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When My Friend Asked If Grief 'Gets Better' After the Death of Her Daughter

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About a year after my daughter, Liam, died, my close friend’s daughter also passed away. Like Liam, she was born with a chronic illness and like Liam, her death was sudden and unexpected. When I called my friend soon after hearing the news, she said to me in an anguished voice, “Does it get better? Just tell me it gets better.”

What could I do? I lied. I told her it gets better.

Of course, my grief was really in its infancy and I had no idea about the long road I was now traveling. I can barely remember those early days, or maybe I just choose not to. The pain was so raw and unbearable. I remember being in the city for something and wanting to stop and scream at all the people going about their lives.

“Stop! Don’t you know my daughter died! How can you just go on like everything is OK?”

Every morning I woke up and my first thought was Liam is still dead. I don’t remember how long that went on for. I would drive to work and fantasize about crossing the line into oncoming traffic. Often. There are so many clichés about time and unfortunately, many of them prove to be true. Time certainly does not heal all wounds. Some wounds can never be healed. But time is relentless and it does keep marching on. So one week becomes a month, six months become a year, and somehow, here I am, alive 16 years more than my daughter.

Liam was almost 14 when she died. That means she’s been dead longer than she was alive. How unbelievable is that? Liam would have been turning 30 in a few months. How in the world can I have a 30-year-old child? When I see her friends standing in a group, laughing, their spouses and children nearby, I imagine her standing among them. I invent a husband and a few children, who notice me and run to me while calling, “Grandma!”

I think about telling people I have another daughter but she lives far away, keeping her alive not just for me but for the world at large. I fantasize about her knocking on the front door and coming home, finally returning home to me after so many years away.

Does it get better? It becomes different. The raw pain subsides. The assault on your senses when you face the reality every day, every minute that your beloved child is gone. But every holiday, every birthday, every family celebration she is missed. You wonder how life would be different if she were still here. You imagine the future she never got to have. And sometimes when you hear a knock at the door, your heart stops for a minute and fills with hope, and in your mind you hear her voice saying, “I’m home,” while the door slowly opens and she walks inside.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: February 18, 2019
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