I Can’t Just Survive This

March 9, 2016

Confession: I don't want to survive this

I have a confession: I don’t want to survive this.

I want to thrive. I want all this unfathomable, ridiculous and stupid pain and the oceans of tears that seem to have no end in sight to mean something past the fact that I buried my firstborn. I want my daughter’s life and death to mean something. And by mean something I am not suggesting that her dying could ever be okay, or justified, but I do want something GOOD to come of it.

And it’s more than the fact that I want her to have a legacy (though I feel like she does, in everything that I do, or say, whether or not people recognize that it is her legacy). Her loss pierced me personally. I have been wounded to the core, but I don’t want to live out my life just wounded. A part of me will always be fractured. Not quite whole again. Just like your body learns to build scar tissue around open wounds, my desire to is continually grow from my experience. My personal experience. My daughter and I suffered in two astronomically different ways. I fully believe she is free from pain and I am thankful I don’t ever have to worry over her again, but her healing doesn’t do a whole lot to mend the broken parts inside me that will always long to mother her, hold her hand and walk her through life.

I don’t know how you go from being completely broken to one day craving light even a little bit again… but you just do. And it happens differently for everyone, so don’t let anyone’s journey or timeline or story influence how you are truly to the core feeling. You just find yourself in a new (and usually uncomfortable at first) place in grief. Where you don’t feel intensely sad anymore, and you can’t figure out why.

I am begging you to explore that place. If you’re still intensely sad, then by all means — be sad. But if you’re feeling antsy about getting your hair done again or painting your nails or going to a comedy show (something that you haven’t done or wanted to do since before grief), then by all means do! And go! Explore things that don’t make your world worse. Dare to live outside the four walls of grief by societal terms – even when your own heart is screaming at you that you should be sad. Or mad. Or depressed. Or whatever.

Push back. Tell your heart that grief can’t be boxed in. It can look a million different ways. You just proved it.

And here is where I have found the most resistance to be since losing a child. Not the hardest, but it was a close second. And 100% self-induced. The hardest part was undeniably losing her, of course. The next hardest thing was learning to live again. My biggest enemy was staring me back in the mirror, every single morning. Me, myself and I. I stood in the way of my own happiness and my own healing. Some days I felt I didn’t deserve it and some days I just wasn’t interested in healing. It didn’t feel right in a thousand different ways. I tried to find my balance again, like learning to walk again… in this new world and fell time after time after time. I didn’t make a lot of progress for a long time, but I learned to appreciate the struggle (please check out this TED talk by Zain Asher, not loss related but still SO GOOD). Every fall, every setback, every time I told myself I couldn’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t again, but then got back up anyway a day later, or a week later or a month later… I didn’t know it then but I was building muscle. I was becoming.


You will make it either way, but if you want to make it to the other side – past function and mere existence – it will be some of the hardest work you will ever do in your life.

You won’t surface without scars.

You won’t learn to breathe again without practically suffocating to death.

And you won’t be able to ever say, that could never happen to me — because it did.

But you will rise, and you will find.

You will come through this.

Compassion will overwhelm your soul. For the hurting. And the broken. And the lonely.

But so much tenacity that you will build for endurance through this impossible stretch will also make you vulnerable to a permanent hardness.

Resist this.

Tenacity will get you through the trenches, but it will also create a callous on your heart if it stays longer than it should.

Break into compassion, even when it’s hard.

Even when all of this doesn’t make sense.

Even when your heart’s breaking.

People need your story.

They need your light, and they need your darkness too.

They need to hear about the mother or father (or sister or brother) who faced their worst nightmare, and lived anyway.

Be exceptional. Be broken. Be ready to heal. Be whatever it is you need to be, but above all else be brave enough to break the rules on grief. Again and again and again.

  • Franchesca Cox

    Franchesca Cox is the founder and Editor of Still Standing Magazine. She is currently seeking her Master's in Occupational Therapy, a yogi and author of Celebrating Pregnancy Again and Facets of Grief, a creative workbook for grieving mothers. Learn more about her heartwork on her website.


    • Anne

      March 9, 2016 at 11:48 am

      I read this and felt like aI wrote it!!!!❤

    • Charles Morris

      March 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Watch your thoughts: They become words. Watch your words: They become actions. Watch your actions: They become habits. Watch your habits: They become character: Watch your character:It becomes your destiny

      I am encouraged by the posts I read on Still Standing. I have devoted twenty eight years to the “topic”. I helped carry the coffin that held my wife and eight year old son. Unknowingly I employed the positive attitude Franchesca is describing.

      In the beginning there were no bright spots. The beautiful sunsets were ugly and insulting, nothing was “right”. By segrateing and identifying the(stages) elements of grief I was able define and direct my efforts. The emotional toxins had to eliminated. Grief showed me the way, to my new life. I started to use the words(anger, denial, depression,hope,acceptance) that make up grief. I was the architect of my new life and I did not want it built with the elements of grief.

      Compassion, understanding, kindness and a never ending appreciation for my precious “new life” are just some of the results of my exploration. I am happy. There were glimpses of hope along the way, and then hope stayed.

      Charles Morris, author, Butterfly, The journey from loss to recovery.

    • nancy van wieren

      March 10, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Thank you for your story and beautiful words, I hope they can help my daughter who lost her little girl Kennedy on December 3, 2015.

    • Courtney Albrecht

      March 11, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      This is beautifully written. I recently loss my beautiful daughter at 32 weeks on March 5, 2016. I am trying to find ways to pick up the pieces of my broken heart. I know time will help, but it seems as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel right now. Our sweet little boy has been helping us find joy in the days since our baby’s passing, but at times it feels like it will be impossible to move forward.

    • Kelly

      March 14, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Thank you for this encouragement. After 16 months living without my precious son who left us at 14, I am no where near how this article describes. No where near. I still feel like I don’t want to survive this.

    • Jacqui Lewis

      September 27, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Thank you for sharing your heart felt feelings and words with us,we lost our 22 yr old beautiful prescious daughter 10 wks ago,its so difficult to carry on and wake in the morning trying to get motivated for a days work,as bills still need to be paid,our daughters passing was very sudden, she felt she couldn’t be in this world any longer and took an overdose,we spent a painful 4 days at her bedside before we were told she was brain dead,she was a doner and saved many lives for which we will forever be so very proud,its just so difficult to get our heads and hearts round the fact she decided to take her own life ,that she felt life wasnt worth living,she had so many plans and things she was looking forward to,ypur words have made me understand how I’m feeling is ok and there is light at the end of the tunnel and it may take months ,yrs for thst light to bright,im so sorry for your loss x

    • Annie

      January 17, 2017 at 7:54 am

      Words that are so so true. We all have to grieve in our own way. I lost my son nearly 6 years ago. My grandson his son was nearly 8 years old I so want him to know about his daddy but my daughter in law took it upon herself to never let me see him again( they were divorcing) and my son had custody) l did all I could for my grandson to see his mummy. She knows this but had decided I will never see him again. A part of my baby his daddy I have also lost. A big hole will forever be in my heart. Thank you all for taking the time to read my post x and bless you all. X

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