As a bereaved parent, I’m still on my quest, but getting considerably closer to finding that place of total inner peace I’ve been wanting for so long. The kind of peace that I want, money can’t buy. No one can give it to me. The peace that I want, I know can only come through my ability to accept all things in my life as they have happened. And in all things, I can do this. All but one: accepting the loss of my daughter.
While it’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery to this point and there is no denying it’s doubtful I would have learned all that I have without the death of my child (I do believe in contracts between souls), this doesn’t mean that I like what has happened in any way. Nor has her death been easy to accept. Not her part in it or all the struggle I’ve been left with. From a purely spiritual perspective, it’s the easiest thing in the world to see how we agreed the contract between us to learn our respective lessons and fulfil our life obligations. From the physical (excuse my language) it’s been more like: “WTF? What just happened? What was I thinking????” (my ongoing inner voice battle.)
Science has proven that we can (and do) die from a broken heart. The medical term is Takotsubo cardiomyopathy – a condition that affects the heart muscle, giving the left ventricle a distinctive shape. It causes the heart to balloon and weaken and contract abnormally. The symptoms appear rapidly and are similar to those of a heart attack (shortness of breath, chest pain, arrhythmia). They are brought on by shock, stress or an emotional event, such as loss and bereavement. While broken heart syndrome can be temporary, with the heart muscle able to recover over days, weeks or months, for some who have the condition, there can be complications and even death. Broken heart syndrome affects around 2,500 people in the UK each year (I’ll add here of those that seek medical attention and receive the diagnosis – many grievers don’t go for medical help or attribute physical illness to grief). Numbers elsewhere in the world are unclear in accordance with the somewhat limited information available on the internet.
While some may think of it as vain or superficial, in the context of long-suffering agony, it is essential that everyone finds room in their heart to love themselves through their grief. Fully and completely.
The definition of love is to feel a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, such as a parent, child or friend. Self-love is defined as the instinct we have to preserve our own well-being (at all costs). Why then, would it be considered wrong and worthy of so much self-punishment (as many grievers succumb to) when loving ourselves through horrendous loss is the right thing to do? A loss that in our wildest imagination, we could never have prevented.
As a mom of my daughter who died by suicide in 2005, this latter point has kept me punishing myself to various extremes over the years, mostly experienced as mental and emotional conflict when I imagine all the various things I could and should have done differently to prevent her death. I’ve never quite been able to accept that there wasn’t more I could have done to save my child. Despite my many attempts to banish the tormenting thoughts from my mind, they keep coming back.