Updated: Nov 21, 2022
I'm taking you deep into the dark places of my mind. The hurts the pain, the hopelessness that once ruled my life. An oubliette, and I am the only gatekeeper. This month I choose to share the cliffsnotes version of my story.
Why? Some may ask. We Must not speak of such things.
I share that I may shed some hope. I share that It might make someone else feel not alone. I share because I value life and relationships far above social status, money and lifestyle. I share because I want others to know that they can make it out of the dungeons, shackles, and agony that comes with grief.
My daughter Aspen died April 12th 2003. I watched as medical team fought tirelessly to save her life. Switching from person to person as they performed CPR and every other life saving technique available to them. The moment they stopped and the only sound was that of machine stating there is no heartbeat, was a moment that lives in me each and everyday. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!
What kind of mother allows this to happen? What kind of mother couldn't protect her own child? This was a moment that took 14 years for me to forgive. Not the medical team, not the situation or events that lead us there, but me. This unforgiveness of myself lead me to make some seriously poor decisions. I tried everything to make myself feel anything other than what was actually happening in my heart. I numbed with with alcohol, partying and all nighters. I tried sleeping and not participating in life. When asked to do anything, my answer was always no. I built walls to keep people out and engulfed myself into my job. I had two more daughters with whom I worked diligently to not have a deep connection because there was no way I would survive if I lost another child. However nothing compares to the night when I stood over my kitchen sink with my arm held out and a knife in my other hand because I felt as though there was no other way to make the pain stop. I could no longer participate in a life that felt so empty without my first born in it. I broke that night. I shattered from shards of glass into an endless supply sand.
How would I ever put myself back together?
When my husband came home all he did was hold me. When I could no longer set foot outside of my house and go to my job, he "it's ok". When I put us in some serious financial distress, he said "we will figure it out". And there I sat for many years in an attempt to make sense out of my life. I had created a fortress that was impenetrable by outside sources. What I thought was a safe place became my dungeon of solitude, grief and mourning. I tried (not wholeheartedly) a few different ways to get help but nothing seemed to work. It took every ounce of energy in me to make it through each week.
Then there came a day, when my husband went to the park with my two daughters and I sat on the couch watching them go again without me. Why could I not do that? Something shifted in me. The next time they went, I would go too. This was the first step in me reclaiming my life. Then I made the choice to get healthy again, it took work and wasn't easy, but I did it. See these small victories I was having, were each a step in me climbing out of my own dungeon. No one could do this for me. This was a climb I had to do. I used to believe that time heals all wounds, but that's a BIG FAT LIE. It's what you do with that time that makes the difference in your grief journey. When you see no way out, I challenge you to ask yourself if you are the one standing in your own way.
So it took me 14 years to realize that I was carrying the weight of unforgiveness with me everywhere I went. The day I forgave myself I felt the bonds that had been gripping so tightly on my heart, crumble. I didn't have to define myself by that day my daughter passed. I could be happy and still love and celebrate my daughter that's in heaven. I could create deep bonds with all four of my living daughters and have no fear the future. That moment of forgiveness stopped the downward spiral and shot me straight up like I was attached to a bungee cord. It was excruciating to say those words out loud, but it was the defining moment for the rest of my life. I could feel happy without regret and guilt. I could pursue my passions again without thinking I was dishonoring her memory. I could set foot back in church and love my God without anger and hate in my heart. Best of all, I get to walk this journey with others and by sharing my story, offer a glimpse of hope. Hope that they too can be happy AND still honor their loved ones.
See I had to choose. I had to determine what my story would look like. Although I had no control over the events that lead up to Aspen passing away. I did have control over how I responded to the situation. A fourteen year lesson, I give to you now. You have a choice...... it's up to you what you do with it.