Category Archives: Grief

The Victory of Love

I laugh, I cry, I scream, I fly, I sink, I swim.  It’s all the same.

I twist, I shout, I turn about every time I call your name.

And on deaf ears my words do fall, and off cracked hearts me feelings roll.

Into darkness, depth, despair, where love and pain are a kindred pair.

A gruesome scene, torn all to shreds; the elation within a mother’s head.

What once was so is so no more, and there she stands at fate’s closed door.

The hounds have come and named their price.  Her bounty ransomed, stolen yet.

Upon her knees her body falls.  Darkness kisses her eyes, now wet.

She hangs her head low in her hands, and rages at Satan’s evil demands.

For in this world she may be scorned, but soon, in death she’ll be reborn.

A fury lights within her soul and through the night in haste she rides.

When at last the light draws near and the realms of heaven and earth collide.

The battle done, her prize is won, and it in spirit she reclaims.

For through the pits of hell she’s come and nary a tinge of charring remains.

Though the lamb was slaughtered here not even death can cause her fear,

for all of Satan’s grief he hurled, the blood was shed to cleanse the world

That which by faith we onward go, for love is the victory we know,

that overcomes the world.

Tales of my Dead Daughter

Soul Pic

I was recently having a conversation with someone where I referenced my daughter and used the line; “before Miss Elliott was dead…”.  I instantly recoiled at the chastening sound of my words and began to feel as though I should apologize for not using a euphemism like the word passed instead, as society has taught us all to do in order to act mannerly.  Other than perhaps catching her a little off guard with my bluntness, I don’t think the person I was with minded at all.  And then I was annoyed at myself.

In a situation like this why would I let the feelings of others (even those only perceived or imagined) make me feel guilty over my word choice?  Was she any less living?  As if to say she had passed and was not just dead would somehow be kinder or less emotionally charged for the person hearing the words?  No matter how I put it, I still have a dead daughter.

We all use euphemisms from time to time either out of respect to those we are speaking to or to gird our own feelings, but when should we refrain?  When should we realize that to use them actually downplays the significance or magnitude of the event and that we should instead just spell it out frankly?  Give it the credence it deserves.  Does not a dead child demand such an overture?

Be thoughtful, but also be bold.  Don’t shrink away from the intensity of the situation just because it makes you uncomfortable.  Recognize it.  Respect it.  Embrace it.  Show those whom you are speaking to that you understand the level of importance this event holds in their life and honor it with your words.

I Don’t Cry For You

Soul Pic

I cry for me.

I wear my smile like a garment.  I take it off each night and carefully fold it up, setting it beside my bed.  I gently pack it into its box.  I wake and lift the lid to check and see if it’s still there.  Every day it is.  I rise, smooth it out, repair the fraying edges and put it on again every morning.  In the solace of the evening I allow myself to feel the weight of my empty arms.  To acknowledge the burden of a heart that will never numb.   To choke with each rise and fall of my chest in every breath I take.   And to smear mascara across my wet cheeks when I blot my eyes. But all day long, I smile.

I cry for me.

Because I miss you.  Because I love you.  Because you’re not here with me, and you never will be again.

In two weeks I’ll be at a conference with most of the children like you who exist in this country.  Families like ours.  Mothers, fathers, children all around who live the life I live.  I will wear my smile.  I will carry my head high.  My clothes, my fingernails, my hair, my eyelashes will be perfect.  I will look “put together”.  I will both laugh and lament.  I will both console and commiserate.  I will not hold those children.  I will be offered the chance to do so with each and every one passed around by mothers who are proud, or worried, or hurting, or desperate to connect who will speak to me and offer but I will not hold their children.  I am scared.  It hurts too much.  I know my limits.  It is the only time my smile would break.

And I would cry for me, because of you.

I cannot let that happen.  I have to be very careful with my smile.  I have to wear it every day.

The 37th Annual NTSAD Family Conference will be held April 16-19, 2015 in Reston, Virginia.  Families will gather from all across the USA and beyond to learn about research, support one another, grieve together, and just to be with those who truly understand what living life with a terminally ill child means, no explanations or apologies necessary.   To learn more, visit: 


Sorrow, Strength, and Seahawks

I’ve lived in Washington state (nearly) my whole life.  As a child my family moved here from Oklahoma, where I was born, when I was just one year old.  My husband and I traveled to Texas for his work and put in a two year stint there.  It was just long enough to get the job done before we came running back up to the Pacific North West.  Both of us having lived on the eastern side of the state before, this time we were one our way to Seattle, just about as far west as you could go.

Eastern Washington and Western Washing are two very distinct worlds all their own separated by the Cascade Mountains.  I grew up in three hundred day of sunshine a year surrounded by desert foot hills covered in sand an sagebrush.  I’ve been told that Rattlesnake mountain, just outside of town is the highest peak west of the Mississippi that doesn’t have a single tree on it.  If you don’t know much about Washington state, you’d probably never guess that we have a vast desert at the center of state itself.  Western Washington, on the other hand is a lush green oasis.  There are rivers and streams everywhere, forests so thick that you can’t see them for the trees, and mountains topped by alpine glaciers, and the cliff-lined vast Pacific Ocean.

Moving to the other side of the state, and back from Texas was an adventure.  It was January, 2008 and on the road home, I discovered I was pregnant with our second child.  New job, new place to live, new baby, oh what and adventure it would be.

Miss Elliott was born on October 3, 2008 and we would live just outside of Seattle for the next six years.  Of course, as it so often does in life the adventure we had dreamed up came to resemble nothing of what we had planned.  Miss Elliott was born with Tay-Sachs Disease and she would die on February 3, 2012.

I despise the winter.  The cold, and death it brings.  The darkness of Seattle, inundated with it’s never ending rain.  Sometimes it’s just too much to bear.  But in 2013 the Seattle Seahawks began a winning streak that was encouraging and uniting the city, giving all of us something to look forward to, and something to be proud of.  That might sound petty, or stupid, or even superficial but being a part of the synergy of the city itself was electric.  It was as if everyone came together for a common goal.  It inspired, and strengthened, and for me, it distracted.

As the Seahawks continued their winning streak and went into the playoffs I was lucky enough to go to the game in which they defeated the New Orlean’s Saints.  You couldn’t believe the roar of the crowd in Century Link field.  The intensity was palpable.  With just one game left in the post game season, if they won they would be on their way to the Super Bowl.  The previous Super Bowl had been held on February 3, 2013, and marked one year since Miss Elliott’s passing.  Some friends invited us to a party.  Loren said yes before he realized the date, but we kept our obligation and attended anyway despite my desire to remain home in bed.  In the end, I was glad for the distraction.  So this next year, as we made plans to attend their party again, on February 2, 2014, I was happy that our Seahawks were going to be playing and it gave us something positive to look forward to.

Last summer we moved away from Seattle and back to where I spent most of my childhood to what I consider to be my hometown.  Here we are in a new house, with new jobs, and a new school for Skylar, and oh yes, finally, the sun.  But now for the first time since we’ve moved, as we circle back on another year and our Hawks have done it again, I find I miss Seattle.  I miss the energy and camaraderie swirling around the atmosphere.  I miss the unification of all Seattleites in a common goal.

February 3, 2015 will mark the third anniversary of Miss Elliott’s passing.  This thought is especially troubling to me because of the fact that she passed when she was three years old.  Meaning that this year there will come a point at which she will have been gone longer than she ever was her here.  I’m happy that we’ll be going back to our friend’s Super Bowl party again this year, to be there in Seattle with the friends who knew Miss Elliott throughout her life and to cheer on our Seahawks as they defend their title of Super Bowl Champions.  I’m happy our boys made it to the big game once again.  And on February 1, 2015 I’ll once again be happy for the distraction that takes my mind off of the sorrow I feel, especially strong, at that time of year, this year in particular.

It may only be just a game, but oh, for so many people it’s so much more.  Go Hawks!

A life in Kindnesses

October 3rd tends to swoop in and cover me in an eerily unusual calm.  In the week leading up to it however, I’m a manic, grief stricken, emotional mess, inwardly.  Outwardly I’m a mess that looks exactly like a person with perfectly manicured nails, expertly applied lipstick, and a perma-grin who goes around saying “I’m fine, really, but thank you for asking”.  I find myself counting down the days until it’s over.  Counting down the days until another of my deceased daughter’s birthday’s pass and I can get on with feeling the preemptive grief of Thanksgiving and Christmas, then New Year’s, then her death date.  Then I get to swim along with eight blissful months of only my day to day grief, without some calendar specific date slapping me in the face.

This year was harder.  It was easier.  I don’t know what it was.  I just know I’m fine, and also, I hurt, all at the same time.  It’s just another day, and it’s not.  I tend to start compulsively baking, eating, making craft projects, and shopping for all of the aforementioned during this time.  Anything to take my mind of my lonely longing heart.  Sometimes the pain is multiplied when combined with fear.  Fear that she’s no longer my child, in the active sense, but just a memory to those who knew her, and worse, only a story to those who didn’t.

The thing you should know about grieving parents is that every time you want to tell family and friends about your child’s accomplishments, funny anecdotes of their behavior, or important memories you want to share, we do too.  The problem is they’re physically gone, and you’ve most likely already heard everything we have to say.  That’s one of the things that hurts me the most, I find.  I want to talk about her.  I want to tell about “the one time that…”, but there are no new stories share, no new pictures to show, nothing you haven’t heard before.  So we talk in a loop, and keep bringing them up, not to make you sad or to make you feel badly about sharing your stories and pictures, but because we desperately want to be included, and don’t want our children to be forgotten.

I firmly believe that the purpose of my Miss Elliott’s life was to spread the message that every life is valuable and important, no matter how short, and no matter how small.  I also believe that her work can continue, and that we can all help spread this message.  This year as her sixth birthday approached I decided to start a campaign I called “Six Years Six Acts for Miss Elliott”.  I challenged everyone to spend the week leading up to her birthday committing one random act of kindness per day.  I further challenged people to move outside of their comfort zone by not simply purchasing a latte at the local Starbucks, but by trying to spend little or no money a few of those days and to do something they might otherwise not.  The point of the exercise wasn’t to make it easy, it was to have some actual forethought, combine it with resolve, and take action for good.

Furthermore, I challenged individuals to reflect back at the end of the week to how their random acts of kindness affected not only the person they were kind to, but themselves as well.  I took this challenge too, of course.  And over the period of the next six days I found that on some days I used money for my kindnesses and some days I didn’t.  Sometimes I spoke to the person/people and sometimes my kindnesses were anonymous.  I also found that no matter what happened (even when certain stores refused to let me hand out my free kindnesses to customers, and I came home crying with Loren telling me her was sorry Corporate America ruined my attempt at changing the world), I gained something every time.

When I woke up on the morning of October 3rd this year, I felt relieved.  I was overwhelmed by pictures and messages of people telling me about their kindness experience.  I was blanketed in comfort which served as my armor against grief that day.  Instead of wallowing in my sadness over her absence I had made the day meaningful for not only myself, but others as well.  I don’t know how much exponential impact these kindnesses had on the world, but  I hope it gave people a reason to smile, and I know it gave my daughter’s name relevance.

Front of Card Back of Card

How To Talk To The Mom Of A Dead (Or Dying) Child

1. Don’t Tell Me How Strong You Think I Am
I didn’t choose to be strong.  I didn’t pick this path for myself.  Being strong is not the badge of honor you’re implying it is when you’re trying to compliment me and my efforts at not completely falling apart.  I’m just doing my best to carry on.  If there are others in the same position who didn’t make it as far or couldn’t handle being strong that day, don’t demean them by telling me how well I’m doing.  It doesn’t change anything, for them or for me.

2. Don’t Tell Me My Child Has Survived So Long Because I Take Such Good Care of Him/Her
The cemeteries are full of people who were “good fighters”, and children whose parents took just as good of care of them.

3. Don’t Tell Me You’re Glad You’re Not Me
Duh.  I wish I wasn’t in this position either.  Thanks for pointing out how crappy it is, I didn’t realize…

4. Don’t Tell Me You Could Never Be Me Or Do What I Do
That’s a nice thought, again intended to compliment or praise, but the truth is that none of us ever thought we could handle something like this and more realistically still…you’re only saying this because just don’t want to imagine having to.  It’s a natural defense, the inability to conceive of such a notion, but unfortunately I don’t have the luxury myself.

5. Don’t Talk About How Things Will Be “When This Is Over”
I don’t know how things will be, so you certainly don’t know how things will be.  Furthermore, I can guarantee, that for any parent living through the terminal illness of their child “this” being over is unfathomable because that means their child will be gone.

6. Don’t Tell Me He’s/She’s In A Better Place
Assuming you know me well enough to know my religious beliefs, even so, please refrain from offering this useless platitude.  For a mother facing the loss, or impending loss of her child, even one who believes in the idea of a better place, this does not help.  What the mind can logically process the heart can never truly understand, and for that reason it will never feel ok that our children are not here with us and in our arms.

7.  Don’t Tell Me You Understand
Unless you’ve lived the same life as me and suffered the same loss that I have, please, don’t ever tell me you understand.  It doesn’t matter to me that your cousin, or parent, or dog died.  It’s not the same. Even as another mother, your mind may allow you enough logic and reason to comprehend what the loss of a child is, but I tell you truly, you will never know what it is I feel.

8. Don’t Tell Me It Will Be Ok
You don’t know that, and for some of us it isn’t. Don’t downplay the magnitude of this trial.

9. Don’t Tell Me It’s Time…For Anything
There will be no “moving on”, there will only be moving past.  Don’t tell me, based on your narrow outside view when it’s time for me to stop crying, start working, laugh more, yell less, go out, be social, or act “normal” again.  I can’t predict when I’ll be ok doing those things, and you don’t have the authority to decide for me.

What you can do is:

1. Just Be There
Don’t stop coming around because it’s difficult for you.  I’m sorry that it’s a sad situation.  I’m sorry you don’t know how to talk to me.  I’m sorry you’re sorry.  I may not be best company, or the funnest party goer, but I don’t want to lose the people around me on top of losing my child just because it’s hard for you. I don’t want to be forgotten about.

2.  Let Me Be, Let Me Feel
Don’t try to cheer me up or lighten the mood.  Sometimes a mood shouldn’t be lightened.  I need to process my feelings and get through my grief in my own way at my own pace.  Sadness is a big part of loss, I won’t be happy all the time.  Conversely, if I am happy, please let me feel my way through that as well.  These emotions may change very quickly and I may experience them at inconvenient times, but it’s all part of the challenges of my learning to live life in a new way.

3. Tell Me About Your Problems
I still care about what’s going on in your life.  I still want to be included in what’s happening around me.  Yes, I’m dealing with something big, but it doesn’t meant that I don’t recognize struggles of any size.  You don’t have to keep things from me because you think I already have enough to worry about

4.  Don’t Ask What You Can Do For Me, Just Do
Yes, my laundry needs done, yes my grass needs mowed, yes, dinner needs to be cooked…no, I won’t ask you for any of it.  And chances are that when you ask if I need anything, I say “Oh that’s ok, I’m fine.”  Just bring a meal, come mow the yard, make arrangements for my husband and I to have a night out, give me a gift certificate for a massage, take me to get a pedicure, include our other children in activities. Show me that you care about me even when I can’t reciprocate.

5. Don’t Forget About Us Down The Road
When a crisis hits people tend to rally, and fast, but ever so slowly they taper off and the large group surrounding you offering support diminishes.  A year or two or even more on we still need to know that you think about us, that you remember our situation, that you still care.  As time goes on our trials may be different, but trials we will still have.  No one ever wants to look up and feel deserted.  Keep checking in with us, and keep showing us you’re still there for us.

6. Say My Child’s Name
It will not upset me.  I will not be hurt.  I did not forget that he/she died.  Show me that you didn’t either.  Say their name, it’s music to my ears.  Give me a reason to talk about him/her.  I need to know that’s it’s ok to say his/her name to you.  I think about my child as much as you think about yours.  You may have already heard the stories and seen the pictures, but please let me keep sharing his/her life with you.  I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, but he/she is a person who existed, and I need to know that you remember that.

If you’ve lived through the loss of a child yourself, I invite you to respond to this post with information regarding what experiences from friends and family helped you, as well as what didn’t.

Miss Elliott, age two, in her mother’s arms. October, 2010.

Ever Will I Search For You

Even for those who believe that their loved one has moved on to a better place i.e.: Heaven, there can be difficulties in accepting and understanding the bodily separation of that person, combined with their spiritual existence somewhere else, somewhere that is intangible to the living.

Please do not misread the passage below and interpret it as an example of “red flag” so-to-speak in the direness of grief, or take it as my expression of the want for my life to be over.  This is not the case.  I have written extensively on the ability to carry on with life, through grief and even to be happy and productive.  The purpose of this poem is merely to express one aspect of how grief affects the life of those still living through the loss of a loved one-even the happy and productive people.  Grief is carried with you through it all.


Time holds no other place in my effort than to be a roadblock in my search.
You were relinquished from all known existence like the setting sun across the horizon.
At that time my heart beat slowed, the muscle itself atrophied and it grew cold and dark within my chest.
The life seeped from my pores and vaporized into the swirling air before my eyes.
The wind carried it silently away.

My blood drained out from invisible wounds and my body turned to stone.
You had vanished and suddenly no one could tell your life had ever occurred.
But the memories of you streak the remnants of my mind with warmth and golden light illuminating the dark passageways to my heart.

Alone, I traverse the depths of Hell in your absence.
I am trudging my path back to you through the labyrinth of a left-over life.
The hounds howl and the mist grows thick.
Fires burn in the distance.
I choke on their smoke.
Great vines encompass my feet, encircling my legs and tightening their hold with every step I take.
My presence is fleeting and it also is final, but my endurance as well as resolve strengthens through every maneuver.

My breath is heavy and my empty arms ache of their weightiness.
To four corners and back I have been.
On what plain do your reside?
Are you there?  Where?
My mind, as fragile now as a pile of ashes swept away by the breeze.

I am a prisoner of this body and of this life itself.
Only in death, will my freedom come.
Only then, will my shackles be broken.
Only then, will the answers I search for be made known to me.
Are you waiting?

Will you remember me?
Have you moved on?
Is there a place for me beside you?
Can you see me now?

I dreamt of you once in horrific detail.
A betrayal of my consciousness.
I awoke and you were not there.
It was a knife in my already inadequate heart.
I pleaded unsuccessfully with my mind to take me back to my state of slumber.
When will I never again be forced to leave that magical enfoldment?

When will the sight of you be a reality once more?



The Sunday We didn’t go to Church

Two years ago this July I received an unexpected phone call from one of my very dear friends who was in somewhat of a panic.  A panic only someone in my position could fully understand.  Her daughter was turning sixteen and she needed a favor for her birthday.  There was no party planned, no driver’s license test to be taken, or presents waiting to be opened.  There was only the grave of a little girl who had died when she was just five years old.

“It doesn’t hit me like this every year,” she said.  “It’s just that it’s her sixteenth birthday and I can’t be there to be with her.  I’d ask my sister but she’s gone too.”  My friend lives far away from where her daughter was buried, here in Seattle, all those years ago and even though her sister, usually able to be there, happened to be out of town as well.

“Would you mind taking some flowers to her?” she asked me.

She asked because she knew I’d understand.  Not because I could logically comprehend what that must feel like, but I would understand because I was in the same position.  Even though I had never met her daughter, she had died of Tay-Sachs disease just like my Miss Elliott had and we had been brought together in recent years in our shared losses.  My own daughter was buried at such a tender age and I too would one day be missing those parties, presents, and milestones.  I would be suffering the same heartache she was.

It was a Saturday when she called.  Part of her panic was that time was ticking away.  Her daughter’s birthday would be here the very next day and she just needed someone to be with her.  She couldn’t stand the thought of her daughter being alone on such a special day.  At this point, my Miss Elliott had been gone for just five months, and I had yet to have to celebrate one of her birthday’s posthumously, but I knew what she meant about not all birthdays hitting her like this.  I knew that her grief comes and goes in waves, but always lingers under the surface of the veil of functionality.  Today, it was ripping right through it.  Today, it was breaking her down.

Of course I would go.  We would leave in the morning, drive into the city, and navigate our way through the maze of the cemetery to her grave.

I heard a parable once that went like this:  A boy and his mother were on their way to church.  They stopped because they saw a motorist out of gas on the side of the road.  When the mother pulled the car over the boy questioned her, asking “Mother, if we stop to help, won’t we be late for church?”  “Son, if we don’t stop to help, there’s no point in going to church at all,” his mother replied.

What’s the point of a relentless and intensive study of life’s guidebook if you forget to look up and put it into practice once in a while?

That Sunday we did not go to church.  We picked up the flowers from the florist and drove to the cemetery.  We walked as a family to her grave and carefully placed the flowers on her bench.  We did our best to honor this so-loved child.  We wept for her, for her mother, for her brother and father.  We wept for Miss Elliott, and for ourselves.

I knew I would call someone in a panic myself one day.  I will need someone to bring flowers to my Miss Elliott at some point too.  We will all be in the position of needing help from others to some extent at some point in our lives.  Thank goodness for the kindness of the motorist who notices you standing on the side of the road and slows down to help.

This year her daughter would have been attending her senior prom.  She would be graduating right now.  She would be turning eighteen next month.  Soon she would be off to college to start a new chapter in her life.  Glowing with the excitement of young adulthood.  Buzzing with the energy to make her way in the world.  Unfortunately for her, it was a life that never was to be.  In the hearts the mind’s eye of her family, those who love her, and all who were here for her as she left this world behind, she will forever be that five year old little girl.

That Sunday we didn’t go to church, but we put into action the sentiment behind the words in The Good Book, nonetheless.


What if it Does Get “Better”?

I think that most of us tend to think of grief in linear terms.  Meaning that you go through it in continuation.  That you live through its process and come out the other side someday (hopefully) absolved of the grief itself to resume your once held life.  No one ever tells you, especially when you consider all the ideas thrown out to us about grief, those that explain the steps in the process or the emotions you’re likely to encounter, that the process itself may be one jumbled up game of hopscotch.  You may find yourself bouncing back from ten to two then back up to six.  There’s nothing linear about grief at all.  Grief is a knotted up skein of emotion.  Sometimes the harder you try to untangle it, the more gnarled it becomes.  Usually it’s just when you think you’re making progress that you find a whole new entanglement.

My grief attacks me regularly.  It penetrates my thoughts and feelings daily.  Sometimes it’s overt and obvious, and sometimes it sneaks up on me from out of the blue in the most contrived of ways.  How could it not, I ask?  I lost a child, after all.  Not a parent, not a sibling, not a fetus.  A three year old child.  My child.  A little girl with green eyes, golden hair, a name and a personality. Is there anything worse?  Consciously as well as subconsciously the grief of my loss is part of my every single day, but the one thing my grief doesn’t do is hold me hostage.  I am not beholden to it.  I will not be.  That is my choice.  A choice we all have in life, but one where a reason to sway you from one side to the other must first be a catalyst in choosing your position.

I laugh.  I smile.  I enjoy life.  I am alive.  I’m social.  I’m present.  I’m “tuned in”, you could say.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing too good.  I’ve asked myself if I’m too okay before.  For some reason it just doesn’t seem, normal to not be circling the drain in a constant state of despair.  Why is this?  Is it what society tells me I should feel?  Is it friends or family?  Is it what I’ve seen of others in a similar situation?  Why I am not completely broken down?  Why am I functioning so well?  I wasn’t dreading Mother’s Day at all.  I didn’t feel particularly more bad on that day than I do any of the other days a year.  To me, holidays are like bonus days or party days with a lot of distraction surrounding them.  I miss my Miss Elliott more in the monotonous moments in life.  On random Tuesdays as I fold laundry in front of the television.  I imagine her sitting beside me, plopped on the couch with a string cheese in one hand and Teddy Grahams in the other.  I told my friend I felt this way.  I told her that I felt like my grief was tricking me into feeling worse for not feeling bad enough.  Like I must not be feeling my feelings strongly enough if I don’t experience that can’t eat, can’t sleep need-to-be-medicated-to-get-through-the-day state of existence.

I feel comfortable discussing these things with her, because like me, she lost a child too.  She told me that it was ok that I didn’t feel that way, that it was a good thing, and that she doesn’t feel that way either.  I knew she wouldn’t, which is probably why I confided in her in the first place.  After all, most of the time all we really want is someone to agree with us and tell us we’re not crazy.  She told me that even though she “gets” why they do it, that some people will make losing a child the only thing that defines them, and that that’s just not either of us.  We refuse to fall victim to that mentality.

I never want anyone to think of me as “that lady that lost her child”.  Mainly because I don’t want any pity.  I miss her terribly, so much it physically hurts, but my friend was right.  Even though that is and always will be a part of me, I’m so much more than just that.  It doesn’t define the whole of who I am.  I certainly won’t find a way to honor my daughter’s life at the bottom of a bottle, be it for pills or alcohol wallowing in my self-absorbed pain.  It’s not how I operate, thank goodness.  I am lucky.  I can get through the day without those things.  I owe it to my daughter to live my life because I’m still here, still present.

I write and I speak.  I tell people about her beautiful and amazing life.  I tell them all the things I learned from her and how she changed and inspired our lives. I don’t think grief has to get better or go away.  I do all these things to carry on her legacy and to honor her and her life even while carrying grief.  I think each and every person who experiences grief, on whatever level they experience it, needs to come to terms with the place it holds in their life and rectify that hold, if necessary to find the healthiest way to move forward – not on, just forward.  The grief will always be there, but it doesn’t have to hold you back from living the life you still have left.

It may not get “better”, per se, but for me the fact that I’m still here is pretty good in and of itself.

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To learn more about Miss Elliott’s beautiful life, you can purchase your copy of her book:
Three Short Years: Life Lessons in the Death of My Child, here:


A Cold, Dark and Desolate Place

As Eater has come and now gone, I think back to all the pictures I see of families who visit their child’s grave and decorate for every season and holiday that passes by.  Each flower or trinket so carefully placed atop the patch of earth concealing their children’s once precious and delicate bodies.  A child so loved.  An expression of that love that continues well past the length of their terrestrial life.  These parents are there to respect their children’s physical vessel, to honor and incorporate them into their celebrations, and to keep them present in their own lives, as they’re forced to celebrate such occasions without them.

I didn’t visit the cemetery yesterday.  Actually, I don’t visit the cemetery at all.  I don’t lay flowers at Miss Elliott’s headstone, or even Easter eggs, Christmas poinsettias, or Halloween pumpkins.  I just don’t go there.  The cemetery is a cold, dark, and desolate place to me.  I don’t feel her presence there.  I can’t picture her there.  She’s not there.  I tired, out of respect and obligation, at least at first, to go and take part in all the typical and expected forms of displays of mourning.  I took flowers, a stuffed lamb for Easter, little angel trinkets, butterflies, and even balloons on her birthday, but every time I went I hated being there.  The hardest part was leaving.  Driving away each time after a visit was as excruciating as they day of her funeral, when I had to drive away and leave her there, never to see her beautiful body again.  That body that I had protectively held so close for hours each day, the hair I had stroked softly with my hands, the tiny fingers I held in my own.  I would never lay my eyes on any part of her ever again.  Those fingers of mine, which now sat idle begged to betray my mind and claw at the earth covering her body below.  I wanted so badly to dig down to expose the four-foot pink casket that lay under the soil, and open it up to reclaim my perfect child.  It disgusted me to know she (her body) was trapped down there forever.  If I couldn’t get to her to hold her and be with her, why then did I come at all?

She’s not there.  She’s with God.  She’s with me.  She’s in my heart.  She’s in this house.  Casa de Elliott; as I named our home when we purchased it. The home where she lived and died.  Her bottles are in the cupboard.  He clothes hang in the closet.  Her memory flows through the walls.  This home represents her life.  The cemetery represents her death.  So how will I feel to move away from her?  Right now, her grave is within walking distance of our home.  Is it a comfort that even though she’s not there, she’s so close?  Will I walk away without a second thought as I intend to, or will I miss the cemetery when we move away?  I suspect the latter.  I suspect that even unconsciously the proximity of her body itself has always been a comfort to me.

We’ve recently decided to pick up and move away.  We’re giving ourselves a fresh start and some much needed change.  We’re excited at all the possibilities this move has to offer our family  Our move will take us not too far away, but we won’t stay too close either.  We’ll be around two hundred miles from where we are now.  I don’t feel apprehensive about leaving her grave behind at all, but even that thought is worrisome.  Grief can masquerade as many things in your life and trick you into thinking you understand or are okay with that which you in fact do not/are not.  There’re so many thing we take for granted in this life and don’t miss at all until they’re gone.  I wonder if a grave is one of them?