Rachel V: My daughter passed away 8 months after my husband

March 29, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was married to my husband for 3 years and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was a very aggressive type, unfortunately, he lost his battle and I was Suddenly Single for the first time since I was 20 years old.

He was in the military and was near the burn pits so we suspect but we could never prove that’s where he picked up his cancer.

When he was diagnosed we had already been through this crazy medical journey with our daughter. She was born 2 years prior to that with a very rare disease. When he said he had cancer I went into denial.

At first, I was pretty optimistic but also trying to protect myself because we had already been through so much.

He really had a beautiful death. He was in the hospital but all our friends and family came. We all surrounded him as we took him off the ventilator, we just surrounded him in love and talked about how much we loved him and were making jokes in the room. It was just a very happy place and I know that sounds so weird. It was really full of love and happiness. To me, that was a really beautiful way to die.

The next couple of days were honestly a blur. I was trying to take care of my daughter. I was suddenly a single mom with a medically complicated kid. Just trying to survive at that point.

My daughter passed away 8 months later after my husband, so that’s a whole different story. It was a bad year. My family was extremely supportive. It was very, very difficult.

When my daughter was first diagnosed they told us she was only going to live for a year. She ended up living three and a half. That first year she was alive I went through grief counseling. I felt like going through grief therapy for a year helped me put things into perspective as it was unfolding that my husband wasn’t going to make it. After my husband passed I went back into therapy and I did grief counseling again for a full year. I really can’t stress how important therapy is, not only for a death but for any kind of loss.

I went to a lot of different dark places during that time. I feel like having the support of therapy and a professional guiding me was essential.

I’m a productive griever. Some people really process it by crying and other people stay busy. I was definitely the stay busy griever and went headfirst into exercise. Exercise has always been a coping mechanism for me so I went back to my Crossfit gym. I went 3 times a week and got back into martial arts. I had been into martial arts for almost a decade before life got busy. I feel like those two things really helped me focus that energy in a positive healthy way. I stayed away from alcohol.

I focused my energy on work and keeping healthy.

I think it’s about living in the moment. I don’t really worry about what’s going to happen in the future because I live like nothing is owed to me. I don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow. I try to really live in the moment. I really, really try to appreciate every little thing….try to appreciate the ordinary day-to-day because when things happen that are so terrible you really miss those normal boring day-to-day things the most.

I think you can let grief destroy you or you can let grief build you back better. I went through a really difficult time, but I always think about the time that my husband and my daughter didn’t get and I want to live the best life that they would have wanted.

I really feel like I am so incredibly lucky and grateful and blessed to have a healthy body and to be able to do the things that I can do and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted. That’s what has helped me rebuild because they couldn’t do that so I want to do that for them.

I love my life now. I loved my life before, but I love my life now too. I got remarried so I have an amazing husband named Adam and we have a oneish-year-old son named Noah. Being a mom and being a wife are my two most favorite things in the whole world and I’m just so lucky that I got to do it twice.

I really feel like I got a Mulligan. I know that sounds awful, but I feel like I am a better wife and a better mom because of what happened.

I really try whenever I’m with my husband or my son, I put my phone away. I put all distractions away as best I can. Of course, I’m human but I really try to turn off distractions and focus on them when I’m with them. I really try hard when I’m with anyone to turn off the distractions and focus on them.

Resilience is something I’ve really strived for just because you never know what life is going to throw at you and you want to be able to bounce back as best you can. I think everyone has that within them. It’s a learned thing and I think that comes with therapy and putting the tools in your toolbox and making sure you’re focusing on that muscle. I feel like everyone has that ability to do that. I don’t think it’s special or limited to some people. I think it’s something you learn to do.

As a society, we think of grief as a beginning and an end when really there is no end and I think that kind of catches people off guard when they go through it.

The number one thing is, you are doing a good job. No matter what you are feeling…grief is such a weird situation that happens within you that you’re constantly doubting your ability on the external because grief is pulling you so much internally to think about things. It’s easy to feel like you are lacking in other areas of your life. Whatever you can do in that moment is totally fine. As you move forward, you will realize a lot of those things you were so worried about, they really don’t have a long-term impact. Just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and if all you can manage is a couple of things to do during the day that’s fine. You’re doing a good job.

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