Back to Happy!

with Connie Bowman

Did we find Connie purely by chance? We don’t think so and know that there was a purpose in our meeting. Todd was trying to find some voice professionals to do some work for Ellie’s Way, and Connie heard our story and quickly offered to help us in any way she could. It turned out that we had both lost a six-year-old daughter. Connie’s huge heart and compassion for others stand out and we’re so glad our paths crossed.

Connie has just completed her first book, Back to Happy: A Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up. Connie is an inspiring leader and an example to so many people. She has overcome one of life’s most difficult challenges. She’s found a way “Back to Happy” and candidly shares her story. Connie’s book is a needed survival guide when life gets tough.

– Todd and Kristen

Connie, what is your loss story?

Meghan was our first child, born at Emerson Hospital at Old Road to Nine Acre Corner in Concord, Massachusetts. I love that she was born so close to the family home of Louisa May Alcott – and that she was named Meg, after the first child in my favorite childhood book “Little Women”.
Meghan Rebecca Bowman
March 26, 1985 – May 5, 1991
Everything about her birth was normal except that she had some breathing problems after swallowing some “maternal blood” and so she was kept in hospital for a couple of extra days, just to be on the safe side. During that time she was checked out and, by all accounts was a normal healthy newborn.

She was so healthy for the first year or so and then started having symptoms, which led me to see several pediatricians as my instincts were that something just wasn’t right. I was told I was worrying too much, that I needed a vacation, and that all babies got sick. I knew something was wrong but, because I was young and I wanted that to be the truth, I believed them. Finally, when Meghan came down with the worst cold ever, I took her to see a new doctor who almost immediately diagnosed her with congenital heart disease.

I was devastated. She was hospitalized and we found that she had a form of congenital heart disease that, when found early on, could have been easily rectified with a simple surgery at birth. By this time (she was almost two) there was some damage to her lungs so we were left to treating her with medicine and oxygen and prayers.
She was such a happy child and when her little sister Caroline was born, they were the best of friends. Meghan was six when we took her to Children’s Hospital to have a routine test to check the pressures in her lungs with some new medicines. It was to be a quick procedure and she would be back in her kindergarten class the next day. No big deal. When they called me into the ICU after the procedure, it was to calm Meghan down as the nurses said she was agitated. When I saw her, I knew immediately there was something seriously wrong. I tried to comfort her, but she coded on the table and we were quickly ushered out of the room, while they tried to save her life.

The next two weeks were a blur. She was flown to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, the only area facility that had a heart-lung machine called ECMO, which would keep her alive while we talked about heart transplants and other equally inconceivable things. I was pregnant with my son Bobby at the time and had my first ultrasound while Meghan was in that hospital. Thankfully Bobby looked to be healthy and growing well so that was a relief.

Meghan was kept sedated while hooked to ECMO and, because the machine was oxygenating her blood, she looked deceivably good to us. So the day the doctors came to us and told us it was time to let her go, we were devastated. I prayed about it and felt this peace come over me and knew in my heart they were right. She had been through so much and her little body had fought hard to stay with us, but now we needed to tell her that it was alright to go. Thank God for the angel nurse who suggested I whisper to Meghan that it was “OK to go” because I would not have done that on my own. I told her “I would see her when we got there”. Soon after that, she died peacefully in that hospital bed, her Dad and me at her side.
What do you want people to remember about your sweet daughter Meghan?

She was a sweet, kind, smart and gentle soul. She brought so much joy to my life and my husband’s as well. She was, for three years, a constant friend and confidant for her sister, Caroline. And the brother whose birth occurred just months after his sister’s death would never know the love that this beautiful girl would have showered on him.
What impact do you want to leave on the world?

Healing from losing this precious child has shaped my life in ways I never could have expected. It has been a long, arduous journey but ultimately one of rebirth and regeneration. I remember attending a meeting of grieving parents early on in the process and hearing that the final stage of healing comes when you can reach out and help someone else. I wanted some of that final phase peace; an end to the pain and sadness that pervaded every waking moment. This became my goal – to get to that place of helping others with their grief journeys.

Several miraculous things came out of the experience of losing a child. I learned to trust my inner voice profoundly. I learned to surrender to a much bigger plan than I could ever conceive or in any way control. I learned to accept the help of the many angels that came into my life and then to reach out to others in turn. I learned to embrace whatever joy wants to come in, however fleeting, for it is God’s gift to us. I learned that love transcends time and space and our loved ones are never really gone, only in the physical.
What lessons could people learn from your life?

I don’t know if there is anything special about what I, and my family have been through because so many people suffer in this world. If there is a take-away I would hope that it is that feeling joy after loss is possible. When Meghan died I remember feeling like I would never be happy again. But then a day came when I laughed and I realized I was feeling happy for just a few minutes. That first glimpse of joy was incredible, and soon I would be able to sustain it for longer periods until my former sense of optimism and happiness returned. Being conscious of these moments of grace and being grateful for the small things helps the process along.
What is Happy Healthy You!

Happy Healthy You! is an offshoot of everything that has unfolded in my life; so miraculously. I returned to acting after Meghan died in an attempt to bring more joy into my life and it has evolved into a new career! (Who knew that my daughter Caroline would take this to the extreme by becoming a Broadway actress!) I have always wanted my own show and this is my way of having it with the podcast.

Through Happy Healthy You! I can impart to others some of the things I have learned and learn some new stuff myself. It was something my inner voice had been telling me to do for a while and finally I said “OK, OK!” and did it. Who knows where it will take me? I will keep it up as long as it brings me joy and if it helps someone else along the way, all the better!
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