Sunday, October 26, 2008

Continuing to learn from others

This past week would have been my daughter’s fifteenth wedding anniversary. She never even lived to see her first anniversary. Almost five months after her marriage she died in a car accident. Her dreams, hopes for the future… everything gone. My hopes for her: a family, a bright future, a wonderful marriage…all gone.

Each year I think what her life would have been like now. She would have had children to love and share with her husband; she probably would have had a career in the advertising or public relations field. Or perhaps she would have preferred staying home and just be a mother. They would have traveled eventually, seen the world, learned from the experiences and been better people for it. Perhaps my grandchildren would have done something special in this world and for this world. I dream of all that and then I see how what has happened has changed me forever. In some ways, it has made me a better person.

“You are a very special person,” a friend says to me. “You made the best of what has happened to you. I couldn’t have done it.” (Of course you could have, I think to myself.)

“I don’t know how you lived through it,” says one mother to me. “What choice did I have at the time,” I say to her. “You just do.”

“Does time really heal your wounds, your heart?” asks another mother. “Do you ever get over it? “No,” I answer. You never fully heal; you never get over it; you never forget.

But you do change. As time moves forward, we can all move forward. We can do what is best for us. It may not be what we originally thought we would do, but it can still be meaningful. People have come into my life and become part of it in ways I never imagined. I thought I would always teach; I retired three years after my daughter died, but in a way, I am still teaching, teaching others how to survive a child’s death, teaching others about the grief journey. And strangely enough, as much as it may help them, it still helps me too. I continue to learn from others. I continue to grow. It is a sign I am healing…slowly and continually.

I think Bob Baugher, psychology instructor at Highline Community, said it best in an article he wrote for a bereavement magazine: My precious child…I am because of you. Your child is your child because of you. And you are the person you are today because of your child; not because of your child’s death, but because of your child’s life. He lived. She lived. You live… and who would you have been without this wonderful human being, who came into your life and changed it forever.

Those who have lost a child ask me, “What magic thing will happen to me that will make me feel better?” There is no magic. There is only time and meeting others in your same situation. Talk to them. Listen to them. Find out what they have done, how they have coped and in turn, it will help you cope.

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