Hope is not something we tend to think about after losing a child, at least it wasn't for me. I remember one of my counselors telling me that I'd find "gifts". I stared at him blankly and nodded in agreement, but the drive home that morning was full of questions. I couldn't put my head around the idea that there was anything positive that would ever come out of losing my daughter.
Things didn't get better right away. In fact, they got worse. People who I thought would be supportive and kind became rude and uncaring. Others could not handle my grief, so they distanced themselves. I felt isolated and alone, as if no one understood my feelings or experience no matter how hard I tried to explain. I just wanted to be like everyone else, but it wasn't the journey I was given.
Then, without any real reason for these people to join my journey, a group came to sit with me in my worst time. People who didn't try to change me, didn't mind listening on bad days, and even celebrated the good ones. Many of these people had experienced grief themselves, and they understood my heartache. Others just were understanding. My life became (and now is) surrounded with some of the kindest and brightest souls I've been given the grace of meeting. I've learned what true, unconditional, loving friendships look like, and, for me, that's a gift that Addy brought to me after her passing.
I've also changed. At some point in my life, I lost a lot: my confidence, my ability to stand up for myself, my passion for helping others, my ability to know that I am a survivor, and a person with a voice that deserves to be heard. I let people do things that were hurtful out of fear of confrontation or to lose them. I became quiet and depressed. After Addy passed, I stopped allowing people to do things that were unacceptable. I learned to use my voice, love myself more, and be kind to myself and others.
I also learned the value of a day or a moment. When something beautiful is happening, I enjoy it so much more than I used to because I know how quickly something can change. I'm more grateful for the good times, with the ability to know I have the endurance to last through the hard ones because I've survived the worst - my daughter's death.
Addy's passing gave me the gift of a new, beautiful life. She's showed me how to love unconditionally, to be open to others, and to be able to help others in the way they have helped me. For me, she made me the person who I am today.
I share experience because it is my hope that you'll find gifts in your journey as well. Even though your loved one may be gone, they are still with you. They can guide necessary changes in your life. They can be a catalyst to helping other people. They may even help you to fulfill dreams and aspirations you didn't believe possible. Addy is with me everyday. There have been events that have happened in my life that have no logical explanation except that she brought it to me. Once you start looking for it in your journey, you'll see the gifts everywhere.
Having hope is of the utmost importance during your journey through grief. As you work through your feelings of loss, hope that there is a tomorrow, that things do improve, that there are wonderful (yet bittersweet) days to come help give you strength and endurance. It is hope that will bring you through the worst days, and it is hope that allows the beautiful ones shine even brighter. There are times when you have to look for the hope, and it's okay to feel as if there is none as long as you don't let it linger too long. Surround yourself with people who are kind, loving, and understanding, and who will help you to heal. Allow yourself all the feelings that come whether good or bad. Experience each one individually and collectively. Find what brings you joy, and learn to live in that joy.
As they say, grief is all the love you have and want to give but cannot. Your grief is just this huge amount of love that gets locked up because you feel it has no where to go. Your child still feels it. Let it spill out to others as well and guide you to living a life that honors their life.
Below is a video on the gifts of grief from someone else who found hope after the passing of her child. May it bring you comfort.
Also, Open to Hope is a non-profit organization providing resources to those who have experienced loss to help you find hope.
Feel free to share about your gifts of grief online and in the comments. Our next grief support group will begin at the end of September. We hope to see you then.
All our love,