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A Heart Never Forgets

Darkest hour…

For years I lamented about how I never got to say goodbye to Alyssa. Our family had been together just hours before celebrating my niece Alana’s 12th birthday. And although it never registered until just now, in a video of Alyssa leaving the party, my last words to her were “be careful, I love you and goodbye”!

Four hours later, two officers showed up at our door with one of them holding her purse… No words were necessary.

Be still my heart…

Alyssa Dawn came into this world with deep brown eyes, full cheeks, and a button nose; all nine pounds, one ounce of her. She walked with a bounce in her step, had a beautiful heart-shaped face and contagious smile that lit up any room she walked into and was generous to a fault. The world is a much sadder place without her light shining in it.

To a child, a mother works small miracles every day. She can kiss a boo-boo and make it feel instantly better. She will nurse a skinned up knee and bake a birthday cake from scratch. And to a child, it’s pure magic!

An otherwise gentle and normal human being will immediately morph into a bone-crushing animal anytime anyone or anything appears to threaten her cubs. A mother has the ability to perform any number of seemingly supernatural wonders on any given day, but unfortunately she cannot mend the broken heart of a child or, likewise, her own.

A favorite verse, ministering in my own grief journey has been; Psalm 34:18. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This truth was sorely tested when Alyssa, at 19 years old, while a passenger in a vehicle was ejected and died at the scene.

Up close and personal…

I did everything in my own power to protect my daughter and, still, it was not enough to keep her here. This landed me up close and personal in the crosshairs of grief. I was being whipped around and run aground by harsh winds of emotion and there was not a single thing I could do about it. But somehow I had to find a way to muck my way through. I can’t imagine how anyone manages without faith as a lifeline. To me, this would be like attempting to breathe underwater. I vaguely recall so much of this time as if lost in a thick fog, yet I am also very keenly aware of it, like a hot poker or branding iron searing my skin.

Early on, we were introduced to TCF. What we experienced and learned through this was very insightful and helpful to us. One of the most comforting thoughts for me is the assurance we will never walk alone. I truly believe we are in a battle for our lives; however, this does not mean we have to remain in the trenches alone.

Sharing our thoughts and emotions in a safe place among others who were either newly bereaved or further along in their own grief journey was a lifeline for us. They affirmed there is no blueprint for grief and that feelings are neither right nor wrong.

I have run the gambit of emotions and just when I think I have covered some ground and am making headway, I digress, finding myself back where I started from earlier on. I love roller coasters, but this is one ride I never thought I’d find myself stuck on. It has been almost 16 years since Alyssa died and I assure you I am most definitely past the denial stage. Presently, I think maybe I’m in the acceptance phase. However, ask me tomorrow and my answer may not be the same. And what we learned from TCF is that this is all normal.

After attending meetings for several years, my husband and I served as our area TCF leaders. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says; He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us!

The worst nightmare…

One thing I always said about my own girls, if something happens to either one of them, just shove me in after and pile on the dirt.

We go through life hoping, praying and believing our children would not and should not die before we do as parents. But, tragically and sadly, so often they do. You may be facing your darkest hour… your worst nightmare has come true. You tell yourself you can’t go on and you’ll never make it through another day. Your will to live, all desire is gone, and minute by minute is the most you can do. If you’re walking through fire and flood right now do not expect any more of yourself than you can give. Time is your mainstay and friend. Those of you newly bereaved will most likely find it hard to believe you will ever smile or be anywhere near happy again. At the onset, it takes all you’ve got simply to breathe, let alone sing a ‘new song’, but I’m living proof there is hope and this is not the end… your story or mine.

I really do not believe there is a silver lining to Alyssa’s loss, but I do know she would not want me to go around somber-faced trying to prove I loved her. Nor do I feel it is a disservice to a loved one’s memory if and when we smile and finally enjoy life again. I believe it is a shortage to do otherwise and also that they deserve better from us. At first, it is all we can do to get out of bed. And like any life-altering catastrophe, we must learn to crawl before we will ever walk again.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

I spent the first six months in my pj’s and didn’t get out of bed unless I absolutely had to. And only then tending to basic necessities and immediately returning to the comfort of my bed afterward. I talked to God constantly and did a lot of reading and writing. I did not push myself to do anything I was not capable of or ready for. I was determined early on not to be stuck in my grief, yet I did not set specific goals for digging or climbing my way out. This does not have to be something you plan literally or even do consciously. Aside from possibly listening to uplifting music, hearing someone speak on the subject, taking a healthy walk, talking about it and talking some more or whatever method works best for you.

As with anything we do in life, it is also with grief. Setting our expectations too high will set us up for disappointment. Too low and we are not stretching at all and everything at this level is simply routine. In typical goal setting, this is a recipe for failure, but in grieving we must allow ourselves the luxury of time. By setting goals at a level feasibly attainable, we will not be expecting too much of ourselves too soon.

Grieve!…

Take all the time you need and don’t allow anyone else to put a time constraint around it. Unfortunately, it is yours, own it, but do whatever it takes to move forward. Find a way and reason to live again. No, you will never get over it! It will always be a part of who you are, but it does not have to define you.

I may not know you personally, but I do know the human spirit and its ability to prevail and overcome. I’m convinced you, too, have what it takes, not only for moving forward but also for coming out on the other side.

 

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