By Kendra Merrill
Imagine you’re standing on a mountain, overlooking the rivers and valleys below. The trees go on for miles, and the rays from the sun touch the earth. For a moment, Heaven and Earth are one. You take a deep breath, and on the exhale, tears flow from you like the rivers below. The release is liberating as you feel a sense of peace and you know that without the valleys, the mountain you stand upon would not exist.
You would not exist as you are without experiencing your valleys.
My first valley was divorce in 2007. For years after that event I muddled through a valley riddled with self-doubt. I worked tirelessly to “improve” myself. I wanted to show myself, and the world, that I was a survivor. I went to work, doing everything society said I should do. I read self-help books, wrote in a journal, made new friends, went to graduate school, ran a half-marathon— all in an effort to show the world that I could do this; I could survive alone.
I hadn’t yet found my true self, but I was on a journey. Five years later, I fell in love with an amazing man. We were married a short nine months later and became pregnant. We were elated. I had been waiting for this moment all my life. We had a healthy pregnancy, and at 40 weeks and 5 days, we were ready to meet our newest addition. I went into labor overnight and arrived at our birthing center in the early morning hours. I was making progress, and our daughter’s heartbeat was strong.
Until it wasn’t.
They couldn’t find a heartbeat; our daughter was gone. Adeline Grace was stillborn on April 15, 2015. We would never hear her cry, never see her first steps, never hear her first words, never meet her first boyfriend or attend her wedding. It was all gone. I was ripped from bliss, into a valley so deep I couldn’t see a thing.
I wasn’t sure if I would survive. How do you pull yourself out of such a deep, dark hole? Where do you begin? My previous trials had given me some tools to cope with the grief, but this was different. I also found myself wanting to immerse myself in the grief, to feel her, to reside with the sting of her loss, because it was, I thought, the only way I could feel her. I didn’t want to “work through it,” as I had the last time. I wanted to embrace it.
When I embraced my grief, I traveled within myself and surprisingly met Adeline Grace. She wasn’t gone. She was here within me the whole time.
She lives in my heart.
We may not get to see all those firsts, but I get to experience knowing my child from within. That is a first I will take. When I met her, she said, “Mom, the best way to honor me is to embrace yourself, your unique gifts, your unique talents, and embrace yourself just the way you are. Follow your heart; I will always be here with you. I live within you, so I know you better than you know yourself. Rely on me, I can see from a different perspective. I will guide you and remind you of who you are. You are and will forever be my mom.”
Sometimes our kids can be so frank and honest. They have no filter, and Adeline certainly did not. In true childlike fashion, she told me to live, not just to live, but to thrive.
Because of her, I am approaching things differently this time. Hand in hand with Adeline, I’m finding courage to speak honestly, to be vulnerable, and to rise strong. She is not gone; she lives within.
I’ve learned what “thriving” truly means for me. Thriving is listening to my deepest self, being courageous enough to speak with reverence and tell the honest truth. I walk with my husband atop a mountain of love, for each other and for our little girl, my guiding light, who lives within my heart.
Thank you, Adeline, we love you.
Kendra Merrill a mom of two, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. She has a 9-year-old step-daughter and a daughter in heaven, who will forever be one day old. She is an Organization Development professional with a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Ethics and a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Psychology. She has spent her life studying the mind and now, because of Adeline, she is embracing the power of the human heart. Read more about Kendra on her blog, http://kendramerrill.com/.