by Lisa Boehm
As the day begins on the anniversary of my daughter’s passing, the events of ‘that day’ weigh heavy on my heart. I remember the day starting like any other. My kids went off to high school, and my husband and I went to work. We ate dinner together, talked about the political events of the day, and the kids started doing their homework. Shortly after that, my daughter Katie left the house to do a quick errand.
We got the knock on the door that every parent fears. Katie would never walk through our front door again, and she would never be able to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. She had been involved in a head-on collision with a transport truck and died on impact.
It’s strange. I never worried about Katie. She was my firstborn; the one who made me a mom. She was a vibrant and driven 17-year-old girl who had it all figured out. Her focus on education helped get her into a top university. She was driven and never let anyone get in the way of her goals. What could I possibly worry about?
Even when we can’t control what is happening around us,
I believe we can choose how we respond. I have always promised Katie that she would never be forgotten, and I would continue to make her proud. I choose to honour her life and do my best to live as she did – with passion, laughter, and a kind heart. This world needs more people like Katie.
After my daughter died, I struggled to find resources that gave me permission to grieve with positivity. Nearly everything I found told me my marriage would crumble, my teenaged son would fail to thrive, and I would be miserable and broken for the rest of my life. I didn’t want Katie’s death to destroy my family, and I believed that there could be happiness mixed in with my grief and worked hard to find it.
I began writing as a means of coping. It was writing about my feelings and scores of letters to Katie that helped me find joy again. I wrote blogs about supporting your partner and your other children after loss. Eventually, I published a book called Journey to HEALING: A Mother’s Guide to Navigating Child Loss. Writing about my grief journey helped me immensely and allowed me to start helping other grieving moms.
When bereaved mothers ask me how I do it, I respond with this question: “If it was you who had passed away, what would you want for your children and partner?” Most of us feel that we would want them to live their best lives, have loads of fun, and chase their dreams. I feel that this is how our loved ones want us to live after loss too.
When we start to focus on our loved one’s LIFE, not their death, it changes the way we see things and how we cope.
I don’t want Katie remembered as ‘the girl who died in a car accident.’ I want her remembered for her boisterous laugh, her love of practical jokes, hilarious rants, and all the silly things she did. These are the things I choose to focus on.
After Katie’s accident, I talked to her every day. I called it ‘coffee with Katie.’ After my son and husband left for the day, I’d fill my coffee cup and sit down beside her picture and urn. I would pour my heart out, sharing everything that was on my mind, things I wished I had said, my regrets, and asked for her to stay close and help us through the darkness.
These were the best therapy sessions. Litres and litres of tears were shed, but I always felt a bit lighter after those ‘conversations.’ I found that talking and sharing, whether to Katie, God or other bereaved moms, was very helpful and very healing. When I held my feelings and grief inside, I felt worse.
Walking in nature has always made me feel closer to my daughter’s spirit. In the beginning, I would walk with sunglasses on regardless of the weather so that I could let the tears flow without worrying about others seeing my pain. There is something very healing about being outside in nature, and the fresh air always made me feel better.
Over time I have decided that it is not the pain that connects me to my daughter. It is love. It’s always been love, which means it’s okay for me to let go of the pain. When I let go of the pain, I’m not letting go of her. I have realized that I will always carry grief in my heart, but I don’t have to carry pain. I also realized that I can carry grief in one hand and happiness in the other. This concept has brought me peace.
Doing special projects in Katie’s memory helps me continue her legacy. Today, on her 6th anniversary in heaven, I am sending out six care packages to grieving families who have lost a child. By doing ‘love projects’ in Katie’s honour, she will never be forgotten, and hopefully, I can make this world a better place.
There is happiness mixed in with our grief. We just have to look a little harder to find it now.
“You can shed tears that she is gone. Or you can smile because she has lived.” – David Harkins
For more information about Lisa, you can check out her website.
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