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

 

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: Elle Deal

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 aka “Elle”

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Lauren and I met at our annual business conference in Nashville three years ago. From the moment I met Lauren I knew I wanted to be her friend. Her personality is infectious, her smile quite literally lights up the room and she has the insane talent of making best friends with everyone. We instantly clicked but as soon as we met I was off to Australia and Lauren was living in Pennsylvania at the time. Luckily, with the nature of our online business and our partnership with the same company, we still spent a lot of time together on video chats, business meetings, phone calls and of course, social media support.

 

Quickly I realized Lauren was not just an ordinary “work friend.” She is like a missing part of me. We bonded over the fact that we were both classroom teachers as our day jobs. We both were passionate teachers who really loved teaching but also couldn’t deny the flaws in the school system and the general dissatisfaction we had with pursuing a career in a classroom forever. Lauren called me while I was living in New Zealand and we had a really long discussion about her gut feeling she wanted to move to Florida. I encouraged her to take the risk, what’s the worst that could happen? She did and she flourished and I got the chance to visit her a couple times before she just recently moved on to her next adventure. I’ll let her take it from here.

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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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How to get the Perfect Body

I didn’t start my fitness journey to lose weight. I’ve never had an eating disorder. I’ve never felt like I had a true voice in the fitness community because of these two factors. That might sound dramatic to you, but if you’re in the fitness industry you know these are commonly the catalyst for change.

So if you’ve come here looking for the perfect body… SPOILER ALERT. It doesn’t exist. Our bodies are amorphous.

My body is pretty freakin’ incredible (SO IS YOURS.) But I’m 28 now, my metabolism ain’t what it used to be,  I get hungover from one glass of wine, the nail lady asks me if I want to wax my lip (ummm.. I don’t think I need to?) and here I am owning the shit out of being a millennial 20 something- with an online side hustle, an equal love for fitness and spirituality, a bad case of wanderlust and a not so traditional journey to a healthy life.

I am proud of my body. I have always had a pretty healthy relationship with my body but I definitely went through a phase in college with the thinner the better mentality. I restricted calories and did boat loads of cardio and thought that’s exactly what it meant to be healthy. I felt like I got judged for being “naturally skinny” and I was definitely influenced by the culture of criticism that women that age have regarding their body. I also abused my body with typical college antics, heavy drinking and late night pizza fests. I didn’t have a good sleep routine or really know why my exercise was such an important component of my life. 

Today I am proud of who I am. Yes, I can say openly that means I am proud of what I look like but mostly I am proud of what I feel like. This has not been an easy journey. No I didn’t want to lose weight but I did need to rework my relationship with food, exercise, alcohol and drugs and most importantly my mental health. This year I did the hardest 13 week workout program I have ever done and  I shared every step of the journey. Afterward I felt a bit of burn-out and started to question why I started this journey and what level of discipline and commitment I felt was the most suitable for my overall health and happiness. I think we should ALL constantly question ourselves in a few ways. Why am I doing this? Is it making me happy? Am I getting results? Am I enjoying my life? 

In June I was gifted an incredible secret location branding photoshoot by a fellow entrepreneur I met in an online blogging community. When I did this photoshoot I was not at my leanest and meanest. It was on the tail end of the 4 months I spent in limbo in America waiting for my visa for the U.K. to be approved.I traveled for 6 weeks straight. I celebrated life. I drank cocktails and ate donuts and I definitely had more than my fair share of treat meals. I won’t lie to you, I went from the physical best shape of my life after the 3 month intense program to a serious “YOLO” period (as I lovingly call it.)

When I got the pictures back I started to pick out flaws and “softer bits.” Man..I used to have muscle there! I’ve had better abs. I just look the same I’m not making gains. Even though I love myself. Even though I know that my physical aesthetic has nothing to do with my actual health and strength and happiness. It is deeply ingrained in us to criticize our perception of our appearance and compare it to our former selves, our #bodygoals or just imaginary ideals we have constructed.  

But I quickly stopped and I looked at the strength. The confidence. The lack of makeup. The light in my eyes. It is not my goal or desire to be “stage ready” 365 days a year. It’s not my goal to ever be stage ready. These pictures have captured me doing things I love, being free from what I think I “should” look like for a photoshoot. And please don’t get offended, telling me I look great or you don’t see it. The point is we ALL see the flaws in ourselves that no one else would dream of picking out. We may start to pick them out but we also have the power to stop those thoughts dead in their tracks.

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Let’s Celebrate: International Self Care Day

In honor of International Self Care Day I am taking care of my soul the best way I know how. I haven’t felt quite like myself in months. My business partner and I had a video chat yesterday and as I opened up to her and we quickly realized what was missing for me. As I sat down on the train this morning ideas started pouring out of me and I realized that I haven’t written a “headspace” article in so long or really any blogs AT ALL! 

I won’t lie, for a writer, I suck at sticking to weekly blog posts. Why? I create content every single day for my social media. I create content to mentor my coaching team and in my wellness groups. I create lesson plans & writing activities for my classroom. I often justify not sitting down to write because I know I can’t spread myself too thin and I need to keep the main thing the main thing. I need to focus on tasks that push my business forward.

But I when I discuss mental health, self-care, self-love, and doing what you love- I am immediately drawn back to my words. If you are a writer you understand. If you are a dancer you understand. If you feel called to any creative expression, you understand. Simply put, when I don’t write, I don’t feel like myself. When I don’t feel like myself sometimes I don’t write. Sometimes the very thing that seems the most difficult is exactly what you need.

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WCW: Hannah Fitzpatrick

April and May have been CRAZY for me! Tons of travel, a new VISA for England(YAY, finally), and two weeks in Hawaii! The list goes on. Without further ado… here is my belated April #WCW. 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 Hannah.

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Hannah and I met back in highschool in Upstate New York. I’m not even sure where? Maybe a field party. (LOL) But we always got along great and as we grew up realized we shared a common love for traveling. We had the chance to meet up when she came to visit me while I was living in Thailand and she was traveling through. We made so many memories that trip and realized how much our traveling, writer hearts had in common. I have watched her transition through many life milestones from afar (thanks social media) and always marvel at her ability to seem so incredibly present and grateful for the little things. I’ll let her take it from here.

  1. What do you think makes a woman worth “crushing” over?

I think any woman that is working to better herself is worth crushing over. Generally speaking, as a culture, we are all too quick to judge others. Even if it’s unintentional, sometimes we look at other females and whether it be out of jealousy or self righteousness, we think we’re somehow doing better. But at the end of the day, we all have struggles and I think every single woman that sets goals, small or large, and inspires other to do the same is worth crushing over.

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Oh, We’re Halfway There: Week 7

Week 7 Operation Obsessed

I can’t believe I am writing this half way through our 13 weeks. Halfway doesn’t even seem that far but seriously the time has flown and I have grown leaps and bounds, mentally, physically and emotionally.  Here is a my vlog recap to get you up to speed! 

Honestly, I’ve found it hard to write and take photos every single week. I’m not sure why but mentally I’ve been in a place where I don’t feel like much is happening in my body day to day. I feel like my results aren’t “worthy” of sharing because I didn’t have 20 or 30 pounds to lose. It’s scary to put yourself out there when you know how hard you are working and people discredit, criticize or dismiss your hard work. But honestly, I know how much work I have put in. I know the level of commitment I’ve kept and how hard I’ve been pushing every single workout. Everyday I show up. I’ve been feeling fabulous. I’ve been following the plan. And my confidence and self love is through the roof. That alone is reason enough to celebrate.  If you do want more of that behind the scenes make sure you join me on Instagram. Instastories  is a slice of daily workout moves and recipe ideas (you want them follow me there @ensusiasm)

The creator of this program said that Phase 2 is designed for “building” and I am lifting heavy weights and eating a lot of food. To be totally transparent with you I felt like I wasn’t seeing progress anymore and I was feeling a bit “fluffy” or feared that I was hitting a plateau. I felt like I was working so hard but maybe it wasn’t worth it? Then I saw my progress pictures.

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The Power of New: Week 1

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I am sweating bullets right now. I am trying to wrap my head around how I can better serve others in their healthy lifestyle pursuit. Everytime I commit to a new workout program & nutrition plan with my online fit community- it blows my mind how transformative it is. Not just the inches lost and the new healthy habits gained, but the actual mental and spiritual effects- I feel I have trouble conveying with sweaty selfies. I have done many programs all out in the past but it never occured to me to utilize my other biggest passion to document the journey. Not just my Instastories of daily workout moves and recipe ideas (which definitely are there– you want them follow me there @ensusiasm) but the deeper side with my words.

While I was working out today , I decided– it’s not too late! Week 1 is in the books so from now on I will share a weekly review both on video and here on my blog. Here’s my first vlog.

Of course I will discuss the logistics of meal plan, workouts, etc. but this is more for you to walk hand in hand with me and see what goes on mentally throughout the process. You can follow along for inspiration in your own journey or just to see what happens for me. I hope it is one more way I can use my own journey as a message of hope and inspiration for those who are struggling. If you have any questions or want help starting a journey of your own, my inbox is always open for you. My job is to help others get started and I would love for you to be apart of the magic. Here is my starting point.

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