Christina, my firstborn daughter, died suddenly in January 2015 from multiple pulmonary embolisms, just three short weeks after her thirtieth Christmas birthday. Christina had broken her foot and developed a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which quickly led to the massive pulmonary embolisms that suddenly took her life.
I did not know DVTs were common in young women. I did not know the risk is higher for young women on birth control or for those who have had recent surgery or trauma to the lower body. I did not know what a pulmonary embolism was until twenty-four hours after Christina died. I will always wish I had known.
In the autumn of my life, Christina’s love shines for me. I love her, as you do your own children, in life and in death. Our children are absent from our physical bodies, but our souls are forever connected. Christina’s soul can never leave mine. Your own child’s soul is eternally bound to yours. That’s the beauty of the unconditional love of a parent. My faith still wavers, but it is getting stronger as I become stronger.
Your own child’s soul is eternally bound to yours. That’s the beauty of the unconditional love of a parent.
Someday, all of us will understand death as we, too, join our children in the glory God has prepared. I don’t understand all that exists after this earthly part is over, but death now holds a peacefulness in the after part of my life. I have a glimpse of light, grace, love, truth, and hope through the spirit of my own child who travels before me. In God’s heaven, without time perhaps, our own remaining lifetime is but a blink of an eye to our children who have gone before us.
I pray that each bereaved parent finds the soulful courage to honor his or her child’s life, love, and light, even after death. Our kids are all okay now. We are left behind to carry on in a world that is forever changed. While the world will never be the same, our children deserve our own lights to shine on their behalf. I know Christina would want my own light to glow. Finding daily courage, through faith, is now my challenge, moment by moment, in the after-death part of my life.
Bereaved parents all need help finding light and hope after great loss. Parents often journey alone in the darkness, but we desperately need each other. It doesn’t matter the age of our children at the time of death, how it happened, or how long ago it was. Hope, after losing a child, is leaning in with love, kindness, and understanding to others who travel this grief journey beside us. Millions of mothers and fathers have traveled before us; many more will travel after us. Bereaved parents need real support and encouragement to live a life of joy and hope, while honoring and carrying our deepest sorrows, until we all meet our children again.
Finding daily courage, through faith, is now my challenge, moment by moment, in the after-death part of my life.
I don’t know what the future holds for me or my family, but I’ve learned a great deal in the two years since Christina died. I’ve found there are nuggets of wisdom in the deepest of my own human sorrows. I’ve learned life doesn’t always turn out the way I imagined it would—not for myself or my family. I’ve learned that humans, including me, fail; it takes courage and love to find self-forgiveness and to forgive others. I’ve learned a broken heart still beats, but pieces of it remain forever with our children in eternity.
Bereaved parents can, with hard work, fuse the remaining pieces of our heart by extending love and grace while accepting our own human experiences, despite tragedy and sorrow. I’ve learned God doesn’t owe me earthly happiness or joy. I must somehow summon great courage, through faith, to do the conscious work to find it again, even amid my own brokenness. I’ve learned I am much stronger than I thought I was; I’ve kept living even when death knocked at my own door. I’m still learning how to integrate and transform my own pain and sorrow into a life that honors Christina with love, light, truth, joy, and hope. My story, in the after-death part of my life, is still being written. I hope to write it well.