by Ronald Stair
I heard someone say, “grief isn’t a life sentence, it’s a life passage”. It’s the one common human experience we all have at one time or another. But we didn’t expect it to be the death of a child, did we? I’m now discovering grieving this loss is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I know, because suddenly, without warning, my life changed. My beautiful 28-year-old daughter was complaining of shortness of breath. The doctor thought it was not necessarily a big deal since we were scheduled for a follow up visit in a week. It was a big deal! I had left her at her home and then went back to get her when she called. I took her to the ER and after a few hours, they stabilized the tachycardia and sent me home, saying all was good.
Sometime early in the morning, it got worse; way worse. I was called to the ER where there was a team of medical people working on Paisley. It became clear, she wasn’t coming back. I signed the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and my daughter was taken from me forever.
The incredible emotion as losing your child? It’s feared by all parents and an unimaginable loss. Unimaginable, until it happens to you. People refer to it as “the worst that can happen,” and that’s exactly what it feels like.
RAISE THE KIND OF PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW
“In the years following my Paisley’s death, I discovered, no matter how great my loss, or how deep my grief, the world does not stop.”
I remember thinking… how can I ever be happy again? I felt as though my pain was visible to others, and I would forever be wearing grief as a mask and a tagline… “I’m Ronald Stair and I’ve lost a child.”
Then someone, and I really don’t remember who, said “Write. Just write.” The first blank page was so difficult. I could only put down one sentence, “My daughter died, and my life will never be the same.” The next day, I wrote a paragraph, and each day after that I found words came more easily. My journal became my safe haven to empty the well of my sorrow, pouring tears of ink onto paper. And for a little while, I could let my emotions rest.
I had to survive this. I had three living children who needed a whole dad. I had a new wife. I was not willing to sacrifice my role in their lives by succumbing to paralyzing grief.
I kept writing. Words pulled me and pushed me. As weeks went on, I’d read back over the journal entries. I began to see something remarkable… I’d survived another day, another week, another month; and I was growing stronger. I’d see words of hope illuminating my way. There’s no magic secret to the journal. Just pick up your laptop and begin with one word or sentence. Keep writing. Healing is not on a timetable. In fact, time doesn’t fix this kind of loss. Healing comes from actively pursuing life again. After a while, you’ll look back on your words and not recognize the person you once were. You’ll see how strong you really are.
“Healing is not on a timetable. In fact, time doesn’t fix this kind of loss.”
I used to believe the cliché “everything happens for a reason,” but with this kind of tragedy, it seems to be reversed. When a tragedy like this happens, it can be the starting place to give it reason and relevance. When you recognize this, it’s the moment your grieving will shift.
Imagine that. What would it feel like? I used to fantasize and picture my life without the pain by writing out that very question, What would it be like to feel peace around Paisley’s death? I would visualize myself without the veil of sorrow and allow the comfort of happiness to flow in. And for a brief moment, I could feel it. As time went on, I was able to reach that peaceful feeling more frequently. I had the power within the pages of my writing to compartmentalize my sorrow.
Once you’re aware of what it feels like, you’ll be able to access it more easily.
It’s been just over five years since my beautiful daughter left this earth and sometimes tears still surprise me. But the work of healing has brought me a harmonious blend of resolution and comfort as my heart joyfully connects with the sweet ballad of her memories. Healing doesn’t mean you’ll never feel the sadness. It means you’ll be able to have memories without attaching intense despair.
“My child’s loss taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day.”
Use your writing as your safe place, and you’ll begin to form a new relationship with your child, telling stories, and feeling the joy you once had when they were alive.
I now look at the life of my daughter and marvel at her 28 years, 3 months and 17 days. Her death was the birth of my new life… learning how to live with her loss and recognizing who I am because of it. I chose resilience and my writing was a big part of helping me rise up.
My child’s loss taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day. It taught me to reach out to others and begin sharing my story in hopes it could reassure other wounded parents there is life after loss.
As the years go by, I’ve learned a father’s love never diminishes; in fact, my love for my daughter has grown, just as it would have if she was still alive. I am still her father. No child dies without a legacy and a purpose for those that are left behind. It’s up to you, his/her mother, his/her father. Honor your child by healing. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Merry Christmas “Tape Girl”