My heart and soul changed the day my daughter died. The reality I live in changed that day, too. I’m acutely aware that children die and that not every story ends with puppies, rainbows, and fireworks. My reality is that heartache will always play a prominent role in my life, casting shadows on even the happiest of moments. I know that no amount of joy will ever fully break the dark spell that grief and trauma have cast.
But I also know that darkness and light can live side by side. Joy and pain will live in my soul in unison. Maybe not in harmony, but they can both exist. The line between the two worlds is thin and ragged. I’m constantly teetering and wavering. There are times the darkness feels so much closer than joy. So much bigger. And there are so many facets of grief: sadness, emptiness, pain, jealousy, and guilt and they are often difficult to manage.
I struggle with the emptiness and the balance between holding on to Zoey and making space for new hope. After Zoey died, I filled the house with her photos and kept her room just as it was. I spent the nights cuddling her stuffed horse just to feel something against my chest. Now, as we move forward in the adoption process, I’m navigating keeping her prominent in my home while making space for new photos and new memories.
I’m often jealous of those that have their babies. Zoey should be four. I see my friend’s children that age dancing and twirling and growing and I feel that familiar stab in my chest.
I still get angry. Angry that she died. Angry that God didn’t save her. That the universe is so cruel to us. I’m often furious that the world makes no sense.
I now have anxiety when I didn’t before her death. I’m oftentimes irrational. I have flashbacks to the moment she died. When I think of another baby in our home, I also fear the worst. And worry that I won’t be able to protect that child from death either.
I often still have guilt. Catching myself when I laugh, I wonder if I should be showing the world just how devastated I am rather than laughing at something silly. I admonish myself when I get upset over something trivial because I know that there are so many worse things. And I know Zoey would want us to have another baby to share our love with, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like we’re moving forward without her.
As I look back on my journey through all of those feelings and more, I can see the moments where I’ve allowed myself to wallow in the darkness. And I’ve looked back to see the moments where I fully gave myself to hope. I know the light is there. The stars shine because they are surrounded by darkness.
And now, four years in, I can allow the pain to ebb and flow and change course. I’ve learned that my reality is not the same as others who have not been in this place and they may never fully comprehend the dance between pain and joy. Those who have experienced deep grief live in that space at daybreak where darkness still consumes the sky, but where you can start to see just a hint of the sunlight. Zoey is light. Hope is light. And now I know even the darkest night won’t steal those away.