I live, and she doesn’t. It’s a harsh and devastating reality I have to live with every day for the rest of my natural life. My grief has evolved over the four years since she passed away, as I’m sure she would have if she lived. And I’m sure it will continue to change as the years roll by. Yet the one thing that seems to recur at regular intervals for me recently is a wave of grief followed by a feeling of impulsivity to do something so uncharacteristic, so unlike my pre-Lissie self, something crazy or permanent.
Some are done in her memory, and others are just… done.
These impulsive responses had me worried at first – it is not like me to decide to get a tattoo at the drop of a hat. Or at least, not like my former self. Surely it is the stuff of a mid-life crisis, to embark on thrilling adventures and engage in risk-taking behavior? The woman I was 5 years ago would never have danced in the rain, got a new piercing, a tattoo, or jumped on the bed like a four-year-old. And that’s just a few examples from this week! I’m pretty sure my minister is a bit concerned about me… okay, maybe a lot.
Apart from the fun of engaging in random, unusual and maybe even reckless behaviour, I feel it goes a bit deeper than that. Every time I come up from under a strong wave of grief and longing for my daughter, I want to feel more alive than ever as I fill my lungs with air. There is a sense of freedom, liberation, and release when we do those things we normally would never have done. It’s an incredible sensation to feel so much life when you’re face to face with death every day.
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It’s a sense of control over your immediate actions after a time of loss in which you have absolutely no control at all.
That surge of adrenaline when you conquer your fear? That thrilling rush when you skydive? That brief pain as you engrave your precious one’s name or symbol on your skin? It lets you know you’re alive, doesn’t it? Alive, when life has felt so tomb-like under the weight of grief. Alive, when she can’t be. Even pain and fear are welcome reminders of the opportunity we have to live and breathe in their place.
Living For Them
It has been on so many memes, but it rings true: we honor our babies who have passed by living our lives more fully, more bravely and in their memory. And maybe it is this truth that compels us to break out of our norm of caution, to live a little more in impulsivity. Knowing how fleeting life is and living in the wake of their legacy, we do not do anything by halves anymore because we live for our babies too. If they were here, we would be encouraging our children to take risks, to try new things, to not let fear stand in their way- and we should not live any less than what we would have wanted for them.
And it is not just the seemingly crazy or risky things, but also the empowering and bold actions that are awakened by grief. The weight loss goals, the booming business ideas, the memory boxes and the cold cots that have come about from the fearlessness and ambition of grieving parents are incredible examples of a call to live loudly and proudly for their babies.
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Not Harmful, But Healing
Please do not misunderstand me; these behaviors should not carry so much impulsivity or be so dangerous as to be harmful to yourself or others. Rather they should have a goal towards healing and finding hope and humanity at a time of sorrow and hurting. These actions may be to intentionally honor their memory or to truly feel something when all other feelings seem numb, but I hope this does not give the impression of condoning hazardous conduct that could cause lasting damage to you or your loved ones. Being carefree does not mean being careless, and it is wise to weigh up all the decisions you make against the possible outcomes of what you are willing to live with.
Needless to say, you could go through a bucket list of amazing things to do in your lifetime, but you and I both know that these will not bring our babies back, nor will they fill the emptiness and heartache they have left behind. These activities won’t make the pain go away, but they can be a coping mechanism, a gift to yourself, a symbol of your love, a lasting contribution, or an enriching experience lived for their namesake.
Perhaps it is something you do in their memory you may have never done before.
Perhaps you changed your life to honor theirs.
Perhaps, like me, there is name imprinted on your heart and on your skin forever.
Photo credit: Alexa Mazzarello, Unsplash