September 21, 2017

How I found Purpose after the Heartbreak of Child Loss.

Child loss has no silver lining.

Many who study the experience agree that it’s the most traumatic disruption to the life cycle there is—one from which we may never fully recover.

I was already struggling to find my purpose in life before Ruby died. I was stuck in a career I wasn’t good at and couldn’t see a way out.

Maybe purpose is too big of a word. My real purpose—just being her dad—was right in front of me and I couldn’t fully see it. But when she was gone, I realized I at least needed to find a way to be comfortable in my own skin, with who I am, and what I’m doing now. It’s been a journey to say the least.

Like many of life’s journeys, though, I couldn’t completely orchestrate my next chapter myself. It emerged organically, with little sprinklings of luck, timing, and perseverance.

I recently was able to leave my uncomfortable fundraising career for something that feels a lot more like “me.” I bought the rights to a fitness center and am now working part-time as a strength and conditioning coach at a local university.

I still miss my daughter every single day. Here I am, four years later, sharing old poems and hoping to tell her story. I do believe she’s smiling approvingly somewhere up there, seeing these recent developments in my life.

Ruby’s death directly had a hand in all of this. When we lose the one thing that means the most to us in the entire world, nothing else that happens will ever be quite as scary. We’re not even scared of death, because our soul already went through it. We can certainly take a chance on a brand new career without much fear of the outcome.

If I have one piece of advice for readers, it’s to try your best to live without fear before something terrible and traumatic happens. Most of life’s lessons come through experience, but that one is so much better learned through the eyes of another.

Find the thing you think you want to do, and then do it.

The only real regret comes from not trying.

I’d like to share this poem I wrote two years ago in honor of my daughter’s passing. With this hindsight and understanding, I believe now it’s time to share it broadly:

The Aftermath

I watched you die two years ago today.
I try to write about you, but I don’t know what to say.

I used to document your every move,
but now I just can’t find a groove.

So proud, I wanted to share you with the world.
Like any father, I loved my little girl.

The way you would drag me around by my finger;
These fragmented memories of our bond are all that linger.

Six years passed so quickly in a blur.
My greatest fear now is that one day I’ll forget her.

I cling to the moments so tightly, for they are all I have to remember.
Her fire may have died, but there’s still a smoldering ember.

What can I possibly say now that would matter
about a precious life taken away, leaving so many in tatters?

So instead I sulk and wallow,
a bitter pill that’s mine to swallow.

Last year, I went on a Hawaiian hike.
Seemed a fitting way to celebrate my tyke.

Today seems so much harder.
Are the feelings real, or am I just playing the martyr?

This pain I don’t feel just once a year.
It’s with me every day, a constant reminder ringing in my ear.

I find no comfort in reading scripture,
and the ache is only worsened if I dare look at her picture.

I’m left here to wonder what might she be doing this day.
Boarding the bus, I suppose, heading off to learn and play.

Now all that remains at her school is a little tree
Planted to honor her memory, though I doubt many visit except me.

I curse God and sometimes family, too.
They couldn’t possibly know, because they haven’t lived through.

So just be quiet; don’t speak a word.
These hollow comforts you offer, I’ve already heard.

This journey is reserved for a chosen few.
Be glad it’s for me and not for you.

My time here is not yet complete.
What is it you want me to do, my sweet?

I know I couldn’t have changed this wretched outcome.
Your journey here was done; you gave your heart and then some.

Now it’s time for me to find new purpose amidst this strife.
Pick up the pieces and make a new life.

Keep holding tightly to that finger and lighting the way.
Though you are somewhere else, I need this small part of you helping me each day.

I’m listening to your voice telling me to write.
Fingers to the keyboard daddy; don’t give up the fight.

I feel your gentle tug pointing me where I should go.
I listen and wait for you to reveal things only a little angel could know.

Love really does transcend the bounds of time and space.
This knowledge I’m grateful for, but also wish I didn’t have to face.

I’ll see you again one day on the other side, but not yet.
Of that one certain truth, you can place your bet.

I was still in shock two years into my grief journey, and didn’t have much perspective other than the day-to-day struggle just to get out of bed and try to do something

Four years in now , life has moved forward whether I was ready for it to or not, and maybe I have a little more to offer now.


Author: Chuck Miller
Image: Caroline Hernandez/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton

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