Christmas is fast approaching and this time of year is especially hard when those we love have died. Each holiday is a reminder of the loss. I remember thinking in the initial months after Rehtaeh died that I can’t live with this type of pain.I have had my share of pain and loss in my life but nothing compared…nothing! Looking at the eyes of strangers also was a reminder of my pain. People felt extremely uncomfortable around me and I understand that look. It was the same look that I had on my face. This pain was like nothing I ever felt before and people who have lost children were telling me that it would change in time and that it would get “better”. I thought “No, it won’t I’m going to feel this pain for MY child forever.”
It was almost like the amount of pain was a measurement of depth of love for my child. Holding that level of pain was like saying I hurt this deeply because I love her so deeply. It is true when you love deeply you hurt deeply but holding the pain as a measure of love is not a healthy expression in the long haul. It took a long time to unravel this part of my pain and the concept of “holding”. The truth is the pain really does change. The numbness wears off and your left raw and extremely emotional and its usually at a time when people think you should be doing better.
The days turn into months and some days life is normal again. The pain hits out of the blue as you pick up your child’s favourite treat at the grocery store then realize what you just did. It hits when a complete stranger walks up to you to say “thank you so much for all you do because of you I feel my three daughters have a better chance in life.” It hits when you are in a yoga class speaking of the Heart chakra and your mind wanders off and a reminder appears …there is a child walking around right now with Rehtaeh’s heart living/beating in someone else’s body. I know it’s a personal journey for everyone but I do know we all have these moments that smack us at the very core of who we are. They smack us so hard and the pain does not care where we are when it happens.
However, fortunately for me I no longer feel that I have to equate pain to love. I will always love her and every parent that lost a child will always love them deeply. That will NEVER change.There is no such thing as you loving your child more than I do because you are holding onto the pain longer or deeper. In fact not moving at all in the grieve is not love at all. Love is being able to embrace that grief in a way to move and I don’t mean move forward without her/him. When people mentioned “moving forward” I felt like they were saying I needed to let go of my past with my daughter. I cringed when I heard that term. Thankfully, that has changed for me and now “moving forward” means moving in a way that honours her life, bringing my love/memories of her with me and growing emotionally while saying, “Rehtaeh gave me this gift to me”. What is the gift she gave me? She gave me the gift to see my inner strength rise from the ashes of grief. Rehtaeh gave me insight to follow my spiritual path. She gave me the ability to believe she is with me just in another form and most importantly Rehtaeh gave me the ability and courage to find another way to love.
I still have bad days and I have other days I feel light and free from my mind. I have days where I can’t believe this is my life. That the girl in the news is my girl.The reason I am able to live and express myself is because I dove into grief and I asked to feel it. I asked to show me another way to live without Rehtaeh in my life. So I say to you..please don’t hold the grief so tight and think it’s your way of loving your child with all of who you are. You are so much more. This Christmas season as hard as it may hit you and for whatever the reason please know that honouring the person you are is the very best gift you can give yourself and everyone around you.
Last year I was unable to open Christmas boxes filled with memories and ornaments and everything that reminded me of Rehtaeh. This year I opened them and the first card I picked up was from Rehtaeh on our last Christmas together. The first ornament was her very first one – the year she was born. It hit me emotionally for a few moments and the pain was sharp but then I reminded myself that I was meant to see these two items first to embrace the love we shared. I was blessed to have her in my life and it never ends. Love never ends.