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Black Hole of Grief

Black Hole of Grief

Two months after our daughter died, I walked into my first support group for bereaved parents.  I remember thinking that all the people there looked so normal.  I’m not sure what I expected, but at the time, I believed that having your baby die happened to “Other People”.  Not people who looked like me.  I have not idea how I expected the other bereaved parents to look, but different…

As I listened to the others tell their heart breaking stories, I remember thinking: “This is NOT going to be me.  I’m not going to be sitting in this meeting 5 years from now still crying about my dead child.”  I was going to approach this grief thing just as I had the rest of my life.  Give me a book to read.  Send me to a therapist.  Tell me the steps that I needed to take.  I’d follow every piece of advice and I would get OVER this horrible pain…quickly.

I was so naive and so judgmental back then.  At first, I would comfort myself that THEIR pain was bigger than my pain.  It was the only explanation that I could find that years after their babies’ deaths they were still devastated.  As time went on and I continued to attend the support group, I revised my original hypothesis.  No, MY pain was definitely bigger than their pain.

It took me a very long time to come to the realization that there was more than enough pain to go around and that we all had more pain and sadness than we could bear.  It was only by banding together and sharing our pain that we made life more bearable.

After eight years of attending the group every month, I began facilitating that same group.  I began to introduce myself to newly bereaved parents as “the long view”.  Today, my daughter would have been 23 years old.  I am still the long view.

Here are a few of the hard learned lessons that I have learned:

  1. I have very little control over the events of my life, but I do control the grace and dignity with which I respond to those events.
  2. I have to grow my dead child just as I grow my live children.  My dead child still has birthdays, milestones and anniversaries.
  3. The pain of having a child die never goes away.  We learn to live with it and we learn to cope. We rediscover hope.Grief Renewed
  4. I am still her parent.  As her parent, I will never stop loving her and I will never forget her.

Time does not automatically heal all.  I had to put in the hard work.  I had to cry.  I had to rant.  I had to learn that life is not always fair and that I am not entitled to a pain-free, perfect life.  As time went on, my family and I round a new normal. We found hope.  We found the courage to have another baby.  We found the strength to move forward.

I learned to carry my daughter in my heart rather than in my arms.  I learned how to look for the gifts that she gave to me if only I would open my eyes to acknowledge them.

My life has been so unbelievably enriched by the experience.  Of course, I’d prefer that my baby had lived, but all in all, I’m happy.  I have hope.  I am a survivor. I am strong and capable.  And, I’d like to believe that my daughter has taught me how to live in grace and dignity and perhaps to be a little less judgmental.  After 23 years, I am your long view.



I’ve been trying to work.  I’ve been trying to sleep.  I’ve been trying to clean the house and cook for my family.  I’ve not been very successful at any of those things.  In my mind I keep hearing “It’s been 21 years.”

Tears well up in my eyes, but don’t fall.  I’ve gotten really good at redirecting my mind, but soon, I hear “It’s been 21 years” again.  21 year years ago this week, my 2nd daughter was born.  What a gift from God!  How deliriously happy we all were to welcome our second daughter into our family.  Our oldest was 3 ½ years old –just the perfect age to be a big sister.  She was so ready to be a big sister.  She had talked to my belly for months and attended class at the hospital so that she knew exactly how to help Mommy with her new baby sister.  When Mommy would sit down to breast feed, oldest sister would sit down right next to me and put her baby under her shirt too.  We sang, we read, we counted toes and we laughed.  Second girls are so easy.  As a mother, I felt comfortable knowing what to do. I felt bliss.

When my oldest was a baby, she smiled with her whole body.  She would wiggle and squirm into a full mouth grin.  Not my second girl.  She was a quiet smiler.  She was serene.  This lovely baby was so easy.  Just a quiet smile, like she knew a secret.  She had a beautiful smile.  As a mother, I felt so at ease with her because she was so comfortable, undemanding and easy going.

My 2nd Daughter

I went back to work and took my two girls to childcare.  My oldest turned four years old and our family was busy and happy.  Then, when my second daughter was 4 months and 4 days old, she went to sleep at my childcare provider’s home and never woke up.  I got the dreadful phone call at work. “Come quick!  I need you now!” said the voice of my provider.  I dropped that phone and ran.  The days and months after were filled with tears, sadness and gut wrenching pain.

I learned my most important life lesson that Fall day.  I learned that I cannot control the events in my life, but I can control the grace and dignity with which I respond to life.  I chose to make my second daughter’s short life mean something positive.  I chose to honor her in everything that I do.

Several years later, my husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and have another baby.  We welcomed our third daughter with a terrified ecstasy that can only be experienced by those who have lost deeply.  There is no more loved child in this world than the one that follows.  She is the miracle that brought laughter into our home again.  She helped her big sister to truly be a big sister again.  You may not know it, but it’s really hard to be the big sister when your little sister is in heaven.  They don’t teach that in the hospital class.

Over the last 21 years, there have been plenty of tears, but I have learned to carry my second daughter in my heart and not my arms.  I have honored her life everyday by working with newly bereaved families. I have learned to recognize the many gifts that she has sent to our family.  I have learned that it’s good to laugh. I have learned that I can spend my life being sad, or not.

We planted a tree in her honor and each June, our entire family gathers at the tree to send messages of love to her.  The tree has grown and our family has grown.  The tree, like the family has experienced rain, drought, storms, wind and snow but it has grown tall and flourished. Over the years, we have celebrated many milestones for our second daughter.  I never know what to expect.  In the beginning, her birthdate bore down on me with an unrelenting pressure that brought me to my knees with pain and sorrow.  Other years passed with a smile of remembrance, a story shared and a bit of melancholy.

This year, this 21st year has come with a bone deep weariness, a sadness that cannot be expressed.  I’m feeling like I might not have the strength to do this again.  But then, I remember what a dear friend said: “Just cause you’re in hell doesn’t mean you have to stop and shop.”  So, I’ll just pass on through.  I take a deep breath and I think of all the wonderful gifts that my second daughter has brought to me:  The joy of working with all the bereaved families and helping them to learn to laugh again; The joy that my life has become and the joy that my husband and my two surviving daughters bring to my life every day.

I am stronger than I ever thought possible.  I am a mother.  It’s been 21 years.

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