Each day brings something new to the mental health journey of grief I tread. The ups and downs of my own feelings of losing a child in her prime and interjecting those feelings with the excitement and joy of the upcoming Christmas Holiday, gives me conflicting feelings of sadness and joy.
It is creeping up on 3 years since the anniversary of the last visit, hug, laughter and goodbye I shared with my daughter, Danielle. I actually was able to decorate my house and put lights on the tree-the first time since she’s been gone. The Christmas stocking with “DANI” fits beautifully on the mantle next to her five siblings in the order of their birth. The little five year old hands from kindergarten are hung next to the glittering high heel shoe, suntanned Santa and photos of Christmases gone by, reminding me of the life she lived and the impact she made.
As the day after Christmas approaches, the memories of that last day with her in Ohio runs through my mind. I know I am not the only one that feels and remembers this day. Dani laughing her incredible laugh as she rode the Carousel with her nieces and nephews brings to mind heartwarming feelings of a fantastic day along with a pain so sharp that it is nearly impossible to describe.
Three years since that dreaded call and the journey moves two steps forward and one step back. Make no mistake, I am beyond grateful for the 33 years of love and life that was spent with my beautiful girl. Others I know have also walked a painful yet much different difficult journey. My heart breaks for the mothers and fathers who have lost a child in the womb. Others have lost their precious child in infancy, watched their child struggle with an incurable illness or lost their loved one to an unforeseen accident. Each day, all of us grieving parents, who belong to a club of our own, struggle with appreciating what we were given and grieving for what we never will have. The future has been ripped out of our life, by no choice of our own. We relive the memories of their first kicks in the womb, their first steps and belly laughs, their kindergarten and high school graduations and their hugs as they leave home and spread their wings. Photos, memories and videos are all we have left. We listen to the wind, look for signs in the sky and pray for a glimpse of our child in a dream, all in hopes of capturing the “feeling” and “presence” of our loved one just one more time.
As I struggle with my own reality, I can’t help but fight back the overwhelming frustration and sadness I feel knowing that families who are actually blessed to still have their loved ones alive in this world allow fractured relationships to destroy their love and future by giving into bitterness. Any of us who have buried a child, sibling or parent way too early in life would scream and shout out to you to “please put your love for those still here above all else!” One thing we know is we are not guaranteed a tomorrow with our people. Let’s make the most of the time given and never let division or hatred win.
If I had but one wish for all of you this upcoming season, it would be to set aside anger, fear, resentment or pain and reach out to the person you love so deeply and start again. You have that chance and choice. Although I know that Dani felt our unconditional love just as we felt hers, it isn’t always that way for everyone. Let’s start today and let peace win.