Coming to terms with the death of a child is an ongoing process. I discovered this after my daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Today, six years later, thanks to grief work and introspection, my daughter’s spirit is part of me. Many others have come to the same awareness.
Cheryl Strayed writes about recovering from the death of her mother in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. When I ordered the book online I didn’t know much about it and thought it was a book about hiking. It is about hiking, but Wild is really a chronology of grief recovery.
Strayed and her siblings buried their mother on land near their house. As Strayed stood by her mother’s grave, she said her mother would always be her mother, but that she had to leave. Her mother was no longer in the flower bed, Strayed explained. “I’d put her somewhere else. The only place I could reach. In me.”
After I read these words I stopped reading. I, too, had put my loved one, my deceased daughter, within me. How is she within me?
She is within me because my husband and I were appointed as legal guardians of our 15-year-old twin grandchildren. Immediately after the twin’s father died in another crash, the twins moved in with us. Our new mission was to protect them, care for them, and love them more each day. Raising our grandchildren has been the greatest blessing of our lives.
Thanks to her children, my daughter’s spirit is part of me.
She is within me as I continue to learn. Our extended family stands for education and everyone in the family has gotten an education. Helen loved to learn and became a composite engineer, a production manager with an MBA degree and six industry certifications. For her, learning was either about engineering, production, or flying, and she was constantly reading the pilot’s manual in preparation for taking flying lessons.
I am committed to lifelong learning and have spent countless hours learning about grief, grief reconciliation, multiple losses, and grief recovery. This learning led to writing grief resurces that braid research findings with life experience. According to readers and reviewers, this is a formula that works.
Because of learning, my daughter’s spirit is part of me.
Laughter also connects me with my daughter. She had a marvelous sense of humor and when she laughed hard she would slap her knee. People have told me Helen could have been a stand-up comic. In 2007, after she and three other family members died, laughter stopped for me. Certainly, I didn’t have much to laugh about.
But like my daughter, who faced many challenges in life, my laughter couldn’t be repressed. Though I was grieving, I gave myself permission to laugh. My sense of humor has returned, thank goodness, and I can even laugh at myself. Every time I laugh I think of my daughter.
If you are in the early stages of grief, you may not think your deceased loved one will ever be part of you. But that will change. As time passes, and you come to terms with loss, you will focus more on the gifts your loved one brought to your life. Or as Bob Deits says in his book, Life After Loss, you will “believe that your grief has a purpose and an end.”