I couldn’t quite find the sunset tonight. I’m in New York with friends. It’s bittersweet: I am very happy to be here with them, but I know if Zoey was alive, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be home with her. But as I’ve said, I’m trying to live fully for her and for myself.
It is hard for me to believe that I’ve taken part in this project twice now. Last year the pain was fresh. It had only been a few weeks since we lost her. I miss her just as much. If not more. I’ve realized how long life is without her. But I still believe she’d want us to keep living and to keep telling her story. Thank you all for reading and your kind words. They have healing powers too. I have to stay focused on healing– I don’t want to get stuck. I don’t want to be angry. Whatever happens in our life, I want to know I can take it. I’m strong enough to deal with anything and that I am not alone on my journey.
What heals me? Believing my daughter would want us to be living our lives to the fullest. To laugh. To feel joy. To love. Grief will always be with me. Healing will be an ever-evolving process. I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep writing and running and raising money. Some days I’ll take extra time to just snuggle with the cat on the couch. I’ll keep visiting the ocean. I’ll keep trying new things. I’ll keep laughing. I’ll keep breathing. And I’ll always keep her in the center. In the end, all of these tools and resources mean nothing if I don’t use them. So it’s up to me to keep healing. And to live life for Zoey.
Today’s prompt is about reaching out—giving more love, kindness and compassion. I feel the best in my journey when I’m trying to help others through theirs. I know I may never write a book or start a foundation, but there are small things I can do in Zoey’s memory. Hopefully my time and energy will make a difference. It is healing for me to tell her story (maybe a little selfish, but let’s consider it a win-win).
If you’d like to help me, I am still fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network. And I am on the board of Friends of Wings: we will have an event on February 13—so mark your calendars!
Thank you to all those who have reached out to me in so many ways. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to you all. And I hope you continue your compassion with others who are hurting. You just might be the rainbow in someone’s day.
My daughter’s life changed me. My daughter’s death changed me. They walk hand in hand. I don’t think you can become a mom without a shift. And you can’t give that child back without an even bigger one. But at this moment, I think I am who I need to be. I’m where I need to be on this journey. I am trying to give myself a little grace and a little space for the changes I don’t like. For the anxiety and fear. For being scattered. Because not all of the changes have been bad. And the truth is, I feel like the core of who I am is the same. I think I am more compassionate. I understand empathy more fully. I think I am more grounded. I have a perspective on life that some may lack. I am more resilient. And I still believe that love is stronger than everything else.
There are things I do not understand in this life. And it would be easy to focus solely on the things that brought pain. But I’d be missing out on so much. I get tired and I get frustrated like everyone. Just tonight I was in Pilates and was very disappointed that I wasn’t able to do everything and couldn’t keep up with the younger, thinner girls. I know I’m older and overweight–and parts of my body creak and pop. I get frustrated that getting pregnant is not easy for me– fertility drugs don’t really help your self-esteem! But in the end, I am thankful that I can move. I can run and I show up even when I’m slow. And this body is the one that created that beautiful life and carried her safely for 42 weeks. And I am truly grateful for that.
I’m grateful for my family and friends. The ones who support me, pick me up, check in, make me laugh, slow down to run with me. I imagine that dealing with me is not an easy chore at times. I’m blessed they stick with me.
I’m grateful for the other moms in this club. I wish they weren’t here with me, but I look up to so many of them. They persevere. And the love so deeply. They are remarkable women (the dads in the club are pretty amazing too).
I’m grateful for the people at the hospitals where Zoey and I were treated. I’ve talked about them before but they continue to amaze me.
I’m grateful for my pets. They make me laugh (when they aren’t busy destroying things). And they bring me peace.
I’m grateful for my mom and grandma who taught me to be strong. To survive. To love.
I’m grateful for my husband. Sweet and loving. He supports me and believes in me. And he makes me laugh (but don’t tell him that– he’ll get a big head). We created the most beautiful child. He’s a great father to her.
And every day I’m grateful that I got to be Zoey’s mom. I’m grateful for the time we spent with her. It was all worth it.
At Zoey’s memorial service, we gave out seed paper. I planted mine, but had little luck. But my friend and her daughter planted theirs, and it actually grew. I was so excited—they are a very special part of Zoey’s life and I loved that they were able to grow a little reminder of her. I have seeds to the spider plants that remind me of my great-grandmother and I intend to plant those to see if I have better luck. It’s the same flower we stumbled on at the park we took Zoey to (and where we had our maternity photos taken). Pumpkins always remind me of my dad so I often plant pumpkin seeds. The year we found out I was pregnant; one tiny pumpkin grew on the vine. I love that I see Zoey, my dad and the others in nature. I can feel their presence. And I love that others see them too—that I get pictures from friends and family of sunsets that make them think of Zoey. It gives us a little piece of them here with us.
I’ve often wondered why some people seem to grow and almost thrive after a devastating loss or trauma and some seem to stay in place. Stuck. Is there something you’re born with? Does everything else in your life build you up for that moment? Is it taught? Can you force yourself to grow? I imagine it’s a combination of factors but I find it fascinating. I’m an active griever—I have to keep moving. I have to find outlets for my energy or I will lose my mind. I have to emotionally keep moving—reading, writing, participating in healing workshops. And staying physically active has been a healing tool for me as well. I think there’s something to learning to control your body and push it, to focus on breathing. You may not be able to control the emotions that roll over you, but you can learn to focus your reaction to it. Learn to breathe through it. Earlier tonight, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was heartbroken after leaving a family function where my nephews were all dancing and singing for us. And I knew Zoey should be there too. She should be tagging along on their adventures. When I got into the car, I cried. I could not stop the sadness from rolling in. The grief pulling at my chest. But I could breathe. And that’s what I did. It’s not always easy. I don’t always excel at it, but I’m trying. That’s how I understand grief. And how I think I can carry on without her—the pain will always be with me, but I will have to channel it in ways that are meaningful to me. I know it is not the same for everyone. Someone else may need to find different ways, but I do believe you have to be an active participant in healing. It doesn’t just happen. And I believe I’ll be able to make peace with carrying this grief with me. I don’t really see a choice, grief will always coexist in my life alongside joy. I have to choose to find the beauty in it.
I thought I’d take today’s prompt and write two letters based on the principles in the letter I wrote to Joe. One to myself. One to Zoey.
I’m Sorry. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. I hope.
I’m sorry you’re here. I’m sorry you’re writing stupid letters to yourself after losing your child. I’m sorry it’s so hard to breath sometimes. I’m sorry you’re trapped in a really crappy club (although you are among amazing people). I’m sorry you feel like you’re losing it. I’m sorry you sometimes feel like it’s your fault. I’m sorry you feel like you failed her.
I forgive you for acting irrationally at times. For forgetting things. For feeling like you don’t have it all together. I forgive you for being angry. It’s normal. You can’t say goodbye to the biggest part of your life without repercussions. Give yourself some grace. Time. Patience. I forgive you for not being able to keep her here. You know in your heart you did everything you could for that sweet baby girl. And I know that saying you forgive yourself is a world away from believing it. But keep trying. Someday you’ll make peace with it.
Thank you for giving yourself and your body over to a tiny little human. For giving her a chance. And for giving yourself a chance to grieve. To survive. To find beauty and joy again. For finding ways to honor her and say her name. Thank you for telling her story even when it makes people uncomfortable and it breaks your heart again.
I love you. Because you are surviving. And you’re telling Zoey’s story and the stories of the other ones we’ve lost. And you’re worth it. You didn’t fail her. You cuddled her and loved her and fought for her. And you made hard decisions. And they were made because of the deep love you have for her.
I hope you always understand that it was worth it. She was worth it. I hope you don’t get bitter and angry. I know you won’t ever understand why, but I hope you don’t get too wrapped up in trying to find the answer. I hope you always feel like a mom and know you’re a good mom to her. I hope you feel joy and see beauty and every emotion is stronger because you know. I hope you appreciate this life and those in it because you know how quickly it can all be lost. I hope you look at the stars above and see her. And think of her as you watch the sun set. I hope you always remember what it was like to look into those beautiful eyes. I hope you always feel her spirit and carry her with you until your last breath.
Until we meet again.
Baby girl. My love. My life. I’m sorry you couldn’t stay. I’m sorry if I ever caused you any pain. If I didn’t tell you enough how much I love you. I’m sorry if you were bored looking at our ceiling! I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you all our stories. To bake cookies with you. Watch you in your first dance recital. Graduate. Get married. You’re probably doing so many better, amazing things with your friends but I’m sorry I don’t get to tell you how wonderful you are. I’m sorry you have to see me cry. I try really hard not to tell you how much I miss you because I don’t want you to feel bad for me, but the truth is I do miss you. Every moment.
I have nothing to forgive you for. You were everything I could have dreamed. Strong. Brave. Sweet. Cuddly. Beautiful. I know you tried so hard for us. I’m so proud of you. I want to shout to everyone “Look at her! I made her! And she’s incredible!”
Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. Thank you for making me a mom. For cuddling with me and cooing for me. For kicking those sweet little feet at me. For throwing your fist in the air and scrunching your forehead. Thank you for changing hearts and showing everyone what love is supposed to look like. You were unbelievable. I am blessed to say you were mine.
I love you. To the ends of the earth and the depth of the sea. To the moon and back. I love you more than I thought I could ever love. You opened spaces in my heart I didn’t know existed.
I hope you know how much you were wanted. How much you are loved. How much we appreciate every moment we spent in your presence. I hope you know I was in awe of you every minute. That you took my breath away. That you still do.
I hope it’s beautiful where you are. I hope you run up to your grandpa grinning with paint all over your little fingers after painting the sunset each night. I hope you and the girls have the best slumber parties full of fresh baked brownies and cookie dough ice cream. I hope someone is holding your hand while you dance in a sparkly pink tutu.
And I hope I get to hold you again someday. I love you baby girl.
Until we meet again.
I wish I’d dream of Zoey. My friend has dreamt about her many times. In her dreams, Zoey is often wearing something pink and sparkly. Before my friend’s trip to Disney World, Zoey told her which rides she should go on. She’s also talked with Zoey about the Zoo. I love hearing these stories—they are things Zoey would have been talking to her about if she was still here. And I can picture her in the outfits she’s wearing in the dreams.
We haven’t figured out how to honor Zoey on her birthday and anniversary of her death yet. When both dates rolled around this year, we left town. We spent her birthday by the water. We just escaped for the anniversary of her death. I don’t know that we can always do that. Last year and this year, I’m running the Disney Princess in her memory. But again, I don’t know if I’ll always be able to do that. I’d like to find something meaningful to us that I know I can do every year. And maybe I don’t need to mark specific dates—I know I honor her throughout the year.
Every night as I lay in bed, I touch Zoey’s blanket that I keep under my pillow and say the same prayer: “Give my baby girl a kiss for me. Tell her that I love her. Please be with us, give us strength. And be with the others who need you now. Thank you for the time we had with Zoey and the gifts in our life”. And then I tell her goodnight and that I love her.