You didn’t choose this story; no one ever would. You have been broken open and made to feel pain that you didn’t know humans were capable of withstanding. You have been handed that which exists in every parent’s nightmare and are now expected to function in this world that suddenly feels unfamiliar. You have outlived your child, a fate that befalls characters in fiction novels, certainly not what you ever expected for your own reality. A portion of your heart exists forever elsewhere.
And yet here you are, reading my words, taking this day one breath at a time.
On those days when grief wraps its heaviness around you, when you can feel nothing but longing for your child, when you cannot fathom where you will find one more ounce of strength, remember this.
You are enough. Your love for your child is enough. No one else can love your child the way that you can.
You are strong. You may not feel it right now, and that is okay. Someday you will discover what the rest of us can see within you.
Take your time. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable, for your future will be full of silences and long pauses. Learn that it is okay not to fill them.
Allow yourself the gift of acceptance. You will experience every emotion known to man, and they will hit you with the force of a tidal wave, and on occasion, all at once. These feelings are born out of the incredible love you have for your child, and every single one of them is valid.
Love yourself enough to put your wellbeing first, even if this strays drastically from your past tendencies. After what you’ve lived through, it is the least you can do for your fragile heart. Tiptoe carefully back into the world and retreat whenever it feels necessary.
But when you are ready, you may find yourself leaning into life, more earnestly than ever before, for now you know how truly fleeting it can be. You will siphon every ounce of joy that remains for you, and you will celebrate it. I have been where you are. I know that when the darkness surrounds you, this may sound like mere words strung into empty promises. It may be too soon to wrap your mind around anything beyond the bleak. But your sweet child, the one you can no longer see, has taught you to love more deeply, to live more intentionally, to pursue that which matters most to you. You just don’t know it yet. You may need to dig deep, perhaps very deep, to unearth it, but it is still there. Your light. It is unlike anyone else’s, and in time, you will find that it can shine again. And it will shine brighter than it ever has before, because you have felt more deeply than most.
You are loving a child across space and time, and you are doing it well, just as you are. You, my dear friend in loss, are a survivor.
Sarah Burg is a wife, writer, and mother of three beautiful children. Following a heroic battle with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), Sarah’s second daughter, Willow Grace, died in her arms shortly after birth in June 2016. Willow’s death has transformed Sarah into a writer with a reason, and she hopes to offer healing and kinship to the child loss community through her words. Sarah also blogs at The Rising (www.sarahjburg.com), where she explores life after loss.