After my daughter Jeannine died almost eight years ago, I examined and re-examined my existing values, beliefs and priorities. This process was made extremely challenging by the raw pain of my early grief. I am a different person, and in many ways, a better person as a result of my struggle with Jeannine’s death. I have also learned some important lessons about unconditional love, faith, and the enduring power of relationships:
The more that we allow the universe to guide us, the more that our redefined purpose becomes clearer. Surrendering to the journey has allowed me to increasingly surrender my life to God.
We can experience joy again in a world that has forever changed because of the physical absence of our loved ones. In early grief, this seems like a totally unattainable goal. I eventually discovered that working through my pain of loss with the help of others, allowed me to make the decision to celebrate Jeannine’s life. Shared pain with others who understand that pain is a gateway to hope.
Look all around you, not just straight ahead. I have recently spent more time looking up at the sky when I am outside and/or walking. Even when the sky is at its darkest, I have noticed patches of light. Our ability to see light in the midst of darkness is key to our ability to thrive in a world without the physical presence of our children. When we walk in awareness, we can develop our own unique insights that will help us during our journeys.
Progress made is never progress lost. Sometimes the emotional roller coaster of our grief makes us lose sight of the progress that we have made along the way. Make it a point each day to celebrate progress made, no matter how big or small.
When we open ourselves up to a continuing bond with our children, that bond may transcend to others in our lives.
If we commit to working through the pain of our grief, that pain may transcend to unconditional love for others.
Pieces of Jeannine are now pieces of me. Being able to incorporate the best parts of Jeannine into my personality has allowed me to become a better person, and has enabled her to become my partner in the service work that I do with others.
“All you had to do was say hi and you had yourself a friend.” This quote was taken from Jeannine’s orientation speech that she did for incoming sixth grade students at her middle school, a speech that I found only recently. A simple, yet powerful statement that I believe applies to our journeys following the death of our children.
Every bereaved individual who says hi to us in a Compassionate Friends support group meeting or a regional or national conference is an invitation to share our pain and be companioned. Every hi is also an opportunity to make new friends and is a lifeline to love and hope.
Updated: March 25, 2015