Another birthday—three to be exact—without Emily. Emily would have turned 24 on March 23rd. Each year, I try not to think about the upcoming birth and death dates, as well as all the holidays which Emily so loved. I wish I could tell parents who have recently lost children that it gets easier. It doesn’t. It does, however, change, but only if you allow your heart to stay open.
A friend of mine, who also lost her daughter, was among many who reached out to me on Emily’s heavenly birthday with kind words. But unlike others, she truly gets it. She has walked this tangled road of grief. She sent me this photo of a sculpture, which she said best depicted grief at the loss of a child. I get it. I spent a lot of time on the floor just like this after Emily’s death, face down, while at the same time feeling exposed and raw.
My friend also had these wise words, “it never gets better, but compassion and love grows.” I would add that is possible, if you don’t shut down completely following the death of a child. I know some mothers who have and their life is on a downward spiral. One of them, whose story I shared in my previous blog post, even took her own life.
How do we remain open-hearted in the face of unthinkable tragedy such as a child’s death? I truly believe you must find your purpose in the pain. That can look different for everyone. There is no right way, or seven easy steps, to navigate through grief and come out on the other side. For me, I find my compassion, love and purpose in helping others, through our charity, Emily’s Hope. I also find it through writing blogs like this one and hosting podcasts, all with the intention of letting others know they are not alone in this precarious journey, whether it be dealing with addiction or loss.
I took Emily’s 24th birthday off work and I’m grateful I could do that after seeing a Facebook post from a mother who lost her child. She was unable to take a day off work and was wondering how she would make it through the day. As I thought about the hours that stretched out before me and how I would fill them with more than just tears, I decided to make this video tribute to Emily on her birthday. I poured through scrapbooks and family videos, smiling at my goofy girl and then crying at the fact that my memories of her are limited to just 21 years. It would make my heart happy to have you watch it. Emily’s brother and sister came home to support me and to take part in our new tradition of releasing balloons at the cemetery on Emily’s birthday. Despite the symbolism behind this ritual, I am still left with an empty feeling; a longing for my daughter that nothing here on earth can ever fill.
Faith, Hope & Courage,