I’m often asked how I can be joyful and live the life I am living when I’m doing it without my daughter’s presence in my life.

I’m asked if I have gotten over her death, or if I’ve healed and accepted her death.

I will never get over Leah’s death. I’ve had a 20-year inquiry into what healing form her death looks like, and I have a problem wrapping my head around what accepting her death means.

I’ve accepted that she is not here, and that in order to live the life I was meant to live that I had/have to find a way to honor her, and to be the best me that I can be. That has not been an easy road, and it has meant that I needed to learn how to feel my excruciating feelings of grief.

In the early days of my grief journey I used diversion and distraction to keep from feeling my feelings of grief. I thought that if I ate enough chocolate chip cookies, I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of losing my daughter. I thought that those feelings would eventually go away if I pushed them away long enough.

What I found out is that they got louder to get my attention.

The intensity of my feelings made them overwhelming.

I learned that feeling them was the way through, and when I allowed them to be met they quieted down. There are many ways to feel our feelings. My own practice of present moment awareness, Samyama, is what helped me learn to get better at feeling my raw feelings. I could bring one feeling at a time, to my heart, and my heart shifted the feeling. Our hearts are alchemical vessels that can hold whatever we bring to them. As I began to have a greater capacity to feel my painful feelings, I found out that I could also feel joy and happiness to a greater degree. I learned that I can feel joy and pain at the same time.

I like to thing of feelings as clouds.

There are different kinds of clouds, and they always move through. Even dark storm clouds move through. Our feelings are the same. They are not good or bad, they are energy that need to be met and felt, and then they move through too.

When they come back, it doesn’t mean we are regressing. When we are present to our feelings, we realize that the feeling may seem similar to feelings we have had before, yet in this moment it is slightly different. Just like no two clouds are alike.

My grief journey taught me that when we feel the full spectrum of our feelings, we can live a fuller life. When I fully participate in all aspects of my life, does that mean I have healed from the death of my daughter? That is a question that I continue to sit with. Healing doesn’t look like what I thought it would when I considered it early on. That may be a topic for further discussion.  What I know now is that when I can bring all of my feelings into my heart, my heart can hold them, and my head doesn’t have to try to figure out what to do with them.

That right there is a step in the right direction for me.