How I learned to choose love
On December 5, 2013, after four days in a coma, my 5-year-old daughter Anne-Sofie passed away as a result of a aneurysm in her brain. We had had no warning, no little clues that, in hindsight, could have told us there was something wrong – she just took a nap on her dad’s couch one afternoon (we’re divorced), started having seizures, and never woke up again.
Before losing my youngest of three daughters, I thought that the death of my child would make me run mad. I thought that I’d scream and break things and pull the hairs out of my head. Instead, I found within myself a rock of hitherto unknown strength, surprising myself by focusing not on my dying (and eventually dead) child but on my living daughters and my numerous reasons for living a beautiful life.
Strangely enough, these thoughts had not taken up a lot of space within me before my world tilted. Since my very early teens, I’ve suffered through the emotional roller coasters of physical and emotional abuse, bouts of depression, and extremely low self-esteem – surviving rather than living. Sitting at my sweet little daughter’s death bed put things into perspective like nothing ever had before, and I realized that nothing from my old story mattered. The only thing that mattered was LOVE, in every shape and form. [Click to Tweet!]
Two situations sharpened my focus to choose love
First, as I literally sat and waited for my baby to give up her life, her older sister Caroline (8 at the time) climbed onto my lap, put her face at my neck and sorrowfully asked:
“Mommy, if Anne-Sofie dies, will you still love us?” (Meaning her and her sister Emilie, who was 10 at the time)
This was when I swore that I would never ever give my daughters any reason to fear for my love. I wouldn’t let grief consume me, and I wouldn’t let the painful memories of Anne-Sofie and her death take over a life that could still be beautiful.
Love is the answer to everything!
To this day, I admire my daughter’s courage to ask me that question, and I have thanked her many times since. The importance of it has been profound in our healing, but also to my ability to help Emilie and Caroline survive such a terrible loss and even grow into stronger and better people because of it.
Second, on Anne-Sofie’s last night on this earthly plane, a close friend of the family came to pay his respects. He refused to believe that Anne-Sofie was dying; in fact, her spirit had clearly left as her body was only being kept alive by machines and medications.
I can still picture him standing at the foot of her bed, almost shouting at her, lifting his fist like a football coach and demanding her to get better. I looked at my daughter’s grotesquely swollen head and her poor tongue sticking out of her mouth due to the swellings in her head, tempted to ask our friend if he could even see her. I knew he spoke and acted out of love and devastating grief, but nevertheless it seemed ridiculous and unworthy.
So, after he left, and I was alone with Anne-Sofie, I put my hand on her chest. The slightest stimulus might worsen her condition, but I had to touch her, and I couldn’t let those well-meaning yet misplaced “orders” from our friend be the last words she heard.
I told her that it was okay to let go now and that she knew she had to listen to what her mommy said, as always. I gave her away with all my love and I felt stronger and calmer for it.
The next day, she was pronounced brain dead and her dad and I let go of the lasts straws of hope and let her body die, too.
I sometimes feel like Anne-Sofie had to die for me to wake up. I had to wake up from my haze of self-pity, self-loathing, and low self-esteem and she gave me a whole new world of opportunities. Not a single day goes by without my noting and focusing on LOVE and on things to be grateful for, and I practice this with Anne-Sofie’s sisters, too.
My dad, who passed away years ago, used to say: “The only thing you can hold on to forever is the memory”. I never got it while he was alive, but I most certainly get it now!
I would give my life to feel Anne-Sofie’s little hands cradle my face and her placing a sweet kiss on my lips again, a ten-times-a-day habit of hers, but although I can’t get it physically, the memory of it is so intense and it will stay with me forever.
This made me think of Denise Taylor’s beautiful Healing Note (click here to read it) about her daughter Jonnae and their healing mantra“I get to”.
I got to be the one to give my daughter life, and I got to be the one to let her go.
No one can ever take that away from me. I choose love.
About Sigrid Lildholdt:
From the very day of her daughter’s death, Sigrid has refused to let grief dominate her life. She chooses to meet challenges with an open heart and to give love to as many thoughts and things throughout her day as possible.
Despite what one might think, the horrifying experience of watching her child die has lifted her out of depression and a general dissatisfaction with life. She made a conscious choice of looking for love, hope, opportunity, and joy in every detail of the new life presented to her.
At present, Sigrid is working on a book on how to survive child loss and even grow from the experience. She has also recently started a blog, “Love, Star Child” (lovestarchild.blogspot.com), on which she intends to deal with the same subject from every angle imaginable. Twitter handle: @SLildholdt
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