I gave birth today.
It was the longest labor I've ever endured.
Like all labors, it was born of love. A love story between a mother and a daughter. The contractions were difficult and painful at times. The process long. The rest periods between the contractions welcome opportunities to recharge, collect myself, shift my focus and redirect myself to my purpose.
Transition was fast and furious these past few months, with everything falling into place and happening in the way you dream of. Until the very end. Surprises. Unexpected changes in plan. Stuck at 10 centimeters for so... very... long. Interventions needed? No, just wait patiently and let the process unfold. Don't rush it, Kim. All in good time.
Time to reflect...
Unlike other labors, my gift was not a beautiful child. No, I already had that. She died almost 10 years ago. My labor began the day she died.
The day my daughter died, I was thrown into a deep, dark, abyss where a storm raged in and around me, relentlessly. It hurt. So. Damn. Much. How I didn't die myself from the pain of a broken heart is beyond me. It was a dark, lonely, confusing place. I felt as if I'd never find my way out. I didn't think there was a way out. I didn't really care at that point.
What began in part as a letter written to her to foster an ongoing relationship, was coupled with an advocacy and awareness campaign. For the past ten years I have tirelessly devoted as much of my free time as I can to trying to prevent the same tragedy that took my daughter's life from happening to any other child.
Slowly, I began to emerge from that abyss. The storm subsided. At least for periods of time. When another storm came along, it didn't last as long and I was learning how to ride out the storms. The darkness began to fade. Things were more gray. Then, a glimmer of light. Of hope. Of... happiness? Over time, color began to creep back in to my life.
Yet there was still a broken heart inside this mama. Still a strong and passionate drive to prevent other children from dying the way my daughter did. I was frustrated. No one seemed to be listening to Meggie.
Two years ago, a breakthrough. A post, right here, about the day she died, was the cry heard around the world. A call to action from a deeply bereaved parent. Social media was the vehicle that carried my voice, my emotion, my pain, my pleas. It resonated with literally millions of parents around the world. They answered the call. They shared Meghan's story. They secured their furniture and their TV's. They joined the community of Meghan's Hope on Facebook. They became more aware of potential hazards to children and how to fix or prevent them.
Among the thousands of messages were messages of thanks from fellow bereaved parents. They identified with the emotions I wrote about. The pain I still feel. The way their family and friends didn't "get" their pain and their grief. Some told me things they had never told anyone else, because they were afraid they were broken. They were afraid others wouldn't listen. They didn't think anyone cared.
I began to write more. I had long wanted to write a book about Meggie and I. The book I wrote was not the book I thought I would write. The book I wrote was the book I wish someone had handed me the day I walked out of the hospital 10 years ago without my daughter... forever. It was the guide I wish I had all these years. The guide I wish my friends and family had then... and now.
A parent's grief never ends. It changes over time, but we never "get over" the death of our children. There is nothing that eases that hole in our hearts, that empty chair at our holiday table, or the name called that will forever go unanswered.
It's a journey. It will continue to be a journey. It has hills and valleys. Sunshine and storms. I am not "cured". Grief is not something that you can cure or fix. I am healing. I am integrating. I am memory keeping. It's about love.
Today, the fruits of that labor, of the past ten years, was born. That book was published. It's aptly called Out of the Darkness: Coping With and Recovering From the Death of a Child
You'd think I would be elated. I'm a published author. A dream come true. A major goal fulfilled. On some level, I am. I feel accomplished. It was a long journey. It began with NaNoWriMo in 2013. I wrote the bulk of the manuscript then. Then it sat for a while. Many hours of writing and many more of tedious line and developmental editing followed over the past year. Many hours of sleep lost. Many social invitations declined to meet deadlines. Many amazing friends and family to help and support me along the way. It feels... wonderful to finally hold your own book in your hands.
Yet the tears fall today. They are not tears of joy. They are tears of bittersweet pain. People are listening to Meggie now. Meghan's Hope is a world-wide go to resource for furniture and tip-over safety. I am so very grateful for that. Meggie's beautiful face and heartbreaking story are saving lives. She's so amazing. The tears are because of the painful fact that this book would never have been written by me if my beautiful daughter had not died. THAT still hurts like hell.
And by tears, I mean sobbed. Over the past several days I have cried some of the longest, most painful tears of the past ten years. I've cried in public, in my car, at my computer, in my husband's arms, and when I opened the box that held the physical proof of my book. I cried when I hit the publish button on CreateSpace today. Hell, I'm fighting tears now. All the emotion, the pain, and even the gratitude in my heart, the stress and challenges of the past several months just burst forth like a tsunami. Of course part of my goal was to publish it before Meggie's 10th Angelversary. It is in two days...
I want nothing more than for no other parent to ever know what that pain is like. I want parents to have the information and resources they need to keep their kids safe. For those that do know this pain of losing a child, I want them to know they are not alone. I want those that love them to know how to help them. I want them to have the information and resources they need to heal. I want us, as a society, to learn how to "do" grief, not fear or avoid the work it demands. The work required for us to heal. We're in it together. All of us.
And by us, I mean you. Everyone knows a bereaved parent, whether you realize it or not. There are people in your life who have miscarried, had babies born still, who lost children to cancer, accidents, suicide, and murder. Not everyone talks about it, but you all know at least one person, I promise you. They all want you to acknowledge their pain and their child. Someone has to get the word out. One of those someones is me.
44,000 parents lose children in the US every year and that's just the children under 19. It's millions world-wide annually. That doesn't even include the countless parents who lose adult children every year, who hurt as much as those who lose young children. A parent's grief is a parent's grief. it doesn't matter how old the child was when they died or the circumstances of their death. Their child is gone and it's so, so wrong. This book is needed by so many...
It was hard to allow myself to give the final approval and release the book. I know I could do better. Write more. Improve the content. What if it's not good enough? What if I forgot something that is important? I know I couldn't include everything, no one would be able to lift a book that full. That's the Virgo perfectionist in me. That's what second editions are for, right? Self-publishing was my only comfortable option. I had other traditional contract offers. I was not willing to give up creative control, not for this deeply personal project they knew nothing about. It was worth every second and every challenge I encountered.
It is my greatest hope that this book helps even just one bereaved parent or one loved one trying to understand and help them through their journey. If that one person is helped, it will have been worth all the hours, all the tears... it would mean that someone knows they are not alone. That there is hope. There are resources. There is a way out of the darkness. A way to incorporate your grief into your life and move forward. It's so hard to see that in the beginning.
So, now that I've given birth, it's time to mother and nurture this baby. Please, share it with your friends and family. Gift it to a parent or grandparent or friend or family member of someone who has lost a child. Read it yourself to glean a better understanding about coping with grief of any kind. We will all lose someone we love someday. Being prepared is far better for effective coping. Trust me. I know.
If you read it, I'd love your feedback. You can find out more about the book and where to buy it at the Out of the Darkness Grief Support Website and Facebook Page.
Thank you for your support.