Hope does not come naturally to the grieving, it’s definitely not the default setting. Reading about others hope is good, it’s uplifting and inspiring. But, it doesn’t often tell the painful truth about the path it takes to get there.
What about the early days when you are drowning in a sea of despair? When life doesn’t feel worth living and you’re wishing it was you who died instead? Isn’t it important to validate that those experiences are normal, too?
When my daughter died, the world came crashing down. Colors drained from my vision as the world was now viewed through puffy eyes. From the exterior, I was brave, strong, and honored my daughter. On the inside, I stayed up every night journaling of my broken heart and I cried every morning from waking until noon when my husband would remind me it’s time to get out of bed. I didn’t know how to live in a world where babies died and especially a world, where my baby had died.
I needed hope, sure. But I also needed to know that it was normal to feel hopeless and wonder if I would ever feel better. Sometimes it is a disservice to only portray the “after”, beyond immediate grief. Those stories can feel isolating and so far out of reach to the broken-hearted when it is also important to acknowledge the loss and devastation one feels in those dark, early days.
Six years later, I am gaining the courage to revisit those scary, dark emotions and share aloud what I couldn’t say then. I was afraid to speak about how I was really feeling. I was afraid that someone might think I was crazy, or feel worried that I might actually take my own life. Even when I didn’t want to live, I never contemplated acting on those urges. I was scared and I was scared to make others feel fearful, too.
It took many months to feel like the thick weight of grief was slightly relieved from my shoulders. And even then, now looking back, I realize that that was only one layer of grieving. As time has continued, additional layers have been added with the approaching of first-year holidays, first birthday, first anniversary, the first day of kindergarten, and bringing home my daughter’s two brothers from the hospital. As I continue further in my life without my daughter, I learned that the hole she left in my heart has not been filled, yet my life has been filled with other sources of joy-which magnifies the empty space I thought would be hers.
I have also learned that perhaps both extremes can coexist together; feeling despair yet having hope that it won’t always be this way. But, we need honesty from those who have survived this loss before us. I wish I would have been told:
It is ok to share that when my child died, I wished that I would die too.
It is ok to share that while I so desperately want to find meaning in tragedy, there isn’t always a reason to explain this loss.
It is ok to share that I was terrified, others walking this path are terrified, too.
It’s also ok to share that these thoughts come and go, the state of panic and anxiety will not always be in the forefront.
It’s ok to share gratitude amidst your pain, as equally as it is ok to feel a lack of gratefulness.
It’s ok to be transparent in your grief; that some days are devastating while others you find yourself laughing again.
And it’s ok to never have the answers to any of this mess.
I craved for hope after my daughter died. I wanted hope so desperately that I sought it out in any place I could find. I read books, scoured the internet, made connections locally, went to support groups and sought counseling. Hope was the only thing that kept me going. But before I could grasp my fingertips at hope for a life worth living, I needed to have hope that hope was even attainable. I needed hope that I could find hope – if that even makes sense.
And that’s what I want for you, to find hope again. But simultaneously, I want to validate your utterly and painfully broken heart. I encourage you to find others or places in which you can explore all the complex emotions of this loss where you can feel a sense of normalcy amidst the abnormal.
I also want to assure you that you are not alone. I want you to know that I, along with this community embraces you, when hope feels foreign and too far out of reach. Even though the path it took us to get here is different, my love and support for you another is endless. And until you can believe that hope is in your future, I will hold hope for you.