Small town girl with a big heart - meet Elaina Bellis. When Elaina moved to L.A she was just 19 years old and had never heard of sushi. After losing her mum at just 15 and her first born child at birth, many of us would have shut down completely, instead Elaina has only grown as a person. Allowing herself that space to grieve, she emerged with compassion, gratitude and understanding. We had the opportunity to hear her incredible story and soak up some of her positive energy which we wanted to share with you.
Growing up in a small town in Illinois, what was it like moving to LA at just 19 years old? Tell us a little bit about your first reaction to LA, getting off the plane, ready to start a new life there.
It was a bit of a culture shock. I didn’t even know what sushi was when I arrived, I had never had an avocado besides guacamole, and it truly was my first exposure to other cultures and different languages. I was there for it all though, curious about everything, ready to try new things and grow as a person.
Tell us a little about the small town you grew up in, what was the population? Being from Australia, there is something really fascinating about small towns in the US. Did you play in the Mississippi River as a child?
My hometown's population is around 38,000. Small but not terribly small. Big enough to have a Wal-Mart, but small enough that Trader Joe’s isn’t there. I did grow up going to the Mississippi River. My aunts and uncles had boats and we’d take them out all the time and go fishing for catfish!
You are so passionate about ‘your’ people; being a mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend is really important to you. Talk us through the beauty in being able to share these bonds with people and the joy in being present for someone else?
Life is just so short and each day is a gift that we’re given. So, having meaningful relationships is very important to me. I try to practice active listening with my loved ones and truly give them my full attention. I feel good when I feel heard, so I try to offer that to others as well.
You lost your mum at a very young age, being only 15. Especially as a young woman, these are very formative years in life, experiencing puberty and womanhood. What was it like to lose your mum at this age? How did it shape who you are?
It was really hard. There were days that I would feel envious of my friends who still had their moms and could talk about their periods, boyfriends and friend problems etc. I felt like I had to grow up once she passed and be an example to my little sister and brother. I also feel like her passing offered a sort of perspective on life that a lot of my friends didn't have. In that regard it was a gift because it gave me the confidence to do the things I wanted to, like move to L.A. If she were still alive, I don’t know if I would have ever moved here and for that I am grateful.
Pregnancy and infant loss, sadly, is more common than we would ever like to believe with 1 in 3 women hearing the heartbreaking words ‘sorry, there is no heartbeat’. You lost your son, Lincoln James at birth. How did you cope with that loss?
Gently. I allowed myself to feel it all and gave myself permission to just be and grieve. I read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, one chapter a day and would meditate on that chapter each day until the book was finished. I credit that book to saving me and shifting my perspective on the whole experience with Lincoln. I’m so grateful that he chose me to be his mother and to give stillbirth more of a voice by telling the story of our son.
What is something you wish you knew then, or something you would like to share with our mums who have recently been through or are currently going through the loss of a pregnancy or infant?
Firstly, it's not your fault! After he passed someone said to me, “Maybe all his soul needed was that 9 months of love you gave him while he was in your womb.” That resonated with me. He profoundly changed my life in so many beautiful ways. He brought me our twins safely, he opened my heart and provided a deeper connection to my soul.