Post by Still Standing Contributor Lindsey Henke of PALS and Still Breathing
It’s been a year. 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds have passed since my daughter has died. The daily task of making it through each grief filled moment has been trying.
Even after a year, I still wonder, “Why did this happen?” “What was the point?” or “Could it have been different?”
Then I realize, if I keep asking myself these questions, I might never find an answer. After reflecting on a year of grief, I could tell you lessons I have learned, but I believe each person’s path is different as they walk through their own journey of grief.
So instead, I think I will reflect on a year of grief by just continuing to ask myself questions – ones I might be able to answer.
1. Did I give myself permission to grieve freely, at my own pace, and in the ways I needed to? Yes! I took as much time as I needed and grieved in ways that were unique to me! I walked the road of grief at my own pace and with whom I chose to share the experience. I embraced my grief and did not allow others to drive the direction of my grieving or get in my way.
2. Did I give myself permission to fully experience love for my child? Yes! I learned that even though I could not hold my child in my arms any longer – my love for her still grows each day in my heart. I gave myself permission to share the love I have for her with others and learned that I can still have a loving relationship with my daughter even after her death.
Love does not die.
3. Did I allow for moments of happiness without guilt? This was harder, as there were times when I felt being happy was being disloyal to my daughter. But I then realized that my daughter would not have wanted an unhappy mommy in life, why would she want an unhappy mommy in death? She could no longer live so I learned to live life, with all its joyful moments, for both of us.
4. Was I honest with others about my feelings? Yes and No. There were days in my grief where I could not tell another person how I truly felt because if I did I would have crumbled to the ground in pieces. On those days I was not strong enough to let others see the pain, to touch it with their unknowing fingertips.
These were the days I lied and wore the fake smile I got so good at putting on and simply said, “I’m fine.” Then there were the other days, the days when I felt sturdy enough to handle whatever response I might receive from others when I shared with them my grief.
There were also days when I just could not hide my sadness, pain, confusion, anger, and frustration any longer that my emotions were so true and raw that they just seeped out of me for all to see.
5. Did I honor my child in ways I chose to? Yes! I honored my dear daughter in every way I could think of from performing random acts of kindness in her name, walking 5k’s, donating to baby loss organizations, writing about my grief, writing her letters, creating memory boxes, volunteering for child loss causes, and more writing. I did it all, and I will continue to do it, in the ways that I CHOOSE too! But after a year has passed I find that how I honor her does not have to be so active.
I can honor her by just holding a thought for her every day or visiting a special spot that reminds me of her. It doesn’t matter how I do it, it doesn’t matter if I do it at all. All that matters is that if I decide to honor my child, I do it in a way that helps me heal, and in a way that I choose.
6. Did I embrace my pain in order to release it? Yes, but it was hard. At first, I did not want to face my pain, the grief, the suffering that comes from losing a child. At first, I wanted to crawl into a hole and die too.
But slowly, and with each passing day, I began to see that leaning into the hurt helped me heal. The pain was great because the love IS great. Eventually, I was able to accept the pain as an indication of love.
7. Did I open my heart up to healing moments, once I was ready? Yes, but healing now takes on a new meaning. Healing now means, learning to live with the grief, to wear the scar on my heart that love and loss have left behind but still feel the ache and see the ugliness of where the grief entered me.
Healing also means allowing myself to enjoy parts of life again, without the guilt, without pain, but learning to let laughter, love and all things good creep back into my life. To even allow hope for the future to enter my thoughts again.
8. Did I go on living life in the aftermath of the death of my child? Yes! And I think I am a gosh-dang-hero for doing it and so are you! The quote my sister sent me says it all, “Anyone can slay a dragon, she told me, but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what makes a real hero.”
Not sure who it’s by, but it is beautiful and has been my mantra for getting through each day in the aftermath of loss.
So it’s been a year. 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds have passed since my daughter has died. There are still questions, but more importantly, there is still me!
I am still breathing, I am still standing, I am still living, I am still loving, and I am the REAL HERO of my story. That is the real and only answer to all of the questions.
(P.S. if you are still breathing, still standing, still living, and still loving then you are the REAL HERO of your story too.)