Dear Grief: An open letter

Dear Grief, 

Today I woke up with a heavy heart. October 30th has been the hardest day of my life for the last 13 years. My chest is heavy. My stomach hurts. Today is the day the world lost the most beautiful soul, Corinne Marie Craig. One of my childhood best friends. 

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13 years is a long time but grief I never should underestimate your power.

How do you know to make my chest tight?

How do you bring tears to my eyes?

How do you coax me to my laptop because you know words are the only way for me to make sense of what I feel?

If you’re new to your relationship with my friend grief: let me help you out. Grief is a roller coaster. You never know what to expect. Grief can be the life of the party or the person who can’t get out of bed. Everyone experiences this friend differently, and let me tell you many would not consider you a friend, grief. But I do. 

I consider you a friend because you are an emotion and experience that has been with me for nearly half of my life. I’ve gotten to know you well. I don’t want to forget you because I will never forget her. 

My Corey. That silly laugh & kind heart. That sassy attitude & philosophical mind. How many times could we watch Now & Then and a Walk to Remember? A friend so loyal and willing to listen that she taught me to do the same. A rockstar cheerleader. A sensitive soul. A force to be reckoned with. 

It’s been 13 years since we’ve had the pleasure of having Corey earth side but I know without a shadow of a doubt she has been with me every step of my journey. The sassiest guardian angel out there. 

Over the years I have shared about a lot regarding Corey’s life, death & everything in between (you can click the links if you want to read more): Dealing with the anniversary abroad , my journey with grief  , Corey’s story  , The impact she has had , remembering 10 years without her , My own mental health struggles and What it’s like being left behind by suicide. 

Grief taught me to be patient with people having a bad day, whether they can express that or not because  we all have silent battles to fight.

Every single one of us.

 Grief taught me to reach out to loved ones (even the ones who seem really happy) reach out when someone is in your dream, or a memory comes rushing back to you. 

Reach out if you haven’t talked in years and you just want to say that they are on your mind. 

Grief taught me to express myself and to find my voice. 

Grief is what lead me to writing and I know that I am grateful for that. 

Grief has taught me to continue to use my voice & know that the impact spreads farther than you might imagine. 

Last year I wrote about my journey to understanding when grief actually ends

The answer is it doesn’t. 

A lot of people feel pressure from society, even loved ones or friends to “move on” but I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to. 

Grief is an incredible teacher if you let it be. 

Sadness and joy can coexist and for me that pain and sorrow of losing my best friend at 16 will never go away but it has changed the trajectory of my life because I let it. 

I let grief in. Even when it was paralyzing. Even when I need to scream and cry and punch pillows and throw water bottles. It didn’t happen overnight. And because of self-medicating I didn’t fully “grieve” right away. 

But that doesn’t mean I’m not committed to this process & relationship with grief. 

Because what’s your alternative? Denial? Numbing? Ruining you future because you’re running from feelings begging to be felt? 

I don’t claim to know it all. I never do. Grief has taught me that even when you “do” all of the right things, go to therapy, remember your loved one or friend in positive ways, cry, rest, pick up new hobbies, grief can still turn up and throw everything for a loop. It’s relentless. 

At times grief has made me angry, guilty, depressed, scared, frustrated, devastated, but it’s also made me kind, resilient, thoughtful, driven and vulnerable. 

My best advice when it comes to grief? 

Feel everything. 

Laugh when you want to laugh about silly memories or inside jokes, cry when you feel like things are unfair, talk it out when you just want someone to remember your loved one you lost, get angry, sad, whatever emotion comes up- let it come and realize that you can survive & thrive alongside those feelings. 

Time won’t heal your wounds. Your wound is the absence of a person who touched your life deeply. That doesn’t go away. But time does give you perspective. It allows you to find purpose and remember that they WANT you to be happy. 

They want you to live and I believe we owe it to them to do so. 

So, believe in yourself. 

Believe in the impact your experience of loss and your relationship with grief can have on others. 

Believe in the legacy you have left to built in keeping your loved one’s memory alive. 

If you feel the call to share your loved ones story or your story DO IT. 

Grief is different for everyone but I can tell you I wouldn’t have gotten through it without my words for self expression, without the support of our Bishop Ludden Community and without the courage to keep telling this story of life, death, loss, grief, mental illness and all the beautiful bits that happen in between. 

 I tell Corey’s story as frequently as possible because it matters and so many people in life have been there, are there or are trying to help someone who is. Mental health struggles and suicide add a whole entire layer to the grieving process and it’s a huge part of the reason I advocate for proactive mental health consistently. 

I’ve tried my best as time goes on to not resent you grief, to not get angry at stolen moments and get angry at growing older & growing further away from the chapter of life that Corey lived a long side me. I still have those moments of anger. 

Any time someone I love loses someone they love, grief floods through my bones and reminds me of it’s presence. My heart aches for you if you have to join this twisted relationship with grief. Not if, when. It’s inevitable. 

Grief is not something you can escape in your lifetime, but if you feel it fully, if you let it, it will change who you are and hopefully for the better. 

So grief, it’s been a long journey, one that I know that will never end but I am confident that neither will my relationship with Corey. “Death ends a life not a relationship” is a quote that got me through some of my darkest days.

 Grief is heavy, these words are heavy, but I am strong. My love for Corey is strong. If you are at any stage of you grieving process, I see you. I feel  you. I am here for you. We don’t have to have all the answers to offer our experiences, we just have to have courage and I’m confident Corey left me with some of hers. 

Corey, as always, I carry your heart. Thank you for the most recent messages. I am still trying my best to understand what they mean & take action. 

So grief, today you feel heavy.  You don’t feel like a friend. 

I miss my dear friend.

 I shouldn’t let you take me by surprise after all this time but in the same respect I am humbled. Humbled by the fact that pain can be deeply intertwined in our bodies calendar.

The pain reminds me just how much human connection can impact our hearts & souls despite loss, time, distance, and years gone by. This inspires me to be a better human while I’m here on earth and help others find that ever changing dance between sadness and joy. 

I’m not sure how much sense this makes but based on my truth of understanding grief, just getting something out helps. .

Remember, wherever you are reading this, whatever emotions it brings up,

feel everything

& know you are never alone. 

Love,

Susie

 

WCW: Lauren Mazin

It’s the last month of 2018 and I have some catching up to do with my #WCW series. So for the month of December I am going to feature a new woman crush of mine every week! The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Lauren.

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Lauren and I met on Instagram. What!? Another social media friend? I know! But as a traveling nomad/expat you gotta connect to likeminded people somehow and I am so happy we did. Lauren is a fellow American who moved to the UK for graduate school! When I met her for our first IRL brunch date we instantly clicked on our passion for fitness and nutrition, traveling and mental health!

I was so impressed with her adventurous spirit and quickly found out that we were both Geminis! OBVIOUSLY I loved her! Now she is back in the states slaying medical school! We don’t talk nearly as much as we should but I know she is trying to focus on med school so I’ll cut her a break 😉 I’ll let her take it from here!

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Social Media: When will it start to click?

Social media is weird. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. Social media is transforming business, education, social interactions, relationships, mental health, etc. The list goes on. The amount of time that we spend daily on social media would make our ancestors turn over in their graves. #embarassing

This is coming from a travel obsessed blogger and online health and wellness coach. I use social media constantly because it is my job to. #girlboss But just because I am building my business through social media does not mean I can’t be aware of it’s numerous downfalls. Can you say hypocrite? I often feel like a hypocrite because I believe so deeply in deep human connection. I adore people  and experiences that are so fun and consuming you forget to check your phone. But I feel extremely grateful to have a business that is based on social media because I fully understand the nature of the beast. I can proudly own the fact that I need to snap a few shots of my healthy meal for my Instagram. I’m not scared to take a selfie- coming from a girl who used to HATE selfies. I also proudly have business hours and when it’s not that time- I’m not working. I’m the first friend to tell people to put down their phones and be present.

I just read a quote my friend posted (on social media of course) “I’m so pro-selfie. There are so many bigger problems in this world than girls who think they are pretty. One of those is girls who don’t think are pretty.” Selfies aren’t the problem- what we interpret from the selfies, travel photos or lovey dovey couple photos are. The problem is the inability to check ourselves when we are tempted to scroll aimlessly, pull out our phone at dinner or stalk that person who really has nothing to do with us.

Like anything in life, over-indulgence can be fatal. Abusing or feeding into mindless stalking and scrolling on the internet is harmful for our psyche and our brain power. I am tremendously intrigued by how social media affects mental health and I have already embarked on some research that will unfold in an exciting project in years to come– so keep your eyes peeled. But this isn’t from a researcher’s perspective- it’s from a highly empathetic, perceptive individual who happens to build a business on social media. I let creativity take over and this is what happened. I hope this serves as a reminder to you and to all of us.

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Beautiful girl, what are you looking for

How long can you scroll before something starts to click

Yes, that’s a filter- no she did not #wakeuplikethis

We all have bed head, ugly pj pants, and weird stuffed animals

But that couple that is so perfect #relationshipgoals

They’ve been fighting for months

They’re getting a divorce

That #fitspo girl is basing her worth of her likes and her body fat percentage

Those abs required 27 attempts, perfect lighting, posing, angles

He did the deadlifts just for that video and went home

Is that any way to live?

But is that everyone? Of course not. But how can you tell?

When will it start to click?

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But I don’t have time for that…A lesson on Gratitude

It’s easy to get caught up in life being too busy. Since going back to working full time for someone else here in New Zealand- something I haven’t done in a couple years my life has exploded with things I “have to do”. I am working with a very specific end goal in mind- my 10 week trip with my boyfriend all across America and Europe, showing each other our home countries and meeting each other’s families. This trip is so important to us and since the unexpected move to New Zealand came things haven’t gone as expected for us. But we are both willing to sacrifice now to make that trip everything we dreamed it would be.

 It’s easy when we are busy working, running a side hustle, cooking, cleaning, being there for our family and friends and trying to be somewhat social to forget about things that light us up. But just because you don’t have tons of free time doesn’t mean you can’t use the time you do have wisely.

“Oh, I’m so busy right now.” I don’t have time to go for a hike, go to yoga class, write a blog post, or meditate. Hold up. Those are actually my favorite things to do. What is the point of living if you don’t save time for your favorite things? That may mean you have to give up other time fillers that simply don’t light you up as much such as watching tv,  drinking every night of the weekend or attending social events simply because you “have to”.

Make a list of the things that you love to do. With the free time you do have, no matter if it’s 20 or 30 minutes this week, you still have some time for you. Realistically, almost all of us have that time daily.  Figure out how you can schedule in those magical moments. Use it as a reward for completing your work week or simply a celebration of life. There is nothing wrong with taking time out to fill yourself up. Mental health wise- it’s required and I find it’s our duty to ourselves to do the things we know make us the brightest version of us.

If you are traveling, short- term or long term this goes for your travels as well. Don’t feel as if you need to jam pack your days with all the tourist attractions and instafamous locations in that area. Do what you LOVE to do on vacation. If that’s laying by the pool, go for it. If it’s finding the best cup of coffee, scoping out every art museum or hiking to the tallest mountain- do it! Don’t feel pressured to do things you don’t want to do just because that’s what other people do in that country or destination.

Right now, I have to save all of my pennies. I’m working 6 and usually 7 days a week with my own business and my full-time job. But there is still some time for adventure. Definitely not as much as I like, but I find that when I stop focusing on everything I have to do, just make a list of the things I have to do and a list of the things that I want to do. I make sure that I cross off from both lists. This Sunday, that meant waking up, working for an hour, working out, going for a mini adventure that was right near the local grocery store we shop in New Zealand. It was a quick little nature trail that ended with quite an impressive waterfall. It probably took an hour and a half or two hours of our Sunday and then we went on to grocery shop, meal prep, clean and work a bit more.

During that time in nature, I cleared my head and I spent quality time with my favorite person. I got my body moving. We talked about gratitude and how much we had to be grateful for despite the fact that life hadn’t been happening as we expected. Earlier that morning I was crying, feeling anxious, overworked, stressed and I took the time out of my day to do the things that fill me up, and what do you know? I felt better. Something is better than nothing. I would like to be immersed  in nature, deep in the mountains hiking or frolicking at the beach for my entire weekend (well, really my entire life) but if that’s not in the cards, well, it’s time to find little ways to find that calm, joy and gratitude.

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This isn’t the longest blog post or the most in depth and inspiring. But I showed up. Because sometimes that’s all that life is about. Showing up when life is wonderful is easy but showing up when life is less than ideal, that’s the hard part. That’s what sets you apart as someone who lets life happen to them or someone who creates their own reality. I refuse to take a back seat. And when things aren’t going my way, instead of fighting it, I’m working on embracing it, controlling what I can control and accepting that if I can see it or not there is a purpose for this part of my journey.

Make a to-do list of your responsibilities but don’t forget to make a to-do list of the things that bring you joy. Something is better than nothing. Fill up your cup a little bit at a time and focus on being grateful for the beauty. Interrupt that anxiety and stress with gratitude, not just once in awhile. Daily. Don’t just think, “oh yeah, that’s a nice idea.” Put it into action.

This Sunday I’m grateful for:

  1. Finishing 8 weeks of my workout program today feeling super bendy & strong
  2. Casual pit stops at waterfalls before grocery shopping-NZ life
  3. My bf delivering me an awesome lunch from a cafe down the road & meal prepping for us for the week
  4. Booking another flight for our summer adventure solely with my coaching income
  5. Ended the night by seeing a shooting star!

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Focus on gratitude and the feeling grows and spreads. Focus on your worries and they’ll be the one to grow. What five things are you grateful for?  How will you fill up your cup this week so that your tank feels full? I write this because I needed this reminder so bad this week and with the support of my lover, a large dose of gratitude and nature time yesterday, I transformed my mindset. You can do it, too.

Confessions of an Over Packer

How does packing for a weekend trip, long vacation, or even a move make you feel? Are you an organized planner? Do you do a little bit each day for a few weeks or do you save it to the last minute?

Every traveler has to deal with the task of packing up their suitcase or backpack for their journey ahead. I am notorious for being a last minute over packer. I analyze every situation that might happen and why I just have to have that extra maxi dress. Not only has packing up this time called into question my packing habits but it also makes me question my relationship with material things in general.

After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix I felt very inspired to try to cut down the amount of stuff in my life. I have lived abroad for almost three of the past four years post graduate school. I learned to live off of one suitcase or even a couple backpacks for year-long stints living abroad but I also have a walk in closet and a whole bedroom full of “stuff” waiting for me at my parent’s home in New York. When I came home from Australia for a visit after a year of living there I felt truly shocked and saddened by the amount of clothes I had just sitting there. In some ways it was really exciting because it was like going shopping in my own closet. There were so many things I forgot I even had but I still had a full suitcase full of stuff I had brought with me. What’s the constant need for new stuff?

I will never be a true minimalist. I like clothes. I like fashion. I think the way we present ourselves to the outside world is important. When I dress well, I feel good. I live a diverse lifestyle and have different wardrobes based on those roles I play. I have my “teacher” or professional clothes, my growing activewear collection and then my casual wardrobe. I struggle with this because I truly do believe in experiences over things. I would way rather buy a plane ticket than a designer hand bag. But when I am packing I realize that I am still part of this material world., I can’t decide how I feel about that. I have donated a lot of things but my ADHD and anxiety lead me to worry easily about freeing myself of too many things. What if I “need it”? I am sure many of you reading this can relate. How often do you ask yourself these types of questions? How often do you go shopping for new things that you “need”? How many things just sit in your closet untouched?

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Be More…

I wrote this blog post a few days ago. I usually write/edit  my posts for at least 2 or 3 days depending on the subject matter. My message is even more important now that I have received terribly heartbreaking news today that another one of my friends from WVU has passed away far too young. Brad Fagula, you were a hilarious and loving spirit who always knew how to have fun. You were a great friend to so many and I truly can’t believe you are gone. I still think my sentiments for this blog post are very pertinent to my feelings but the sense of urgency for gratitude has increased tenfold. When you go to sleep you never know what or who will be there when you wake up. All we have is right now. Memories and love truly do go on long after a physical body leaves this earth but I pray that my WVU family, Brad’s family and all of those affected by losing someone they love too soon, find peace and strength in this hard time. Our time is the greatest tool and the greatest gift we can give to those we love. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I hope it adds a smile and some inspiration to your day. ❤ RIP Brad

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This morning I am reflecting on how many people have reached out to me in the past few months whether it was about my piece about Corey, a blog post about my crazy traveling life or a fitness related post I have had friends from near and far tell me that they connected to my story, my words or were inspired by my attitude or positivity in some way. Some of these friends consistently like my posts, share or comment on them, but some of them I had no idea even read my blog or appreciated my work. It was eye opening to realize that just because someone is inspired by you does not mean you know it. Just like people hide pain and struggle, we often don’t publicize things that affect us positively. This is not a bad thing. There are many aspects of my life I leave off of social media even though as a writer and an online health and fitness coach it is part of my job to share my journey, we all live the majority of our lives outside the cyberworld.

When I post something I hope to add value to your day, bring a smile to your face, encourage you to work out, try a new recipe, quit that job you hate, or stand up to someone who is making you feel inferior. I am humbled and inspired by how many people respond positively to my story and I urge you to never hesitate to tell the person who inspires you that you feel that way. One incredibly small gesture means more than you know, especially for those of us whose main aim is to help others. The world needs more of that.That being said I am constantly inspired by my coach and friend Amy for helping so many people start their own business and running a kick ass business of her own. She leads with her heart and never gives up on anyone. I am inspired by every single one of you who has reached out to me and told me that I have helped or am helping you in some way. It is not always easy to share my thoughts, but I do it anyway because of the tremendous amount of support and positive feedback I receive. I know it also takes your time and effort to reach out and that in itself is worthy of a “thank you.”

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