I was asked recently by a woman who has also lost someone dear to her – how do you grieve?
The truest answer is that it’s different every day. My needs change every day and so do the needs of those I love. There is no way to predict grief, no method of guaranteeing a successful day (hour or minute) missing my daughter, no timeline to follow. And so I simply try to allow grief in whenever it comes, whatever it looks like.
Loving Her Out Loud:
I write a lot (as much as I can). Bethie died at the end of October and Freddie started school in mid-January. At least twice a week while he was in school, I left our house to have coffee and write. I wrote whatever I was feeling. I gave my love, my sorrow, my devastation, and my gratitude a voice. And now I am finding more ways to share that voice.
I also talk about Bethie. I find ways to bring her up in conversation with friends and strangers alike. Family and good friends never shy away from talking about her – they bring her up as often as I do; I love this. And I live for the moments when new acquaintances ask if we have more kids “or just Freddie.” I push right past any discomfort and tell them proudly about his little sister. Brian and I make people cry often with our honesty, and I don’t mind one bit (I don’t think they do either).
I pray a lot. I pray to Bethie and to God. I also pray to saints that are special to me.
I feel devastating sorrow, but I always choose to end with gratitude and joy. Truthfully, it barely feels like a choice. She was ours. She could have been given to anyone and she was given to us. We were trusted to love her well while she was here, and part of loving her is giving thanks for exactly who she was and still is. I could never refuse this, and I don’t want to. We will always celebrate Bethie.
Aching for What Was:
I still “put Bethie to bed” each night. I walk into her room, close her windows, lean over her crib, and say goodnight to my princess. I need to tell her to have a good night’s sleep in heaven. For many months, I did the same at naptime. One day, though, it was time to leave her windows and door open, sunlight continuing to stream in, while Freddie napped a room over. Grief changes with time, and as long as I don’t try to rush anything, it simply becomes part of her story, part of loving her.
I still carefully lay clothes on Bethie’s changing table most days and imagine what she would look like in them. I run my hand over soft, well-washed cotton and recall how it felt to hold her. I choose sweet hair bows and picture the exact sweep of her baby bangs. I need her to be a part of our every day in a physical way. I am not ready to give this up yet.
When we arrived home from the hospital without her for the first time, I climbed into Bethie’s crib. Brian was in her room with me; instead of saying anything, he reached for her blanket on the ottoman and placed it over me. I don’t climb into her crib anymore, but I rest in her rocking chair covered with this same blanket most weeks. It’s what I need right now.
Grief changes with time. There is no rushing through it, no getting through and moving on to the next step. I will never grow to love living without my daughter. But I will live without my daughter. And love was never lost – love remains.