The Gift of Hope
By Angela Cartwright
Hope is a precious gift to those who have lived in the darkness.
On November 10, 2010, the light of hope left every inch of my body and soul.
“They found your momma, baby. She’s gone. They think it was a drug overdose.”
It had been several years since I experienced a horrific loss. It was 1996 to be exact when my husband was killed in a car wreck.
My grief journey began at the age of five after finding my baby sister Erica deceased and waking my mother to tell her Erica didn’t look right. I lost my uncle and grandfather to suicide and my grandmother to cancer.
I have lived more of my life in the darkness of hopelessness than the light of hope. Once in a while, the light of hope would break through to try to reach me in my brokenness, but there are levels of darkness one reaches that no words can describe. The only way for someone to understand it is to experience it.
In 2003, I had more hope in my life than ever. I was raising my beautiful children and falling in love. I obtained my high school diploma, began college, and found my faith in a loving creator. All hope ceased after receiving the devastating news of my mother.
After laying her to rest, I went home, shut the door, and that’s where the nightmare began of not eating, bathing, or talking. My brain raced. My body was full of pain yet was numb at the same time. I feared connecting with anyone let alone loving anyone. I contemplated how to leave everyone behind by either taking my life or running away. I couldn’t lose another friend or loved one. I paced the room every night and would have horrific nightmares. I lived in a constant state of anxiety that something bad was going to happen.
My breaking point came when I was alone in our attic apartment and hit my knees. I had not showered in days and cannot remember the last time I went outside. I cried out, yelling at my creator “What the hell do you want from me?! All you’ve given me is death!” I heard nothing and can’t tell you how I picked myself up. I had no fight left in me, even picking up a tooth brush was too much.
In the following days, I heard my voice over and over saying, “You know, Angie, you do have hands that work and a heart full of love. You have experience with grief and what it’s like to be in the dark, to be hopeless. Maybe you should work with those who grieve, those in the darkness.”
After bringing these ideas to others who knew my path, peace fell over me and I finally understood my life’s purpose.
I still grieved and had bad days, but I began doing some grief work on my broken heart and sought out counseling.
Hope was seeping into my soul, and I looked forward to helping others who grieve. I began a page called “Grief The Unspoken,” as well as closed grief groups (to serve those who needed more privacy to grieve). I wanted to provide a sanctuary for others not to be judged or feel like they needed to be anything other than themselves as they grieved.
As time passed and my heart continued to heal, an abundance of support flowed in from my family, friends, and grievers alike. I took a leap of faith and declared National Grief Awareness Day. We needed a day of education and awareness, and with this day we could begin to have a conversation about grief and the grieving. I also began speaking out about grief while traveling and sharing my story.
Even after all of this, I still grieve and have difficult days, but now, I embrace it. Grieving is healthy and normal when you lose a loved one. Pushing it away is not healthy, and there is no shame in grieving.
Today I continue my work with those who grieve and help to educate our world on grief and the grieving. I will continue do so until I draw my last breath.
After all, every day thousands of people all over the world begin their grief journey. There is much work to be done and hope to be given.
“I waited for the feeling of hope to come it never did. One day I finally realized it was time to go get it.”
Angela Cartwright is an activist, public speaker, and educator. She dedicates her life to those who grieve. Find her on her website as she establishes Grief Awareness Day.