Forty-one years ago my newborn daughter died. I knew she would 3 ½ months prior to her birth. Ultrasound technology was brand new but there was no missing this birth defect. All I could think was, “How do I go on? How do I even breath?” Those who know my story have asked me how I got from then to now. How did I heal?
I turned to my faith. I am not a religious person but I have faith in an all-loving entity who is there for me when things are good and when things are bad. I did not, for a moment, think that this was some kind of punishment for mistakes I had done in the past. Guilt has no place in healing. Guilt creates an atmosphere that is toxic to true grieving. Guilt is a diversion.
I trusted that my daughter’s death was something that would, ultimately, lead me in the path I was supposed to follow. I believed that life was not haphazard. Things, even those that bring us to our knees and cause unbelievable despair, can set our feet towards our future. I trusted even when I did not understand. As time went on, I made it my mission to learn more about my daughter’s birth defect. Muriel, my daughter, was anencephalic. It is under the classification of a “neural tube defect” and the brain does not develop. Consequently, her head was very, very tiny. I asked questions in order to better understand what had happened. I needed to know if this could be avoided in the future as I wanted children. I had to know if I had somehow, inadvertently, been a participant in her birth defect. If so, what did I need to do differently? For me, knowledge and learning helped the multiple “Why?” questions and gave me better direction for the future. Knowledge gave me hope.
I told my story and received love and comfort from people I knew would listen, and from people I did not expect would listen, but did. I talked about my experience, and pain and sorrow. I learned to listen to other people’s experiences, pain and sorrow. We grieved together. We walked a ways down the ‘healing-path’ together.
The last key was time. I think the adage that time heals all wounds is misleading. Healing is never finished. It is a forever, life-long, on-going process. What time gave me though, was the opportunity to wade through the pain, obtain a measure of distance from what had happened and the knowledge that I could and would continue to breath. As trite as it may sound, the only way to get through grieving is to do it. That is the gift time gave me. That….and the perspective of looking back, seeing where I was at the beginning and reflecting on where I am today. My daughter’s death set me on the path to becoming a nurse, hopefully, a better mother and a more compassionate human being.
and daughter of a career military officer. With her family, she has lived in Morocco, Japan and all over the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. She currently resides in Wisconsin and writes children’s books. To learn more about the author, please visit her website at www.gayleewarner.com, or her Facebook page. Gaylee Warner | Mom, retired nurse, author of “Letters to Muriel”