The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 5 – The Hollywood Dream

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.

When I arrived back home to Arizona, my head was spinning with possibilities of my dreams coming into fruition.  I was about to record my first demo at Paramount Studios and my promotional photo shoot was scheduled to be done at the same time.  My manager and I went back and forth as far as what my “look” should be.  Every big artist had a look and image that they had to stick to market themselves. Starting out, I stood firm that, unlike other artists, I wanted to actually wear clothes when I performed.  However, he convinced me that sex sells and before I knew it I was 100% willing to use my sexuality as a way to promote my career.

However, I still needed to lose 10 pounds off my 130 pound 5’7 frame.

My mom had read that juice diets were all the craze in Hollywood and were becoming more and more well-known for helping celebrities drop weight quickly.  I was game.

We started our three-day juice cleanse and I remember the first sip of juice I had.  I wanted to immediately vomit.  There was no way I was going to be able to force myself to drink this for three days.  I instead lived off decaf coffee and fat-free creamer.  The first two days were a complete blur.  I was starving, tired, and achy.  I forced myself to walk on my treadmill for at least an hour each day.  I put up photos on my mirror of Britney Spears in case I was tempted to break my fast and eat.

I woke up on day three and before I could even make it out of my room, I blacked out.  I woke up to my mom standing over me.  I had passed out from lack of calories.

I still refused to eat and insisted on completing day three.  In my mind, passing out was a win.  A sign of victory.  In a sick way, it motivated me even more to complete my fast because it said to me that it was working. Also, I was over ten pounds down in just three days.  I was on cloud 9.

I soon arrived back in LA, proud to show off my new figure to my manager.  He was impressed that I was able to drop weight so quickly but mentioned how I needed to focus on toning up. I was shattered.  All I wanted was affirmation from him.

I remember driving up to Paramount Studios with  my mom.  I felt like a celebrity when I had to give my name to the security team and they saw me listed on the schedule for a recording session.  The next few days consisted of writing and laying down tracks for my demo.  I arrived for my photo shoot and it was just like the ones I had watched on MTV and VH1.  My favorite music playing in the background while I changed outfits and had a hair and makeup team fixing my hair and appearance.

Eventually, things between my manager and I began to become strange.   Tensions began to arise as he was obviously not fulfilling his part of our agreement.  He seemed upset that I would never travel or go to his offices alone.  I was always with my mom or my best friend, Kainos. I later found out that a few years after I stopped working with him, he was convicted to jail time for raping his female clients.

Through a series of networking events, he introduced me to a man named Jeff.  He had obvious connections in the music industry and had agreed to meet with me.  We met at a mall in LA along with my best friend, Kainos.  He asked me what my goals were and said that he was impressed with my demos that he had heard.  He said that he wanted to arrange to have me record with Manual Seal, a Grammy award-winning producer out of Atlanta who was the most well-known for producing hits for Mariah Carey.  It came with one condition, of course.

“Listen, you have the talent but you don’t have the body.  Where you come from, guys might think you are cute if you’re wearing something skanky and you’re in a dark club and he has a few drinks in him. But in Hollywood, you’re nothing.  You’re competing with the Britney’s and the Christina’s now.  If you’re not working out at least three hours a day for the next  month, don’t even bother contacting me again.”

Kainos’ mouth dropped open (thank God she was there to witness it because otherwise people would assume I was exaggerating what he said to me).  Looking back, I can see how broken I was because I never even questioned what he said.  He spoke truth to me.  He was right.

I would do whatever it took for my dreams to come true. If it took dying to get there, so be it.

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 4- From High School to Hollywood

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 4 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


I remember waking up the day after I first binged.  My head was pounding and my entire body felt lethargic, however no feeling was greater than the shame I felt.  I laid in bed as I looked at the magazines besides my bed that were filled with photos of pop stars and celebrities with tiny waists and a thigh gap.  All the messages I had received since childhood told me that my worth was little to none if I didn’t have a perfect body, and I felt the closest I had ever felt to worthlessness in that moment.

I made a promise to myself that I would never let it happen again.

I made a lot of broken promises.

I spent the entire next day eating nothing except for decaffeinated coffee (I had read an article that said caffeine prevented weight loss) and fat-free creamer. I tried going for a run in my neighborhood but quickly lost my stride due to lack of food and energy.

The next day I allowed myself one bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk.  I was beginning to feel more in control of myself and I went about my day as though I was walking on air.  The feeling of hunger made me feel hopeful about my future.  It gave me a strange sense of euphoria where I felt as though I could accomplish anything.  Saying no to food meant saying yes to happiness.

I could only go a few days eating little to nothing before I would eventually break.

Binge. After Binge. After Binge.

Starve for two days. Binge for one. Starve for three days. Binge for two.

I felt out of control.

As the days turned to months, I slowly began putting on weight from all the binging.  I became depressed and being anywhere in public gave me anxiety. One day as I sat in the girl’s locker room at school, I overheard two girls gossiping about one of their friends.

Have you seen how skinny Christina is now? I heard she started taking exlax, water pills, and taught herself how to throw up. She needs help.

Maybe this was my answer.  To be honest, the thought of taking laxatives was nauseating but I was desperate at this point.  I’d do anything to lose weight.

Within two weeks, I could tell I was losing weight.  Others would make comments which only gave me more determination to continue losing weight.  I convinced my parents to buy me a treadmill for Christmas and I would spend hours in our basement running mile after mile.

I finally was able to stop bingeing so often and limited my calories to 500 per day.  As I continued to lose weight, people would approach my parents to ask if I was ok.  Hearing their concerns didn’t scare me, but instead made me feel on top of the world.  Peers would ask me for weight loss advice and praise me for my obvious triumph.

I was a girl obsessed.  If I ever felt tempted to eat a “bad” food, I would write with a sharpie on my hand “You are fat! Do not eat!” I kept photos of popular celebrities like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera taped to my mirror to help motivate me and discourage me from eating if tempted. For the first time, I felt in control of my own life.

Two weeks after my high school graduation, I packed my bags and moved to Denver, Colorado to work with my vocal coaches and pursue my dream of music.  Arriving in Denver was exciting and helped fulfill my need for adventure.  After my parents helped get me settled in, they drove away and reality hit.

I didn’t know a soul there.  I kept myself busy working and practicing at the music academy I was studying at and while I made a few friends, I found myself spending much of my time isolating.  My obsession with my body grew even more as I entered into a music competition that would take place in LA.  The mix of my own self-induced pressure and the loneliness I had from being away from home threw me into another cycle of binging and purging by spending hours at the gym.

When I finally arrived in LA, I was met by my mother at the hotel.  She was always supportive of my dreams and so she thought that helping me stay thin would only help me.  Her intentions were good, however damaging.  Every time we would eat, she would comment on my food selection if she felt it was too fattening.

Rihanna, you’re going to regret eating that and you’ll feel sad when you have to perform tomorrow. 

She was right.

While in Los Angeles, I was approached by a talent manager who wanted to represent me.  I remember driving to his private office and meeting at a long conference table as he looked at my head shots and listened to a few of my demo recordings.  He continued to name drop a few of his clients and friends in the industry.  During our meeting, he mentioned that he had just missed a call from Kevin Federline, who in 2005 was widely known for his ill-intentioned marriage to Britney Spears. He kept saying that I had a marketable look and good talent and then asked if I could drop ten pounds in the next two weeks and be back in LA for a photo shoot and a recording session at Paramount studios.

My mom and I looked at each other in amazement as I shouted, “YES. I won’t eat for two weeks if that’s what I have to do!”

He laughed and joked about how I just needed to do whatever it takes because I was headed for the big time.

As we drove home, my head was spinning.  My dreams were actually going to come true.  The only thing that stood between me and my dreams was ten pounds; and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight for Beauty – Chapter 3 – Hello Bulimia

Being a teenager is a no easy feat.  The transition from child to adult is forced upon us during a time when everything from our bodies, minds, friends, relationships, and hormones are changing on a daily basis.  We go from being a carefree middle-schooler whose greatest concern is who she’s going to sit next to at lunch that day to suddenly being forced to make life-altering decisions about everything from our career paths, colleges, and which member of N’Sync we would give our hand in marriage to. (JT, obviously).

I still remember my first day in high school. All my life I had been attending a private, Christian school where my class size was 15 students and the most controversial event was an 8th grader bringing a Playboy magazine to school.  He was immediately expelled and no one dared talk about it except for whispers in the hallway where rumor had it that once he was expelled he tried pot.  If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t to be discussed.  I remember being openly chastised in front of the class because a teacher overheard me telling a story where I said the word “bra.”  She claimed that I had no class and was disappointed that I would use such a word in front of my male peers; as if a bra is something every young girl should feel ashamed of.

Now, here I stood amount 1,500 peers who openly discussed sex, drugs, and their wild weekends spent passed out after drinking wine coolers in their parents basements.  I couldn’t tell you about my classes or my teachers even if I wanted to because all I remember is being consumed with the fact that I didn’t fit in.  I knew nothing about what the world was like outside of my Reformed-Presbyterian school background where even uttering the word “damn” would get you sent to the principal’s office.

Walking the halls felt paralyzing to me.  The girls at my new school were different from my friends before.  They were beautiful, confident, and they all wore Abercrombie which was the epitome of cool in 2001. I would watch in awe as they easily drew attention from guys as they flirted and laughed at their terrible jokes. The message was loud and clear that in order to get attention from a guy, you needed to show just the right amount of cleavage while being easy and flirty.  Which was unfortunate for me because the most intimate thing to happen between me and a guy was receiving a candy gram on Valentine’s Day and I was only a size A cup.

If I couldn’t be like the other girls, maybe I could at least try to look like them.


A few months into high school, I was finally becoming adjusted to my new social circle and I didn’t openly flinch every time I heard someone swear. You could say that being in a public school had its own effect on me because I was even becoming more rebellious as I secretly purchased my first non-Christian cd.  It was Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go and I’d sing Complicated at the top of my lungs as I drove to and from school.  Man, did I feel like a badass.

However with the new-found rebellion and freedom I found, I also found myself more entrapped in my eating disorder. I became even more obsessed with dieting and attempting to lose weight.  I would eat as little as I could while the feeling of hunger made me fantasize about all the things I could be or do if I was skinny.  The hunger pangs would motivate me to resist more food even more as I imagined my new, skinny self just ahead.  Skinny Rihanna wasn’t intimidated by the other girls in high school  Skinny Rihanna had a boyfriend and was the envy of all the other girls. Skinny Rihanna was smart, funny, and popular. Skinny Rihanna’s dreams were just in reach and she had the support and encouragement of her friends and family. Skinny Rihanna didn’t spend hours in the front of the mirror pinching and squeezing her love handles wishing she could just do away with them altogether. Skinny Rihanna was happy.

Eventually, I broke.

It was a Friday afternoon and I was driving home from school.  I was exhausted, starving, and had just majorly failed an acting audition.  I remember fantasizing about everything I wanted to eat.  Cookies, cereal, peanut butter, icecream, you name it.  When I got home, I was alone and I found myself standing in the kitchen.  I paced around the kitchen island as I fought with myself as to whether I should eat or not.  One little snack couldn’t hurt.  I’ll stop after just one granola bar.  I went into the pantry and quickly one granola bar turned to two, which turned to the entire box. The shame I felt was overwhelming and the only way to avoid having to feel it was to keep eating.  Entire boxes of cereal, half a gallon of icecream, pasta leftovers from the night before.  I ate until I felt sick and I could no longer even look at the sight of food.

I binged.

I was so naive to the world of eating disorders that I had no idea that there was even a word for it.  I stood in the bathroom, hovering over the toilet trying to make myself throw up everything I had just eaten.  I had heard of girls who could eat whatever they wanted and they were able to stay skinny by making themselves vomit immediately afterwords. But I couldn’t.

I remember crawling into my bed that night, overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and disgust over what I had just done.  Just as the feeling of hunger made me feel powerful, the feeling of indulging made me feel worthless.

As I drifted off into sleep, I swore that it would never happen again.  Little did I know that my journey had just begun.

Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight For Beauty – Chapter 2 – Beware of Men

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 2 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.

“I think Reed likes me. Kristin said he’s going to ask me to be his girlfriend.  My mom will kill me but I’ll have to keep it a secret.” Helena confessed to me as we sat in the backseat of my grandma’s car on the way to the mall.  It was my thirteenth birthday and she was taking us out for an all day shopping trip to celebrate. It didn’t surprise me that Reed had a crush on her.  It seemed that every guy in our class did at one point.  She was the type of girl that guys seemed to be drawn to and she loved every second of it, even though she pretended not to.

As our day of shopping came to a close, my grandma needed to make a quick stop at Target.  Helena and I wandered off into the jewelry department where we tried on sunglasses and bags.  Eventually we began wandering the store in the hopes to meet up with my grandma.  As we turned into an aisle, my heart stopped. I took a quick step back and pulled Helena by the arm as I tried to get out the aisle without being seen.

My heart was racing as I quickly walked through the store to find my grandma.

I have to leave.

I can’t be seen.

Don’t say a word.

When I found her, I lied and said I felt sick and needed to go home immediately.  She quickly paid for her things and we left.

The entire car ride home, I began to actually feel sick to my stomach.  Anger rose within me as I could feel it burning in my chest.  When we got home, I ran into my room and laid on my bed as my mind replayed over and over what I had seen.

My grandpa, hand in hand, with another woman.

I knew who she was.  We all did.  My poppa, try as he may, was never successful with hiding his affair.  He would sneak to the backroom of their house multiple times a day where he would call her.  Sometimes, I would stand by the door and try to make out what he was whispering to her.  He would lie to my grandma and say he was taking us grandkids out for breakfast.  When we got there, she would be there waiting to join us.  I remember seeing him reach across the table to grab her hand.  My stomach would knot up and my heart would break as I thought about my grandma sitting at home alone.

She was young and blonde and had a Russian accent so thick that I normally would just smile and nod as she spoke because I couldn’t understand what she was saying.

That night, my parents were taking me out for my birthday dinner and my grandparents were joining.  As we waited for my grandpa to arrive, everyone was growing increasingly frustrated and concerned because he was over an hour late. They couldn’t imagine where he could be, but I knew.  He was with her.

When he finally arrived, we all went to dinner.  I remember feeling like I was betraying my grandma as I watched them sit together because I knew he was about to leave her. At the end of dinner, he and my grandma began arguing about something where he made a jab at her weight.  My heart stopped.

Is that why he is cheating on her?

I don’t remember the exact timeline, but shortly after my thirteenth birthday, my grandma came home after work and all his stuff was gone. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had let her down. I kept this secret from her.  I knew he was preparing to leave since the day I saw them purchasing pots and pans at Target.

I remember seeing my mom and my grandma cry.  It was a scene that I had seen played out time and time again.  Uncles, family friends, and now my grandpa leaving their wives for a younger, more attractive woman.  These women in my life, who I viewed as beautiful and powerful, suddenly became broken and used all because someone failed to see and treasure their beauty.  If they couldn’t keep a man, how would I be able to?

I made a vow to myself to never become like them. I would never allow my body to be the reason why someone couldn’t love me. I was never going to allow a man to hurt me in that way.  “Perhaps it’s safer to just never marry,” my thirteen year old heart reasoned.

Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight For Beauty

I’ve been putting off creating this series of blogs for a while now.  I came up with every excuse imaginable to avoid having to put in the time and effort, however I was recently challenged when I was praying one night.  I was asking God what my purpose was here.  What is my next step? Am I wasting my life away living day to day with no real goals or vision? The answer: yes.  After finishing BSSM and having to go through the process of grief after losing family members, I found myself just taking one day at a time.  For a season, that was exactly what I needed.  However, I’ve felt a shift and the Lord gently reminded me of a promise I made to Him when I first moved to Redding, CA just four years ago.  When I arrived, I was deep in my struggle with bulimia and couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked.  I lived guarded and insecure.  I would cry before God asking for freedom from this life-consuming disease and promised Him that if he would set me free, I would give my life to help others find their own freedom.  Since my recovery journey, I’ve had many great opportunities to share my testimony and see it give hope to others and my prayer is that the same continues.

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 1 of my story.

“What is it that you want?” She asked as she sat leaning on her worn-down desk. Her office always smelled of old potpourri and hand sanitizer combined.  The lights were always dim. I assume to give the person sitting across from her a feeling of comfort and coziness, but I instead always felt like I was sitting in a police interrogation. My eyes scanned across her walls and I briefly remember seeing pictures of her family, her degree set on display within in an overly-gaudy frame, and her bookshelf was packed with books entitled, “Family and Depression” and “The Monster Within.”  The monster within. I knew that monster all too well.  That monster is what got me here in the first place.

“Rihanna,” she interrupted as I stared blankly at her. “What do you want?”

“To be skinny.” I replied.

Her eyes grew narrow as she stared directly at me…or through me.  I couldn’t tell the difference.


“What do you want?” She asked again.

What do I want? I thought to myself. I want to be skinny.  I want to be able to have a conversation with my parents without it turning into an argument about food.  I want my sisters to stop thinking I’m crazy.  I want to go out to dinner with my friends without leaving in a nervous breakdown. I want to eat cake on my birthday and not think twice about it. I want the dreams about working out and bingeing to stop because I can’t even escape this disease in my sleep. I want the kids at church to stop treating me like I’m a lost cause. I want my sisters to be proud of me. I want to sing and travel the world.  I want the sadness in my parent’s eyes to go away.  I want a boy to chase after me as if I’m the only girl he’s ever laid eyes on.  I want a friendship so deep that we finish each other’s sentences.  I want to be loved. None of this would have even happened if I could have just lost weight. None of this would have happened if I was skinny.

“Rihanna, bulimia is just a symptom of something lacking in your life. Now, I’m going to ask you again, what is it that you are looking for? What do you really want?”

The silence of the room was only broken by the sound of the clock on her wall.

“I want to be skinny.”

It didn’t start as a sickness.  It didn’t start as a disease.  I couldn’t honestly tell you when my obsession with my body began.  My earliest memories consist of watching my mom do Jane Fonda workout videos in our living room and overhearing conversations about diet and exercise.  My mom, aunts, and their friends always seemed to be strange around food. While serving us macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches, they would comment on how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a luxury while they had to endure celery sticks and rice cakes.  I never understood why they felt that eating cheese would be the end of their world, but I remember thinking that if their lives would be ruined if they wore a bigger size jeans, then surely mine would be as well.

I remember hearing my parents fight one night.  They seemed to always fight about money or the fact that my mom would spend hours on the phone at night with her friends and I guess my dad didn’t like that.  This particular fight was different though. I remember my mom yelling, “I’m sorry that I don’t look like Cindy Crawford!”  I remember my heart sinking as I wondered, “Does my dad not think my mom is pretty?” I remember thinking about the times when everyone would tell me that I looked just like my mother.  Ever since that night 21 years ago, I have yet to see a photo of Ms. Crawford without being brought back to that moment.

It was in the sixth grade when I made the first real effort to lose weight.  My friends and I all began noticing our bodies changing and while my friends were going shopping for their first bras, I was going shopping for bigger jeans.  I was developing curves and everyone noticed.  My friends started calling me “JLO” and I remember coming home from school crying because everyone thought I was fat. Since I didn’t have a clue about dieting, I decided to stop eating breakfast.  I loved the feeling of being hungry.  It gave me a sense of control and power.

As I entered into Junior High, everything began changing.  My friends, our bodies, our lives, our interests.  I never felt like I could fit in anywhere.  I desperately wanted to be accepted by the cool girls in my class, but everything felt off.  I remember sitting in Heather’s bedroom listening to Blink 182’s Enema of the State while she and Cara were modeling their new bras that they filled out perfectly and talking about the boys in our class that they wanted to make out with and eventually marry.

“Rihanna, who do you want to make out with?” Cara asked.

I immediately felt uncomfortable in my own skin because not only was I still stuffing my bra with toilet paper, but I wasn’t particularly interested in marrying anyone in the seventh grade. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of crushes and had an undying devotion to Craig Johnson who made me weak in my gangly knees, but I’ve always had different goals.  Growing up, I fantasized about being a rich and famous singer who traveled the world but lived in my humble 20 acre ranch in Nashville, TN.  Boys always came secondary to my dreams of singing.  Although to be honest, I do sometimes feel that I have a better chance of joining the ranks of Taylor Swift than accumulating my MRS degree, but that’s for a different blog.

“Umm, maybe Troy?” I quipped.

“Well you better hope he likes girls with a fat butt like yours!” Heather laughed.

I immediately wanted to shrink away.



Not good enough.

I walked home that night as those words echoed through my mind.  I vowed to not only cut out breakfast, but also lunch.  That will show them.  Then I’ll find a guy to like me.

Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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Six Things I Wish I Knew About Grief

It’s no secret that the last year of my life has been the hardest year that I’ve had to walk through.  Navigating my way through grief was not an easy journey and I still find myself having to ask, “am I doing this right?”  Looking back, there are a few things that I wish I knew about grief before I was forced to walk through it.

  1. It Hurts like Hell.  Losing my niece was to date the most painful experience I have had to walk through.  I remember the days following her death where I would grab my chest because the pain felt so heavy upon me.  My entire body felt like I was hit by a truck and simple tasks felt like burdens. Grief is so heavy that your physical body begins to ache from the emotional toll and there are moments when you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it through the day, but you will. You always will.

  2. It Can’t Be Avoided. After my niece died, my introverted habits suddenly disappeared and I found myself wanting to constantly be around people.  At the time, my current roommate and I were having to share a bedroom until we were able to find a house, so even then I wasn’t alone.  I found that if I was around someone that I didn’t have to face the pain that was raging inside of me.  After a few weeks of suppressing my emotions, they would surface without warning.  In the middle of the mall, the checkout line in Target, or at the bank while I was making deposits for work where I felt I would have to apologize to whomever was helping me and explain that my niece just passed away.  About a month later my grandpa passed away and I was now not only grieving the loss of my niece, but also my grandpa whom was like a second father to me during my childhood. It was then that I decided to embrace the pain, no matter how hard it felt, I had to give myself permission to be a complete wreck if I needed to be. I didn’t care if my sadness made other people uncomfortable because letting it out meant that I was giving my heart and my pain a voice.

  3. Grief Makes People Uncomfortable. As a culture, we’ve learned to look at pain as a bad thing. Have a headache? Take a tylenol.  Having a bad day? Go to happy hour.  We want a quick fix.  Unfortunately when it comes to emotional pain such as grief, the only way out is through and sometimes that can be a very long and dark road.  I found in my own journey that many people wanted me to bounce right back to normal and declare that “God is good” despite my sadness.  They didn’t want to know that I was struggling with why God allowed her to die or how to manage my anger towards Him.  They were quick to throw “spiritual Tylenol” as I like to call it at me and quote scripture about the goodness of God.  The problem with that is I felt like my process and my emotions were not being validated. It’s like saying to someone who’s crying because they broke their arm “Stop crying! Your leg is completely fine!” People don’t always know how to respond to other people’s pain and they may say things that hurt you.  Just know that at the end of the day, their heart is only to love and help you.  Sometimes they just need a little direction in how to do so. 

  4. There is No Right Way to Grieve.  I have a high D personality meaning that I like to be productive and I like to do things the correct way the first time.  It’s hard for me to not have a set answer or solution for something, so when first going through the process of grieving, I found myself constantly stressed that I was “doing it wrong.”  I found myself thinking, “It’s been three weeks, should I still feel this sad? Should I be in the acceptance stage? Should I be putting all my emotional distress into something more productive like working out or volunteering at a charity?? Why is it still a struggle to get out of bed?” The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and the cliché is true that everybody grieves differently.  I finally had to get to the point where I stopped over analyzing where I was at and just allowed myself to be wherever I needed to be in the moment.  Some days I needed to veg out on the couch watching Scandal for hours on end while saving the world vicariously through Olivia Pope, and some days I needed to paint my nails and go to dinner with my girlfriends. Whatever my heart needed, I allowed myself to be okay with that.

  5. Anger is Part of the Journey. I’ll never forget the moment that my mom called me to tell me that Abby had died.  It was a Friday afternoon and I had about an hour left of my shift at work. I answered the phone and the words, “Rihanna, we lost Abby” came flying out of her mouth and I calmly said “Ok” and hung up. It was a strange reaction, but I have a tendency to resort to becoming very calm when something scares or shocks me.  I grabbed my purse and as I walked to my car I began to violently shake. Anger, shock, and disbelief all came over me as I began to yell at God, “Are you f—ing kidding me? Is this a joke to you?!”  I felt like the world was spinning and the rage and anger just continued to pour out of me.  Although the initial rage soon subsided, I found myself still battling feeling anger and resentment towards God. The weeks following, I found myself at a church conference where people were being healed left and right from various illnesses. Anger began to rise within me and I knew that in that moment, I had a choice.  I could choose to partner with resentment or I could surrender my desire to understand and celebrate the healings surrounding me.  At first, I felt unauthentic but over time God began to heal that part of my heart that only needed reassurance that God still saw me. 

  6. God is Faithful in the Process. It’s been a little over ten months since Abby left us and 8 months since my Poppa joined her.  There were times when I felt like I would never fully heal or ever feel close to God again.  However, having to walk this journey has showed me levels and parts of God that I never knew existed previously.  In the times when I felt overlooked or forgotten, His sweet presence wrapped itself around me and carried me through.  I wish that I never had to walk this journey, but at the same time I wouldn’t trade the moments I had with God through this for anything in the world.  

Grief is painful.  It cuts us to our core and forces us to look inwardly and face who we are and what we believe.  If I could go back and tell myself anything before having to walk this journey it would be this: you’re going to make it through.


If you liked this post, you may also like When I Stopping Believing in God and I Stopped Believing in Prayer


When I Stopped Believing in God

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight months since we lost our sweet Abby.  I still remember laying in bed the night she passed, unable to sleep and tossing and turning with emotions ranging from sadness, disbelief, anger, and shock.  The pain that I felt was unlike anything that I had experienced before and it was hard to believe that it would ever pass.

The days following her death felt like a terrible dream that I kept half-expecting myself to wake up from.  For the first time in my life, I felt completely disconnected from God.  It was like a black curtain had been hung over me and I couldn’t comprehend why, if He truly existed, would He allow this to happen?  I remember laying in the bed of a home that I was housesitting at the time, crying out loudly “Do you even exist, God? Are you even there?” It’s humbling to admit that as much as I didn’t want to say it out loud, I truly wondered if there was even a God.  Was everything I ever believed or experienced a lie?

The next day, as I was traveling to Miami to be with my family, I sat in the airport with the same questions still spinning in my mind.  Is there a God? Is He as close as I really once believed He was? The level of disconnect that I felt brought me to place of desperation.  I inwardly prayed, “Okay God, if you are real and if you are still present in this situation, I need you to prove it to me.”  I sat for a bit longer racking my brain of ways I could force God to prove himself to me.  “If you’re here, I want to see a red balloon today.”

It would be impossible considering I would be stuck either in an airport or on a plane all day. I knew better than to ever put God to the test, but I figured that I had nothing to lose that that point.

My travels went on as normal with delays and even a landing at the wrong airport.  By the time I actually arrived in Miami, it was after midnight.  My dad picked me up and we had a quiet drive back to my sister’s house. When I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the aroma of flowers overflowing in her living room.  A reminder that this wasn’t a dream.  I stood in silence as I looked at the flowers and photos of Abby that surrounded me.  I turned to my dad and sobbed into his chest.  The one thing we fought so hard for for the last eleven months was gone.  I remembered my request to see a red balloon and I thought to myself, “Figures it wouldn’t happen.”

After I had calmed down a bit, I went to go get ready for bed.  As I walked into my sister’s bathroom, I stood in complete shock as to what was in front of me.  Sitting on her counter was a red balloon.


Have you ever heard the phrase, “it felt like a kiss from heaven?”  This was that for me.  The next day, I saw my sister for the first time since her daughter had passed.  There were no words to say, but I hugged her and my heart ached as I felt her tired and lifeless body.  She hardly had the strength to wrap her arms around me.  I told her the story of the red balloon and she just looked back blankly at me. Over the course of the next few days, she would sometimes walk outside to get away from everyone and everything.  I followed her out and we sat in silence, both unable to grasp the right words to say.  After a few minutes, she stared straight ahead and said, “I almost threw that red balloon away before you got here. But something told me not to.”

In that moment, I knew that the red balloon wasn’t for me.  It was for her.

Sometimes we are so afraid to ask the hard questions.  But if I hadn’t been unafraid to be completely honest before God, my sister might still be searching for her red balloon moment.

I still don’t understand why things happen the way that they do, but I am thankful that I have a God that welcomes my confusion and isn’t afraid of my questions.

“So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.” Hebrews 4, The Passion Translation

If you liked this post, you might also like I Stopped Believing in Prayer and I Don’t Want to Worship God


Out of Hiding


One thing that I used to take pride in is my inclination towards independence.  My mother claims that I was her most difficult child to raise due to my desire to want to do everything myself.  Stop me from wearing my Dorothy inspired red-glittered shoes everywhere I went (including camping)? She dared not.

There’s a part of me that loves my independent spirit because it gave me the courage to do things and experience life differently than some of my peers.  It allowed me to try to go after my dreams at a young age and be unafraid to travel and wander alone.  However over time, it also became a form of self-defense.  A wall to keep people from getting too close.  Hurt me?  You can’t.  I’m independent and will move on just fine.  I remember when my boyfriend, who I was convinced was the love of my life, broke up with me.  Inside, I was devastated and felt like my world was being turned upside down, but I sat still and silent without showing any sort of emotion.  He seemed surprised by my lack of emotion and asked if I was even sad about this.  “I’ll be fine” I said.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is allow people to see our pain.  We live in a culture where everyone wants to be seen as “strong” and “self-sufficient” to the point where we neglect and avoid our feelings and emotional needs.

This last year has forced me to come to terms with just how my desire to be independent was actually destroying me.  When my niece, Abby, was born and the emotional rollercoaster of her life began, my first inclination was to pull away from my friends.  I felt afraid, confused, and overall just a mess.  I avoided my friend’s phone calls and attempts to hang out and used the excuse “I’m just going through a lot and I need to be alone.”

 Translation: I’m not as strong as I thought I was and I don’t want you to actually see me.

Being seen is scary.  Allowing another person to really see you – the good, the bad, the mess ups, the irrational fears, the mood swings, the failures and the brokenness can leave you feeling exposed.  It’s laying yourself out and saying, “This is me. This is what I have to offer. Take it or leave it.”  It’s allowing that other person to make a decision as to whether they are going to embrace it or walk away.  I finally had to come to a point where I realized that taking the risk to be seen would be less scary than living in hiding for the rest of my life.  A friend once said to me, “You can take a risk to be loved and I can’t guarantee that you will receive it.  But I can guarantee that you will never be loved if you don’t take the risk.”

I took the risk. Thankfully, I have a beautiful group of friends that have the ability to see every part of me and take me as is.  Being seen made me realize that my failures and shortcomings only made up a small part of me and that I was actually so much more than my mistakes.

Once I allowed myself to come out of hiding, that’s when I began to find myself.


Will I Ever Forgive God?

Yesterday started out like every other Sunday for me.  Sleep in, enjoy a lazy morning, and then begin getting ready for church.  As I was going about my morning, I checked Facebook and clicked on the “On This Day” notification where it showed me everything I posted on the same day in years past.  Most days, it will make me cringe, laugh, or feel some sort of nostalgia.  Yesterday, it made me angry.

A year ago yesterday, I posted this photo:


This is a photo of my sister and brother-in-law getting to hold their daughter, Abby, for only the second time in her two months of life.  Given her fragility and the ventilator, they were unable to have contact with her other than touching her through her NICU bed.  I remember crying when I received the photos and the hope that filled my heart as I realized that she might actually get the miracle we had been praying for.

It’s been almost six months since Abby left us.  A day hasn’t passed when I haven’t wondered why she didn’t get her miracle.  What could we have done differently?

When I saw this photo yesterday, the same one that once gave me hope and renewed my faith, I quickly clicked off of Facebook and went about my morning.  Within minutes,  everything was frustrating me.  My hair. My clothes. My body. The fact that I was having to go to church.  My roommate, who can always sense when anything is even slightly off with me, was convinced she had done something to upset me. I assured her that it wasn’t her and that I truely had no idea why I was so upset.

Once we got to church, we stood in the back as the worship played and I kept thinking about the photo of my sister holding her baby who is now gone.  The eight months of Abby’s life kept playing over and over in my head. All the highs when we thought she was making progress, as well as the lows when we thought we would lose her.  I replayed the day I received the phone call from my mom letting me know that we lost her. The moments and days that followed her death as we all tried to navigate our way in a world that looked vastly different than it did just days before.  As I unsuccessfully tried to stop myself from crying, I looked at my roommate and said, “I am so angry Abby is gone.  I’m so angry that my sister had to lose her child.”

The rest of the day went on as I tried to almost will myself to not feel angry anymore. I felt so much shame and guilt over the fact that I still feel anger towards God for not healing her.  Isn’t this the part where I can hold my head high like a good Christian and say that my heart is healed and whole again? The part where the paralyzing fear of losing someone else I love finally ceases?

I took a long drive late last night and I finally cried for the first time in a few months.  I realized that it’s okay that I feel angry.  It’s okay that I feel confused. It’s okay to feel at peace with God one moment and upset in the next.  A piece of my heart was taken from me when Abby left and just like any other wound, it needs time to fully heal.

“I will trust
Here in the mystery
I will trust
In You completely

Awake my soul to sing
With Your breath in me
I will worship
You taught my feet
To dance upon disappointment
And I, I will worship” -Heroes by Amanda Cook

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A Singles Guide for Surviving Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means many will be finding themselves in line at the local market.  Some will be buying cheap, heart-shaped chocolates paired with flowers while others will be browsing the Ben and Jerry’s flavor options while waiting for their Prozac to be refilled.

I’ve experience Valentine’s Day as both single and in a relationship.  I was once both one year, starting the day off in a relationship, only to break up with him halfway through (what can I say, I like to make sure I’m not easily forgotten).  All around, Valentine’s Day has its own set of problems for the singles and non singles alike; but since I am single now, I thought I would reach out to my fellow man and offer some words of advice to help get you through this holiday!

Avoid alcohol. They say that hindsight is 20/20 and I’m here to help pass along some wisdom acquired by my own a friend’s experience. In years past,  V-Day prep would begin on the evening of the 13th. My friend I liked to prepare by either drinking an entire bottle of wine or bottom shelf vodka, depending on the status of my bank account.  Plus drinking ensures that I would most likely sleep in until 12pm, which helped me out by missing half of Valentine’s Day! Most sane people pair a good bottle of wine with an expensive cheese or hor dourves, but I preferred to pair it with Ryan Gosling movies (trust me when I say that there is no other person you would rather get drunk with than Ryan Gosling on Valentine’s Day weekend).

Now this may sound like your dream V Day weekend, but trust me when I say that that you don’t want to be waking up with a hangover and a text from your ex saying “Are you ok? You called me a thousand times.” Girl, you are not Adele and you can’t wipe your tears of embarrassment with your 20 Grammys and millions of dollars! So just do yourself a favor and pass on the wine, avoid Ryan Gosling movies, and read a good book like The Holy Bible. Stay away from the Songs of Solomon though. Maybe stick with something like Leviticus.


Bottomless Mimosas. Wait, didn’t I just tell you not to drink? Yes, I did.  But let’s face it, if you’re strong enough NOT to drink on Valentine’s Day then you really don’t need any advice from this blog. With that said, I highly recommend grabbing brunch with a bunch of your fellow single girlfriends and keep those bottomless mimosas flowing! There’s no heartache that a room full of estrogen and champagne can’t fix!



Invest in a body pillow. Rumor has it that it also helps to have a body pillow handy so you can fall asleep wrapped up in it pretending it’s not a pillow, but an actual human body. Like I said, that’s just a rumor that I have NO experience with WHATSOEVER.



Kiss your pity party goodbye.  Seriously, if you’re embarrassed about your lack of love in your life, the only thing more embarrassing is being that person who constantly talks or posts on social media about hating it! Do you really expect your prince charming to see that and say, “Well, I saw her posting about how much she hates love, flowers, couples, romance, the Son of God, and sunshine and that’s when I knew that I couldn’t live without her!” Don’t be that person. Get out, throw those ringless hands in the air and rock that confidence I know you have!



There you have it! I hope from the bottom of my single heart that you end up having an amazing Valentine’s Day full of mimosas, ice-cream, and love. Xoxo.

If you liked this post, you might also like 20 Things I Wish I Knew In My Early 20’s and Single People are the Worst!