I have been traveling through my grief journey for over two years now. When my infant daughter died in my arms on that fateful June morning, all the hopes and dreams I had for her future shattered like glass beneath my feet. While I had no idea what life would look like in the aftermath of loss, I knew I would never again be the person I once was.
In those early days of my grief journey, it was impossible to see beyond the all-consuming darkness.
My then-two-year-old was my saving grace, the only thing pulling me from my bed and propelling me forward each day. She quite possibly saved my life.
It was difficult to understand how any human could withstand such pain. I had never been so aware of my soul; it was the only explanation for the depths of my sorrow.
As the months wore on, I found myself waiting for something to shift.
I waited for the fog to lift, the pain to lessen, the sorrow to dissipate. I thought of my grief as an obstacle to overcome, as if the dark path would come to an end and I would go on to live in the light again. I knew I would always yearn for my daughter and wish for her survival; this was a given. But I couldn’t possibly exist in grief’s trenches forever.
I longed to “feel better”.
I convinced myself that if I read all the books and attended all the group meetings if I launched myself into grief work, I would uncover the secret to releasing grief’s hold on my heart.
Truth be told, some of the words I read and the people I met did result in what felt like forward progress. Through my efforts, I found my feelings validated, and my husband and I quickly built a network of loss parents with whom we could relate.
But in the quiet moments, most often in the dark of night, the sharp blade of grief sunk in deeply.
My daughter’s death replayed over and over in my mind as if I was right back in the hospital room with her precious body growing cold in my arms. Night after night, I feared that I had undone my progress and that I had taken millions of steps backward on my grief journey.
More than two years later, I am learning that grief does not work this way.
Grief is not linear, and it offers no final destination to reach.
We find ways to cope with reality and handle life’s demands. We may even find something that feels restorative. But there will always be days that feel harder than others. There will always be triggers, both those anticipated and those not. There will be grief attacks that hit us with an untamed ferocity. While the pain certainly changes over time, it does not fully cease. It ebbs and flows, and at times, it is as raw and fierce as it was on the day my sweet baby died.
But there is no such thing as a backward step when you find yourself on a grief journey. There are only stops along the way.
Perhaps grief is not something we need to “get through”. Perhaps instead it is a new pillar of our lives, around which we must construct a different version of ourselves. It is not a phase to be outgrown, nor an obstacle to overcome.
As humans, we adapt and change, sometimes rapidly. But as loss parents, we grow around our grief, not beyond it.
As long as we breathe, we will long for the children we’ve lost. Why wouldn’t we? We love them fiercely, just as we would if they had lived.
Photo by Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash
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.