I stood on the cracked pavement in front of my house watching a white SUV pull into my drive. I knew by the stricken look on my friend’s face that life was about to shift-dreadfully. The words were surreal- “Chloe was killed in a bike accident, hit by a teen who was texting and driving.” I froze, feeling everything and feeling nothing. The earth split open in that moment. Life shattered and I took on an alien status, not knowing who I was or what planet I had landed on. Nothing was familiar.
In the next days and weeks I retreated to the woods to grieve for my daughter, and to find her. My body next to the earth, I wept, I breathed, I died.
And then…I asked, “where are you? I know this isn’t finished. You wouldn’t just disappear. Chloe, show me how we will continue in this new way.”
I’m not sure why I uttered those words, but I knew I could find her, somehow. It was in those woods that our new connection began. Watching her show up in my life was nothing short of miraculous. She came in dreams and answered my specific questions. She appeared in the swallowtail butterfly. Objects in my house began appearing, disappearing and moving. Not only did I experience her love and connection, but many times I once again experienced her humor.
Still, I was a reclusive alien, aching for her footstep on this earth once more. I rolled her blanket up as tight as I could and sat in the woods on a large rock hugging it close to me. I carried her sweatshirt around like a baby with its blanket-lost and disoriented.
I started to see that I was living between worlds, having two experiences- a physical one and a spiritual one. When I experienced a connection with Chloe, I somehow sensed an order to the universe and peace flooded my soul. But in my physical world I grieved for her physical presence and missed everything about her. Twenty years was not enough.
I wrote voraciously, rode horses, began a practice of mediation and yoga and lived in the woods whenever I could. I broke, I bled, and yet, I was filled with amazement and wonder. I asked, I found. My soul was split wide opened and it was filled with an overpowering light.
The randomness of sobbing, screaming, despondency, depression, contrasted with this new sacred space that I seemed to have found. It wasn’t one or the other. Grief and Life were moving closer to each other. In time, they seemed to grasp hands and walk together.
I wrote and wrote, burning the words onto the pages of my journals. I could leave nothing inside me. In four years those words became a book I never meant to write. I wasn’t even sure why I was writing it. I had already left my heart on the pages in my journals. My writing was for me, not an audience. But I pushed through to the point of publishing my book, Losing My Breath; From Loss to Transformation….still wrestling with its purpose. Maybe it would help someone. Two months after it was released, I knew. I knew why I had to publish my story. It was me, coming out of the closet. Baring my heart to the world without hiding or pretending. People kept telling me I was strong and courageous and proactive about my grief. In my experience, I was anything but strong. I felt like I was hiding and deceiving people. It was a truth-telling experience. It required me to dive deep into my own vulnerability, to allow others to see me in pain, to see me not only as a strong woman, but a broken one as well.
At some point in life your heart will break. You will lose what is precious, coveted or treasured. It is life, and you have enough warrior-spirit in you to walk that road. There is a line in a song that says, “the emptiness is something not fear.” Don’t run from that emptiness or be quick to fill it up with busyness or noise. Feel it, cry for it, hold it, honor it. Be true to that space. That space is love.