Chapter 15 – Stepping Stones
Grieving Forward – Embracing Life Beyond Loss
by Susan Duke
Throughout my life I’ve had many experiences with moving on past a tragic or bad event. Each time, the movement forward was propelled by the people that were present in my life. Whether be a friend, a family member or GOD – there was always someone there who helped to clear the fog from the path I was walking.
I think for the most part it was my mother that consistently believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. Ultimately the choice to move forward though is our own. After my mother’s death in 1988 I was so angry. Even while 7 months pregnant, I found myself in such a state of depression that I wasn’t sure where to step next. It was my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter that helped provide the stepping stones for my journey. While it took close to 5 years to come to terms with the death of my mother, it was my daughter and her desperate fight for life near her 1st birthday that forced me to look beyond my pain and put my faith back in God.
During Brittany’s first 5 years of life, my thoughts frequently would go back to my mom’s death and the lingering questions I had that remained unanswered and have been even now. After Brittany was diagnosed with Epilepsy at age 5 many things in my life moved forward because there was so much to do. I was also in nursing school at the time and juggling so many stressful events. It’s as if I just kept moving forward – whether I wanted to or not. Life was happening so fast I could barely keep up.
I always wondered why God chose me to have Brittany when for the majority of her life she would deal with life-threatening illnesses and the eventual untimeliness of her death. Why would God put me through such a tragic time? I just wanted to know why. In retrospect I think back and see that God put one of the most profound people in my life for a reason. That reason was to teach me that I wasn’t in control of my life, God was. To teach me that love conquers all pain and sorrow. To teach me that God wants us to know him, to love him, to believe him and to extend that love to all.
I learned all of that through my daughter. She so understood the most simplest of lessons that God teaches, yet we as humans fail to recognize in our daily walk in life. To walk in love without prejudice. To walk in love without judgment. To walk in love without looking back. Today I still find myself shaking my head because I struggle with remembering that lesson. It’s only when I look at her life and the grace with which she chose to live her life despite many setbacks. It’s only then, that I know I have to, we have to – look for the stepping stones of our lives and keep taking those steps – one by one – out in faith.
It is through those steps that we can move beyond our loss, beyond our pain and into the light with a zest for life. If you are not there, you will be. There will be one day when you can wake up and remember without crying. There will be one day when you can look through mementos and not cry with anguish, but perhaps with the joy of a great memory. There will be one day when you can know that part of your life was a gift, and so is the part – where you are now – right now – is the greatest gift of all. Embrace it. Live it.
until next time,