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

 

Hurry Up and Wait: How to deal with the unknown

Hurry up and wait

I was on a local coastal walk with my boyfriend recently and as the wind whipped and the sunshine warmed our skin I said to him, “You know how they say, The Universe keeps teaching you the same lesson until you learn it?”

He shook his head in agreement, probably just to humor my baby hippie heart.

“Well I think it’s clear we need this lesson of releasing control. Waiting just keeps popping back up in our lives. The four months waiting for the U.K. visa to process, the Australian visa drama, the U.K. move itself, and the months and months of waiting for the news on the kidney donation and operation… well, someone isn’t learning their lesson!!!”

He looked back at me with a very loving but cheeky grin and stare.

As the words came out of my mouth, I didn’t realize that I was talking about MYSELF. It wasn’t aimed as an insult or jab at him either. More thinking out loud. But in that moment, I fully realized I still needed to learn the lesson. My boyfriend is super chill, resilient, go with the flow, and rarely gets upset over anything. It’s honestly one of the things I admire most about him.

I have learned more patience and resilence in the last 5 years of living abroad, traveling for extended periods, starting my own online business on the side and now being fully self-employed and being in a relationship with the ultra relaxed human but clearly the Universe still wanted me to learn this lesson, AGAIN!

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Should I start running again?

Two weeks ago, in a moment of confusion, I chugged my pre workout, laced up my running shoes, searched for 20 minutes for my ever elusive iPhone compatible headphones and then I hit the pavement for a run.

I used to run every single day of my life.

I was on the cross country team in middle school and I realized very quickly that while I wasn’t particularly talented at sports I was fast and I had a natural endurance for distance running.

I started writing this blog with intentions of just telling the story of getting back into running last month with my random solo mid week 10k and I ended up writing 4,000 words about my journey from non-athlete child to the new girl at private school who went to basketball practice to make friends and stayed with it because of the deep love for that sense of belonging on a team. Then I went from cross country team runner to all season lacrosse athlete in high school, gym bunny and runner at University and in graduate school when I was burning the candle from both ends, I discovered Insanity, the at home workout program that serendipitously lead me into my future career as an online health & lifestyle coach. I’m still processing how this story flowed so freely out of me and how much it is all linked together. But I’ll save that for another day, I just want to tell you about this run.

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Are you a victim of curated imperfection?

I don’t feel like myself.

Have you ever had a funk or a down period?

How often do you spend that funk comparing yourself to the biggest and brightest version of you that you know exists?

How much of what you share online is actually showing the authentic human experience you’re having right now?

Curated imperfection. What does that mean to you? I started to write this as an Instagram post and realized I had a lot more to say about this than I thought.

“Instagram is just a highlight reel” DUN*DUN*DUN* enter the dark evil twin.. CURATED IMPERFECTION.

What is this and why is it dangerous?

What does it mean for me personally and how am I going to try to combat it?

As much as the notion behind sharing more than just our highlight reel and letting followers have a glimpse at  our struggles is beautiful, it’s still a choice. A choice to show which part of the struggle we share. Often we share struggles in hindsight, talking about the trauma in childhood, past relationships or former jobs. I want you to show you I struggle just like you, but with a positive twist at the end too. Curated imperfection.

It’s much harder to share in real time. I believe it’s imperative to keep parts of our life private but I also can’t pretend that everything in my life is all positive-happy-fitness-travel all the time especially during weeks, like this week where I’m homesick, my mind is a mess, my schedule is crazy and my fitness is my sanity and release but still feels like a chore. I am struggling with my mental health and have broken in to tears multiple times this week(not just because of This is Us and Queer Eye but seriously, tear jerkers, am I right?)

But the flipside is, it’s all of our jobs to remember this about the beast of social media itself. That’s the point. It’s great to be real and share struggles but you get to decide what feels right for you and what sucky bits you want to air to the world.

It hard when it IS your job to INSPIRE.

What if you don’t feel inspiring?

Does that mean you don’t have to go to work today? Of course you do. Does that make you feel fake? How can you share the struggles authentically without being negative?

 It’s all of our individual jobs to stay immune to comparison-itis because otherwise social media won’t be the stimulating space of connection that it truly can be.

And when you already feel really low, I doubt your Instagram feed is going to be the place that gives you your ah-ha moment.

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Can you Thrive through the Holidays?

I wanted to write a holiday “survival”-esque blog post  based on the mental health check-in I did with my virtual wellness community. I saw a dramatic response that most people are struggling this time of year and not necessarily feeling merry and bright. So I took to the internet to see what others have done. Every article that I read for inspiration and research said how to “survive” the holidays. I understand that it is supposed to be a joyous time but also is a difficult time for a lot of people. But is that really the standard we want to set for ourselves? Merely surviving?

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There is often a battle happening inside of me. The darkness vs. the light. Usually the LIGHT wins. I’m not sure exactly what has programmed me to be this way but I know that my life and my holiday season is about much more than just surviving. Sometimes, some days, some seasons,  that is really all you can do. I completely understand that especially looking back to the days in my past I was full of grief and heartbreak. But I think to stay fixed in a mentality that surviving is what you are consistently doing is a serious disservice to yourself, others and our world as a whole.

I do want to give you some tips and reminders to take care of yourself just a little bit more this holiday season. If that means survival for your circumstance then that is what you can call it. But as I was watching another episode of Red Table Talk (if you haven’t watched head to Facebook right now and get on it) with Kid Cudi on mental health and a few things stuck out to me. Jada Pinkett Smith shared that sometimes all you can do is lean on something that “keeps your head above water.” I totally agree. But you can’t live there. You can’t stay there. She also said in the episode, “testimony is so much more powerful than advice.” I agree. So here is my testimony.

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Joking. Kinda. Here’s more of what helps me thrive…

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WCW: Jaclyn DiGregorio

It’s the last month of 2019 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 Jaclyn.

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Jaclyn and I connected on Instagram! I instantly loved her vibe and was very inspired by the content she shared. We arranged a phone call so I could learn a bit more about her business and she could learn about mine. Since then I have followed Jaclyn’s journey on the road of solo entrepreneurship on social media and have been so impressed by her strong messages about diet culture and intuitive eating.

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Getting Back on the Wagon

I am announcing this secret to the world again: There is NO WAGON.

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I made a post on Instagram about this and I got a lot of feedback so I just did an IGTV about it too! Why not throw in a blog post? In my post and my IGTV, I was relating this to fitness. This time of year Halloween- New Years people throw a giant blanket of excuses called “the holidays.” I can eat that… it’s the holidays. I don’t have to workout … it’s the holidays. I can drink five days a week…it’s the holidays. I don’t need to save money… it’s the holidays. And come January every decides they need to get back on that healthy wagon. But my secret is THERE IS NO WAGON. There is no wagon for health and fitness and there is no wagon for life. Ebbs and flows are natural. Last year around this time I wrote a blog about the concept of tilting, and told you that balance doesn’t really exist.

I am still singing the same tune. This concept is not to make excuses for poor choices around the holidays, but because being at peace with a life that is not linear is the most liberating gift you can give yourself this holiday season. Ups and downs are inevitable. Weight fluctuation is inevitable. You can’t go too far one way or the other without paying the consequences but veering off course a little bit each way is acceptable, normal, and just HUMAN for goodness sake. Instead of relating it all to health and fitness, I’ll show you an example of there being NO WAGON when it comes to your creative pursuits (in my case, my blog but for you it may be song writing, painting, jewelry making, or pole dancing.)

Every year since I have started my blog in 2013, I have started the next year thinking “This year is the YEAR! I am going to become and A+ blogger, I’ll write a blog at least once a week, reformat my website, include vlogs, master Pinterest, learn SEOs and knock it out of the park!” I’m reminded every year that: 

  1. That’s not why I started my blog
  2. I don’t do well with pressure, self inflicted or not
  3. I have a successful coaching business & my blog hasn’t ever been used to make me money..AND it doesn’t have to be
  4. It’s really hard to write soulfully every week on top of the other content I produce for my social media platforms
  5. My blog= my rules.

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When Does Grief End?

Every year, October 30th creeps up and every year it stings just as badly. Immediately I turn to my words as a place of comfort and solace.  I woke up this morning and immediately started clicking away at my keyboard snuggled in my childhood bed (I’m visiting my parents in New York from England.) The sense of grief is overwhelming today. October 30th is the day one of my very best childhood friends took her own life at the tender age of 16. 12 years have passed. Every day grief is present but I’m sure anyone who has lost someone very close to them, anniversaries present a fresh wound each and every year.

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Corey’s life and story has been such a driving force for my own life. I talk about her all the time. I tell her story. I advocate for mental health. I spread the message of hope far and wide. Unfortunately, this does not bring my very goofy, kind and fun loving friend back. It doesn’t replace the years we have lost. I never stop wondering who she would be now and what awesome memories we would have made. I never stop worrying about her sweet parents. I never stop feeling guilty.

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Nothing makes me more frustrated than when people tell others who are grieving that it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” I live a very full life. I have incredible friends and a partner who I want to spend my future with, a loving family, a career and business I am building from the ground up and travel stories for days. I have lived such a beautiful life because as soon as I lost my best friend at 16, I was taken into grief and survival mode. Some people get angry, depressed, lonely, desperate. I drank through a lot of the sadness but I also WOKE UP.

 I knew that life was short and that it was my duty to life it to the fullest. It was my job. Despite the overwhelming grief I knew I had to “cherish every day” (which I got tattooed on my foot.) It doesn’t mean the grief isn’t there, it means I’ve done something with it. I didn’t get over my grief, I used it to shape me into a kinder, more passionate, let’s do it right-fricken-now kind of person. So, I proudly have never gotten over the traumatic loss of my best friend, I have carried it with me and learned how to grieve and live simultaneously. Something that continues to be a work in progress.

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WCW: Yasmin Muzil

I’m making it a September to Remember. So the #WCW series is BACK! 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 Yaz.

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Yaz and I met in Australia at a random hostel in a tiny beach town called Mission Beach. My brother, Jackie and I had been backpacking the east coast of Australia for almost a month and when I came to Scotty’s I was ready to relax, detox and recharge. I will never forget the moment I heard Yaz’ strong welsh accent and saw her flopping into the pool. I could tell right away she had a personality that was larger than life. We got to know each other quickly and spent a magical 24 hours on Fitzroy Island together with my older brother. It was a day I can never forget. It seems to last a whole week in my memory and I knew that day Yaz would definitely be a friend forever.

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Our traveling paths took us separate ways but we finally reunited when I came back to the U.K. with Harry last year. Since then we have just strengthened our bond and have so many exciting things planned for the future. I’ll let her take it from here!

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