By Michelle Villalobos
January 31, 2014, is the day my heart shattered. It’s the day everything I thought I knew disintegrated right in front of me. It’s the day my world imploded. It’s the day I watched my perfectly healthy daughter die.
Violet was 5 months 12 days old. She was healthy. Thriving. Days away from crawling. Yes, truly. I’m not exaggerating. I have the videos to prove it. She was leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. She was fiesty and happy. She looked just like her daddy and had the attitude to match, but at the same time she radiated a sweetness that could not be paralleled.
She is my second child. She and my older daughter Lyvi were as different as night and day, and our life was perfect. We were so happy and content and ready to raise our girls to be strong, independent women. Then Violet got sick. It was sudden. She was fine, and then she wasn’t. 21 hours after symptoms started I was holding her lifeless body in my arms. She died of an overwhelming lung infection.
There is so much more to the story of how Violet died, but that’s not what I’m writing about. This piece is on coming alive after losing my precious girl.
The days, weeks, and months after Violet died were dark, desolate, quiet but for the constant screaming in my head. I sat in a chair for weeks. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t take care of Lyvi or myself. If it weren’t for family and a few close friends, I do not think I would be here today. I was in a very scary place and understandably so. My world had just been turned on its head, hammered to pieces, and thrown into a wood grinder. Any semblance of ground to stand on was gone. Every piece of me was gone; I died right along side my girl. I started to write on a blog to get everything spinning through my head down. It was scary, dark, angry things. I vividly remember a night sobbing in front of my computer typing that I was always going to feel that way. I wanted to feel like that forever because if I wasn’t feeling that way then I wasn’t remembering, honoring, grieving, or loving Violet anymore, I thought. Surely I couldn’t go on living a joyful life after the death of my child.
In those early days, I could not fathom having joy in my life again. I could not fathom truly living. I didn’t want to. Who would want to live without one of their children here?
Time passed. Long days but short months. We got back into a routine. Breathing became less excruciating. Then one day I smiled– a real smile, and I didn’t instantly feel guilty about it. I smiled, and it actually felt okay. That was the beginning. I couldn’t tell you how long that was after Vi died. Grief has a way of making a day feel like a year and a year feel like a day. It’s different for everyone. Some people might not smile a real, guilt-free smile for years, and others might smile just days after they lose their child, but it will happen. I promise you it will if you allow your heart to open back up and feel the joy that is still here.
My Violet died, and it is truly dreadful. It’s terrible, disgusting, and it’s impossible to comprehend. But I’m still here. I’m here and I’m living. I have so much to live for, even still. I have my family. My husband. My living daughter and my rainbow baby boy. Myself. And my Violet. I’m living for her, because she doesn’t get to anymore; what a disgrace it would be for me to stop living while I have the chance. She only got just 5 months and 12 days to live. So, for the time I have left, I will live for the both of us.
This wasn’t an easy thing to do. I didn’t just wake up one day and say “Okay. Today’s the day. I’m going to be happy and joyful everyday.” It has taken work to get here. I have had to push myself hard. Push through the pain and keep moving forward, while still carrying Violet in my heart. There is no magic pill to make this happen, but it can and will happen.
It is not any easier today to live with this gaping Violet-shaped hole in my heart compared to the day she died. I have days where it takes every bit of me just to breathe. I have molded my life around that gaping hole in my heart and learned to own it. It’s my hole. It makes me handle some situations differently than I once did. I couldn’t care less about petty drama when I used to live for that stuff, but at the same time, I’m much quicker to anger. I don’t have nearly as much patience as I used to, but I now have a much kinder heart and can see things from others’ perspectives.
This is who I am now. I’m different, but I’m living.
The last key to this for me was acceptance. I had to accept that my child died. I had to accept that there was nothing I could have done to save her. I had to accept that it wasn’t my fault that she died. This is something I said I would never do. I could never imagine accepting that my child died. I could never imagine not blaming myself, but she did die. Right in front of me. She died, and it’s not my fault. I would have done anything to save her, including dying in her place. It’s not okay that she died. I’m not okay with her death, but I have accepted it as a part of my story.
Violet will always and forever be my daughter. I will never stop missing her. I will always love her more today than I did yesterday, but the fact of the matter is that she died, and I didn’t. So for her, and for myself, I am living.
Michelle Villalobos is a wife and mother to three lovely children, two here with her and one in the stars. She’s a believer in coffee, cookies, and leggings as pants. She has put herself back together through the worst loss and come out the other side alive/living/still breathing.