I can remember portions the first couple of weeks as a newly bereaved mother. My body was exhausted from the physical toll childbirth and child loss had taken on me. My breasts ached from the milk mistakingly being made for a baby who no longer lived, each drop a painful reminder that my daughter was no longer here.
As I woke up each morning there was a split second of relief where I thought I had dreamed up this nightmare, yet in an instant the reality crashed back onto me and grief met me once again. Every minute I was awake was a moment I was longing to be asleep again, my only escape from the hell I was living through. I was consumed by grief and it was difficult to function.
As the weeks passed so did the growing list of “adult responsibilities” that come with raising a surviving child and with settling affairs from my deceased daughter’s short life. No longer was I able to spend my days confined to my bed, but now I was finding I had to start clawing my way back into existence. It was time to start surviving and that was going to take every ounce of my being to accomplish.
Each day I set a goal of doing one thing. That one thing most days was something as simple as running an errand or cooking a meal. I was able to do just enough to scrape by without having to ask others for help, because by this time the offers for assistance had dwindled and it felt like more defeat to reach out and ask.
My focus on mere survival became my new normal for quite some time. I was doing just enough to take care of myself and my family. Plenty of things got lost in the shuffle, but at least the most important things were taken care of.
Here I am now, 2 years and 2 months after the most pivotal point in my life. I can now say with confidence that I have survived child loss. I’m able to get out of bed each morning with little effort. Grief is forever a part of who I am but it no longer consumes me.
But I don’t want to just survive anymore: I want to thrive. I’m ready to pick up the broken pieces and mold them into a beautiful piece of artwork that represents the loss and love I hold within my heart.
Thriving means focusing on the growth and healing that has emerged from my loss. My life has so much depth and richness that has developed from the wounds and scars I earned by trudging through heartbreak. My passion for helping others has grown from the love I have for my Ellie; love that needs a landing place since she’s not here to soak it in. I feel an intense connection to those who are suffering and I seek out opportunities to be with others as they experience heartbreak and loss. It gives me air in my lungs and purpose for moving forward.
Thriving looks a lot like basking in the fullness of a life where grief and joy coexist. I now know it’s ok for both to occupy the same spaces in my heart because they are inseparable. Every joyous moment is laced with a hint of pain and sadness of knowing my daughter is not here to experience life with our family. And that’s ok to feel these polar emotions. Because when you love someone unconditionally the pain of their death never completely resolves.
I’m able to see glimpses of my daughter in everything I do, now bringing a smile to my face when before all I had was tears. The sight of a rose still stops me in my tracks and I’m forever grateful for the tangible reminder of my Ellie Rose.
Thriving isn’t moving on or forgetting about my daughter, it’s finding ways to honor her life and death as the world continues to spin and the days continue to pass by. It’s the strength that emerges from months and years of pain so deep that it nearly broke me. The wounds are still there. The pain still exists. The memories still cut like a knife. But there’s hope and healing that can happen when you are on the other side of surviving child loss. I am becoming part of life once again and that feels a lot like thriving.