As I reflected on my journey yesterday I was brought back to that painful part of my past. Not just with Mckenna’s death, but everything before her death. My marriage falling apart, having to find a place to live, not making enough money to support Mckenna and myself, taking care of my mom after her surgery, packing up the house by myself, doing everything on my own because that life was no longer what he wanted. I lost everything in a matter of 3 months. I felt alone, lost and broken.
Looking back I can see just how broken I was, how out of my body I was, and feeling a little bit more compassion for that 24 year old Ashley.
After Mckenna’s death I felt as if I was drowning, slowly dying inside and trying to pick up the pieces of my life. The one place I felt safe was no longer safe, I distanced myself from my family, I distanced myself from my friends, I was in a dark world where I was slowly being deprived of air and suffocating. My life seemed to be spiraling out of control and I slowly reach a place where if I did not do something I was going to die.
I was having flashbacks, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious, scared of my thoughts, I wouldn’t allow myself to cry, I pushed the pain so deep inside that when it tried to escape I felt like I was going to explode so letting it out was not an option. If I let go I would surely die. But it was the not letting go that nearly took my life.
I know I have written about my journey and why I am where I am today, but I just want to share for those who may be scared to reach out, those who are scared no one would show up and see them, see their pain, for those who need to be seen, heard and upheld while they feel like their world is spiraling out of control after losing their child. I had a voice inside me telling me that I needed to get help, I needed to find someone to help me and I needed to reach out. I went on a trip to Australia and told myself that I would make it my mission to get help when I got home. It took me 3 months to walk into a support group. I was terrified to go, I was so nervous I felt as if I was going to throw up. I was about to open up to strangers that my daughter died and not only died but died from me moving a television. I thought, what would they think? Would they judge me? Would they run from my pain? Would they be able to handle my story? As it got closer to me the more terrified I got. When it was my turn I was shaking, the tears came and I spoke quickly hoping the words would just hurry and fly out of my mouth without causing me too much pain. I looked at the ground as I told a part of the story and I was watching it before my eyes, I was in my own world, I looked up and saw the sadness of the facilitators face but I also saw the compassion, the empathy, the understanding. I knew in that moment that I was where I was meant to be, I knew that that is where I would find the strength to work through this horrific tragedy.
I will never forget that moment because it was the moment that saved my life. I listened to that little voice (which I feel was Mckenna) and followed my heart. I have grown in ways that I truly never thought I would after Mckenna’s death, but I did and here I am carrying the grief, trusting the grief and allowing the pain to come and go without judgment. I allow it to be what it is and trust that I will be ok. It has taken a lot of work to get here and it has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Love is the reason we have so much pain when we lose those we love, but I would never want to not feel love in fear of pain. The pain validates my love.
I am forever thankful for those who have sat with me in those darkest days and never really left me. I may have done the work, but their guidance is also what saved my life. Truly saved my life.