As I begin this blog I feel nervous about being vulnerable and about sharing a part of life that is intimate and sacred. This is also a blog that I never thought I would be writing. A chronicle to the world about what it has been like to survive the loss of our beloved daughter, Marley. A chronicle of the survival of what it has been to live without my father and to have suffered his death so very close to the death of my child.
If you are just finding this blog and learning about my story for the first time, thank you for reading as you, the reader become part of the shared grief experience. If you have heard my story and wonder if there is anything new to learn here, I hope you’ll keep reading anyway because grief touches us all and is an inescapable part of the human condition. Our daughter was killed on September 11, 2016 when my car was hit by a drunk driver, at 9 am. In the car were both my children with me as the driver, my husband was on Bluetooth speaker talking with us all. Three months later my father suffered a stress-induced heart attack and died on December 16, 2016.
There is a part of me that wants to start at the beginning, or is the end…? There is another part of me that wants to pick up right where I am, now, with my grief and the integration of my grief into my life and the life of my family. I am going to try and do both.
I review words written in the immediate days following our tragedy. In the days so soon after losing Marley my heart was sick with grief (still is), my spirit broken with anxiety (managed and not so disabling these days) and our home filled with tension (also managed and not so disabling). Navigating a life with a partner while you are inconsolable, and while they too are inconsolable has been among the greatest of challenges throughout this experience. There is not a way, in my understanding, to single handedly support your partner while you too are in the Darkest Days. The key to our survival was the support of others. I cannot stress this enough. As one example of my paralysis and infirm from the grief, I couldn’t wash my hair. Literally, I couldn’t do it. In that state how was I to hold my husband in his Darkest Days? I had help. Help showed up. You see, when your vision is blinded by such profound grief help just needs to show up. When you are incapable of the most basic tasks, asking for what you need was like asking me to recite the Constitution. Not happening. (There is a lot to learn here for the general population. Asking a grieving person to let you know when they need something is wasted breath.) Help showed up. They showed up with love and energy to be with our pain. They showed up and washed my hair. They showed up with food and helped us keep a home that provided safety and consistency for our son.
I wrote a lot about the phenomenon of time; how time can move so slowly and so quickly simultaneously. I likened this to having just had Marley. When she was born and maternity leave was coming to an end I remember so well thinking the months had gone by so quickly, and yet so slowly as I woke with her in the night and lovingly tended to the unending needs of an infant. During the shock, days dragged on into what seemed like years and yet the last memory of holding Marley was but a breath ago. How can both be so true? This is still my experience today. Her last hug with me was a breath ago and yet the longing for her in my arms feels like a million lifetimes ago.
There was then and will always be the what if or the why us/me/her and the ultimate why couldn’t it be me who died. In the beginning these questions consumed me. I was constantly replaying that morning and all of the random choices that put us in the path of that mans truck, in the path of his toxicity and dysfunction. There are no answers. I work, daily, to integrate that reality into my thinking. There are no answers. I refuse to believe that this happened for a reason or that her death was part of a bigger plan…there are no answers. Integration of this unknown, or unknowable, is work. It is emotionally taxing, deep diving and spiritual work. I suspect this will always be the case for me.
I also wrote about prayer. So many people telling us they were praying for our family and my desperation to understand what they were actually praying for…That I would continue to live? That Marley was in Heaven? That we could re-do that tragic day? Is it just that there is comfort for those who feel so helpless in being able to do something? I appreciated the prayers, I just didn’t understand what to pray for. The worst had happened. What else is there?
I remember in those beginning days searching for another mother, like me, who had lost a child. I was desperate for a glimpse into what life would be- what to expect and I couldn’t find anything. People suggested books but I wasn’t interested in reading a book about the long journey through the deepest grief. I wanted to find something about These Days. These Darkest Days.
Here it is 3 years later and I am among those trying to write about the journey. I will continue to include my thoughts from the Darkest Days as a way for those just entering this tragic chapter to connect and know they’re not alone. I will attempt to offer a glimpse of what and how life may unfold as they navigate the searing pain of child loss. However, I acknowledge other losses may feel like the stab of a dull blade and hope that the language I use can translate beyond child loss.