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Making Peace With the Guilt That Comes When Healing From Grief

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It did not start out this way, I never wanted to start to heal from this pain. To me if I healed at all it felt like I was leaving you behind. Five years has given me a long time to process, a long time to feel, a long time to know that healing doesn’t mean letting go or moving on. It means honoring the life my girl lived and the celebrating everything she brought to the world.

This last year has taught me more than ever that my inside needed more care than I was acknowledging. I was standing in my pain but forgetting to honor my self-care. 2020 taught the world to take nothing for granted, but I learned that in 2016 when I lost my girl. What 2020 taught me is to slow down and focus on the things that are right in front of me. Right in front of me was me, screaming for the love and care I give everyone else. What my patterns have lead me to over the past five years have not been where I need to be, now is the time to find new patterns to take care of the me I know I am and need to be.

Grief sucks the life out of you, I filled myself back up by taking care of others. It’s something that comes naturally for me, it’s easier than taking care of myself. Year five, I explored inward more. What did I need? This was something really foreign for me. It seemed selfish and it seemed like I was abandoning Brittany.

Healing, what is healing anyway? How do I heal? Why do I need to heal? I set out to find these answers for me. I found the answers with a lot of self-reflection and support from the community of people that support me full heartedly. Healing isn’t moving on, it is honoring and celebrating. I need to allow myself to honor and celebrate the joyous days, while still acknowledging the hole that will forever be in my heart. Healing can only happen if I open myself up to seeing things in new ways.

I have surrendered to the pain of every parent’s worst nightmare while holding my head high with hope to continue to help others. Now I am learning to take that same hope and give the light to myself as well. I never imagined I had the time to nourish my mind, body and soul, but the more I did it the more time found itself. People would always tell me you make the time for the things important to you; this is true. You can find the obstacles or you can find the solutions.

It was the shamrock shakes that taught me the most this year. I know this sounds odd with all the healthy changes I made to take care of me. Oddly enough when shamrock shake season came I wasn’t prepared. Brittany loved shamrock shakes from McDonalds and geared up for her big hockey tournaments with them each year. Shamrock shake season also leads us right up to her angel day and her birthday, so it always hits like a ton of bricks. This year it hit harder because I wasn’t ready for it, and when I saw the first shamrock shake walk into my office, I fell apart.

What my community did for me was to help me see just how far I have come in this healing this year. To look at these shamrock shakes and to celebrate my girl, celebrate the joy they brought to her and the joy of the shamrock shake season! My community all went out and got a shamrock shake and followed Butchie’s
instructions to drink half of it then save the other half for Brittany. This started a campaign of photos of people sharing their shamrock shakes for Brittany. It didn’t end with just my little community, it spread into my whole army of people and kept going!

I could go on and on about everything I did this year to learn how to care for myself and the work I put in to do the work from the inside out, but that one story of putting something heavy out there to my community, letting them help me carry it, turning it into something beautiful and celebrating the life of my Brittany sums up more than I could even explain. That right there is hope and that right there is self-care!

Today I will cry because I miss my girl, but I will also smile and laugh because for 17 years, 11 months and 24 days my girl lived and for the rest of my life I will choose hope….with a little help from my community and a shamrock shake.

If you are grieving, find your people and find your shamrock shake story.

Image via contributor

Originally published: April 9, 2021
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