12 Months of Lessons. Hello 2017

As we are turning over the calendar page to begin a new year I am feeling open and optimistic that 2017 will bring love, peace and joy.

Starting a new year for our family is a time we reflect upon the year we just lived, we review our goals we had set, we create a photo album containing moments captured during our family adventures and everyday life, and Ryan puts together a video containing clips with moments we have captured throughout the year. Every other year doing this ritual feels good, we feel proud of all we have accomplished, all the adventures we experienced and grateful for all the memories we have made with friends and family. This year is different. This past year was hard. Harder than any year we have lived to date. I hope it is the hardest year we will have to live. I see all the pictures of all the moments we experienced as a family and as beautiful as they are, and as much gratitude I have for those moments I see Teddy missing. I see my eyes in the pictures and in many I see how the light was dimmed. I see pain, I see through my eyes as if they are a window to my soul and see all I have felt this last year. It is hard for me to see. I also see the light being let back in as the pictures progress. The final family picture of 2016 was our Christmas picture we put on our cards we sent out and my eyes are finally full of light again. When that picture was taken I had a great sense of peace and my heart was filled with gratitude and joy.

The first year living with grief teaches you a lot. I am grateful for the lessons and as hard as this year has been I wouldn’t change it. I have learned we are stronger than we ever imagined. Being strong looks different every day and means something different to different people. Being strong for me has been the following.

  • Accepting when my heart was far too heavy to continue with my everyday life, and allowing myself to feel and honour all that my heart was feeling.
  • Waking up everyday and parenting two beautiful boys when my heart was so broken, and couldn’t help but see Teddy missing every time I looked at them.
  • Talking openly and honestly about our experience to help others who have experienced a similar journey feel less alone.
  • Keeping my heart open to allow joy, love and peace in when it would have been easier to shut my heart down and protect it from future heartache.
  • Choosing to seek help from many avenues and being committed to finding peace. I attended a grief retreat, went to counselling with Ryan, had Reiki, saw a Shaman, spoke to our minister, talked honestly to those I trust to hold my heart gently and without judgment, attended peer grief meetings, and wrote about it all, especially when it was hard and messy.
  • Allowing myself to feel joy and love for those in my life when they were blessed with beautiful life moments. It was hard at times for all involved to separate our heartache and the joy of their blessings.
  • Having the realization that our level of grief and sadness doesn’t equal our level of love for the one who died. You can love that person deeply and have a heart filled with joy for the life you are living even if it is without them physically present.
  • Openly admitting when my heart was heavy, life felt messy, and then also openly sharing when joy and peace have been welcomed and was allowed to stay.
  • Accepting help, asking for help, and learning to lean on others.
  • Giving grace to friends, family and even strangers who have been unknowingly hurtful, and to all who have judged not knowing what it feels like to be us. I have also had to give myself grace in times I have spoken words driven from hurt, or moments it would have been easier to be angry, place blame and/or have unloving feelings towards myself.
  • Finding peace, and welcoming it to stay took a lot of strength. I can say a lot of the time peace now stays for weeks. I have moments that feel heavy but they are mostly fleeting. This isn’t to say I don’t have times when sadness hangs around a bit longer or that in my life times won’t feel hard but by allowing peace to stay has given me more strength to allow emotions to be flowing in and out freely. I no longer hang on to them. I am more present and more open.

Being strong never looks exactly the same twice. It isn’t the same for different people and one’s strength can’t truly be judge by others, not even by those who have experienced a similar loss. We have all been blessed with unique circumstances in life, we have been gifted hearts that feel deeply and journey that is unique to its own. Knowing that it would seem like commons sense how we navigate a journey of deep loss would also be unique but so often people compare and judge. We judge ourselves amongst other’s journey with grief and the people on the sidelines tend to judge what they see looking in. Both equally unfair to everyone involved.

I have learned when we experience a loss the ripple effect is larger than we initially imagine. As time rolls on the realization that the loss continues in many forms. You are excluded from events or activities because either your heart can’t handle attending, or because you no longer belong. Relationship change some become stronger and new ones are formed, and other times the cracks in a relationship become very apparent and you are unable to unsee them. The death of someone you love is multi layered and is always unique to the individual.

Practicing mindful gratitude has taught me that in my darkest days there is always a glimmer of light to hold onto. Being grateful for blessings and teachings because of a loss doesn’t mean you are grateful the person died

Grief isn’t a party of one. It effects all those who love, share space and interact with the person experiencing the grief. It takes a village to get through it. We are all called to be apart of each other’s life experiences allowing us to grow, to become more compassionate and more aware of all that others experience in life. We can’t live it all ourselves but we can learn though those around us. It truly is a gift.

I have realized once you experience a life altering moment the old you is gone, a distant memory, and a person you and others might miss. The new you may be a better version of the old you, but it takes time to find your way there. It is one of the ripple effects to grief, and an added layer of loss but also could be a blessing.

I have learned that we all have our own medicine. What I need to navigate this journey isn’t necessarily what will work for others. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Everyone has to be true to themselves and support each other in the manner that works for them. There is no room for judgement but plenty of room to hold space, and offer love.

I have learned the old me was an incredibly judgmental person. The new me works really hard not to be. I understand as much as anyone how hard it is to not judge, to trust that a person is doing what is best for them, to trust people are genuinely good and the words they use and the acts they commit are based on love.

In 2017 I wish for a community that holds space for those in pain, shows an abundance of love, even when it is hard to do, and that we all consciously choose to not judge others, rather trust them instead.

Life is full of mountains to climb and valleys to pass, struggles in life are real. We all face them, they never look the same from one person to the next but what we all have in common is that fact we struggle. If we all spent more time loving ourselves and each other, our time here on earth will be that much easier. The load for each of us would be lighter. Worry is the thief of joy. If for the next 365 days we can choose love and encourage those in our communities to do the same I can only imagine what 2018 will feel like.

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My Loss Made Room For Growth 

Grief opened the door to my soul. It ripped me wide open and held a mirror in front making me take a hard look at who I really am and giving me the opportunity to take inventory of all the beautiful aspects of me and all the ugly. I had the option to take this mirror, study all that it reveals and work really hard at bridging the gap between who I am and who I ideally would like to be.

In 19 days we will arrive at Teddy’s first birthday. This day is approaching and at times I can’t believe we have survived, at times I am so full of love and joy while thinking of how far we have come and how much change within us has occurred, and then I have the moments that make heart hurt deeply as I think about all that has happened without our sweet boy beside us. I have been spending my time thinking about our journey from the perspective of change and I am blown away with the level of positive change that has occurred within myself and within our immediate family.

I am far from a perfect individual, as I write this post today I have a list of things I want to improve upon but I am not the Ally Williams I was before this journey presented itself, I wasn’t a bad person but like anyone I was limited to my experiences and to the lessons I had learned in life so basically I was just a much younger version of myself before this all began. This experience for me wasn’t about survival but about growth and wanting to coming out of this stronger, wiser, less judgmental, more compassionate, more empathetic, deeper, and with a mind that was broader. I knew this journey for me was presented for growth, this wasn’t just a terrible loss but one that came with great purpose and I refused to allow this to be all in vein. I embarked on a journey of being 100% open and honest with my support system, I told them exactly what I saw in that mirror, I was honest about the gaps, I was honest about my moments that were ugly and messy, when I said terrible things out of anger or thought unkind thoughts. I owned my shit. Because I was open, honest and presented all of me on a platter to our counsellor, Shaman, and Reiki Master they knew what we were dealing with and that is when magic happened. Not only did we work on putting my heart back together but we took the deconstructed version of me and worked on putting it back together in a way that was much closer to the version of me that I wanted to see while looking in that mirror.

As this journey wasn’t all about loss but also growth some of the changes have given me a whole new level of peace I wasn’t aware I was lacking. People in my life who used to ignite strong feelings now have no impact, the power is gone and I am light. I now can see the light in them because I know it is in me too, sometimes that is all we have in common and that is okay. I see our world and those in it so differently now and I am forever grateful.

December 9, 2016 will be a celebration of so many things. We will be remember the anniversary of the best day of our life, the day Teddy was born was the most significant day we will ever live. The birth of your child is always significant but when you only have that day, when that day it is all you will ever get together in the physical world, that day becomes more valuable than all the gold in the world. I would do anything to relive those moments with him. We will take time to reflect on all the work we have done as a family to better ourselves, to keep moving forward with love and honesty and becoming such a solid unit that we are unbreakable. Time will be spent reflecting on all those who have loved and supported us in big and small ways throughout this past year. Without every single act of love and remembrance this journey would have been very different, our gratitude is endless. What we are most excited about it is celebrating all the lessons of love Teddy taught us. He had purpose and this purpose was all about love so we have plans to celebrate and spread this love with as many people as possible on this day.

Life is beautiful, no one said it was easy but the beauty is bountifully. For our family we have had a few road blocks that we have needed to navigate our way around and each time we have looked back saw what a beautiful detour it really was. Like most detours, they are inconvenient, not planned and can pose great challenges but can come with opportunities should you be open to see them. When our journey with Teddy began we chose to be present from the beginning, we weren’t going to be seeing blessings from the review mirror but in the moment they were presented and maybe this is why for us it has been the most life changing of them all. As we live our days and years going forward we will not be asking for a map but simply riding the journey that is presented and feeling all that there is to feel, the good, the beautiful, the hard, the ugly, we are here for it all.

2017 Living not Grieving 


Dear Teddy

April 23, 2016 I wrote “I know how I want the ending to look like. I want the last chapter to describe how I did let go, and how I am able to love you wholeheartedly and how the profound pain and sadness is replaced with peace. I will simply love you, our experience and accept this is all it was supposed to be, and no longer long for more and to be grateful for all I have.”

It has been 330 days since you left. Each day has been different from the next. Somedays have been peaceful and easy and many have been heavy, hard and at times down right ugly. As your birthday is quickly approaching I have been reflecting on the past 330 days and how I want our next year to look like.

I have not 100% arrived at the final chapter but I feel so very close to it. I know my journey with you will be forever changing but I feel so much peace. I haven’t quit wishing things were different, but I think of you and smile rather than having tears pour from me. I have my moments when a feeling of sadness washes over me but it comes, I honour it and it passes. I am okay with sharing space with sadness and I am okay having it leave me.

I spent time holding onto grief. There was a period of time where I truly felt my grief was tied to the weight of my love and closeness to you. When joy overstayed its welcome I would quickly shove it away as feared I was losing you. There was a period of time where the slight notion of having space between you and I would bring me to my knees. As time moved on, I have done a huge amount of work and I am now at a place where joy stays for weeks on end and is welcome to stay forever. I no longer feel desperation to hold on to you. I just know you are always there.

I have chosen as we move into the next year to focus on the love. The love you give me, the lessons of love you provided, and the love that has grown exponentially for your brothers and especially for your father. I am not spending another year grieving, I am spending it living. I want all of our 2017 to be about living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful for all we have. I know undoubtedly you will be right beside us each step of the way sending your love and light our way endlessly. You will always be loved and honoured but it will be done in a different way than it has this past year.

I thank you for being so close when I needed you to and for helping me work through letting go. I thank you for teaching me how to love you quietly, and how to be present in each moment. Being present allows me to honour all emotions and let them freely flow through.

I have been so blessed with such amazing support. You being my beacon of hope and love, then our counsellor who has help navigate our marriage, my favourite energetic workers and some of our friends and family have listened for hours, have sat quietly while I cried, have held space when nothing else was needed and have supported us in their authentic way. We have been loved and supported by so many near and far. Without each member of the support network I would never have found my way. Grief can’t be navigated alone, you need a team to help sail that boat.

Teddy, you are my son, today and forever. My love isn’t measured by my tears but by the love in my heart. Only you truly know the weight of my love and it is never ending and forever growing.

Love you always,

Your Mommy

Capture Your Grief – My Promise To You

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When we received the news Teddy would die our initial reaction was devastation. Walking out of the Kingston General Hospital was easy, we were on autopilot. Each foot was placed before the other and we found our car and our way out of the parking garage. I think that is what shock feels like. We didn’t make it too far down the road before we had to pull over and allow all the emotions to overcome us. It was messy, it was hard and it is a moment I never want to relive. It was the precise moment who we once were, was forever gone. It was also the precise moment a promise was made. We promised each other we would put our marriage first. We were told how most marriages don’t survive the loss of child. So the promise was made and our marriage will always be priority number one and our boys will be a very close second. If our marriage is solid our boys will benefit tenfold. It was that moment that it became so clear whatever choices we made for the rest of our lives had to be made from love. Love became our driving force for all things. Our promise to Teddy was to Always Choose Love.

With those two promises we have been amazing at protecting our marriage. For us that is an easy one. Our promise to always choose love is easy 90% of the time, but we are human and there are times other emotions take over and we have to be reminded that the choice we are making isn’t the most loving one. For me that reminder can come straight from Ryan, or our boys, Jack is the first to let us know a tone of voice isn’t loving. The reminder can come from a whisper, my subconscious mind will nag me to the point I am forced to reflect on a moment that a better choice could have been made. Finally, I no longer can go to bed without spending a quiet moment going over my day and finding ways I can improve on Choosing Love. I am far from perfect but my promise is made and I will always work towards being able to Always Choose Love, especially when it is hard. I am so aware now, I am so grateful that it has become such a focus in our home. We talk to our boys about choosing love, and giving love to everyone daily. This promise is the greatest gift Teddy gave our family. His life was about loving unconditionally. He is our greatest teacher and without a shadow of a doubt our life is better because of this lesson.

Capture Your Grief – I Am 

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I wish. . . I wish I could stop wishing everything was different. I wish by coming to complete peace with this journey the strong desire for it all to be different will be replaced with more love and a feeling of being complete and okay that our time together was so short. I wish my memory was crystal clear of every moment I had with him. Because I am blessed to have Teddy’s birth and time after captured through photographs which helps to jog my memory but without them I fear so many moments would have been lost forever. My memory of Jack and Patrick is an equal blur of 95% of their short lives so far but I don’t have that desperate feeling to hold each memory forever as I know for at least today we will make some more.

I remember. . . I remember how close and connected I felt to Teddy while I was pregnant with him. I felt connected to my two other pregnancies at the time but now knowing how deep that connection can truly be I am not sure I will ever feel that close and connected to anyone ever again. I remember the intense love our room was filled during our labour and his birth. I remember feeling complete sense of peace when he was born and placed on my chest. Heart to heart. . I remember being so tired after birth but not wanting to sleep our time together away. I remember him being tucked in with me and taking a nap together and thinking this will be our only nap we will ever take together and feeling blessed to have been so tired that moment had to happen. I remember wishing I could trade places with my son the moment the gentleman from the funeral home dressed in a suit came into our hospital room to take our son. I remember so clearly wondering if the whole town could hear my heartbreaking at that precise moment. Surely the sound of a heart shattering to the degree it can never be reassembled as it once was could be heard to the human ear. Then he was gone . . .

I could not believe. . . I could not believe how strong we were. I didn’t know how we would ever get in a vehicle to drive to a hospital to deliver a baby we wouldn’t take home, but we did. I didn’t know how I could go endure another long labour knowing my baby would be dead, but I did. I didn’t know how I would be able to hold a dead baby, but we did. I didn’t know how we would be able to hand over our baby knowing we will never see him again, but we did. I didn’t know how I would walk out of the hospital empty handed but we did. I didn’t know how I would deliver Teddy’s eulogy, but I did. I didn’t know how we would live our life knowing such a large piece of us was missing, but we do every day. I didn’t know how we could ever let joy in again, but we do. I could not believe how supportive our community is. I could not believe how many people have lived a similar experience. I could not believe how often this happens and how no one talks about it, how alone we truly felt at first.

If only. . . If only things could be different. If his heart could have been whole. If he could have stayed. Beyond that, I wish nothing to be different.

I am. . . I am many things to many people but my two most valuable titles are Wife and Mother. Loosing a child makes you take a hard look at who you are, what matters in our short life, what goals you want to achieve and the purpose for your own life. Being Ryan’s wife is the greatest honour. From the outside it may look like we have a charmed life. The truth is we are incredibly blessed but our marriage has been put to its test with real life challenges from the beginning. We all get married and think we are perfect for each other and life will be beautiful together but it isn’t until real life shows up that it becomes clear if you truly are meant for the journey of life together. Each time real life tested our love, our love grew, our foundation that our marriage stood on became that much stronger. Our most recent test was the death of our son. Not for one second did this event shake our marriage but rather from the moment we were told Teddy would die it was as if a truck full of concrete backed up and poured a thick layer on our already strong foundation making sure we were bulletproof. Our love cannot be broken and our broken hearts are always safe with each other. Without a doubt we were meant to be together on this crazy journey called life. Because of Ryan, I am a better mother, daughter, aunt, sister, cousin, friend, stranger. Because of Ryan there is light in the darkness, there is faith when I had doubt, there is love when I feel lost, there is laughter when my heart needs joy, and there is a feeling of safety and a knowing that together we will always be okay.

Capture Your Grief – Lemons and Lemonade 

I am not sure if it is always about making lemonade. . . Rather than being open to the blessings and the lessons that hard situations offer. I don’t make the blessings, I don’t create the lessons, they are right there for the taking. In order for me to see them, to be able to appreciate them and claim them for myself I have to keep my heart open, I have to sit in a vulnerable state. Creating a hard shell over my broken heart may potentially protect me from more pain but it creates an impenetrable force around me preventing me to make space to grow and accept the lessons and blessing.

I think to make lemonade is to make something sweet out of a sour event in life. I struggle with this since for me I don’t feel I have made anything. I am just riding the wave, and walking the path this journey has lead me on. I believe in all hard situations if we are open we will see the beauty and we will experience the blessings that come with it. I am just not the creator of that, they are always present regardless if I see them or not.

I also have a hard time thinking anything about Teddy is sour. People have referred to the day he passed away as the worst day of my life. That simply isn’t true. How could the day we met and only time I had with him be the worst? It was the best day. The hardest day but the best day. Teddy is light, Teddy is joy. His absence makes my heart hurt in unimaginable ways but that is only because he is loved so deeply because he matters and because he is so great that even after 100 years it wouldn’t have been enough time. He was born lemonade, he has cleared a path for all things sweet and all things love to be present, so there was no sour to turn sweet.

Capture Your Grief – Surrender and Embrace 

The feeling of having to surrender isn’t new to me. Our first experience as a couple having to learn to surrender and embrace the journey we were on dates back to about 6 years ago when we experienced challenges conceiving a baby. At the time it was all consuming and an emotional roller coaster. Every time I encountered a moment where I felt in control I was quickly reminded I had none. I believe this experience prepared us to deal with health issues of our second son. The path we walked with him and navigating that experience prepared us for the death of our third son Teddy.

The day we were told Teddy had no chance to survive outside the womb was the ultimate test for us in surrendering. We had no control of his outcome. It was going to be as his life’s journey was intended; short but powerful. I couldn’t make him better, I couldn’t protect him or our hearts from being broken. All we could do as a couple was to choose love. We chose to give him all the love he deserved, a lifetime’s worth and embrace the fact our time will be short.

As our journey has progressed and he was born then our goodbyes were said, each step we were faced with a choice and each step we chose to surrender and embrace our reality. It wasn’t always an easy choice, many times I needed to consciously talk myself through it. I do know once I let go it is much easier to find peace. To feel grounded in the journey.

It has been 10 months or 304 days ago that we said our goodbyes and surrendering looked different. I was no longer surrendering to allow for space to fill Theo with love but to give myself grace as we navigated grief. When powerful and heavy grief sets in it can be scary. It can be so overwhelming that you wonder if you will ever feel joy again. At first I felt an urge to fight the feelings and tried so hard for everything to be like it once was. Grief from the loss of a child is so large it resembles a massive wall that it is impossible to push through. After a few waves of peace came through I learned that no matter how heavy things felt that I soon would be given a break and the heaviness would lift and feeling sad would be replaced by joy. Knowing this allows me to surrender to those heavy days. To feel them, deeply and fully. It allows me to emerge with personal growth as I am picked up by a wave of peace.

Recently I have learned to surrender to peace. Not long ago I had the realization that feeling peace for any lengthy period of time made me comfortable. I felt like I was moving away from Teddy. I had to work my way through feeling that my level of grief = closeness or amount of love I feel for Theo. My heart and mind now know this simply isn’t true. Intellectually I knew this not to be true but the connection between your mind and heart can often experience a disconnect. Now that my heart has come to terms with this, surrendering to the peace and allowing it to stay for as long as it can has really helped me be more present in our journey.

Surrendering and embracing to all life’s experiences allows you to be more present in them. To feel them more and to absorb all that they truly are. It isn’t easy but many things worthwhile aren’t.