I often wonder what people see when they look at me. Does my pain show on my face? Is my exhaustion apparent in how I carry myself? One woman told me that I had haunted eyes and it was difficult to hold my gaze. I can understand her point. Who wants to face the death of a child unless you absolutely have to? I wouldn’t.

I didn’t notice it immediately, but eventually the fact that people would become uncomfortable when I talked about my daughter revealed itself. They’d avert their eyes, start to fidget, and attempt to change the subject. Awkwardly cutting conversations short when they didn’t want to hear what I was saying. Many of my friends stopped calling altogether. At first, I was angry. I felt abandoned. What happened to all those who promised to “be there” whenever I needed them? I would reach out . . . but my hand would comeback empty.

For a long time, I let the anger build. I told myself that I would never treat someone else like that. But how could I be sure? Then one day, when I was outside in the sun planting flowers, I had an epiphany. My sad eyes and broken heart were just too much for some people. And that was nothing to be angry about. If I didn’t have to live in a world in which the death of children existed . . . would I choose to voluntarily? Probably not. It can be a dark and lonely existence. If all of my children were alive, would I want to be reminded, often, that child loss occurs? I doubt it. So, if I can’t be certain that I would handle the situation differently, how can I judge others?

This realization was very freeing for me. I didn’t have to carry the weight of anger toward anyone. I could just let it go. Doing so helped me to be more able to deal with the things I had control over. The things I could do something about. I couldn’t change people. I had to meet them where they were, even if they couldn’t seem to meet me where I was. In a place that is so terrifying it’s hard for them to imagine.

The sun shone a little brighter that day.

The day we realize that we are not responsible for other’s emotions, or actions, is the day we start to put all our effort toward healing ourselves. We deserve this. Women, especially, have difficulty putting themselves before others. From an early age, we are taught to be givers. We need to add ourselves to this list. Find what you need to heal and do it. Every day.

Each of us has a switch inside that we must search out and flip. The “thing” that is going to cause a shift in our thoughts and move us toward wholeness. We can have a hundred people around us, never be physically alone, but that won’t help. The work we have to do . . . we have to do in the quiet moments inside of ourselves.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t lean on others, we can. And we should. We just have to understand our hardest work will be done within our own minds and hearts.

However, search me out if you need to. I am always here.

 

 

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. Writing and painting heal me.

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