ve felt the unbearable emptiness, I’ve experienced the fits of rage, anger, and hostility, and I’ve felt every tear you have cried as my own. I get it and I’m here. You’re not alone. Please know this. You will survive and you will find happiness again. Just know it will be a different happiness than what you have felt before-and that is O.K.
Happy 13th life day Faith…
That’s all I have to say… Until next year… I’ll be seeing you in the sky.
No words can describe how I felt that day. It’s interesting because it’s over a decade later, but I still have that feeling of what it was like. I don’t think that ever goes away. For those of you who have lost a loved one—that numbness, that void, you don’t even know what to feel, or how to explain what you’re feeling. I remember walking out of the hospital thinking, “Every mom walks out with a baby. I’m a fraud. I’m not a mom.” And that process of grief, and learning how to live with loss, really settled in that moment.”
– Hope Zvara
In an episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, I was interviewed by Heather Stang. Through my own experience, I have learned firsthand how yoga and mindfulness can help calm the mind and help us take a step or two away from self-defeating behaviors, such as addiction and eating disorders. I have also learned how to cope with the reality of loss by living my life in honor of my daughter, Faith, and helping other people live their best lives.
But all that didn’t come right away.
What my daughter Faith has shown me is the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. This actually came to me at a point where I always say when we see a butterfly, it’s Faith saying hello. One afternoon I was thinking about her, and thinking about what a butterfly means. I Googled it and to my surprise, it means hope.
For those of you who lost someone, it’s not a textbook experience. It’s not, “you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this.” It is such raw emotion. What yoga has taught me through working through addiction and being in recovery now for 15 years, and losing my daughter, and finding life after the loss of my daughter is that you have two choices… You either choose to live, because they don’t get to anymore, or you choose to die with them.
No words can describe what I felt that day. For those of you who have lost a loved one, that numbness, that void. You don’t even know what to feel or how to explain what you are feeling.
If you are going through grief, loss, or addiction, I have a special meditation of Hope for Grief & Loss. I also have a course in my online studio that I offer to you for free, so that you may find a way to transform… to see your butterfly. Here is a Practice in Mindfulness that will help you move beyond grief.
Yoga Found Me and Saved Me
First came yoga. For me, yoga has transformed my life. I remember walking out of my first yoga class… and thinking “Oh my gosh. I have no thoughts.” Once I befriended my breath and was able to get back into my body, I began the journey of rediscovering my life’s meaning. I had to choose life because my daughter didn’t get to. Every single day after she had passed away, I had to wake up and tell myself that. I had to look in the mirror and say,
I have to live because she didn’t get to. Please give me my purpose.”
I always say that my Wednesday night yoga class became my weekly ritual of second chances. Those second changes eventually lead me to a yoga teacher training. That training became a platform for me to really heal and feel. Not only that, it put me in a position to teach others what I had learned through the HOPE process.
When I first found yoga, I did not realize I was holding my breath all the time. I don’t think anyone ever told me that I was breathing. Until that point in that first yoga class, and then in my training, I didn’t realize that this whole breathing thing was really important.
Helping Others Purposefully Excel – The HOPE Process
My marriage not only survived the death of her child, but it thrives because of mindfulness and mutual respect. We can grieve differently, but we don’t have to grieve alone. Losing a child can strain a relationship, but in our case, it brought us together.
Through all of these struggles, through all of this challenge, through middle school and high school and through my early twenties, something always kept telling me to keep pushing forward and keep going. At the suggestion of a caring soul, I found yoga.
Breath, Body, and Belief
Breath, Body and Belief are the pillars of the HOPE process. These three things are the cornerstone of everything that I teach. Everything to do with yoga, with healing, and with finding your path and life beyond grief.
Get in tune with your breath every day. Practice meditation. Practice just noticing your breath for a minute a few times a day.
Use your body with purpose. Move it every day. If you need a place to start, my Mindful Movement Online Studio is only $9.99/month and has a variety of classes, tailored to your needs.
Finally, it comes down to your belief. Pray, meditate, and give thanks to the universe for the life that you have. Live your live in honor.
Ever October we Remember because it’s Infant Loss Awareness Month…
Every October we Remember.
You don’t often realize how quickly time goes by until it’s…by.?
You think it will be next to impossible to make it through, over, or past something when you’re in the thick of it. But then one day it becomes apparent that you in fact have (for the most part) made it through.
12 years. 12 walks. 12 days. 12 times I’ve been faced to look out at other parents and see myself in various stages of grief.
?I told Brian 2 years ago driving home that I could tell which mom’s recently lost their baby. I could tell in their faces. The way they clung to their husbands. The look in their eyes.
That empty feeling. Looking at them was like a flashback to that same empty feeling. That same look. That same moment in time where it all seems too much. 12 years. This year I found myself yet again at a point of saddened happiness. Because there IS joy in my life.
❤️I have the most amazing husband. Three beautiful, healthy children, and growing life’s work that I love and has REAL purpose to me. ❤️
But there are still moments when I am reminded that she’s not here. It’s bitter sweet. Because she gifted me my own life which is both simple and complicated to explain. And without her short life, we wouldn’t have Harper, Meredith and Ivan.
Every Year We All Gather…
Year 12 and there were well over 120 people at the walk this year. Where 12 years ago there were maybe 50. And after we say a prayer and a song is sung. We speak out loud the names of our baby.
And every year my throat swells, and I feel hesitant to speak her name. With tears dripping into the corners of my mouth I waited for Brian to maybe say her name. But I know he knows to wait for me.
?“Faith Lynn”. ?
And in that quiet moment I’m reconnected to the first moment 12 years ago, like it was the first. I can’t explain it. But it was a relief. I feel relieved when I speak her name each year. I speak her name out loud to others.
You would think sharing my story countless times over the years would make it less emotional. But I am reminded of it doesn’t work that way. But this year. Year 12, I am also reminded of how I’ve grown. How my family has grown because of her.
The Never Ending Gifts from Faith…
My kids are now old enough to truly understand service to others. And they carried the quilt squares for others babies that weren’t there to be carried.
I know it might not seem like much. But to an 11,9 and 4 year old. Who wants to carry a blanket for a mile? But it opened up a conversation with them about support, respect, loss and being there for others. Another blessing yet again my tiny 2 pound daughter gave me and my family.
Whispering in my daughter’s ear to look out at all the families. And that one one thing we all have in common is a baby like Faith. That on any given day you wouldn’t know the loss and wounded heart we all carry and slowly are learning and have somewhat learned how to mend. But we are all connected.
I looked at her face as she looked out. And for the first time I could see it. Compassion. ❤️A true and real understanding of compassion. All thanks to her sister Faith.❤️
It’s one day. One day out of the entire year that my family remembers together. That we honor her life and the thousands of real blessings that she has given us.
And selfishly my greatest blessing is my own life.
Truthfully I don’t know where I would be today without her life as it was.
Words cannot and will never express the deep sadness I feel for her loss. But the deep undying gratitude and love I feel for what she gave me.
An opportunity to have a life worth living.
I keep sharing, every single day…I keep sharing.
Most of the stuff I write is usually for me. Maybe a form of therapy or expression I guess. And in hopes to help or inspire another…
If you have lost a baby. If you understand that deep sense of emptiness I’m talking about. If you wonder what good could ever come of something like this.
There can and will be blessings, good and healing.
❤️But do not be afraid to be in pain.
❤️Do not be afraid to cry your tears dry.
❤️And do not be afraid to feel that hole in your heart.
?Because that pain will lessen.
?The tears will soften.
?And the hole will one day sprout a new flower all because of what had once grown there.
Never replacing. But rather adding to the space that was once empty.
October is Infant Loss Awareness Month and I urge you to take even just a moment to connect with the notion that an innocent child’s life no matter how small is a life. I am grateful for the time I had with my daughter and now, 12 years later, am grateful for her sacrifice.
Update: How to connect and support someone going through grief and loss is challenging. I want to invite you to read a recent blog I was featured in talking about how to communicate with others going through grief. HERE
All day I have been thinking about it. About her.
All day she has been on my mind.
And part of the long car ride home from speaking… I cried.
I cried those special tears that go deep. That I feel everything all over again. Not just losing you. But when I first found out I was going to lose you. It was hours. Literally hours after I had just came to terms with becoming a mom and welcoming you into my life. Our life.
I didn’t know it then but you would become the best thing to ever happen to me. Your showering of gifts that would have never happened if it wasn’t for your life exactly the way it was.
The insights. The personal push into taking back my life and truly standing in recovery and never looking back.
You gave me compassion. Insight. Perseverance. Determination. Trust. You lead me to feel in a deep way. A deep way I didn’t even know was possible to feel. You gave me three beautiful children. Of whom would not be in our life if it wasn’t for you and your life.
You gave me a deeper sense of purpose. Purpose to live. To be bold. To be brave. To pick up the pieces and move forward.
A few weeks after you left me. I dragged myself out of bed and looked in our bathroom mirror and told myself I needed to find something good in this. That this pain. This unexplainable pain. This pain I would never wish on my worse enemy had to not be for nothing.
And then it happened. I started to see the blessings. The blessings that only carrying you in my womb, and holding you in my arms and watching you leave this earth tightly nestled within my grasp. Then giving you away leaving me with the most empty feeling I could never fully explain to anyone could feel.
But it happened. The blessings. I started to see them randomly on occasion, but I knew it was you. Then more frequently. Things would happen and the only explanation was you.
And now 12 years later I have experienced dozens, hundreds if not thousands of blessings your life exactly the way it was could have given.
My biggest blessing was in losing you. Losing you gave me purpose to live. Losing you pushed me to forge on fully into recovery. That because of you I wasn’t going to waste another second. Through your death I found life. Like a real life. One worth living. One worth striving for. One where I wanted to not just live but become the best version of myself while helping others do the same.
But I’m not going to lie. Losing you was one of the darkest, most difficult, incredibly painful experiences ever. But that pain brought your Papa and I closer together. It showed us truly what it meant to have a healthy baby. What bringing another life into this would meant. And how valuable our own lives truly are.
It is on this day each year that I am reminded of what you gave me. And I am forever grateful for you and for you coming into my life. I couldn’t fully see it at first because, well, grief is hard, and messy and complicated and as much as people try to box it in-it’s impossible to.
And for anyone out there grieving the loss of a loved one…a child. The grief never leaves. It just changes. The waves become less rocky and if you are open to it, and ask to see them, the blessing will blow in.
I am sharing this because I know what it is like to struggle. To beg for your life. To want to die, and watch someone die in your arms. But I also know what it is like to get back up again. To not just survive, but to thrive.
You will get though this. I see you. I feel you. I hear your cries. I know your pain. And give yourself the grace to just feel this moment. Because it will eventually pass, but the hole in your heart, I’m not going to lie, will never go away.
But I have come to understand, it’s not suppose to. It is partly what has made you who you are at this point in your life.
But the beauty and blessing is, eventually a seed will sprout and a beautiful flower will grow. That flower would have never been there if it were not for all of this.
Tonight we prayed for you in gratitude for all the blessings you have given us. That we have all experienced as a family, all because of you. This family we are today is all. because. of. you.
When Life Hits You In the Head: How to Listen for Your Next Steps
Nearly ten months ago, I took an awful fall that landed me an ambulance ride and lots of fun doctor visits (and many of you know how much I love going to the doctor).
While at a wedding in Iowa, I was walking out of the pool while carrying my son Ivan when I stepped into a puddle of water on the slippery deck. I fell backward and hit my head twice on the rock-hard pavers beneath me. By the grace of God, my son Ivan was not harmed. However, this fall not only knocked the wind out of me; it stopped me dead in my tracks.
Bed-ridden for two weeks and unable to stand upright, focus, or move around without a splitting headache, my life was taking a huge turn. A very slow recovery left me for months inching my life back to its normal pace.
Roughly a month after the fall, I found myself sitting on our living room couch in tears over this stressful recovery. I began to ask God the same question I had asked for years as a teen secretly struggling with an eating disorder:
What good was to come out of this? My husband losing his mind because it was on him to do everything? My yoga studio going under because not only could I not teach, but I couldn’t even look at a computer for more than a few minutes without my head going nuts?
If everything has a purpose, and I do believe it, then what was the purpose in this?
As I laid on the couch thinking, into my head popped my little angel in the sky, Faith. I started to think about her short life and her impactful death, and what that all meant to me. As I thought of that, I began to think about my whole entire life. Surely all of the struggles and hardships I have overcome at such a young age were not for nothing.
While lying there, I started to think about however since Harper and Meredith were young I would tell them about their sister and how she lives in the sky. They know that she is always watching over them, and whenever they see a butterfly, it’s Faith coming to say “hi”. I laid there thinking about how my kids still giggle with delight when they see a butterfly, even at almost nine and seven years old.
As those thoughts passed, I began to ponder how everything in life is connected and began to wonder why I was named Hope. Although these thoughts were not new in my brain, this time I felt the urge to look up what the symbol for Hope was.
I then remembered an acquaintance, LaVonna, who through her speaking business created a light bulb bracelet. She did this to symbolize her message, igniting people’s lives. I began to wonder what kind of meaning my message could have. So, I picked up my phone and googled “What is the symbol for Hope?”.
To my surprise, up popped a picture of a beautiful butterfly. Tears started to roll down my cheeks as this overwhelming sense of love and validation ran over me. The butterfly was my daughter Faith, and the symbol of Hope is a butterfly; surely this was not a coincidence.
And what is a butterfly… New life, change, growth, and transformation.
I believe that when you are on the right path in life, you are provided for. It may not always be easy, but pieces do begin to fall into place. It took me hitting my head to slow down and truly start to shift gears. This was vital to ensure that I’d hear this important message clearly without distraction.
Make sure it doesn’t take you hitting your head to hear your next steps in life.
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