All that remains of my daughter, Dorothy, rests on my desk. Nestled in between a stack of journals and my pencil cup of felt tip pens, there is a tiny ceramic urn adorned with a floral pattern in purple and ivory. I wish I could give a poignant reason for her being there. But, the truth is she is there because I don’t know what to do with her. It’s been two years and I’m still completely at a loss for what to do with the ashes of my dead daughter.
In the immediate weeks after Dorothy died, my husband and I would reluctantly discuss the idea of a funeral or a memorial service or a burial site. Slowly, we realized that our discussions were coming from a place of obligation. We felt like we needed these things, but did we want them? We weren’t sure. So, we shelved our daughter’s urn and with them, we shelved any kinds of plans for how to lay her to rest.
I feel a lot of guilt over not having a “proper” place to put my daughter. It comes when I see the pictures that other loss families share. I see the fathers visiting gravesites, the mothers placing flowers at headstones, and the families spreading ashes in meaningful places. I see them and I think: What is wrong with me? Why do I not care enough about my daughter to make sure she has a place in this world that is not located inches away from my laptop and a stack of unopened mail? Am I really okay with this? Or, am I avoiding this decision because it feels so final?
I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure that out. That’s why I haven’t been able to lay my daughter to rest; because I’m still trying to come to terms with how I feel about it all.
I do know this. I’m still angry that this is a decision that I even have to consider. It doesn’t feel fair that I worry about what to do with my daughter’s ashes. I resent this. I’ve made peace with so many aspects of Dorothy’s death and I still can’t make peace with the concept of having to bury my child.
For right now, I’m okay with where she is. She is safe, she is near and she can be seen. Those are the things that matter to me at this time in my grief. Maybe someday, we will choose a spot where she can stay. Or perhaps we will bring her with us when we leave this Earth. It is a decision we are not yet ready for and we may never be. But, I do know this: wherever her remains end up, she will forever live on in the hearts of those who love and remember her.
Rachel Whalen is a mother, wife, and Kindergarten teacher from Barre, Vermont. Her life’s work is to keep the memory of her daughter, Dorothy, alive through words both spoken and written. Rachel shares her family’s journey through loss and all that has come after on her blog: An Unexpected Family Outing.