Don't call me Strong
I hate it when people say "you are so strong."
Reason 1: I have no other choice. I have to survive it. If I don't, I fail my surviving child and my husband. And that is not an option. So being strong has nothing to do with it. I survive out of necessity.
Reason 2: Anyone who would utter these words to me obviously has zero idea about the amount of strength it takes to get up every day and face life without my child. Those who do know, would never say that.
Reason 3: What you see in the few minutes we interact is not an accurate reflection of how well I am coping with the death of my child. I do my best to keep my emotional hot mess restricted to the confines of my home or car. Both Steve and I try to limit the number of breakdowns we have in front of Aspen. It is very hard on her when we completely lose it. She knows we are sad, we can't hide that, nor should we. She knows why we are sad. She misses her sister too. But the inconsolable crying, shaking, PTSD flashbacks, inability to function level of grief and pain are not healthy for her to witness.
I know that most people aren't sure what to say or how to act around us. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so the general response is to say nothing. I get that. Part of the reason I think that there are no answers for the causes of SIDS, SUID, and SUDC is because no one wants to talk about it. It's scary and our fears prevent us from giving a voice to the devastating results of these deaths. It is easier for the general population to not acknowledge the existence of these horrific losses. I won't let my soul sucking pain or fears stop me from doing what I can to raise awareness and find out the cause of Vail's death. It might take a lifetime and that is okay. I'm living my worst fear, so as hard as it is to talk about it, that's nothing compared to the pain I now live with everyday.
So what would be nice to hear instead? Good question. Honestly, the best thing anyone can say to us is: "I thought about Vail today." Or something that lets us know that you have thought about her and the best example of that is sharing her story with someone and letting us know. Our pastors' wife let me know today that she had shared Vail's story and what we are trying to do to raise awareness with her Dad and that his response was interest in our projects. Even if he hadn't been interested or moved, the fact that she shared our love for Vail with others meant more than any platitude I could ever hear. One of the things I plan to do to honor Vail when her birthday comes around in May is to encourage others to do a random act of kindness in her name. I will work up and send out little cards with info about Vail and SUDC for people to hand out when they do an act of kindness for her. Don't think you have to wait for her birthday. If you are thinking of us, wondering how we are doing and wishing you could say or do something to help...take a moment and do something kind for someone. Buy someone's coffee, volunteer at a soup kitchen, drop of a meal to someone who is homeless, help someone in need. Do it for Vail. Share her life, share her story. That gives me strength.