I’ve recently read that if you let your heart break fully open, it can heal in such a way that you are open to more love than ever before. You have to let it split completely,  instead of letting it slowly crack here and there, filling the cracks only to let them burst open again. You have to feel the loss entirely, without any story attached to it. You must let your heart be so vulnerably exposed, open to that deep pain in order to heal.

I’ve been trying this lately, and as painful as it is to do, I feel myself healing more and more with each burst of pain. I find myself experiencing peace and even joy.

Yesterday I let myself do this. I looked at pictures of Maddie and let myself feel the pain of the loss completely. I let myself feel the pure, unimaginable and horrific pain of losing my daughter. I felt the deep void, the inexplicable and irreplaceable hole that will never be refilled. I felt the excruciating, chest tightening grief, knowing that I can’t have her back on Earth with me.

Photograph courtesy of the McDaniel family

I let myself feel. I gave myself time to cry and time to be upset. Afterward, I jumped in the pool, swam a little, floated a little, read my book and relaxed in the sunshine.

About an hour or so later, I was looking up dinner spots for my husband and I and felt this random burst of joy. It’s one of the first times I’ve felt actual, pure joy since losing Maddie and I want to document it. I want to remember that even here, I can feel joy. God wants me to be joyful.

I feel joy that I had Maddie, even for a short time.

I feel joy for my wonderful son, Greyson, and for his incredible soul.

I feel joy for my husband, and his unwavering strength and support.

I have so much, and we are not done with this life yet. We are missing our baby girl, but she will always have a place with us — even if it’s not her physical presence.

I feel so much hope in knowing that my work here is not done, that I have so much to do and that so much of that will be in honor of Maddie. I have so much to learn, so much to teach and so many people to help. I feel so much strength for myself and my family in this moment. While it hurts so much to let my heart break open and to feel this devastating loss, it allows me to be open to a deeper love, that I never thought possible before.

I will continue to do this because my daughter matters. I will feel the pain of losing her over and over again if it gives me even an ounce of strength and joy for my family going forward.

I don’t know that any of this makes sense to others, but it feels good to write and to share. Thank you for reading, for remembering my beautiful daughter, and walking with our family as we miss Maddie.

Some Say You’re Lucky
by Gregory Orr

Some say you’re lucky
If nothing shatters it.

But then you wouldn’t
Understand poems or songs …

Remembrance Portraits
Medical Affiliate Program