Guest Post by Julianne Hartung
It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I often wonder if it’s because unconsciously I began to limit my connection to others, no longer able to so easily allow them to read my innermost thoughts. I have come to the realization that I usually no longer noticeably share my grief. If you didn’t know me at that time in my life, it may not be apparent that I carry a life story so heavily encased in grief, yet at the same time so very distinctly beautiful and dear to my heart. Those that do know my story may now find comfort when they see my smile and hear my laughter. But I am still and always will be a mother that misses her daughter each and every day. I began to write that I am still a grieving mother. The word “grieving” sounds so unbearably inconsolable, which I am not. I ask myself, “How are you able to function? How did you pick up the pieces and move forward? How is it that a stranger or even someone close to me doesn’t see the lingering grief in my eyes that the happiness can’t fully mask?” I reason with myself that I can’t stay down when I have so much in my life to lift me up. In one of my early posts I wrote that all I could do was think of Julia and cry. Now, I am able to think of her and smile. I use to think that Jiliana lives because Julia died. But one night as I sat rocking my precious gift to sleep, it dawned on me that Jiliana lives because Julia lived – even if only for a few bittersweet weeks.
I am happy for the life that I have, thankful and ever so blessed for the four children I protect and love with all my heart. The protection that I have to offer Julia is different. Like a rare diamond or a glimmering piece of gold, she belongs in my heart as a cherished treasure. It’s not often anymore that I am able to share the profoundness of her life on my own life. It is the exceptional few that gently knock on the protective barriers of my heart. Every so often, I will openly invite others in to see the treasure that lies so deep and heavily protected. Sometimes, I’ll tentatively crack open the door to let others just catch a quick glimpse. Not long after Julia died, I posted the story of “Tear Soup”. In the story, the woman had a friend named Midge. She knew she could rely on her friend long after the pain of her tragedy subsided in others. I’m sure I had more than one friend willing to be my Midge, but there was just one I had the capacity to truly and whole heartedly let in. It seems as if others can only find the door where my Julia quietly resides behind if they are able to first find the treasure map to lead the way. In the beginning, I put my map on display for everyone to see. As time went on the map became more delicate and the edges began to fray. So I quietly tucked it out of view and if others truly wanted to read it, then they would have to search for it. Even if someone finds it, this type of map is not always easy to read as it takes time and effort to decipher the navigation clues to reach the secret passage way to my treasure. My Midge knows the way and is keenly aware of when I need her to come knocking. Sometimes, I am willing to quickly let her in. Other times, she has to knock repeatedly and if she’s persistent, I will finally open. Sometimes, she just accepts I’m just not able to answer the door at that moment. And sometimes when I refuse to open she knows I’m being stubborn and really need her to keep looking for another way. So she finds a window that she ca!
n clearly see through and it’s impossible for me to hide my treasure. So I’ll open the window to talk for a while. After, I usually feel a release of the heaviness I have been holding. I am so thankful for my Midge.
Although I have felt sorrow that only those that have lost a child can truly know, I still have joy in my life that cannot be measured. I have one life to live and won’t shut out happiness. I’ll carry Julia and our time together with me all the days of my life. I’ll cling to each and every memory, no matter how beautiful or how difficult it was. Falling apart was never an option for me. Temporarily and occasionally still, yes. But permanently, no. The only option I saw was to build myself stronger. I knew I could build bridge between where I was – crushed and heartbroken – to where I wanted to be. Josh, Jenna and Joshua helped me lay the foundation. Julia was my steel beam of faith and then Jiliana came along as my steel beam of hope. Together, holding me up, I would regain my strength. There was no way I was giving up building that bridge. I realize every single day that not everyone is able to build their bridge to happiness out of the depths of the sorrow from losing a child. Some do and it’s not quite as strong as they’d like it to be. Some try and never find the way. Some, well, understandably they just can’t. I see the bridge I built as forever allowing me to travel both ways. There is no gate preventing me from going back. Every so often, sometimes intentionally and other times uncontrollably sparked by something external, I travel back to where I was. I travel back trying to find all the places in my memories of Julia. No matter how happy or sad they may be. And then when I’ve had my fill, I turn myself around, get back on that road and cross back over. Because she is there, waiting for me on both sides of the bridge. The bridge we built together.