My daughter died two years ago. The pain is still raw, but life’s joys are peeking through

·3 min read

Two years. One hundred and four weeks. Seven hundred and thirty days. So much time to acclimate, to accept, and yet I have moments of such incredulity that I’m convinced I’m living a dream and nothing has happened and none of us are changed.

But, as sages warn and life reminds us, you can’t escape reality. It’s everywhere, and impossible to outrun. Reality will eventually catch up. Every. Dang. Time.

So, here I am marking the second anniversary of my daughter’s death, something that still feels both unreal and unnatural. Maybe it always will. A parent should never have to bury a child. It should be the other way around. But now that I’m part of the club that no one wants to join, I run into more people who have suffered that terrible rending. In each other, we recognize an abiding sadness we’ve learned to tolerate — and please don’t expect us to accede beyond that.

That is why when yet another shooting makes the news, when TV cameras linger over a scene or a reporter interviews a bereaved mother, I walk away. I hide. I can’t bear it, not right now. It’s difficult enough to imagine the haunting horror of a child’s last minutes, but the damage cleaves deeper if I stop to consider the everlasting sorrow of those left behind. For the parents who have lost, for the parents who have endured the unimaginable, the sweetness of life will forever carry an aftertaste, no matter the circumstances.

My daughter was not the victim of a gunman, or of COVID-19, or some other trending scourge, but a woman who lost her battle with addiction. The cause of her death makes no difference to my heart. Surrendering a loved one to that disease brings with it a special kind of haunting, so many shoulda-woulda-couldas.

That’s just part of my story, of course, the sad part. Truth is, my shattered heart is slowly mending. Those dangerous what-ifs are fewer, making it easier for me to remember my daughter before her illness, before she spiraled away to a place where I couldn’t reach her.

Now, entire days go by when there’s no need to rage at the world, when anger is a foreign state that belongs in another dimension, to a different person. What’s more, that ugly, soul-eating resentment has lessened. My sense of purpose, once so badly shaken, is again firmly in place, and joy, oh-sweet-joy, has managed to seep in, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

I await another grandchild, a delight I haven’t experienced in three years and proof that life continues, blazing light in the darkest dark. I remain close to my daughter’s daughter, and my four sons make me proud of the men they have become. Professionally, there is also much to celebrate amid the heartache. My new novel, a story I imagined 50 years ago, will be published next May, a vow fulfilled to the gawky high schooler I once was. Solace is there, yes, if you know where to look for it.

Two years, 104 weeks, 730 days, and death has, in its own cruel way, clarified what I sometimes managed to avoid or obfuscate. I have learned — and am still learning — to forgive myself, to allow for my own human failings, and to acknowledge that grief is the tax paid for loving. But perhaps the greatest lesson wrenched from pain has been the realization that courage is the strength to continue when you think you can’t, when your heart is too weary to hope, when the only armor left is tears unshed.

Ana Veciana-Suarez
Ana Veciana-Suarez

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.