How Grief Taught me Joy

Today would have been my baby girl’s twentieth birthday. With each year since her passing, we think of all the milestones she would have accomplished had we been granted the privilege of raising her into adulthood like our other children.  It’s hard to imagine Rebecca  as anything except a beautiful, delicate newborn. 

Her fifth birthday was the hardest. The thought of her being old enough to go to kindergarten felt like grief all over again. Suddenly, remembering her as a baby felt like a violation to reality. This birthday is another painful one. 

I love to remember the short season of taking care of our Trisomy 18 baby. Her health condition required a lot of my time and attention. Though some of the memories were very difficult, most were beautiful, and all of them were unexplainably special. I cherish our memories and I don’t ever want to let them go, but there’s a difference between cherishing memories and clinging to them with regrets and fears.

I cherish the memories of taking care of each of my babies. There is something very special about how a child needs her parents.  None of my children are dependent on me anymore, however. Today, as we attempt to keep our traditions of celebrating Rebecca’s birthday, I am faced with the reality that our family’s life is changing drastically. 

We are in a new home and it will soon be an empty nest. This summer my youngest leaves for college, my middle graduates from college and my oldest becomes a dad. As much as I loved the season of raising babies, I cannot cling to the memories or I would miss the many milestone-moments that we are in now.   

Losing  my daughter taught me  two valuable lessons about joy:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. -Philippians 4:8
  1. Take personal responsibility for my own thoughts  Life is full of challenges, but we have more control over how it affects us than we think. I can dwell on all the longings, regrets and fears that losing a child brings to my mind. Or I can stop my thoughts before they, like water down a drain, become too strong for me to pull out of. I choose not to dwell on what could have been or used to be. Instead I focus on what is pure, excellent and true right now so that I won’t regret this moment after it quickly passes. 
  2. Do not allow memories to mess with my attitude. The experiences we have do mold us, but they should not define us. Some seasons are difficult and there is no doubt they affect who we are, but when we allow “The joy of the Lord” to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), our circumstances, experiences or memories have no authority to mess with our attitude because true joy is bigger than happiness. Yes, my mamma heart has broken, but my hope is not gone; I trust the One who changes seasons and makes all things beautiful in His time.
Joy is the balance between cherishing memories and clinging to them. -Catrina Welch

“Mom” may be the name our children will always call us, but it is not our full identity. When they are young and helpless, it’s important that we focus on them, but as they grow independent, we would be wise to grow with them. There is a joy that is stronger than your difficulties, if you have not yet experienced it, I encourage you to seek God. Find your identity in Him and He will be your strength.

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As an author and speaker, my passion is in helping women and girls overcome confidence conflicts, especially those involving rejection, betrayal and loss. After 30 years in the beauty industry as both a cosmetologist and an image consultant, I love to use my profession, along with my experiences and training as a Biblical life-coach to help others struggling.

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