At almost four years after the death of my daughter, I had thought it would be easier than this.
In those early days and months when my grief made it feel like I simply couldn’t survive this loss, I saw others in support groups who had lost their loved ones many years before, and they seemed ok. They looked almost “normal” again. They told me it wouldn’t always be like this. They said you learn to live with the pain, and it would lessen over time. They said you will eventually find joy and happiness again. They said you create a “new normal”.
And they were right.
I have worked hard for almost four years on working through my grief. I have faced it head on through continual counseling and support groups and still seek out ways to express my pain, so as not to hold it in and let it consume me. Along the way, I have given myself permission to smile once more, and even to allow joy to enter my heart again. I have enjoyed my other children. I have volunteered my time with The Compassionate Friends. I have created my own grief support website. I have consciously tried to focus my energies on remembering my daughter’s life rather than only looking at the pain her death has brought.
And yet grief remains a constant part of my life.
Grief is fickle. Unpredictable. And indifferent to whatever mood I’m in. Most days my grief lies dormant under the activities of everyday life. Little triggers will continually remind me its there. A sad news story on the TV. A girl at the park who reminds me of my daughter. But I can go about my regular routines with no interruptions. Other times, the triggers are bigger, and the grief bubbles up and takes over my mood. Tears well up behind my eyes, ready to release at the first opportunity. My patience seems to evaporate and everyday tasks become cumbersome, meaningless, and even difficult. Usually the bursts of grief from larger triggers only last a few hours or at most a few days.
But sometimes it lingers and grows.
What I didn’t expect is that even coming on four years after her death, I still find myself in situations where grief becomes so overwhelming again that it feels like I’ve gone right back to the debilitating early days of grief. Feelings of sadness, pain, lethargy, dis-interest in things I normally enjoy. Going to work becomes a struggle. Even taking care of my kids feels like a burden. I know these periods require extra attention and care, and I navigate through the best I can, asking for support along the way. I just wonder if these episodes will ease over time, or if I should just expect them to become a permanent fixture of my “new normal” life?
If the death of my daughter has taught me anything — and it has taught me A LOT — it has taught me that we have more inner strength than we can ever imagine, and that with time, attention, and support, we can navigate through just about anything life might throw at us.