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As many of you know, late last year I decided to take my health more seriously. I love my family, I love The Ana Grace Project- but I was killing myself slowly through over eating.

If I'm going to be 100 percent honest, while I was committed to saving everyone around me- I think it's safe to say that I wanted to die. I just wanted to be with Ana. And before anyone passes even one iota of judgement- I invite you to learn a new thing: suicidality is common among bereaved parents. Not all bereaved parents. But many. And most won't ever talk about it because of the stigma. And not all of this is in the traditional sense. Sometimes it's through addiction or other means of self harm. For me, food was my self harm. Food was my addiction.

It actually took another bereaved person to say to me, "what's with all the weight? You trying to end your life with food?"

I was stunned.

But I couldn't do it until I was ready. I finally got ready and I am 25 lbs down which is a lot to celebrate. But that's not the win. I'm thrilled to be healthier and HOW I've lost it. No diets, no cleanses, no supplements, no pyramid schemes- just mindful eating and lots of movement. Exercise is not only good for the body- it is good for the brain! I use music for motivation, typically 90s r and b, gospel or old school salsa, "Yo me voy pa' Puerto Rico vendiendo vasos en Colores".

My workouts in Newtown have to be done by 6:30 in order to get to Central Connecticut State University on time- so I also get to bed earlier for more sleep. Sleep equals a healthier body.

One of my goals one day after my regular work hours on campus is to participate in a work out with a #CCSU athletic team!

Which one should I do? Football, basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer or something else? And how long before someone has to call an EMT?

I am fortunate to belong to a sacred community where I can practice self care and incremental challenges plus do amazing work. The fire alarm went off yesterday. We had to evacuate the building. With my PTSD, I thought I was going to faint. But I didn't. I managed to get through it. But if I hadn't? I knew my team would have caught me.

I never thought I could be this healthy again after Ana died. But I can't ask the students and community members I work with to finish the race despite adversity or hardship if I don't lead by example. And I am so grateful for this CCSU / AGP collaborative. And my amazing therapist! And a new respect for healthy boundaries.

Do good work and take care of yourself too. This is my #TuesdayMotivation.

I still struggle with living with one foot in heaven and another on earth. But I am still here. Surrounded by so much good. Committed to so much good. I want to live again on most days. That's my win.

Nelba πŸ’œ

Ps: Don't worry if you see a 42 year old woman with purple winged sneakers being carted off the campus from the field. It's just Ana and Isaiah's mom trying to "love wins" a work out! #BlueDevilsgetPurpleHearts
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Margaret Pritchard HoustonThank you for reminding us to take care of ourselves, and thank you for your honesty. I was never actively suicidal, but sometimes I just wished I would die. I wasn't going to do anything about it but I just wanted it to happen without me. The idea of living for 50 years without my son felt like serving a life sentence, not living. I also put on a lot of weight after he died, because food was the only thing that brought me comfort. I finally lost about 25 pounds last year, and I'm doing a 5K to raise money for a bereaved parents' charity. There are still days it feels like it's just too much and I want to disappear, but for the most part I am living now. Keep on keeping on, you brave mom.

9 hours ago   ·  5

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Lisa SwaimThank you so much for your honesty in writing about this. I've been right there with you -- eating after I lost my son and during cancer treatment. Too many times I "treated myself" after a doctor's appointment. Now I'm trying to treat myself to exercise. I just started last week with a "running" app (for me, mostly walking, with some jogging intervals) and more mindful eating. I think I'm down 5 pounds, but I know it comes off easiest when you are way overweight. So now it gets real. Bless you, Nelba, and thank you for sharing your journey!

14 hours ago   ·  2

1 Reply

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Lauren Allen-JonesGood for you, Mama! I believe you should work out with the debate team. lol

17 hours ago   ·  4

1 Reply

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Diane Hemingway PavanoCongrats. Can't be easy.

18 hours ago   ·  2

1 Reply

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Jennifer StrychalskyI've been needing some inspiration to get back in shape.... self care? That's been on the back burner for me, but I know I need to do better. Thanks! πŸ’œ

22 hours ago   ·  4

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Michele Cooper LurieOh Nelba! Congrats! This is so motivating... I am right where you wereβ€”don't want to talk about how many pounds in the last couple of years! With so much going on it's hard to focus on oneself... I'm literally trying to reprogram my brain. Going to bed earlier would likely start a domino effect in the right direction here. This 47-y/o woman will run over with a fresh ice water if she sees you getting carted off the field! OK, more like a light jog over... πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

19 hours ago   ·  2
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Sharleen WellsYou are right exercise has helped me so much since losing my daughter. I need to be healthy raising my 3 grandchildren.

21 hours ago   ·  1

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Patricia L Manware NortonCongratulations Nelba! Not easy to do especially when you get older like me. I eat healthy and the weight is coming off slowly, but that's ok with me!

22 hours ago   ·  2
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Lizzie PeaceNeeded this today as it's been a struggle lately to exercise. Had to make myself go to boot camp this am but it was so good!!

21 hours ago   ·  1
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Barbara Seevers GainesFeel ya! This was my year to reclaim myself. You inspire me. Its a one step each day thing - with en ever present treat yourself with kindness mentality. Good for youπŸ’œ

17 hours ago   ·  3
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Clara TrabalAwww work it! Your are so right, we have to be mentally prepared to go on that healthy journey. (Sooner or later I'm going to get there). My two cents Volleyball is by far my favorite.. watching from the side lines of course.(LoL) I say since you've done what appears to be a rigorous workout (25lbs down) πŸ‘ perhaps, 15 min on the court before EMT responds. πŸ€—thank you for your motivation..Enjoy your Tuesday!

19 hours ago   ·  1
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Dawn TakagiCongratulations, Nelba! That's an awesome accomplishment! I lost 40 lbs, but gained back 10 so now I'm trying to get back into an exercise regimen. I know how hard it is, but you have to take care of yourself too! Keep on keepin' on! You're awesome! Such an inspiration!

18 hours ago   ·  1
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Sarah DineenCongratulations, Nelba!! That's a wonderful accomplishment so far and I will gladly be your personal Paramedic if you need one πŸ˜‰! I would choose the soccer workout, the football one would surely have me carted off the field!!

18 hours ago   ·  1
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Emily K CarrCongratulations! πŸ’œI've just recently started back into regular exercise after fighting some serious health issues, and it does feel amazing and empowering! If you're ever looking for a local fellow timid-but-motivated workout partner, let me know;)

20 hours ago   ·  1
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Mary L Burgos GarciaNelba MΓ‘rquez-Greene..........estamos iguales , hago ejercicios No pq quiero si no para estar en Salud y seguir batallando En verdad uno se siente bien , sin dietas ni suplementos comiendo saludables Ahhhhh .......y con 40 y nos vemos mejor πŸ˜‰

21 hours ago   ·  1
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Brenda SimpsonI am so happy you are taking care of yourself❀️Basketball is the one you should try.😊Blessings to you, your family and community.πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

19 hours ago   ·  1
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Emilia SantamariaYou and your familia are always in my heart and prayers. I think of you often and others that have lost a child/dren and have so much respect for you putting it out there , that your living in two world's. Abrasos and love always.

14 hours ago   ·  1
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Aileen Keays YeagerSo proud of you! You continue to inspire. Thank you for being brave, bold, honest and vulnerable. Your insight will help many. And I must point out the beauty with the statement "...living with one foot in heaven and another on earth." I hope you continue to feel the support that those around you want to extend to you

5 hours ago
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Kimberly Lawther JacksonSoccer team first! Cheerleading second! Your honesty and open heart, not to mention your Purple Wings, are here to carry you with your team. Kick it ⚽ and cheer πŸ“£ with the best of them. 😎

5 hours ago
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Heather DawsonWell done Nelba, as cheesy as it sounds, "you can't pour from an empty cup" is very true. Self care is important, especially when you give so much of yourself xx

14 hours ago   ·  1
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Kathy Wagner VarkalSooo very very proud of you. I'm so glad you are able to put one foot in front of the other. You and the other parents who mourn with you are in my prayers daily. Again.... I am so so proud of youπŸ’•

10 hours ago   ·  1
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Moriah WoolworthI am working on my health, too. Food addiction is making it hard, but I continue to work on it. Doing well in bootcamp at leastπŸ’œ

12 hours ago
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Ana Paula MachadoYou go girl! Congratulations on sustaining your healthy habits. I think you should choose the sport that speaks to you first. You're so inspiring.

21 hours ago   ·  1
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Bernadette Flynn LundYou are an inspiration to us all! Thank you for sharing your story and for motivating me to get right back on track after vacation. Ana and Isaiah I am sure are so proud

20 hours ago   ·  1
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Robbin Chaber AllenGood for you! The world needs you around for a long long time!

19 hours ago   ·  2
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Welcome to #Muzzbuzz Monday!

Last week the weather was too hot and humid to be comfortable outside for very long. Today the rain is most likely preventing your little ones from going outdoors.

A great indoor activity to do together is cooking! You can teach kids how to follow step-by-step directions using a recipe. This will help them learn patentice and develop listening skills. They can also help measure and pour to develop their math skills and fine motor skills. My little ones love to help with this process and it creates a nice way to get them active indoors.

We have also gone to the local library and found some great children's cookbooks. Letting my almost 5 year old pick and choose what he can make and eat definitely helps with the dinner routine. He also develops a sense of pride with what he creates.

Have a great Monday!

Love wins and it saves lives.

Craig, Lead Teacher-AGP
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Evelyn Ivette TorresAwww.... I want one. πŸ˜„

1 day ago   ·  1
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Welcome to #SoulfulSunday at #TheAnaGraceProject!

The theme of helplessness has been reoccurring recently around me. It's an icky feeling and one that I often work diligently to eradicate through a variety of tasks. Sound familiar?

Helplessness elicits fear and anger which respond by making attempts to control (because controlling something is better than being powerless, right?). All day every day we are bombarded by horrific stories of abuses, tragedy, manipulation and coercion. The fear and powerlessness hang in the air around us and seep into our cells. For as long as we allow it to.

There is much to be learned from making peace with helplessness and powerlessness. 12 step programs know this. People in recovery from addiction will tell you that the moment they stopped trying to control and wholly admitted powerlessness (over their drug of choice) true healing began.

Today I invite you to take a moment (or many moments) to sit with the helplessness and powerlessness as if they were old friends that you haven't talked to in over a decade. Be calm and curious.

We fear what we do not know, so lets get to know them in a judgment free zone. You may be surprised at what you learn!

πŸ’— Lauren Pedersen, LMFT
AGP Clinical Consultant and SBCS Implementation Specialist
Lpedersen@anagraceproject.org
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Cathy Lilley HuffmanThank you for this.

3 days ago   ·  1

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Mary WarmbrodAccepting Helplessness & Powerlessness over many situations allows me to look at what I CAN DO even if it is a very small action. My motto "There are always options, at least 3, not always the ones you want."

2 days ago   ·  1
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We don't like to post multiple times in one day. But today is just one of those days where too much wonderfulness is happening to not post multiple times.

It was an exciting first full official day at Central Connecticut State University.

Something very special and powerful happened in the afternoon...

In walks a man who has been loving our family for almost twenty years. He was picking up his diploma from the school of counseling!

With a passion for community specializing in addiction recovery and trauma, Dr. Paul Echtenkamp has served Hartford (and beyond) for decades.

A true community treasure, he has walked with the broken (alongside his wife, Vilma) in their most tender moments. Dr. Paul was one of the presiding pastors at Ana Grace's home going services. Dr. Paul was in our home the days after the shooting, coordinating with our pastors from Canada and Puerto Rico. They all prayed we would survive. They prayed for a way to bring hope in the darkness. A word of comfort in the most horrible circumstance. Peace for our souls.

Our meeting wasn't an accident. I'm glad I got to share with him that we are still here. We have survived. By grace. And I'm glad that we are a part of God's family, the CCSU family and the AGP family. Together bringing hope to other families.

Please help me congratulate Dr. Paul on his graduation from CCSU!

We love you, Dr. Paul.

NMG πŸ’œ
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Mario Oquendo Jr.Definitely a great man and a Blessing to the City of Hartford πŸ˜€ Thank you for everything you do and a Well deserved Congratulations Dr. Paul Echtenkamp πŸŽ‰πŸŽˆπŸŽ‰πŸŽπŸŽ‚ May God continue to Bless and guide you in everything you do πŸ™πŸ½ πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

4 days ago   ·  2
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Rebecca BossakOh my goodness! I saw the name and face and realized I taught his daughter Eliana in kindergarten at Moylan school a long while ago! I have fond memories of that family. I now teach pre k at Ana Grace Academy....it is so I interesting how we are all connected! Congratulations Paul Echtenkamp! I am sure Eliana is all grown up now!

3 days ago
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Rachel Cesar RiveraWe love and respect Pastor Paul. He is truly a Shepard who love the way Jesus commands us Congratulations Ps Paul Echtenkamp. What a blessing!!!

4 days ago   ·  1
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Noel CasianoI love and admire Dr. Paul. A true man of the community that inspires hope and grace. I am proud to call him a friend and a mentor! πŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Wanda Reyes-DawesCongratulations! Welcome to the CCSU Counseling Program graduates club.

4 days ago
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Luz V TorresCongratulation he is definitely a man with a true loving heart for people in need. May God continue to bless him in a mighty way.

4 days ago
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Anne PannoneBest wishes,Dr Paul, from the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love!

4 days ago
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Nelida AndradesCongratulations Dr. Paul

4 days ago
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Esmeralda Angelita FigueroaCongrats Pastor Paul!!! You're awesome..... love ya!πŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Aura AlvaradoOmg I love brother Paul πŸ™πŸΌπŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Isabel Pacheco-LoganCongratulations!!!

4 days ago
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Lauren MarieπŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Diana PaproskiLove your post! Such positive energy! Thank you! Congratulations!πŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Jennifer Martinez OquendoThis is wonderful! Congratulations Dr. Paul!

4 days ago
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Sonya J Mills GreenawaltCongratulations Dr. Paul!

4 days ago
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Tracey Swann JaegerLove your dress!!!!

4 days ago
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Barbara Cedela BeautyCongratulations ❀

4 days ago
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Polly Hewitt KokalesCongratulations!

4 days ago
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Jennifer DunnCongratulations! πŸ’œ

4 days ago
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The Ana Grace Project salutes Dr. Noel Casiano, AGP Program Director, for successfully presenting to the The ChildTrauma Academy NMT team today!

This is a very big deal and a wonderful partnership we are grateful to have with CTA. We are so thankful for the many collaborations we have with people and organizations making it a safer, healthier and more connected planet.

Below is live footage of Noel when he finished his presentation!

Nelba πŸ’œ
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There are treasures a mother stores in her heart. There are moments that don't need words. Collaboration beats competition every day of the week.

Next up: The Central Connecticut State University/AGP collaborative takes us to Washington, D.C., Bloomington, Indiana and Appleton, Wisconsin!

Let's lead with love. Let's get to work! I do hope you stop in to say hello.

#BlueDevilsgetPurpleHearts

Have a safe and healthy weekend!

Nelba MΓ‘rquez-Greene, LMFT
Founder, Executive Director, Spokesperson
The Ana Grace Project
Director, CCSU/AGP Collaborative
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Kate SwoffThere are moments that the words don't reach/there's a grace too powerful to name

5 days ago

4 Replies

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Caroline Nicholas MarquezIt makes me so proud to see that sign hanging in Davidson. What an amazing partnership! Welcome Ana Grace Project, your CCSU family is glad you're here.

5 days ago   ·  1
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Annette Mendez ChevereAmazing woman. May God continue to give you the strength needed to continue this work. πŸ’œ

4 days ago
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Mary Beth PapalloWelcome back to CCSU!

5 days ago
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Marie EllisonWelcome to Davidson πŸŽ‰πŸ‘

5 days ago
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Jacqueline PeredaSeeing this got me all teary. What a journey it's been. Sending so much love <3

4 days ago
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Lynda Schiff❀️ wins!

4 days ago
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Deborah Yolani OquendoThis is the best πŸ’œ

5 days ago
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Ana IsabelπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ from a CCSU Alumni

5 days ago
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