After my daughter’s death, I was tempted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep my pain away.  Part of me wanted the world the stop. But I had two other young children to care for, and knew that option wouldn’t be good for them or me.  Yet, I was devastated.  How could I possibly go on?

Life didn’t make sense and I couldn’t focus.  I struggled with even basic tasks and everything was so out of control.   I didn’t know how to fix my pain or even how to fully embrace it, but I felt the need to “do” something.  So, in the middle of my chaos, I made a conscious decision to look for the good in life.  I’m not sure what prompted me to do this other than the fact that I had been part of a Bible study several months earlier that encouraged us to thank God for something every day.

With every ounce of energy I could muster, I began looking for something for which to thank God.  The first day, I struggled to find something.  Even though I was surrounded by loving people and was blessed in many ways, the fog was still very thick. As I pondered my new goal, I looked around the room and it occurred to me that I was encircled by flowers – every surface and corner burst forth with color and aroma.  And so, I thanked God for flowers.

I continued this ritual for several weeks until eventually, I had a tangible and lengthy list for which I was grateful.  Although this didn’t minimize the pain of my daughter’s passing, it gave me a fresh perspective.  It helped me to step towards healing instead of retreating.  It helped clear my thoughts.   But most of all, it began my journey of learning to live again.

I wanted to be whole again – not forgetting my daughter, but living with greater purpose as I honored her memory.  I wanted to experience life fully, without fear.  I didn’t want to sleep-walk my way through life.  I wanted to be present and engaged.  I wanted to enjoy my other children and to give them the gift of a healthy mother – in mind, body and spirit.

The journey was not easy or straight.  The path carried me over hills and potholes, around curves, and I even revisited a few stops along the way.  But ultimately, I reached the summit where I could see the beauty of our Creator.  I could look back and see the progress I’d made while looking forward to the adventure and fullness of life ahead.

As I continue the journey, Ashlynn’s memory lives on within me, inspiring me to embrace God’s plan. I am thankful for the hope He’s given me and for His grace and mercy as He holds my hand along the way.

Cindy Shufflebarger 2011

 

 

 

Cindy Shufflebarger

Cindy Shufflebarger

Cindy Shuffelbarger is the author of Dancing in the Rain: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Storm and speaks to women’s groups on various topics related to grief, joy, and faith. She experienced the death of her infant daughter in 2006. In addition to writing and speaking, Cindy enjoys photography, traveling, scrapbooking and quiet walks in the park. A registered dietitian with degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University, she now runs a women’s ministry to encourage others in their journey of faith. Cindy resides with her husband and children in the suburbs of Richmond, VA and finds her greatest challenge and reward as a homeschooling mom of three.

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