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She came from stardust and to stardust she returned.
With every breath there was joy,
Each day a gift.
She who infused the mundane with magic,
Who wove words into song.

Do not speak of her in hushed tones.
She deserves nothing less than a roar.
Fill your heart with bold and daring,
Send sparks flying!
This is the only way to honor her spirit.

Happy fourteenth birthday, Zev. You are, and always will be, the great love of my life.

image

In this photo I see hints of the young woman she was to become. The future twinkling in her eyes.

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“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”      Albert Einstein

Where do we exist before we are conceived within our mother’s womb? As energy, pure potential; everywhere and nowhere at once.

All matter comes from particles of stars that existed billions of years ago. We are born of stardust and passion. (Or at least that is how my romantic nature chooses to see it.)

When we die, our bodies return to the earth, merging with the dirt and the dust from whence we came. And our energy transfers back to the swirling ether of the great void.

To me this is poetic and logical simultaneously. What could be better?

Thinking that our loved ones who have departed this world are now watching us suffer while they themselves live on in Heaven, a supposed place of peace and reward? How could one possibly be tranquil or joyful with the knowledge that their beloved remain struggling and suffering through the rest of their lives? Or even the reality of suffering on a global level? I find that to be a truly hellish idea.

It is strange how perceptions and feelings morph over time when grieving for those that have gone before us… Immediately following Zev’s death, I could find no way to reconcile myself in what had happened or where she had gone. I was too wrought with worry and despair; overcome with the obsessive thought “is my child okay?!” For, when a parent is separated from their child, it is natural for them to feel worry or at the least question the well being of the child. And when it is not possible to know, the mind tries desperately to answer the unanswerable, creating stories that will fill the gap, like puzzle pieces completing a picture.

Now, years later, I find it reassuring to think of her as existing everywhere and nowhere all at once. She is in the air that I breathe, her DNA lives within my body.

Romantically and poetically I would say her voice is in the wind, her beauty seen in the trees and flowers, her generous spirit the bright sun and her soft nature that of moonbeams.

There are times when I wonder what people think of us bereaved parents who are far enough along the grieving journey that we can be grateful, smile and mean it, or spread positivity to anyone nearby.

I am certain some think “how is that possible”?

From my perspective, it becomes a choice. Once you emerge from the numbing shock that serves as a buffer, allowing you to survive the first few weeks or months, you then contend with the fresh hell that is sharp grief, utter anguish; a deep dark pit of sorrow, guilt, rage and misery. For most, this will be where they exist for years.

The world spins and life goes on around you, leaving you to wonder how ‘they’ can carry on when your precious child has been ripped away. Some will languish in despair and die of a broken heart, others will self medicate to the point of checking out completely, others will continue to go through the motions while inside they are dead. And still others will scratch, claw and fight their way to the light, clutching at whatever source of stability, compassion or hope they manage to come across.

It is a daily struggle that appears insurmountable. Chipping away bit by bit, two steps forward, one step back, you eventually gain traction. One day you might notice yourself smiling as a memory of your dearly departed comes to you, or a song makes your heart feel momentarily lighter, when it previously sunk like a stone. And in time, choosing to honor your child and live as you know they would want you to, the sharp stabbing becomes more of an ache and a longing less intense. There are still days, as there always will be, that are painful and difficult; when all you want to do is cry or sleep. 

And yet, it can be that years down the road you find joy and delight are once again possible. I am grateful that I was able to draw upon my connection with Zev and use it to propel me forward, through oceans of heartache and rivers of bloody anger. *

Many say things like “you’re so strong”… While I won’t argue that there is absolutely strength to be mustered if you choose the path of reclaiming your life after your child has died, I will say that, even more so, it takes immense amounts of vulnerability. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the face of such a loss is tremendously difficult. We are hard wired to protect ourselves from hurt. But in order to experience life’s great joys, we must be willing to risk the possibility of being crushed again by pain and sorrow. To rise from a place of suffering to a place of wholeheartedness IS possible; it takes courage and a willingness to be open, to be vulnerable.

* I am also immensely grateful for the support I received from my family and friends, and the fellow bereaved parents I met along the way; all necessary components that contributed to me being where I am today.

Strength comes with the breaking apart
in the quiet spaces in between
what once was and what never will be again

Atomic particles, star dust
flown on the winds of time
whispering of your love

Fragile and delicate
yet immortal in your essence
encompassing nothing, everything

The brain tells little lies
of should and would and could
poisoning, staining

Echoes deep within
this chasm of my heart
she was and she will always be

To a child, mother’s arms are an extension of her love
With them she holds the world

They provide comfort and security
A feeling of being protected

Her warm embrace washes away doubts, fears, pain and sorrow
In mother’s arms is a safe, happy place

To a mother, holding her child is tantamount to pure joy
With them she guides, protects and cares for her child

Arms wrapped around her little one brings tranquility
Her heart and soul overflowing with love

There is nothing else like the exchange of unconditional love through a hug between mother and child.

And thus, the deep ache when they are empty becomes a chasm of anguish.

A mother’s arms should never be empty…

My dearest Zev,

After an emotionally turbulent week full of rage and anguish, I was given a day of grace.

Walking in the woods, surrounded by the tranquil stillness; I felt like a young babe being held safe in the arms of mother. The air was cool, a soft breeze coming and going like the ebb and flow of life… birth and death; back and forth. Round and round.

I miss you with a fierce ache, unmatched by any longing I have ever felt. And yet, walking through the forest today, in turns of sunshine and shade, I felt calm, even hopeful… I found myself looking forward to the warmth of spring and summer; sharing time with Zoe, delighting together in the beauty of our world. The last time I remember feeling true joy, and the kind of hope that runs with your blood, was when you were alive. I felt that every day with you.

Having your sister here is a salve to my pain. And I promise you that I will tell her about you every day that I am alive. She will feel as though she knows you. I will plant your love like a seed and watch it grow from her heart.

All my love, always,

Mama

Never before have I been able to live in the present so well or so eagerly; treasuring the now. I am acutely aware that every moment I have with Zoe is a gift.

Each smile fills me with immaculate joy; pure magic.

This is my purpose, my raison d’être. I know this as sure as I know the sun will rise tomorrow.

I am filled to overflowing. Love of mother for child now has a physical outlet. Being able to snuggle, cuddle, kiss and hold my baby is like a magnetic force, slowly pulling the shattered peices of me back together.

I still miss Zev every single day; that will never change. My love for her is strong and true; it will not fade.

Now, my insides bask in the glow of motherhood once again. I feel whole. The longing I feel is still there, but lessened in having a child to nurture and hold in my arms. Holding this little being close to my chest, created from within my womb, is pure magic. I treasure all the small moments, the bright smiles and giggles, the soft touch, even the hardships of caring for one so fragile and helpless.

I treasured Zev and I made sure she knew I loved her every day, but this time it is different. This time I know the anguish of loss. This time I will not take one second for granted. I will make all of it count. I am enormously grateful.

My urge to mother, nurture, teach and love are being rekindled and it fills me with a joy as vast as the seven seas.

Happy Birthday to the light of my life, my darling Zevie girl. My heart aches with the heaviness of separation from you. The tears are hot and bitter. And yet, this day thirteen years ago was full of so much joy. My world is forever changed because you came into it. Thank you for being my bright star. I treasure the love we share in my heart always.

Today is also the first day in months that I have sat and sobbed, fully feeling the sorrow in my heart. Attempting to imagine you at thirteen is difficult and yet at the same time I feel I know exactly who you would be – fierce, sweet, thoughtful, brilliant, hard-working, gorgeous and full of passion for life. All the qualities you always embodied, only older and taller.

Looking at photos of us together and ones of you brought me to my knees this morning. I miss having you here to shower with love. I miss watching you engage with the world, devour knowledge in your quest to learn. I miss hugging you tight and kissing your soft skin. I miss you so much if I concentrate on it one hundred percent, I fear I shall break under the weight of separation.

My love for you never wanes; it is as constant as the rising and setting of the sun and as deep as the vast blue oceans.

Remembering and honoring you always,

Mom

While on my walk today, pondering the pleasant mood I’ve maintained these last few months, I was reminded of a post I wrote one year after Zev died. It was a poem that, to me, was so very dark and utterly without hope that I still think of it as a sort of milestone of anguish; the epitome of the cloud that followed me everywhere, and every day, for so long.

Contemplating that darkness, it astonishes me how far I have come… healing and growing through my grieving.

A large part of this is surrender and acceptance. I believe I have finally reached a place where I know deep down there can be no bargaining with the universe. No amount of longing, pleading or wishing can change my reality.

The other component is hope. Without hope for the future, are we truly living our lives?

Somehow in the tearful and anger-filled days the first couple of years after her death, I managed to make the conscious choice to return to living my life. Not simply to exist and survive, toiling through endless days of the same meaningless dribble and routine. But rather to live with purpose and hope; to give meaning to my place in this world and strive to make a positive impact.

That feels like my first step on this journey of a thousand…