February is a difficult month for me as a mother. And this February in particular seems to be hitting me even harder. My daughter died three years ago, on February 3rd, 2012 from Tay-Sachs disease. She was just three years old so with this passing antithesis of a golden milestone it causes me to be painfully aware of the fact that there will come a time in the very near future when she will have been gone from this world longer than she ever was here.
As a mourning mother, I have not let myself succumb to my grief, that is to say, to let it swallow me whole. I rise, I eat, I laugh, I am productive and I do still enjoy life. I gave myself permission to do this early on in my daughter’s terminal diagnosis. Despite everyone’s reiteration of the fact that they would understand if I did, I made a choice not to give in to my grief. I decided that it would not honor my daughter’s life. And it wouldn’t be beneficial to mine, my husband’s or our older daughter’s either.
Moving past the grief itself, and understanding and accepting that I was not moving past my daughter or her life freed me of the hold it could have otherwise had on me. Relinquishing the desire to strive for the why of it all gave me peace of mind that allowed me to reflect and be thankful for the time we had with her and the wonderful blessings she brought into our lives. The wondering of the whys in life will consume you as fast as the grief itself, if you let it, and I didn’t want to live by digging myself deeper into the rabbit hole. I didn’t want to turn my daughter’s legacy into a pitiful depiction of world where, through my eyes at least, the color had faded. I certainly didn’t want to teach my older daughter that this was any way to live.
This does not mean that this choice an easy one, but it is one that I felt was necessary, if not for myself, then at least for my family. I still had a husband who needed a wife, and another daughter who needed a mother. What I found in those early days after she had passed was that my husband still needed his lunch packed for work, and my daughter still needed breakfast in the morning. I had a reason to have to get out of bed. This was my saving grace. Routinely performing these small tasks gave purpose to my life. Someone was counting on me. Someone needed me and needed something I had to offer.
Slowly but surely it became easier and easier to rise each morning and do these things. Having been a stay-at-home mom throughout our daughter’s illness I now busied myself with the domestic chores I had become accustomed to. In times of solitude and quiet reflection I broke down. I allowed myself to fully feel my feelings of grief over such an immense loss, but I didn’t allow that grief to keep me from the needs of my family. I felt this too was the best way I could support them through their own grief; to simply be present.
A family can’t survive is everyone is falling apart at the same time. I thought of my husband, who still had to go to work every day, and my daughter who still had to go to school, both in the midst of their own grief and I knew that this was where I fit to help them heal. Doing so gave accreditation to the otherwise seemingly mundane and insignificant tasks of the daily household chores. It helped me heal as well.
Little by little I found that I could incorporate more into my day. I could venture out of the house as I hadn’t before. We could experience things as a family that were not possible for us before our daughter’s death. Instead of feeling guilty over the happiness we shared with each other, we relished in our togetherness and let our happy times be a salve to our broken hearts. We leaned on each other, and there we found the strength to carry on.