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Why I Was Wrong About the Clichés I Heard After My Daughter’s Death

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When Eva was born and has since died, I heard a lot of clichés, euphemisms and platitudes that get thrown around when something inexplicably tragic happens. After she was born, the clichés I heard the most were the ones about being a special needs parent. I was told I would meet so many amazing people. I was told that I wouldn’t change Eva for the world. I was told that she would make me into a better person, a stronger person.

I hated hearing those things. I was angry and desperately sad, and I didn’t want to be a better person. I didn’t feel like anyone special. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted the life I had pictured. Not the one where through my miserable and desperate life I would become better and stronger.

I also didn’t want Eva to have to take on the roll of teacher. Why should Eva be responsible for teaching the world about compassion? Why should it be her job to teach her mother about how to live? She didn’t owe anyone anything and being born with those kinds of challenges is not a gift. We can do the best we can with the challenges we face, but that doesn’t mean those challenges are fair, or good or something to be thankful for.

Eva was beautiful and taught me so much, but it wasn’t her job to do that. And while I like the changes she made in me, I would change them back if it meant she could still be alive. I would change them back if I could have given her sight, hearing or a heart without a hole. 

But without trying, or having to or knowing it, she did change me.

I talked to a friend recently and admitted I had found the week hard. Some weeks feel that way. We talked about my feeling of wanting the world to stop, and she told me she was impressed with how I mostly force myself to keep up with the world even if it’s not what I always want to do. And then she said something which should have been obvious to me, but somehow wasn’t. She said, “The irony is, I think it’s Eva that has given you the strength to do that.”

She was right. Being Eva’s mother has changed me. I have no doubt that it has made me a better person. And I am certainly stronger. Having the wonderful girl in my life has given me the strength to get by without her. I could say I wish none of it had ever happened. I would be the person I was before Eva, but I also would have never had to face this loss. And I don’t want to do that. When I looked at that “better person” everyone kept telling me about, I couldn’t see her properly. She was out of focus. But now I see part of being this better person is the realization that you love that change in yourself because it comes from your fierce love for your child.

Those placaters were right. I am stronger. I do feel different. Sometimes that difference hurts. Like when I go out with some friends and I feel like I can’t quite squeeze back into that life that I once had. I feel like I don’t belong there anymore. But most of the time, it makes me feel lit up from the inside. It makes me glow. On that same night when I didn’t feel quite part of the scene or I felt like I was on the outside looking in, I also felt a level of comfort in my own skin that I never did before Eva. I felt a confidence in myself that is new to me. Eva taught me what it means to be alive, and she helped me realize it’s my life to live. That I’m the one behind the steering wheel. She taught me I’m enough as I am. Just as she was. She taught me that I don’t need to please everyone and don’t need to be friends with everyone. I can just be me. And that’s enough.

I wish she was living her own life alongside mine. I wish this new stronger me hadn’t come at such a cost. I wish I could have this woman with Eva by my side. But I’ll be forever grateful that I had her in my life at all and that I was mother for a brief time.

A version of this post originally appeared on The One in a Million Baby.

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Originally published: June 15, 2015
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