By Diana Doyle

Five years ago, our daughter died. Savannah was only four. The grief I felt that day is still with me and still raw, but it helps me move forward and heal.

After she died, it was hard to accept that nothing had changed for anyone else. The sun still rose and set and people went about their business as usual, even though my own personal corner of the world would never be the same. I had to find a way out of it, or be trapped there forever. My new baby girl and my husband both needed me to remain among the living

For me, grief is almost a physical pain, like a wound that no narcotic can dull. It’s never totally gone and can surface without warning when you least expect it. Places like parks are especially hard on me, because I see little girls there who remind me of Savannah, which triggers a desperate longing for my daughter.

Also, when I meet new people and they ask me how many children I have, I still find it both difficult and awkward when I have to tell them that I had two beautiful daughters, but one of them died. It’s almost as hard on them, apparently. Some will just go silent, or blurt out an “I’m so sorry!” then quickly change the subject. And others will ramble on about death and heaven and who knows what.  So, mothers’ cliques at the park are not my favorite places to be, any more.

Every now and then, the grief-stricken find their sadness just comes on, and they have no choice as to when and where it will happen. A month ago, I went to a friend’s 10-year-old daughter’s ballet recital. I watched Layla’s magical performance with tears rolling down my face. The sorrow I felt was an automatic response to seeing little girls dancing, who are the same age as my daughter would’ve been now. I didn’t go to the concert thinking I was going to cry, or that it would affect me so strongly. But after drying my eyes and taking a deep breath, I felt calm, the pain abated.

Some memories of Savannah’s time with us will always make me feel sad. And that’s okay. I’ve learned it’s necessary to grieve, so I can begin to heal. But I also have recollections of her that make me smile. Like of the days when we’d sit under a shady tree on a fluffy blanket and read a book together. So, when I cry at memories of her screaming in pain, I have other happy memories to counteract them.

I’ve learned to notice and enjoy the little stuff more with my other daughter, Dempsey. Like watching her giggle at Tom and Jerry cartoons, listening to her read, sharing a game of snakes and ladders, or simply watching her sleep. Living with grief has made me appreciate everything life has to offer–forced me to take the time to slow down and enjoy each day and accept my sorrow as an integral part of who I am today, without letting it rule my life.

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Diana Doyle

Diana Doyle

Diana Doyle lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Peter, and her six-year-old daughter Dempsey. Their daughter Savannah was born in 1999. She was diagnosed with Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, which is similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of two-and-a-half. She died at age four. Since then, Diana has been speaking and writing in hopes of helping others who are dealing with losses of all kinds.

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