This time of year is always intensely introspective for me. My girls died the first week of July in 2008. Ellie on the first and Aubrey on the 7th. It was the hardest week of my life. I remember going to a Fourth of July celebration for the sake of my son who, at the time, was two and a half. We wanted him to see the fireworks and have some semblance of normalcy despite the hellish reality we were living at the time. I remember not wanting to go at all. I was afraid I’d burst into tears in front of strangers and I was still recovering from my C-section. I sat in the car pumping my milk and grieving my sweet Ellie while my other precious baby was confined to the NICU. And by the look on my little son’s face we were not fooling him with fireworks. It was the worst Fourth of July ever.
Six years later this Fourth of July was fantastic: a parade in the morning, swimming all day, and a fantastic fireworks show after dark spent entirely with family. I thought about my girls as I always do, how it would be fun to have them with us, two blondies waving little American flags and swimming all day in Nana and Grandad’s pool. I always feel their absence. I've come to accept that it is simply a part of my life now and I’m even able to smile when I daydream about them. My heart doesn't hurt like it once did and I’m thankful for that. It feels good to be full-hearted again even with pieces missing.
It does make me sad though that this community is so steeped in stagnant grief. Worse yet, there are many in this community that proclaim not-healing as a perfectly acceptable reality. Since the saddening An Open Letter to Those Who Use Lying Language post on the MISS Foundation blog by Dr. Joanne Cattiatore I've found myself more vocal than ever with my stance on hope and healing. It compelled me to put up my vocal dukes so to speak and make my disagreement known, not for my sake, but for the sake of all the broken, hurting hearts.
So here is what I have to say: Any person, doctor or otherwise, who refers to the death of her child as a sentence of suffering is not someone I will listen to, ever. Although I respect her freedom to feel how she wants about her daughter’s death, I will not now nor ever let her speak on behalf of my children or my experience. I’ll speak for them and myself, thank you very much, and she can take her lying words and STOP IT. NOW. Her words do not tell my story either. I am neither unsophisticated nor uncomfortable to firmly disagree with her condescending limited perspective. Her experience is not truth. The death of a child is NOT a sentence of suffering. It is statements like this from influential lips that fall onto vulnerable ears that are the real fraudulent language that confuses an entire community into becoming trapped in their pain because some entitled doctor wants to put a so-called ignorant society in its place. I’m sorry but I can’t stand by and allow this to go unchallenged a minute longer.
I will not be ashamed to heal nor shame others for healing. I will spend my life helping others find healing if they want it.
I will not be intimidated nor manipulated by others using bereavement to bully and project the chip on their shoulder onto me.
I will not make it society’s job to make my healing or my hurting easier. I will not pretend that others have an obligation to fix me. I will take responsibility for my own heart always.
I will not allow anyone else to speak on behalf of my children that died without my permission, EVER.
Hear me now all who ache: HOPE IS NEVER LOST. HEALING IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE.
Healing is possible after the death of a child. Healing is possible after any loss for that matter. A broken heart is not permanent if you don’t want it to be. This isn’t my opinion either. It is the truth. How do I know it is the truth? I know because healing is a choice, not a happenstance. Healing doesn't befall us randomly like tragedy can.
The healing of our heart is ultimately up to us and nothing, not even the death of our precious babies and a misunderstanding society, can steal from us our freedom to choose how we will tend to our heart in the face of tragedy and pain. The state of our hearts is our responsibility, our choice, always. Not even the death of a child can override the power we have over our own heart.
It isn't our family’s responsibility to heal us nor our spouse’s. It isn't society’s either. And not healing, although an option as we can choose not to heal as freely as we can choose to heal, is even more tragic than the death itself.
I personally have experienced true healing and not because I’m just lucky or because I must not have loved my girls as much as you love the baby you miss so much. I have healing because I gave myself permission to choose it standing over the tiny grave of two little girls I’d have given anything to get back. It hasn’t been an easy journey but a worthwhile one absolutely. I shook off the chains of my impending sentence of suffering with obstinate refusal to let the sweet little girls I love only be remembered in the pain of their death. I suffered for a time yes, but there are no chains on me. I am free and I use my freedom to honor them in my healing. Unashamed. Unapologetic. Undeterred.
It has become my life’s calling to make it known to all aching hearts that healing is always possible. It is possible to find healing after the loss of a child. And not just for me. For everyone. I know what I wrote is bold and it won’t land well on everyone, but sometimes it is the uncomfortable things that propel us forward toward things we once thought unreachable. Sometimes the death of a child leaves us feeling that healing is unreachable, but it isn’t. And someone had to say it.
The truth is a parent can find healing and live full-heartedly after the death of a child. Anyone who says differently is lying, confused, or has lost hope. And the death of a child is not more or less traumatic than other death or tragedy. All hurting hearts can find healing.
Tomorrow I will celebrate the 6th anniversary of my Aubrey’s death. I will cry, I always do, and take flowers to her and set them alongside her headstone. I’ll talk to her and miss her and wonder about the little girl that touched my heart so profoundly in just 13 days. I will continue to long for her as I’ll never get “used to” not having her here but my life isn’t empty without her. My heart is full because I've chosen to fill it. My girls have not been replaced nor forgotten, but I have nothing to prove with pain. I am healing. Every day, I’m healing.
If healing seems impossible to you or you feel confused on how to even begin, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I can help you get the support and tools you need to choose healing and guide you in making a plan. Healing is possible for everyone no matter what, but we can’t do it on our own. Supportive relationships, effective tools, and a plan create a foundation for heart healing. I’m here to help you walk your own healing journey to restore full-hearted living.