One of my ongoing therapy assignments is to find at least five minutes of joy each day. At first, I had to be easy on myself and just be willing to accept one minute of joy, because sometimes that’s all that was possible. That sounds ridiculous, right? I have an amazing life and a beautiful family right in front of me. But any grieving parent will know that when one of your greatest loves is missing from your troop, it’s very difficult to overcome the emptiness and sadness, even when happiness and hope is present.
I’ve wanted so badly to “ace” this assignment every remaining day of my life. I’ve wanted to continue with my happy marriage and be able to give our other two girls as much fulfillment as possible, especially during their childhood. I wasn’t sure how or when it would happen, but I’d make it happen. I had to make it happen.
As of late, I began realizing that my prayers were being answered, even when things seemed dark. Yes, I still cry every single day, multiple times a day, and sometimes for hours at a time, but my days are still filled with joy. A lot of joy. I’m noticing that good days are finally becoming greater, in both quantity and duration.
This past Labor Day weekend I was able to intensely push through some deep darkness, and even destroyed some of the demons that have haunted my mind. Through my tears and heartache, I smiled. I even laughed! I found it ironic that this holiday weekend is specifically set aside to honor hard workers and offer a day of rest. Here I am doing the hardest work of my life, and was able to find some peace, some “rest.”
Then, on Monday, something even more amazing happened, as the four of us sat outside at our campsite during breakfast. As we ate and talked, a beautiful monarch butterfly joined us. “She” kept taking flight through our favorite place and was circling around all of us. At that moment, I was reminded that while Norah is physically missing, she’s still with us and we’ll always be a family of five.
A little while later, the butterfly followed us down the hill, around the bend, and down the camp road to the pool. Hank and the girls went directly into the pool area, but I stuck around and watched her, as she put on a beautiful show for me. She got close and circled my head, as if to clear my mind and send me a message of love and hope. She even let me get close enough to her to speak out loud and say hi, as I took a few photos.
I know for sure that Norah was right there with us this past weekend, providing us with joy and allowing me to see all that’s beautiful again.
According to James Van Praagh, author of Growing Up In Heaven, there are two types of grieving parents: “those who use their child’s death as an opportunity for growth, and those who remain completely and utterly destroyed.”
I’ve made the choice to use Norah’s life as an opportunity for my own personal growth, instead of allowing her death to destroy me. I’ll continue to give love and light to those around me, in honor of our amazing girl, because my love for her will always remain bigger than anything in its way.