The following is a letter I wrote in my journal to my daughter, Eleanor in the weeks following her death.
My emotions were incredibly raw at this time. As I reflect back on my words, I’m reminded of the intense, overwhelming, almost surreal pain I was experiencing; like an exposed, open wound that recreated itself all over again each time I put my pen to paper or the words left my lips. If I didn’t say it out loud or write it down, maybe it wasn’t really real. If I didn’t physically acknowledge it, then I wouldn’t be faced with the truth of what my “new normal” looked like and that it wasn’t a crazy nightmare I was waiting to wake up from.
Writing this letter was an important step for me, regardless of my intentions to keep it private or share it. It was my first real step in going through the stages of grief. It was accepting what had happened and that this was reality for our family. I still feel so strongly about much of this letter and tears stained my cheeks as I revisited my words and deep emotions to my sweet girl.
If you are not a grieving parent, it’s important for you to understand something about the grieving parent in your life that you love and are supporting: although the pain of losing a child may become less intense over time, it NEVER goes away. I have made it further along my grief journey since this letter was written, but one thing to understand is that grief is not linear. Yes, there are “stages” of grief but there is no order that it follows.
I always think of grief like the elevator at the end of the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”– how Willy Wonka explains to Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe that the elevator goes backwards and forwards, sideways and long ways and slant ways. There is absolutely no pattern and no rhyme or reason to the path that it takes, and this is exactly how a grieving parent feels. It’s a roller coaster. It’s a crazy elevator. It’s something with no end in sight. It never stops. Sure, grief can be “managed”, “accepted” and we learn how to live alongside it. But it’s important to understand that no matter how much time goes by, grief never stops.
Because grief is just love with no place to go.
My dearest Ellie Jean,
From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I knew in my heart of hearts that you were going to be special. I had no earthly idea just how special and how much of an impact you would have; not just on Daddy and I, but on SO many people, some who didn’t even get to meet you.
I will never forget your sweet sounding little cry and your little coos and grunts as you began to learn about and figure out the world around you. Your snuggles were so precious to me; I only wish I would have given you more of them… so much more.
I pray for you and talk to God about you every single day, multiple times a day. I ask Him to keep you safe and to give you all the love that He possibly can. I tell Him how much I miss you and how my heart aches with sadness that you are not here with us anymore. Although I know I should not question His will and His reasoning for things, I find myself constantly asking Him,
I struggle to find meaning in all of this; why we had to lose you and why so soon. I have so much faith in the good Lord that He will someday help us understand why He needed you so desperately that He had to take you away from us. But, until that day, my heart will continue to be broken. It will always be missing a big piece… a piece that you have with you always.
I struggle with acceptance.
I will never be able to braid your hair, play Barbies with you, paint your nails, read you fairy tales, check for monsters under your bed, help you pick out a wedding dress, or have late night heart-to-hearts with you, my sweet girl. I will always hold onto the hopes and dreams that we had for you; I know God will help us to fulfill those when we see you again, sweet angel.
I hope, more than anything, you were not afraid in the end. I hope that you did not feel alone. I hope you know how much Daddy and I tried to protect you and keep you safe. I hope you know how much we loved and still love you. I hope Jesus reached out his loving arms to you and carried you home to heaven when you were too weak and tired to carry on. I hope you felt Mommy, Daddy, Emmett and your whole family’s love for you in your 12 short days here with us on Earth.
I will never be who I once was. You have changed me, my sweet girl, in so many ways. I promise to live the rest of my life honoring you and making you proud. I promise to be the best mommy I can possibly be to your big brother and that we will always include you in every adventure we go on and every new path we take. You have made me a better, more thoughtful, insightful, persistent, compassionate individual and I will never be able to thank you enough for strengthening these qualities in me.
I will miss you forever. Please just always know that I carry you with me in all that I do, no matter where I go. You are a part of me and I am a part of you.
I love you to the ends of the earth and back again.