On June 14, 2006 my whole world changed. It is the day that my baby died. Nothing prepares you for the loss of your child. What I thought I wanted no longer meant anything to me, how I thought my world would unfold was no longer accurate and what I felt I knew to be true was no longer relevant.
As I walked through the grief and the void that is created when you lose someone unexpectedly, I learned a lot about myself, what I truly wanted and what living fully actually meant.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Life is now.
Your life is happening right now and while you have all of these dreams, desires and goals only some of them are being focused on and getting done. The others are in the “someday” file waiting for the perfect time or whatever you’ve convinced yourself of as a good enough reason to wait.
You don’t actually know how much time you will have to live this life of yours. You also don’t know what might happen next in your life to change everything. The only time you know you have is right now. Are you using it to create more of what you want?
When my baby died, I made a decision as I held her lifeless body to live as fully as I could each day.
I committed to only doing things that mattered to me, to take the leap of faith on a new project, to step outside my comfort zone and to go after what I wanted most.
I promised to make my dreams a reality now and not wait anymore.
I made the promise to honor her short life by continuing to live.
I decided that this devastating loss wouldn’t stop me but it would propel me forward and that I would live as fully as I could.
Stop waiting because life isn’t waiting for you.
Start doing it. Take action towards what you want. Be brave and go for it.
You have to choose how you will live right now. You have to decide how much the past will impact you and what you choose to do right now is what shapes your future.
Your life is happening now.
If you have experienced a loss, know that while the way may not seem clear, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They didn’t die so you wouldn’t live.
Your life will be totally different now but it needs to continue on.
2. I know what joy actually is.
It took the experience of deep grief and sorrow to understand what joy feels like.
I took advantage of joy before.
I didn’t relish in it like I should have.
I didn’t realize that it could be fleeting.
I didn’t seek it out.
I also didn’t understand what deep grief meant. I didn’t understand how consuming it was and I didn’t understand that it was a different experience for each person and that it knew no timeline or specific way to experience it. I also didn’t know that it never truly goes away.
I didn’t know sorrow until that day my baby died almost 12 years ago and the days that followed. And in the depths of my despair, I began to understand joy.
I appreciate joy more.
I see it more.
I focus on it when it arrives.
And, I strive to create it.
Joy in my life is easier to come by now too because I choose it.
Joy can be found in small and big ways. You get to choose it.
3. Living is putting one foot in front of the other.
I made a commitment on the day my baby died that I would keep consciously choosing to live each day.
I knew that my life could spiral into something even more unrecognizable if I didn’t have a purpose and a focus for each day. I knew that the void would consume me if I let it. So, I made a conscious choice not to let it in any further.
The day after she died, I woke up and I put on makeup and did my hair. Not because I felt like it but because I knew I needed to choose to live and that was part of living for me. The next thing I had to do that day was tell my 7-year-old daughter that her sister had died. I remember every detail of that morning but the rest of the day became a haze.
Choosing to live and to keep moving forward saved me in my journey of grief.
It kept my head above water and out of the depths of despair and the shackles of grief.
I knew that I needed to lead my daughter and my family through this experience and it was that focus that kept me making choices daily to find a way to move through this. It kept me putting one foot in front of the other.
Life was going to happen one way or another but I needed to decide how I would walk through the grief, the void and create meaning once again.
4. The gap doesn’t get filled
There is not enough time.
There are not enough experiences.
There is not anybody that will fill the gap of your loss.
I’ve had two beautiful daughters since my baby died and neither one of them replaced her or filled the gap. They made my life better and more amazing but that gap doesn’t get filled in with the next person. There is no replacing her.
It is something that is a part of you. The gap eventually isn’t raw like it had been for months and months, even years but it is still there. It becomes the scar on your heart that you will carry forever.
I carry that scar and that pain on a daily basis. It’s not as palpable now and I choose to use it to drive me forward to fulfill my purpose and that pain has shown me what I am capable of.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds it just lessens the blow.
5. What you focus on changes
As I journeyed through the days after my baby’s death, I realized that all of the trivial crap of life didn’t need my attention anymore and didn’t deserve my time, energy or effort.
It drains you of your energy.
I didn’t worry about that stuff anymore; I didn’t “sweat the small stuff” because I’d been through something so big. And even over 11 years later, I still don’t get caught up in the small stuff.
This experience gave me perspective of what matters most and what will garner my attention, my focus and my energy on a daily basis.
If it can be simple, keep it simple.
Don’t make it more than it is.
Ignore the crap and carry on.
You have better stuff to do with your time.
6. There is only one way out of the void
And that is to…
Live to honor them.
Create meaning again.
Ultimately, you have to continue to choose to live. And meaning comes through movement.
7. You only have one chance at this thing called life.
This is it (in this lifetime at least).
I had a hardcore awakening at 29 years old when my baby died about the meaning of life and what we are here for.
I got reminded again a few years ago when I got very sick and my quality of life rapidly dissipated and it propelled me to share my story, to encourage others to live fully and to go after my biggest dreams, desires and goals.
I’ve helped hundreds of clients so far to live with purpose, I’ve created numerous online programs, I am sharing powerful messages weekly in my podcast and I have finally published my first book.
I am CONSCIOUSLY living this thing called life.
That’s the only way we should ALL be doing it.
I realized that this is my one chance and I might as well use it to go after my dreams, my desires and my goals.
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. And “failures” and hard experiences are just part of the journey. They aren’t a setback, they are meant to redirect you.
My baby dying made my life more meaningful. It took me a long time to admit that and to say it out loud.
She changed me in a way that wouldn’t have happened if she had lived.
Do I wish she was here with me. Of course I do. But I had to accept the reality that she wasn’t and I had to choose what I was going to do about it.
I chose to live my life as fully as I could.
You have one chance to live fully. Are you doing it?
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jill Ethier, Personal Strategist & Author of When the Meaning is Lost. Submit your story here. For our best love stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.