Love cannot live where there is no Trust.Edith Hamilton
When I lost my daughter Faye, I lost my trust. I was a mum who could not save nor protect her child from death. I was the mum who listened to the diagnosis of dehydration, knowing it was wrong and didn’t question it. I was the mum who, just 5 days after her becoming unwell with pneumococcal meningitis, agreed to switch of her life support, only to then, when it was too late, question whether I had done the right thing. I lost my trust in the medical profession and I lost all trust in myself.
When my child died an, ‘out of order death,’ that is, before her parents and grandparents, I lost all trust in life. Life became something to be dreaded and feared. I no longer had any faith in the future. My world had been turned upside down, inside out and was left completely back to front. So, how could I trust that we’d be okay? How could I trust myself to keep my remaining family safe?
I couldn’t even trust myself to carry on breathing. Frozen in utter despair, I didn’t want to survive and yet, I kept on breathing. Even though, my heart was completely broken; shattered into a thousand pieces and technically should have stopped … it didn’t – my heart kept beating and I kept breathing. My own body let me down. It failed to do the one thing I wanted it to. It too, was untrustworthy.
I don’t know about you, but looking back, when I was younger, I felt invincible. I used to think that that my teen years were about pushing boundaries and growth; that my twenties were about burning the candle at both ends to bring about change and that, it would all be okay because, my thirties would be about consolidation, stability and emotional development. But I lost Faye in my thirties. My thirties were catastrophic and I became arrested by grief; I had lost grandparents but, I’d never experienced anything like this. I was terrified to feel my emotions, let alone process them. So, I didn’t. I couldn’t trust my either my emotions or my response to them and so I swept them under the carpet. I was a grown woman yet had lost all sense of what felt appropriate.
Innocently, before Faye died, I used to think that love conquered everything; that good triumphs over evil. Afterwards, scarred and traumatised, I felt that I had been the victim of the most heinous, brutal crime – that I had been violently robbed, mugged, left for dead, never to recover – but, that no court in the land would hear my story, let alone find and charge the perpetrator. I lost all trust in justice. I even felt that I must have deserved such brutality, as, how else could I explain how something so awful could happen? Perhaps, I was the perpetrator – responsible for my child’s death – guilty as charged! You must have heard, ‘Bad things happen to bad people.’ Was that me?
Confused and bewildered, I didn’t know where to turn or who I could trust. As a family, we were all grieving and it felt impossible to reach out to those I would normally rely on. How could I cause them more pain? I felt abandoned – not least by the very person who I loved the most. My daughter was gone. She’d left me.
In the midst of all this terror, well meaning people would say:
“Trust that everything happens for a reason.”
“Trust in the process.”
“Trust that God would not have sent you more than you can handle.”
I understood why. I knew such platitudes come from a place of kindness and wanting to fix me; to make me feel better. But, let’s be honest. In a grief averse, buttoned-up society, it also comes from a place of huge discomfort at having to see such deep pain and suffering. It’s like saying, please keep the faith because it would make me feel better! So, on the surface, I would mutter some form of acknowledgement. However, on the inside, I wanted to explode: fully explode. I was raging … spitting feathers … ranting, “REALLY? REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOU, WOULD YOU TRUST THE PLAN and WHAT KIND OF GOD DOES THIS TO A PERSON? along with THERE’S A REASON? THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY CHILD DESERVED TO DIE!
As far as I was concerned, it was all too cruel to contemplate and so, I buried it – somewhere deep inside of me, completely unaware that all the rage was still bubbling within like acid on metal, corroding my soul, turning it to rust. Until that is, after some sixteen years, a therapist treating my weary, aching body with acupuncture said, “Faye chose you.”
I unleashed everything. As I opened up, I calmly and assertively explained that, to tell someone bereft that they had been chosen to experience such pain, let alone that my daughter chose me, knowing that she would leave me, was despicably cruel. There, I had said it! I had spoken my truth. Once it was said, it couldn’t be unsaid. Those words were now out ‘there.’ It was they had their own energy because, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I questioned. I analysed. I listened. How had those words served me? How had my anger served me?
I softened. I recognised that my grief was indescribable, particularly in the early years. I couldn’t find the words so was I right to expect so much of others. I also became curious about what the alternative might be. For years, I had loathed the idea that Faye had died for a reason, but what’s the alternative? To think that she had died for no reason at all? To think she had died in vain. If I’m honest, to me, that also felt cruel – her life mattered.
I continued to look at alternatives and I realised that because I had suffered Faye’s loss, she wouldn’t have to suffer mine. Also, if I was such a bad person, surely, I wouldn’t have been gifted with the most beautiful, special little girl. Maybe bad things happen to good people? And here’s the big alternative … would I have wanted Faye to be my daughter, knowing that our time together would be so short-lived? I absolutely would! Am I going to bother about the whys and wherefores when I see her again? No. I’m going to be too busy kissing, hugging and loving her to care! So why bother now?
Today, sixteen years on, I’m learning to trust again. It’s been a slow process and I’m not saying that I wasn’t right to feel the way I did. There is no right or wrong in grief and all feelings are valid. But, there’s been a shift in mindset. I finally see myself as a good person and I trust myself. I have beaten cancer (not that I would want you to go through that) and my faith in the medical profession has been somewhat restored. Learning to trust again has meant I have let go of fear – I know that whatever life throws at me, I can handle it – Nothing will ever be worse than losing my child. With trust, I feel safe and the more I feel safe, the more I can experience joy. Learning to trust again has meant I have let go of anger, which happily, has left more room for love; more love for Faye; more love for me and more love for those around me. Faye didn’t abandon me because the love remained. The love has stayed in my still beating heart. I’m at peace that my heart is still beating. What will be, will be.
Does any of this resonate with you? Has my outpouring helped you in anyway? Or, do you disagree? All feelings matter and I’d love to hear from you.