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Just because we smile and laugh, does not mean we miss them any less…

This will be a very hard post to write, so please bear with me….

Grief is the most complicated process a person in life will ever go through, at least it was for me. My sister passed away on May 20th, 2015 very unexpectedly with no signs that she had been living with a heart defect. I know that processing through the loss of a loved one is hard for everyone but it made it even harder that I did not get to say goodbye nor was I able to tell her how much I loved her and just how much she completed me.
I truly believe there is no bond like a sister’s bond. We spent 22 years making memories and strengthening our friendship. Sister’s can relate to each other in a way that no one else can. Throughout the years, I just got used to being called Rachel and her Sarah. We were two peas in a pod and I think we were similar in a lot of ways. Rachel would come down to the kitchen table and she would notice that I was wearing one of her clothing items right away and she would say “Did I say you could borrow that?” The next day, I would catch her wearing one of my clothing items. This continued over the years and it became and inside joke between the two of us. We continued to develop a lot of inside jokes and secrets over the years that we would only share amongst ourselves.

When my beautiful sister was taken so unexpectedly from this earth, a large piece of my heart went with her. The pain in my heart is a constant reminder of my love for her. I would not trade the memories and love of 22 years to have the pain be gone although some days the pain does feel unbearable.

We all grieve differently and it is impossible to know what another person is feeling inside. We as humans get very good at putting on a show for the world that says “No worries, I am fine.” However, it is usually far from the truth. There are a lot of days that I do not feel fine but I put on a face that says I am. I use humor to cope most often and those are usually the days I am hurting the most.

The first few months after my sister had passed, I found it very hard to smile, and when I did smile, I felt this intense guilt. I would tell myself “How can I be smiling right now when Rachel is not here.” This went on for months and months. I would feel even guiltier when I would laugh. Eventually, I was able to tell myself that Rachel would not want to see me like this. She would want me to live my life and continue to work on being happy. I have felt happiness at times but I must admit that I have yet to feel true Joy since she has left this earth, and maybe I never will. I read an article about losing a sibling in which they compared the loss of a sibling to losing an arm. Although you learn to live with the pain and the “new normal”, everything about your life is now different. The hole in your heart is permanently there despite what you do.

What I found to be helpful in coping through grief:

Exercise , it was my saving grace. I was running a lot during that period of my life so I signed up for my 2nd marathon.

Tea. I drank a lot of chamomile and lavender tea to help me relax. I still enjoy tea.

Journaling. I wrote down what was going on in my head and it helped me feel less alone.

Sleep. Although I was not sleeping well, I did try and take a lot of naps.

Spending time with family. It is comforting to surround yourself with those who are experiencing a similar pain and who can help you share memories of your loved one.

Be gentle with yourself. Seriously. Do not beat yourself up because you feel like you are scattered and unable to get through your daily routine. This is a normal part of the grief process and it can take a long time before things even feel remotely normal again.

I also want to share something for those who are helping someone work through the grieving process. I know that people really do mean well but sometimes statements can hurt even when that is not the intention.

Statements you should try to avoid saying…

“They are in a better place.” This is hard to hear because we believe the place they should be is right by our side on this earth.

“Everything happens for a reason.” Sorry, I just do not believe that.

“You will get over it.”  No, it is not something you ever “get over.” It is something you learn to live with but you never get over it. I think this is the most hurtful statement of all.

“I know how you feel.” Although this may sound helpful, it is not. Not one person can understand how another person feels. We all deal with things differently and it is impossible to understand exactly how another person feels.

“You need to move on.”  No, you should not try and give advice to someone unless they ask you for it and moving on means we should leave the love for our loved one behind. That does not ever happen. 

What is helpful to someone who is grieving. JUST BE THERE FOR THEM. I cannot say this enough. I know it is hard to come up with words to say to someone and honestly, no words are needed.  The company of someone and a hug goes such a long way. I think I felt the most alone the first 6 months after I lost my sister. I know that it is hard to be around someone who has this intense pain and loss, but it really means more than you could know. Tears make others uncomfortable.

I know I am different than how I once was. I do appreciate life more now that ever. I realize how I may not wake up tomorrow so that I must make the most out of each day. I have found myself trying new things more and more and reaching out of my comfort zone. I care a lot less about what others think about me as long as I am doing what makes me happy. I am trying to live my life in my Sister’s honor and hoping that she will look down on me and be proud because she made me so proud in her short life on this earth. I hope she knows how much I looked up to her every day and just how much she meant to me. She made my life great for 22 years and now I believe she is an angel by my side.

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN…..I LOVE YOU LITTLE SISTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CRAZY CAT LADY STATUS…COMPLETE

If you did not know this about me, I am a bit of a crazy cat lady. Okay, okay, more than a bit of a crazy cat lady, a full blown crazy cat lady. I have always loved cats but my love for them has grown over the years.

Today, I decided to create an instagram page for my cats. I honestly could not believe just how many others have also created instagram pages for their cats. It is truly wonderful to connect with those that love their cats as much as me. I know you probably find me to be the weirdest person you know, and that is okay. I enjoying being a little weird, a little different.  “Be a fruit loop in a world of cheerios….”

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I started buying cat shirts  couple years ago and recently convinced my co-workers to wear them every Friday with me and deemed this day “CAT SHIRT FRIDAY.” It has been pretty amazing. I also have noticed and increase in cat shirts in stores and online in general. I think the frenzy is spreading and I love it…. 😉

I love taking pictures, especially of my cats. I recently had them in Packer Jersey’s and I think they may have secretly loved them.

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I think that cats bring a lot of love and joy into my life. In May of 2016, I lost my 15 year old cat Punky..almost a year to the day of my sister passing. May is a very hard month for me and I know that it will continue to be.

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He was such a sweet cat and he gave me a lot of comfort in the last year of his life after Rachel passed away. There are a lot of research studies that have proven that cats reduce anxiety and stress and just help to provide overall comfort. I think we all need more cats in our lives, but that is just my opinion. However, I cannot have any more cats at the moment, so I make up for it in cat shirts. Awhile back, I counted my cat shirts and I almost had a hundred. I think that has doubled since then. I do indeed have a problem…😂😂😂.

However, I think life is too short, which I am reminded of on a daily basis. So, I will continue to buy lots of cat shirts and continue to be a bit of a crazy cat lady because you should continue to do what makes you happy in life regardless of what others think.

 

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Unplug

We all need to unplug and recharge every once in awhile. I think that society has been bombarded with so many different types of electronics, different forms of social media, etc. that it sometimes feels hard to escape for awhile. I am guilty of spending hours and hours scrolling through my newsfeed and instagram for no reason at all. I then find myself feeling more stressed out because of all the information that is being thrown in every direction. I recently met someone that does not own a phone. At first I thought, wow, that is very odd. I then began to think about it more and realized how freeing that must be. I know that I cannot give up my phone but it did shed some light on my own life. I have decided that I am only going to check my phone in the morning and in the evening for any form of social media and to only use my phone outside of that for making phone calls and texts. I know that I do not live in the moment 100% of the time because of the Internet. It has become a social norm to spend hours and hours on your phone instead of living your every day life. I woke up this morning feeling stressed because I felt like I had to “catch-up” with what was going on in the Internet world. I really need a break from it all to just unwind and focus on some projects that I have been working on such as photography. Sometimes I do miss the days where I did not have a phone because life just felt a little slower and less stressful. If you are being bombarded with constant interaction day in and day out, how do you focus on yourself ? Truth is, you can’t. There are much higher rates of anxiety and stress than ever before because of the constant upgrades to electronics and the instant gratification that comes with them.  I think it causes us to forget the little things. So this is my project for myself, to unplug more every day. I hope to appreciate the beauty that I think I miss when my head is glued to my phone. I know it will be hard at first, but it is so necessary.

These are my goals while I unplug

1) meditate more

2) write more

3) enjoy nature more

4) spend more time with loved ones

I challenge you to make some goals for yourself too. Life is so short, so appreciate the moments that you can spend doing what you love. Pursue your passion, work on a new hobby, UNPLUG. Society functioned for a long time prior to electronics.  We need to change ourselves because society will not change it for us.

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Rachel’s Race for Long QT

If you have read my prior blog posts, I had shared my experience with loss and grief since losing my sister in May of 2015. A few months after my sister had passed away, I had a good friend pitch the idea about planning an event in memory of my sister. At the time, I was not ready. I was still trying to work through the grief process and it still felt too soon . In 2016, my dad brought up the idea again. We decided to form an event committee with two of our good friends. We started having weekly meetings and we eventually decided on planning a run/walk. This was my first time planning an event and to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I was so grateful for the help of Jen and Paul. We decided to have the event at Skelly’s Farm in Janesville. Skelly’s was the perfect setting with scenic roads and activities for families. Paul worked on contacting sponsors to help fund the cost of T-Shirts and supplies that were needed for the event. We were able to get several sponsors for the event and we are so grateful for their support. We would like to say a special thank you to Scott Wedige and Northwest Mutual for the very generous donation to our cause.

I had so many friends reach out to me in offering to help with the event. I was grateful for the support we received for our first year .  We were able to line up enough volunteers, many  others were donating beautiful raffle baskets and silent auction items, Daniel’s Sentry Foods donated a lot of food items and E & D water donated water for the race.

We had a family friend work on the Race Logo and we ended up decided on this.

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We decided to become and official foundation and decided on the name Rachel’s Long QT Foundation LLC.

The months flew by with planning and before we knew it, it was October. Event day was here! The weather ended up being perfect. We had a lot of participants signing up that last week which was wonderful to see. The participation for our first year was incredible and it brought so many tears to my eyes. I can only hope that it will continue to grow every year.

The race went smoothly and we received positive feedback from many that were there. We hope to add a few positive suggestions that we received to the next year. We hope to add mile markers next year and make a few changes to registration to help things run a bit more smoothly. I also hope to not leave volunteers on the course for hours after the race is done, so sorry to the Lorrie’s!!!!!

We met other families that were also affected by the disease. We had a family come up from Chicago and a local family here who has been battling the illness for many years. I met another Woman who had lost her daughter to Long QT who was also living with the disease. It is so hard to see how many families are affected by this disease but it was very helpful to talk to others that understood our pain and struggle.

The SADS foundation was so wonderful. They sent us brochures and bracelets for the event. They reached out to our family on several different occasions and featured us in their own newsletter. They are such a great organization  and it is great that we are able to support them and their research with the money that was raised from the event.

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We are currently working on purchasing and AED for the Janesville area with the $7700 we raised and having all remaining funds to go to the SADS foundation. We have decided to make this an inaugural event and are hoping to set a new October date for 2017 very soon.

I cannot express enough how much I appreciate every individual that reached out to us and supported our cause. We could not have done this without YOU! Thank you for helping to honor and remember Rachel Lancour and to continue to raise awareness about this disease that affects so many individuals.

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My inner demons

 I would like to share something with you that I honesly never thought I would talk about. In highschool, I battled anorexia. It took me 10 years to share it with my best friend and 11 years to share with the world. In fact, it was not something I had even admitted to myself for a long time. I battled it through mainly junior year and senior year of high school. I am not even sure what triggered it besides the fact that I was never satisfied with how I looked. I remember when I first started restricting food and how good I became at hiding the fact I just was not eating.  It was such a hard time in my life. I felt so lost and alone because I continued to sink into a deeper hole. Everyone around me was making comments about how thin I was . I did not even realize just how thin I had become. Food became my life. I literally planned every moment around it. If I knew I was going somewhere that involved food, I would become an anxious mess and I would exercise excessively for hours to make up for the fact that I would actually have to eat something. Eventually, others in my life intervened in my life when I hit the 95 pound mark at 5’10. With the support of my family and doctor, I was slowly able to regain some weight. I thank them secretly every day because without them, I would not still be here.Gaining weight back was so very hard.  I had to choke food down and I felt physically sick after I would eat. Somehow, I  started to become a healthy weight again. Unfortunately, some aspects of an eating disorder stay with you for LIFE. It was acually not until last summer that I was able to eat a burger with a bun. That moment was so freeing for me. I still have a very difficult time eating fast food and I still battle my body image issues often. I find myself battling the negativity in my head on a daily basis. Truth is, I am the heaviest I have ever been.  However , I feel strong, I feel healthy , I have energy . The scale is still not my friend though and I try to avoid it at all costs. I guess I am sharing this because it is something I have kept bottled inside for so long. I am hoping that by sharing this, it will give someone hope that they too can battle their inner demons. You are stronger than you think. I believe that our scars, our flaws, they shape us into who we are. They make us unique and human. I am no longer ashamed of my flaws, I now embrace them.

Love yourself. 

Snow Fun Run

I have always heard a lot of great things about the Lake Geneva Snow Fun Run. The run takes place at the Grand Geneva resort. The resort is beautiful! It felt a bit like something out of the movie “The Shining” with the hallways that never end. The run was a 5 mile route, mostly out and back. It was a cold day, about 13 degrees. The run was fun but it is more about the party afterwards. Once you cross the finish, there are thousands of alcoholic shots waiting for you inside! There is also a delicious meal and all you can eat and drink for just $37 . There is a party with lots of dancing and dance competitions. So, if you are just looking for a good Ole’ time, I definitely recommend you give this run a try!