Imagine becoming permanent guardians for two kids — a girl and a boy. You raise them for four years as your own, giving them love and encouragement they’d never had. Then you pursue adoption. But instead of officially becoming their parents, they are ripped from your home forever, without the chance to even say goodbye.

Author, public speaker, and lifestyle influencer Ashley LeMieux experienced this heartbreaking struggle. But through it, she’s learned how to overcome extreme grief and loss. Born to Shine (Morgan James Publishing) chronicles LeMieux’s journey of healing after losing her children. She explains how she recovered from crushing grief by letting her light shine, and she shows readers how they can too. 

Ashley and Mike LeMieux were the proud parents of Z, a four-year-old girl, and her six-year-old brother, S. The kids needed a stable home, and Ashley and Mike wanted to give them one. They hadn’t planned on becoming parents, but almost overnight, they were. Because they said yes, they opened a new and love-packed chapter in their lives, filled with dance recitals, soccer games, and crushed Goldfish crackers in the nooks and crannies of car and home.

After four years, the LeMieuxs wanted to make it official — they petitioned for adoption. But to their shock and horror, the biological parents contested, starting a 17-month-long waking nightmare. The court battle devastated the family in every way — the final blow coming when authorities removed their seven- and nine-year-old children from their home. Ashley and Mike weren’t even allowed to say goodbye or contact them.

REFOCUSING OUTWARD WITH LOVE

“The full-of-faith girl I used to be was less than a shadow; she was a chalk outline on the ground. For the next year, inhaling and exhaling felt like work.”

So how did Ashley combat the darkness that enfolded her? How did she continue living life when the system had demolished her world?

She first wrote two lists: 10 reasons she loved herself and 10 ways she would love others.

Ashley notes that although it’s good to remind yourself you have lovable qualities, making the second list is the quickest way to know you are worthy of love — by your capacity and willingness to love and help others. Ashley realized when you focus on helping others, you are part of something bigger than just yourself.

“The fastest way to correct an imbalance in a world full of people you’re not so sure about anymore is to pour your own goodness into it, to be the kind of person you want to see.”

When IT — whether grief or fear or doubt — threatens to stop you, Ashley suggests doing these things: “Acknowledge your pain; don’t set time limits or expectations; let life hug you; and remember that IT isn’t everything. Life keeps spinning. Don’t let it spin without you.”

FIVE STEPS ON THE JOURNEY TO HEALING

Ashley discovered that “healing isn’t a moment; it’s movement.” You must stand up and let your light shine. In Born to Shine, she explains these steps for overcoming paralyzing obstacles in life:

  • You are not stuck. You are just standing still. Take ownership of that big dream. Say to yourself “yes, I can” out loud. 
  • IT isn’t a void; IT is a usable space. Fill it with light and positivity.
  • Don’t give your power away—share it.
  • See the good. Be the good.
  • Stop waiting. Start right now.

“If you fight with love, you are unstoppable and unbreakable. If you fight with love, you fight with fire. If you fight with love, you have the courage to keep showing up. Love pulled me up after being knocked out over and over again. Love transformed the tiniest spark in me to full-force explosiveness.”

THE SHINE PROJECT

One way Ashley shares her light with the world is by leading The Shine Project — an online community that provides empowering resources and tools for women around the world.

“I started a blog called The Shine Project, to create a community for women that could inspire and motivate them to do the hard things in their lives so they could accomplish the things they always dreamed of doing.”

Not only did Ashley provide encouragement through words, her business — Shop Ashley LeMieux — employs students who need financial assistance, with proceeds from her product sales helping support them. Within the last six years, The Shine Project has provided over 80 college scholarships — giving students education, confidence and new opportunities to shine.

If you’re struggling with depression, grief, or fear, Born to Shine can help you overcome the darkness and be your best self. Even through the devastating loss of her children, Ashley lives her best life, and you can too.

“Give yourself permission to shine. You were born to shine. Nothing less.”

Ashley LeMieux has made a career out of helping others re-ignite the light within them. She is the founder and CEO of The Shine Project and is a firm believer that everyone was born to shine. Ashley is a writer, speaker and entrepreneur who lives in Nashville, TN. Her company, The Shine Project, is an online community for women to find support, resources, motivation and encouragement to triumph over the challenges in their lives. The Shine Project also employs first-generation college students to hand-make products, ship online and wholesale orders, and work The Shine Project events to help impact the trajectory of their lives.