Grief first entered Danielle’s life when her dad was killed in a car accident when she was home from college for Easter. She had never experienced grief and said she felt paralyzed. Danielle went on and met and married her husband. When they decided to start a family, grief entered Danielle’s life again when she suffered numerous miscarriages. She said it was a horrible and tumultuous time, but then Danielle and her husband had their daughter, Emily, followed 15 months later by their son, Blake.
Grief seemed to have retreated for Danielle until Blake was 17 months old. Danielle remembers holding Blake as she was about to lay him down for his nap. She looked at herself in the mirror and thought, ‘I am the luckiest mom in the world.’ She laid Blake down for his nap and he never woke up. His heart simply stopped beating. His cause of death was listed as Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood. This time, the grief did not just feel paralyzing. It felt like the grief broke her completely, but Danielle did what she had always done and kept going. She was pregnant with her third child by then and even went on to have a fourth.
Then, four years after Blake’s death, something happened. Danielle realized that even though all of her adult life had been spent in grief, she did not really know how to grieve. She had never mourned her dad, her lost babies, or even Blake. She had tried to tuck the grief away and live with the pain in isolation, but she then realized that she had to actively experience the grief. She had to learn to love herself again.
It was then that Danielle started journaling. Although difficult at first, Danielle began using journal prompts and eventually grew comfortable pouring her feelings out on paper. She sought out others on social media who had lost children so they could help support each other. She learned how precious it is to grieve with others in community. Now, eight years after Blake’s death, Danielle has written her own grief journal, entitled, ‘Gratitude Through Grief’ (available on Amazon), and works to bring grieving parents together through her Instagram account @danielleduffeyy.
*Be sure to tune into this week’s upcoming Livestream on Facebook and Instagram as Gwen and I discuss the importance of community in grief. Write to me about how you found your community of grievers and how they have helped you along your grief journey at email@example.com or on social media.