Wednesday, May 20, 2015


For several years I wanted to get Mckenna's age progression picture done. I needed, wanted to know what she would look like because my imagination would never form any other age than a 9 month old baby. I asked a friend about my need/want for this and was advised to wait, so I waited. Once the urge came on strongly again I decided to go through with it. It was expensive and I broke down and asked family and friends if they would be willing to help me raise the money and they sure did. I was able to go through with it with no regrets.

I opened the picture with a trusted safe friend in case I had a melt down. To say I was nervous is an understatement. As I was communicating with the women who did her portrait I would get a physical reaction just getting an email. I was so afraid I would see it and think it didn't look like her (how I would I really know though). I let my friend see it first and her reaction was "wow" no other words spoken, just wow. When she showed it to me tears as I turned away, overwhelmed. There she was, my beautiful, smart, happy, curious, full or life baby girl. It is so bittersweet. I was happy to see her but she is dead it shouldn't be this way. I wanted her here, I wanted this Mckenna, I wanted to get to know her as a 7.5 year old little girl. I went back and forth with tears of sadness and joy amazed that she was mine. I was staring into the eyes of my baby girl who I swear was looking right at me. I just stared at her, turned to my friend with tears in my eyes saying she's so beautiful.

As the day went on I was "fine." I could feel the tears under the surface. I felt like I was going to cry on and off all day. I just couldn't get over it. I had her image in my head all day trying to wrap my brain around it. The day turned into evening and I really could feel the pain, the heartache, the sadness and the tears were just waiting to be released. I did what I do best and I avoided it until I could no longer hold back my tears. I wanted my baby girl. All the things I lost the day she died. I lost her at every age. I never even got to hear her say mama more than one time. Yes it was one time but it was never again.....

I don't even know what kind of mother I would be to a 7 year old. I'm sure I would have been just like any other mother, learning as I go making mistakes, feeling like everything I was doing would screw her up. I would like to think I would have been a bad ass single mother who was able to support us, struggling but making it work.

I hung her picture up in my room where I can see her everyday (still avoiding looking at her, though it's getting easier).

I do not regret it however, if my bereaved friends wants to do this some day have therapeutic support because it really is a lot to process.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Knocks the Breath out of Me....

Author Unknown

I am often hit with flashbacks of the day Mckenna died. It varies on which moment catches me off guard. Sometimes it is me looking down seeing her under the television, sometimes it is me pulling her out from under the television lifeless, sometimes it is me holding her as her heart stopped, each and every time these images literally knock the breath out of me. Lately I have had an image that has come up more than once in a week which is a sign that I need to sit with this image. These memories are not easy to sit with. They are very, very hard to process, work through and remember. 

I asked a friend recently if I will ever look at Mckenna’s beautiful face and not see her face from the accident? She asked if I only see her face from the accident or do I see her beautiful face too, I said I see both. Right now I feel the reason I see her face from the accident when I look at her beautiful face is because that is the image that keeps popping into my head. The way she looked when I placed her on the ground as I called 911.

Her misshapen head, one eye swollen shut bruised, her other eye staying open, her tummy sunk in, not breathing....horrible, horrible, horrible memories 

In a matter of seconds my full of life baby girl lay lifeless dying on my living room floor. This image haunts me, why wouldn't it. No mother should ever have to process something so horrific. I caused this accident, I caused her death (on accident), nothing will ever change that or how I feel. This is the reason I will NEVER forgive myself and I'm OK with that. I'm ok with this because I am the one who has to live with this mistake and these images. I'm sure I am not the only mother who would not forgive herself. To expect otherwise is absurd to me. All I can do is process this image, sit with it and allow myself to feel what I feel without trying to "fix" it. The only way it would be "fixed" would be for me to go back in time and make a different decision that day which we all know it not possible.  

Just writing these words my chest is tight, I have a lump in my throat and my head is dizzy. Though one thing that is different is it has not taken over my life, where as a few years ago images like this would take me out for days. Growing, learning and like a dear friend says "becoming."

It is never ending. This journey is never ending….

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lonely Journey....

My mom was basically an alcoholic my entire life. It wasn't until I got older that I realized she had a drinking problem. I was 13 when it became clear, more obvious. I grew up very quickly at 13. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer, initially given a month to live, dying 10 months later, my mom started drinking more heavily, her boyfriend became her focus, choosing him over us on many occasions, she got a DUI, the cops brought her home, life was getting more challenging. The older I got the worse it became.  I begged my mom to stop drinking. I wrote her letters, gave her cards, encouraged her, supported her, loved her and it wasn't enough. It couldn't be enough because she was the one who needed to believe in herself, I couldn't save her from herself. But at 13 how was I supposed to know that? At 13 you want to be the reason they get sober. I felt I could save her back then, back before I knew the darkness she carried. The darkness that possibly

There was time when she got clean and sober. Stayed clean and sober for a year and a half. It was in that year and a half that I got to see what life was like with a mom. I didn't need to be the mom, I could be the daughter…I could be the daughter. Besides Mckenna’s 9 short months of life, that year and a half of my mom sober was the best time in my life. Life was still hard, life was still a struggle, but my mom was sober. She would make me dinner, we would watch movies, we would laugh so hard we cried, I would call her on my way home from work to stay awake, she made me lunches, she was my mom again and what a wonderful feeling it was.

I knew my mom very well. It was easy for me to know if she had been drinking the moment I heard her voice. I knew when she started drinking again. What a devastating moment that was. Many times I cried when I got off the phone, at a loss, angry, sad. I loved her, I wanted my mom back. Despite my love, my brother’s love it became clear that there was no coming back from her darkness. My mom reached a place in her soul that haunted her so deeply that there was nothing anyone could do to save her. I wish the system saw her as a human being, as a person who desperately wanted to get sober and stay sober. Not given her medication to "fix" the pain, the loss, the grief, the darkness. I wish she got the care she deserved. If she had someone to be with her in her pain, let her tell her story, sit with her in the darkness she might still be here today.  

It is not easy to watch your mom slowly kill herself. I sat across from her about a week before her death. Her eyes filled with desperation, she was nervous, shaking, holding her hands together, had not showered in days, her feet were not taken care of (which was out of character for her), I left that day truly heartbroken, worried, I just didn't know what to do. I knew in my heart I was going to lose her.
Our last words spoken to each other were I love you. I called to check on her because she was not answering her phone. She answered, she was sober. I could tell she was not doing well. I asked if she needed me to come over, she said no. She said I have been meaning to call you and let you know I was alive and well. When I knew that she was not well. We said I love you and hung up. I cried. She was sober and did not want me to worry about her. 2 days later I found her dead.

The day I found her I remember so clearly just wanting her back. Truly nothing else mattered, I wanted my mom. I needed my mom.

The second anniversary of my mother’s death is approaching. I can feel it in my body. It is hard to believe that she will be gone 2 years. I miss her more now than ever. Losing my mother has been the second hardest thing I have had to work through in my life. It has become the loneliest journey. How do you express the pain you feel at the loss of your mother, especially when you have lost a child? Do I have the right to say that her death is hard very, very hard? When you lose your parents, you lose the people who love you unconditionally, you lose your home, you lose a piece of you, your connection. I wish it was easier to describe this pain. My heart hurts, I feel lost the majority of the time, my purpose in life is questioned many days, I never knew losing her would hurt so much. Since  Mckenna’s death life has just been challenging . I have joy, I laugh, I enjoy many things I never thought I would again, but some days I hurt so much missing them I just don’t know what to do with my pain. 

Some may not understand, some may judge my journey. This is not guilt talking, this is just the pain of missing my mom. One day it won't be this heavy. One day it will shift, but right now I'm hurting at these memories. Right now I am just hurting..

I miss my mom, I miss Mckenna, I miss the family I once had.  This time of year is hard for so many reasons. …A lonely journey it is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Would Have a 7 Year old...Sigh

I would have a 7 year old, a 7 year old!! Sometimes that thought fills my heart with sadness. How could she be dead? How could my baby girl be dead? I watched a short video of her last night and it’s hard to believe that she was mine. It’s hard to believe that I gave birth to this amazing, beautiful, curious, old soul. I have often said I can’t imagine my life without Mckenna. I live everyday without her. I still cannot visualize never having her, never knowing her, never holding her, kissing her, loving her, as my life would not be the same without her ever existing. I may not have made the best decision staying with my ex husband back when I knew he cheated, however, if I had left him then I would have never had her. That is not a thought I can even begin to imagine. I would make the same choice if I had to live it again because she was worth the pain I went through all those years. 

I miss my daughter, I miss being her mom, I miss my life as a her mom, she was my partner in crime, my joy, my everything.

I often try and imagine what she would be like as a 7 year old. I look at other 7 year olds and think, would she be like that, would her hair be like that, would she act like that and these questions I will never know. The baby girl I knew was very curious about her surroundings, quiet and shy around strangers, a deep thinker (yes even for a baby), very smart, happy, loved life, fun, knew what she wanted, did not need entertaining, was just an overall amazing baby. I am sure she would mostly be the same in her personality, sadly,I will just never know her as any other age than a 9 month old baby.

If you knew Mckenna or only know her through me, would you be willing tell me what you feel she would be like, what she would be into, and how she would act? I would love to hear how you envision her. Just curious…

Missing her will never change, I will always wonder, and I will forever and always love her. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mom...I Miss You

The last few weeks my heart has been heavy missing both my sweet baby girl and my mom. Back to back I was brought back to their death days as if it had just happened, flashbacks, tears, questioning, longing, missing. Many times I am still thrown off when grief hits. Even after all this time, grief can still knock me down, bringing me to my knees with no mercy. I often find myself still resisting these moments, pushing them down, avoiding them because the pain feels almost unbearable. I judge my grief, especially when it comes to my mom.

When my mom was alive, I feared her death, I feared I would find her, I feared she would die from drinking, which became a reality on June 18th, 2013. One of my biggest fears was finding her dead. The night I found her  has been in my head the past couple weeks, replaying that moment, feeling that moment, reliving that night over and over. There are just no words to explain how finding her felt. In an instant none of the drinking matter, I wanted my mom. I felt like a little girl again. Lost, bewildered, confused. I stood there looking at my mom desperate for her to wake up, desperate to hug her, desperate to hear her voice, I just wanted my mom. I was suddenly the daughter needing her mom. Now I am and will forever be the daughter needing her mom, desperately wanting that connection back, the mother daughter bond, the conversations only we could have, they’re  gone forever.  

My mother was a broken soul. I never realized how broken until she was gone. I replay the weeks leading up to her death and so many emotions fill my heart, guilt, regret, sadness, shame. Images of those last few days I saw her, our conversations, the way she looked, the way I talked to her, the way I treated her, hurts my heart more than anyone really knows. I couldn’t fix her, I couldn’t help her, I couldn’t change her, I was helpless in a situation that I couldn’t fully walk away from. Yet, I am feeling such guilt with her death, with her life, with my mom. I didn’t do enough, I could have helped her more, been more kind, listened to the pain, see her, truly see her. I ache when I remember the look on her face, I ache when I see the desperation in her eyes, I ache when I remember where she was living, I ache because I now understand the pain she was in. It’s too late to understand. She’s dead.

 Growing up with an alcoholic is hard. It’s hard to worry all the time, it’s hard to be the “mom” to your mom, it’s hard to wonder not if but when the alcohol will kill them, it’s just plain hard to see the person you love be destroyed by alcohol. In the end of her life I was so frustrated with her, I was so angry, I was so hurt, I was so lost on what to do, that I distanced myself from her more than once. I shut her out; I could not bear seeing her wither away into someone I did not recognize. I could not look past the alcohol, I could not *see* her as the human, the woman, the mom she was under the pain. Growing up with an alcoholic changes everything about them, you, your relationship. It’s hard.

 My mom was lost, confused and broken from her past. She did not know how to cope with life. The more I am learning in school, the more I feel that the system failed her, the system that is supposed to “help” people. My mom was in and out of rehab and detox. Neither of which truly helped her. When she went into detox she would be very sick, they would give her medication, and once she was done detoxing she would be released. They would not get to the heart of her drinking, the reasons she drank. She suffered trauma, a significant amount of trauma that she could not handle. If she had someone who would be willing to sit with her in her pain, her suffering, her story, who could walk with her until she could tolerate her pain she may be here today. Sober. My mom desperately wanted to get sober. I saw it in her face, I heard it in her voice. It was her past that was haunting her. Medication was not the answer, alcohol was not the answer, for my mom she needed connection.  My mom was a beautiful soul lost in a dark world screaming and no one was hearing her. Including me.

I am not sure I can forgive myself for this. I try and remember that I was the daughter and I did what I could. I try and hear the words a friend told me, it doesn’t matter, your mom knew your love and she loved you no matter what you said, did or didn’t do. Sometimes I just have a hard time believing those words. I miss my mom, my sober mom, the beautiful mom, person, human being that she was. I am thankful I knew that mom, because she is the reason I am who I am today. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alcohol, Change, and Loving Myself...

For many years alcoholism was a part of my everyday life. I was constantly worried, scared, sad, angry, annoyed, heartbroken, and hopeful. I hated watching my mom change right before my eyes. The mother that was deep down in all that pain, the mother that loved me, the mother that I loved deeply became more and more of a stranger. I feared for a long time that I would find her dead. I tried to distance myself from her because the alcohol mom was too hard to be around. I could not save her, I could not help her, I could not see her, I was angry, though that did not stop my worry. I would call and when she didn’t answer I would worry. I was on constant alert, in constant fear that she was going to die. That fear came true the day I found her dead. I was in shock, I stood there in disbelief looking down at my mother’s body, shaking, crying, at a loss for words. It is a moment I will never forget. Alcoholism took my mom’s life, it took her away from everyone she loved, from everyone that loved her, it robbed her of a beautiful life, it robbed my brother and I from our mom, it took so much from us, all of us.

Though the day I found her the alcohol did not matter. I just wanted my mom back.

I have noticed for the last few months just how easy it is or can be for alcohol to become a problem. I notice in me the moments I crave it, the moments when it is all I can think about, the moments I feel this need for it and it scares me. When sadness creeps in I can feel the craving, the urge, the want to drink. I do not want to feel the sadness, the pain, the guilt. The guilt is usually the driving force for wanting a drink. The guilt of my moms last weeks of her life. I did not do enough, the look on her face haunt me, knowing she died lonely eats me up inside. The guilt of Mckenna's death can be too much to bare at times. There are days my breath is taken as the image of her feet sticking out from under the television I moved pops in my head and I am brought to my knees. I feel this panic inside me and drinking sounds way more appealing that feeling all that guilt. I do not drink where I am living, so often times when these cravings and urges happen as I am in the middle of a guilt attack I either avoid or talk my self through it, with avoiding being the my usual choice. Neither is healthy. 

I also like to drink because drunk Ashley is the Ashley that I wish I could always be sober. I feel I am more sociable, fun, funny, approachable, silly (though I am sure many feel this way when they drink). I have very few in my world that I can be my total authentic, full, self with sober. When I can be my authentic self it lights up my world and I love how I can let my wall down. I was recently told (by a loving, caring friend who I can be my authentic self with) that I can be a bit rigid, not warm or approachable. This made me cry. I cried because my mind went straight to my mom who would tell me I was cold.I do not like that part of me, I do not like that people feel they cannot approach me, that I don't feel warm because that is not me. Alcohol will not allow me to be my authentic self or help me let my wall down. Awareness, not drinking and opening up sober is the only way this can happen.

This is going to be a challenge for me because I like to drink, I like the feeling, I like how I can be silly, more open and almost carefree. I don’t want alcohol to be my liquid courage anymore, I just need to trust in myself, believe that I am fun, silly, funny, and approachable sober. I want someone to see me as the warm, loving, caring, compassionate, generous person I feel I am with those I feel I can be my full authentic self with.

I do not want to end up with the life my mom died in. I want my authentic self to shine through without alcohol being the driving force.

This is important to me and I hope my family and friends will understand and be supportive of this decision. Don’t judge me for making this choice and don’t judge me if I happen to have a couple drinks. The more I say no, the easier it will get…..

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Friendship and Forgiveness

I am a very forgiving person (some say too forgiving). I am not sure why or if it really matters why, I just know being a forgiving person also comes with a lot of pain. While I may be forgiving of friends and family, some may not be forgiving of me. I am a people pleaser and always have been. I don’t like it when people don’t like me, I hate it when someone is made at me, I want to fix things and move forward stronger with friendships and family, though I feel I am unique in this aspect.
I have had many friends come and go in my life and I know this is a part of life. Sometimes it is because we grow apart, or move away or are just not on the same track, whatever the reason it happens. For a long time it was hard for me to accept when this happened. I always thought, why does this have to happen, why can’t we just remain friends even when life happens and things change? Many factors are usually at play when a friendship dissolves. It is never simple.

For me personally I feel the reason I forgive is because if something were to happen to them or to me I would not want there to be regrets.  I live with many regrets in my life and a lot of it has to do with forgiveness.

I have friendships that are very unique. I have a friend I have known since we were 4 years old. We may not talk often, but I know she would be there if I needed her and has been there for me at times that I felt I had no one to turn to for help. I have a friend I have known since 1st grade and was reunited with when we were 21 through the friend I have known since I was 4. They are beautiful inside and out. I have a friend I have known 20 years, she has supported me in everything I do and will always be willing to kick someone’s ass for me. She has been around for all the good and all the bad. We started out on very rocky terms, but I can't imagine her not in my life. She inspires me to live life and do things that scare me and have fun. I have a friend that was a former marine wife. We went through things together that bonded us forever. She flew out the day after Mckenna died despite having 6 week old twins and a 2 year old at home. She may live in a different state, but we always pick up right where we left off. She is a gift to me in so many ways. I have a friend that has seen the dark side with me and understands this grief journey when many do not. We have laughed together, cried together and we share the bond of having a dead child/children. It is a bond we wish we did not share. I have friends that are older than me that have been a huge piece of my growth and becoming. Without these beautiful souls who have cheered me on, help guide me in this grief journey, held me while I cried, and laughed with me in embarrassing moments I don't know where I would be. Despite my flaws they all still love me. I love them and would go to the ends of the earth for each and every one of my friends.

When things get hard, when life happens and things change, when there is a misunderstanding try and remember that life is short and either you or they could be gone tomorrow. If you feel it is too big to forgive try anyway, don’t live with regrets in your life. The friendship may not be saved, but it does not need to end of bad terms. If you or they die tomorrow then at least there is peace of mind that you parted ways peacefully with better understanding of each other. Talk, communicate hurt feelings, be vulnerable, ask for forgiveness, show forgiveness, be genuine and authentic, you never know the gifts that can come from loving one another despite the challenges and flaws of each other and your friendship. Love big or go home…