• Shannon Zisa

Birthday Bunnies: Milestones & Mourning


Milestones are incredibly hard when you are a bereaved mother. It feels so unnatural to continue to celebrate holidays and birthdays when your child no longer gets to celebrate with you. Trauma therapy has helped me to recognize the need to figure out new ways of acknowledging these difficult and unnatural days that would otherwise easily be a fun celebration.


I will be turning 40 in November. A milestone birthday for sure and yet the idea of celebrating without Adalyn and Dane has brought immense guilt. It was recommended that I come up with 40 Things To Do To Celebrate 40. I fell in love with this idea because it opens the door for extra opportunities to do charity work, acts of kindness, catch up with old friends, volunteer, and hopefully leave my mark on this world for helping others.


In January (2021), I launched the Acts For Adalyn Foundation. This foundation was launched on Adalyn’s birthday as my ultimate gift to my little girl who lives in Heaven. It is because of her precious life that I’ve been able to reach out and connect to 60 other toddler loss mamas that are facing the unimaginable pain that comes with losing your child. It has been an absolute honor to do this work in Adalyn’s name. This foundation not only saved my life, but it has also given my life meaning and purpose. When I think back to the beginning of my grief journey the thing that stands out the most to me is that there wasn’t an Acts For Adalyn Foundation. There wasn’t support that was specifically offered to grieving toddler loss mamas. There wasn’t a way to connect to others that were also walking this road and there wasn’t a keepsake bunny being sent to mamas because someone else in this world knew just how much pain and grief consume a bereaved mother’s heart. Someone else in this world knew how empty your arms would feel without your toddler to fill them and someone else in this world knew how important it would be to be able to carry your toddler in your arms as you are forced to figure out how to move forward with a heart that is broken beyond repair.


I remember the day that the foundation’s attorney called me to tell me that this would be the first foundation in our nation to do what I wanted to do to honor Adalyn’s life. I remember wondering how that could be possible. That was only the first of many surprises that awaited me. Originally, Acts For Adalyn, was intended to be for mamas local to the Orlando area. It was meant to be a small foundation that helped local loss mamas. Then one day I got the story about a little boy, 17-months-old (the same age that Adalyn was), that died in a tragic incident at daycare. I heard about his mama and how lost she was in the wake of her new reality. I could feel her agony and remembered every single heartbreaking morning that I would wake up only to realize that it wasn’t a nightmare but rather it was my new reality. I knew I had to talk to this mama. I had to pray for her and with her. I knew that Adalyn was sending her to me because she knew that I was thinking too small. This mother wasn’t a local loss mama. This mother didn’t even live in the same state. She was halfway across the country from me, but her grief was no different than mine. It was because of her son that I realized that grief didn’t vary by zip code and in that phone call with his mother, I knew that Acts For Adalyn was no longer intended to be a small and local foundation.


It wasn’t long after that phone call that I found myself at the post office mailing bunnies from Florida to New York to California and everywhere in between. Then came the day that I connected with a mama in Canada. Another day that I was certain that Adalyn was once again telling me that I was thinking too small. I explained to our attorney that I had connected with another loss mama in another country and a short while later, he explained to me that not only was Acts For Adalyn the first foundation in our nation to specifically offer support to toddler loss mamas but it was in fact, the first in the world. I was stunned. This sweet and perfect little girl was only given 17 months on this earth and yet her legacy would soon be reaching across and around this world. I went to the post office and learned all about international shipping, something I had never done before, and our first international bunny was on his way to his family waiting in Canada. That was our first international bunny, but he certainly would not be out last. That was the first of eight international bunnies that Acts For Adalyn has mailed to date. These mamas live in entirely different countries, but they grieve the same as I do for my toddler and because of Adalyn’s life there is now a way for us to walk this journey through grief together.


Today, the Acts For Adalyn Foundation has mailed 62 keepsake bunnies to grieving mamas and families. Adalyn’s name and her story has reached 26 states and 5 countries. We are growing quickly, and it continues to be the greatest honor of my life to reach out to these mamas, share my daughter and her legacy, and learn about their sweet toddler whose life was also cut tragically short. My heart bursts with pride to know that because of Adalyn the journey through grief for toddler loss mamas has been forever changed. Adalyn’s life is bringing light into an otherwise dark world for a grieving mother. Being Adalyn’s Mama is truly the greatest blessing of my life. Being Adalyn’s legacy is the most humbling and greatest honor of my life.


As I prepare my list of 40 Things To Do To Celebrate 40, it is no surprise to find that there are many things on my list that provide ways for me to include Adalyn and Dane in this milestone birthday. At the top of this list is the Birthday Bunnies Fundraiser. For my 40th Birthday I am hoping to raise enough money to provide the Acts For Adalyn Foundation 40 sponsored bunnies. Each bunny costs $60 so to sponsor 40 bunnies we need to raise $2400. Go Fund Me takes out fees so I’ve made the goal $2500. I believe in this foundation and in the work that is being done to help change grief for toddler loss mamas all around our world. If you would like to participate in Birthday Bunnies, please click on the Go Fund Me Fundraiser link, https://gofund.me/c78e36a4, and donate any amount of money you’d like, every single penny adds up and will be used to support a grieving toddler loss mama. You can also donate through our website, www.actsforadalyn.org, or you can send your donation to me personally (to avoid fees) and I will transfer the money to the Acts For Adalyn Foundation bank account. To send the money to me personally you can use Venmo or PayPal, shannabanana00@yahoo.com, please make sure to put Birthday Bunnies or Acts For Adalyn in the memo. You can also donate by check. Please make checks payable to Acts For Adalyn Foundation and mail them to 851 S. State Road 434, Suite 1070-187, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. Please make sure to indicate that this donation is part of Birthday Bunnies in the memo.


I struggle to find the right words to use to thank you for your continued support. It is because of your support that I can do this work. You help to make Adalyn’s Legacy reach around the world and impact the lives of grieving toddler loss mamas. You help me keep Adalyn’s light shining bright.

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