Over four years after her death, thoughts of my daughter fill my mind every day. She has now been gone longer than she was alive. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She was supposed to live a long life full of adventure, creativity, and quirkiness. As my only daughter in a family full of boys, she was supposed to be my best friend and confidant. She was supposed to…

Whatever she was “supposed to do” was lost the day she died. My dreams for her will never come true. I am left sitting here holding my shattered dreams of raising a daughter. I kindly brush off the question, “Are you going to try for a girl?” when some stranger sees or hears I have four boys. I can’t bring myself to prolong the conversation by saying that I already have a daughter…because the pain that comes with that statement still feels like a knife was just stuck in my heart all over again.

Yet despite my continuing anguish over not having her by my side, both her life and her death continue to teach me lessons each and every day. I have been taught to have a deeper appreciation of life than I could have ever imagined. Everything has more meaning now. The joy I have slowly learned to feel again is that much sweeter. The love I feel is that much more profound. The respect I have for this earth and all its gifts is that much more substantial. I pause longer and savor the beauty around me more than I once did. And while the sadness and violence throughout this world can now be overwhelming and bring tears more easily, I feel more compassion than I did before because I now understand a pain that transcends words to describe it.

I am no longer satisfied to just “survive” life as I once did. I am no longer able to just bury painful emotions and pretend that it will magically get better someday. I now truly understand that our lives require a lot of work, and we cannot just sit idly by and blame others and lament that they are not acting or being the way we need them to be. I have fully learned that only I am responsible for my own situation and path in life – and indeed, my own happiness. That is not to say that I don’t still falter and fall back into old bad habits and thoughts. But now that I have seen this gift that is life so quickly taken away, I am compelled to keep moving forward whenever I stumble.

I look forward to the signs and whispers from my daughter each and every day. They not only remind me of her continuing presence and importance in my life; they keep me grounded in the moment. They keep me tuned to love; for if I have learned anything from both her life and her death, it is that love is always within us, around us, and the way through. I often hear other parents faced with the tremendous pain of losing a child ask, “How do I go on?” Many times, both I and others answer, “You just do; one day – or one moment – at a time.” But the real answer is love. Our love is what gets us through the darkest moments.

With only four short years on this earth, my daughter left an indelible mark on the hearts of those who knew her, but she wasn’t able to make her mark on the world. Since I was a little girl, I’ve known that I want to help people. I’ve never quite known how, but here it is. I’m helping others through their grief by being honest about my own. I’m able to show others there is hope. I do this in my daughter’s honor. This is her mark. She is helping others make it through their darkest hours. And she is leaving her mark through love and compassion.

Her light shines on, and it shines ever so brightly as it did while she was here with us. She was my sunshine, and I continue to bask in her loving light. For anyone who has lost someone they can’t imagine living without, I hope you can remember the warmth of their love and allow it to help soothe your aching heart.

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Maria Kubitz

Maria Kubitz lost her four year old daughter in a drowning accident in 2009. In her grief journey, Maria continually tries to find ways to learn from the pain, and maintain a loving, healthy environment for her four other children. She volunteers as newsletter editor at a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, and in 2012, Maria created www.aliveinmemory.org – a blog about learning to live with grief.

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