Monday, August 9, 2010

Anticipating Joy

I spent some time last night looking over my Facebook posts, going back about a year or so. I desperately miss that lighthearted, relaxed, untroubled girl who delighted in her sweet daughter, posted all kinds of articles for discussion, obsessed over college basketball, and poked fun in a good way at the world’s many incongruities. But I know that I am not that girl anymore—she died the day Hudson did.

A little over a year ago, these two kids, Kevin and Jill, got married. I have no idea who they are, but when the video of their wedding processional went viral, I actually cried when I watched it. What could this possibly have to do with my grief, you ask? Well, when I watched it a year ago, I was so moved by what seemed to me like a joyous celebration of love, friendship, and community. I thought back to the most joyful times in my life, and each included those three important elements—love, friendship, and community. The most significant ones were the day I married Ed in the midst of a small group of cherished friends and family, and the day Hudson was born and the weeks following, when we introduced her to a world that she would change forever. Although Ed and I had both suffered very sad times before we met, it seemed to us that the world shifted on its axis when we found each other—we believed that our future would be filled with many, many exquisite moments of joy and that the worst times in our lives were behind us. We were so right. And so very wrong.

Today, for no reason at all, I thought of that wedding video and those kids dancing gleefully down the aisle. I watched it again. And I cried again. This time, I cried for different reasons. I cried for our devastating losses—of Hudson, of the future we had planned for ourselves with her, and of that carefree happiness, that unadulterated joy that characterized most of the days in the six years Ed and I have spent together.  That is, until May 10, when our daughter was diagnosed with what would ultimately be a fatal illness.

So many of you have sent constant wishes for a day when we will experience joy again, for a day when you can come to the blog and celebrate with us, instead of only grieving with us.

I know that day is out there. And I look forward to it, too. But there is some dread mixed into that anticipation as well, because experiencing joy means taking a big step away from the grief. And right now, the idea of taking a big step away from the grief feels like taking a big step away from Hudson. And that makes me incredibly sad.

But the reason I wanted to write about Kevin and Jill, whoever they are, is that when I watched that video again today, I cried not only for our loss, but also because I realized that although that carefree girl I once was is gone, love, friendship, and community remain. Love, friendship, and community are constant. Love, friendship, and community will not let us fall. Until that day when we can experience joy again, those three things keep us afloat. And that is One Good Thing.


  1. This is a beautiful post, Mandy. One that gives me so much hope for you and the joyful days that most certainly will follow. While opening yourself up to that joy may seem incongruous with your grief, remember always the joy that Hudson brought you. Isn't continuing in that tradition really the ultimate tribute?

    I think about you every day and check to see how you are doing. You and your girl who I never had the opportunity to meet have made an indelible mark on my heart. Love and increasing peace to you in the coming days.

    Ashley Dunham

  2. You are wise to recognize that you are not ready to take the steps toward joy yet because right now the grief over Hudson is what is keeping you connected to her. Someday I hope you will be able to turn away from the grief over her loss some and be able to feel the joy still emanating from her existence and experience new joys. As you know in your head, but not yet in your heart, experiencing joy is not turning away from Hudson but a necessary part of continuing your life and living the lessons she taught you. The grief and the joy will both always be there, but felt in different proportions as you travel this unwanted journey.

    Although I don't know you, I will continue to hold you up and feel so grateful that you are surrounded by love, friendship, and community during both times of joy and grief. I will celebrate with you whenever you are ready to take that step toward joy, but will continue to grieve with you for Hudson even after that moment comes.

  3. I have said this to you before and I will say it again-- all of the love and support that you have now comes because of all of the good and positive energy you have put out in the world. Until the day comes when you are able to feel joy again, all of us will be here to be the foundation under your feet, helping however we can until you are strong enough to stand on your own again.

  4. A beautiful, large-hearted post. I applaud you for your courage - and your hope.

  5. Hudson was Pure Joy; her spirit will lead you there. xoxoxo Renee

  6. Thinking of you and sending virtual hugs your way. Just want you to know that reading your blog, this tribute to your beautiful girl has had such an impact on my life and the way I parent my children. Which is yet another One Good Thing :) I hope knowing that you (and your baby girl) are making this difference helps ease your pain some.


  7. For what it's worth, I think the more intense grief you feel now, the more intense joy you will be able to feel later in the future. I often think about what kind of griever I would be if I lost my child. I know of some that leave the child's room untouched for 50 years, unable to let go of how things were, and equally unable to feel joy again. I know of some that ignore that it ever happened and you are not to speak of the child's name because they never existed, because it is just too painful to think about. And I know of some who grieve and grieve and express themselves openly, as hard as it is. I am only an outsider, observing, but I think those parents who have lost a child, you, who grieve hard and let it all into to your deepest core and scream and get angry and feel jealous and profound sadness, and share it with your community that supports you so much, I think you are able to do this because not only are you a deeply compassionate person but because you are in the midst of processing this life-altering event, one that has changed your future forever. And with this gradual processing and healing of sorts you will be able to feel joy to the same intensity later on. So, for what it's worth, I think your ability to grieve so intensely as you do will in turn reconnect you the ability to feel joy, even joy for strangers on their wedding video, in the future when it feels right. XOXO.

  8. Mandy, your heart is so big. It will hold joy again one day. Until then we will be here, in ways big and small, to do what we can to get you through.

  9. Mandy, I am so glad you visited my blog ( and left a comment. Every ounce of me felt physically ill as I read your comment and could feel your pain and where you are at 2+months after the sudden death of your beautiful daughter. I cried for you and could relate to every thought and feeling you had. It hit me hard also that your daughter died of meningitis. Oddly enough, that was initially what our doctors and the coroner had told us they suspected killed Matteo during his sleep. He had battled an up & down fever for the 30 hours before I put him to sleep on the night he died. I remember becoming obsessed w/that word, and germs and hating that people don't get their children vaccinated for viruses that could so easily take their lives. How I wish you lived close to me so I could come sit with you and listen to you and hug you... and truly know your pain and anger and questions. I too have found comfort in blogs of other moms who have lost a child. My only advice is to keep writing... my blog has been my therapy and has connected me to some of the most amazing, supportive people. Please feel free to friend me on FB if you'd like... Jodi LaValle Martino. I would love to tell you that time heals everything.... but it doesn't. I'm still heartbroken beyond words. I still cry every day. I still wish/replay every moment of the morning we discovered Matt dead. While time doesn't heal our loss... somehow life does become oddly live-able... just different. Forever different. And, I imagine our outlook on children, family and life in general is MUCH, much different than any person who has never lost a child. Big, big hugs to you... hope you can feel my thoughts, love and prayers across the miles. You're not alone, friend. xoxo

  10. Beautiful post!

    When the time is right joy will be able to coexist with grief. I'm so sorry that you lost Hudson and the person you were and the future you wanted.

    I cry every time I see that video!

  11. You will feel joy again. xoxo