I have always considered myself to be an incurable optimist. Incurable, because no matter when bad things happen, I tend to look on the bright side by default. But how do you find the bright side of things after the unthinkable happens? After your child dies—how can any form of happiness exist beyond that reality? When your world goes dark after someone you love dies, it’s hard to believe that joy will ever exist again. One year ago today, my daughter Aurora was stillborn at twenty weeks, two days. I left that hospital empty-handed, and I was sure that the optimist within me had been left behind too.
But I was wrong.
After I began to clear myself from the debris of baby loss, there it was. There was that optimism. It came in small doses at first, but then it grew bigger and bigger. I noticed that my thoughts were shifting from the lone reality that my child had died, to questioning that an untimely death could not be the singular defining aspect of my daughter’s brief life. She was more than just a baby who had died; she was a baby whose whole life had been enveloped in unconditional love and happiness; she had known a life that was free from pain and fear.
When that first glimmer of optimism was ignited, it grew like wildfire that couldn’t be tamed. In the weeks after her death, I began to see the world differently. I began to see that my daughter hadn’t left behind an empty and hallow world; she had filled my life with colors I have never seen before. Being pregnant with her was one of the happiest times of my life, so I tell myself that this life, this life that I am now living without her, can also be full of joy because of the simple fact that she existed.
There are many sad memories of losing my daughter—there is no shortage of that. But the happy ones are in abundance too. I try to stay focused on the happy ones. Those happy moments before I lost her. But every now and then when I find myself within that bottomless pain of having lost her, I feel further and further away from her. That sadness takes away all of the joy that she gave me. My daughter’s death may have enhanced all the pain there is in my life, but it has also enhanced all the happiness that’s in it too. So I try to look on the bright side of things because that’s where love is—that’s where she is.
I’ve always gone through life treating my incurable optimism like a burden because it often revealed itself when I didn’t want it to. Sometimes I wanted to be miserable and not believe that good things were waiting ahead. Aurora’s death has changed all of that. It has shown me that optimism is a powerful way of thinking. In many ways my optimism has brought me back to life after Aurora’s death. Optimism became my companion as I charted onto the unknown sea of grief. It taught me that happiness is in my future. Yes, sadness will be too, but that is inevitable. That is life.
With that said, I will always long for the little girl I will never get to know, whose pictures will never adorn the walls of my home. My future will pause each time I go back to the past to think about her. No amount of optimism will cure me of my longing for her, but the optimist in me says that I am not broken because of losing her; instead, I am transformed.